how to: milk paint oak cabinets

The cabinets at the cottage are finished! Admittedly the milk paint portion of the project wrapped up a month ago however we haven’t been able to find the right hardware to work with the routed edges of the oak cabinets.  I got tired of waiting for the ‘glamour shot’ and figured it was time to share the ‘in process’ shot.  There are other updates that the room is waiting for such as a new faucet, range hood, etc, etc.  Let’s focus on the paint finish today and how we got here…

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6830

from here (photo from real estate listing)…

kitchen before

We’ve taken a step in the right direction as far as lightning up this old cottage kitchen and making it feel a bit more beachy.  The oak cabinets were not original to the house.  My guess is that there were old metal ones in here at one point.  But the oak ones were in decent shape and worthy of an update.

You may recall my post about prepping the cabinets for milk paint.  We thoroughly cleaned the cabinets with a citrus vinegar solution that you can make yourself.  The key is to not use an oily or intense chemical cleanser that the milk paint will resist.

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The cabinets were primed with Tough Coat, a MMSMP product.  It is a non-yellowing tough coat that provides extra durability against general wear and tear, water damage and food stains as a top coat.  It also works really, really well as a base coat or primer because milk paint adheres to it.  In this case, tough coat also blocked the oak tannins to prevent bleed through.  It has many benefits.

tough coat

After that I mixed Mora with bonding agent for best adhesion.  I decided to apply 3 coats on the thinner side (instead of 2 thick coats) as I did not want to get any crackling or chipping texture on the cabinets.  Thicker milk paint application tends to lend to the chipping aesthetic that we all love.

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Mora is such a pretty color.  Here it looks gray.  In certain lighting it takes on a blue hue and sometimes even a hint of green.  It is perfect for a space like this with a lot of light that changes throughout the day.  We finished the cabinets by applying furniture wax with a mix of white wax in some areas.  We’re considering going over it with tough coat for a more durable finish but it seems the wax is holding up just fine.  I wiped a splatter of sauce off of the surface the other day and it left no marks on the wax finish.  No issue.

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6833

Here’s what I learned throughout this process.  As I mentioned, I thoroughly cleaned the cabinet doors and primed them with tough coat prior to applying paint.  Tough coat was the best choice for a “primer” because it aided in blocking the oak tannins from bleeding through.  This is something to be concerned with when painting over oak.  However, tough coat is clear and the orange oak did take 3 coats of milk paint to completely cover.

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6832

After working on the cabinet doors from start to finish, I stepped back to reconsider my options for the cabinet bases.  Could I eliminate a step?  When it came to the cabinet bases, I thought I had a better idea so I initially skipped the tough coat primer and used a flat white chalk-based paint as a primer instead.  My theory was that the chalky “primer” would eliminate the need for 3 coats of milk paint since I was priming with white.  I thought it would serve as a base coat primer AND block the orange bleed through in one step.  I was completely wrong.  The orange bled through the flat finish immediately and I had to go over it all with tough coat anyway to lock in the tannins.  It was experimental for sure and created an extra step for me after all!

In summary, here are the steps to follow for milk painting previously finished oak cabinets…

How to Milk Paint Oak Cabinets #mmsmp

To complete this project which consisted of 14 cabinets/drawers, I used less than 2 quarts of milk paint + bonding agent, wax and tough coat.  The product went far.  Essentially we gave these cabinets an entirely new look for under $100.  You can’t beat that!

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6830

new milk paint display

Recently I completed one of my largest milk paint projects to date.  This armoire is an oldie but goodie.  It dates back to the 1800’s and was built to be easily taken apart for moving purposes.

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It was love at first sight!

armoire before

It is a real stunner composed of beautiful wood.  Fortunately the inside wood was in great shape with minimal damage.  However the exterior finish was faded and worn.  chippy milk paint antique armoire-4954

I painted 2 coats of shutter gray and the door insets were painted in 2 coats of ironstone.  It led to the most authentic chipping paint which fits this particular old piece very well.  It seems like this armoire would be right at home in a centuries old farmhouse.

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Quite reminiscent of chipping lead paint…a look I love so much but one that can be pretty dangerous.  This paint has zero VOCs!

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The interior raw wood was brought back to life with all natural hemp oil.

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MMS milk paint’s newest topcoat option is tough coat which proved to be the best choice for such a textured and chipping piece.  Tough Coat locks in the chipping paint so it doesn’t continue to flake off.  It leaves a nice durable finish with a little luster. Tough coat is now available.

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One of the original brass drawer pulls was damaged.  I looked for a replacement at the flea market but that was basically like searching for a needle in a hay stack.  Ultimately, the drawer pulls were updated with clear glass handles.  They are also available for sale at both Circa Dee locations.

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The size of this armoire works perfectly as a display for our milk paint at The West End Garage.  Come check it out in person!

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So what do you think?  Is this much chipping paint a look you love or loathe?  You know where I stand already!

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