September 7, 2011

Before & After: Upper Kitchen Cabinet

Someday I need to do a post on the purchase of our house, but as a short story our house was a total wreck when we purchased it.  We literally had to rip out all of the flooring down to the subfloor, remove the air conditioning/heating vents, apply Kilz to all surfaces and replace all of the flooring, ac/heat unit and vents, and paint everything.  The house was an undeniable wreck, BUT we got a wonderful price on it and around 14 acres of land...our small dream farm.  We made the house livable and was able to move in within two months of the closing.

We have now been here for seven year and with the announcement of my husband retiring, we have decided to stay.  Wow!  The word "stay" has really made my creative juices flow!  Since we married, we have always moved after about 5 years in a location as my husband was promoted through the levels of USDA.  It is an amazing feeling for me (a preacher's daughter who moved all throughout her childhood) to be able to say we are home "for good".   Since we are "staying", I now feel free to make this house more of "our" house with "our" style and tastes...not just a house that will resale.

Once Charlie announced his retirement, the first project I decided on was our upper kitchen cabinet.  Below is a picture from our house inspection of what the kitchen area once looked like:

The upper kitchen cabinet stretched out over the bar and really blocked a lot of light from the dining room area (where I am standing while taking the picture).  I have looked at the wood backing over the years trying to decide on a way to fix the problem.  I thought of adding glass cabinet doors.  If glass cabinet doors were added to the front and the back the light would flow through from the dining room to the kitchen.  The only problem was the cabinet doors would have to be constructed and a new framework for the glass doors would have to be installed on the back of the cabinet...expensive!  I decided to just remove the doors and the back of the cabinet to have an open shelf.  One that could be used from either the dining room side or the kitchen side.

About a month before I started on this project, I removed the cabinet doors from the kitchen side to live with that for a while and see how I liked it.  I really did like it.  This is how it looked then:

The backing of the cabinet was nailed to the frame and one vertical board in the center of the back.  After talking to my dad and my brother, we determined that the support of the cabinet was from the ceiling, so taking the backing off of the cabinet wouldn't create a support issue.  I talked my friend, Sharon, into tackling this project with me.  Sharon owns rental houses and does all of her own carpentry, plumbing and electrical work herself.  She is quite the jack of all trades!

We started early on a Saturday morning and removed the back of the cabinet.  This is what it looked like at that point:

I didn't particularly like the extra vertical supports where the cabinet doors connected on the front of the cabinet.  I knew I wanted to keep the single vertical piece on the back, so we decided to remove the cabinet door supports from the front and center one of them equal with the vertical piece on the back.  Removing those pieces of wood was tough!  They were not only nailed in, but also had wooden pegs connected into the framing.  Sharon's father had a saw that resembled an electric bread knife to cut through the nails and pegs so we could remove those boards.  Sharon went to get the saw and brought the saw and her father back with her.  Her father is 85 years old and had been a carpenter his whole life.  He sat on that stool in the kitchen and talked us through the rest of the project.  A wealth of information!

After we had the center board on the front secured, we drove back to Sharon's father's house and took the original backing of the cabinet to cut trim pieces so the back would match the front.  Once we had those trim pieces attached to the cabinet, the cabinet was finished to the point of painting.  We finished around noon on the same day and had only spent a couple of dollars for some finishing nails.  A fast and thrifty project!

Painting this cabinet opened up another whole project...painting all of the kitchen cabinets.  This is something that I have wanted to do, but knew it would be time consuming.  I chose to use Benjamin Moore Paint for a couple of reasons.  First, I knew it was a high quality paint and I wanted this paint to last for a long time.  Second, Benjamin Moore carries a low VOC line of paint.  My husband is very sensitive to odors and I knew the low VOC paint would be easier on him.  I chose Simply White as my paint color.  I have liked this white so well, I will probably use it all over my house for my trim work when I do repaint the house...another project!

I painted the upper cabinet the next weekend.  I sanded (by hand), used a primer and two coats of Simply White semi-gloss.  Oops, sorry for the mess!  This was taken this weekend (Labor Day weekend) when I decided to tackle painting the lower portion of the cabinets.

I purchased an electric sander to save some sanding time.  I love, love, love the electric sander!  I sped through sanding the drawers and cabinet doors in about 3 minutes and sanded the lower backing and framework in about 7 minutes.  What a time saver!  I used a 180 grit sandpaper.  I didn't want to sand the cabinet down too much--just prepare the surface so the primer would adhere.  It worked perfectly.  I am changing my drawer pulls and cabinet handles to a brushed nickel color instead of brass.  I used a pricier drawer pull and am looking at a more simple cabinet handle for the cabinet doors ( all 24 of them!).  I only have seven drawers so I splurged a little more on them.  Below is the finished product:


And yes, except for the top shelf of dishes, I use those dishes everyday.  The dishes are not just for looks.  I wanted this to be a practical addition.  I will slowly work my way around the kitchen painting the rest of the cabinets as I have free weekends.  What projects have you been working on?

Enjoy your week!

Judy :)


  1. I think I'll come see you now. Right in the middle of the mess. Seriously, it is beautiful. You will enjoy all the improvements you make, and I am going to come see you, but not right now.

  2. Wow, i love the before and after pictures. I can't wait to have a place of our own so I can do all of the projects to make the place our own.

  3. Thanks for this post. I was just googling around because I'm about to take all the doors off my kitchen cabinets and I am having trouble finding an answer on whether or not those vertical pieces are structurally necessary or just there as "trim" to fill the gaps between two closed cabinet doors. Did you address this issue and decide it was definitely fine to remove them? I'd be interested to know.

  4. @ Susan:
    I couldn't get your email from Blogger, so I just hope you will check back here for an answer. The elderly carpenter who was with us was concerned if we did not add the one vertical piece back in the center then the cabinet would be weakened. When we added this piece back, we secured it with two nails at the top of the board and two nails at the bottom of the board entering the top and bottom of the cabinet at angles. My husband came behind me later that day to get the nails all the way in. He said he could tell as he set the nails that the cabinet did seem more secure. I have had no issues with the cabinet so far - no bowing or sagging - and it has the same dishes in it as it did the day I took the picture. Good luck! Take pictures and let me know when you post them if you are blogger. I'd love to see.

  5. Thanks for the input! I have two double cabinets that are joined in the middle with a vertical piece. So my stretch of open cabinetry isn't as long as yours. Perhaps I can get away with removing those vertical pieces on either side of the center one. I will definitely blog about this but, knowing me, it could be ages before it is finished! I'll try to remember to come by.

  6. Great looking kitchen, I've been looking for some inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

    From the first small kitchen has always been a problem when buying a lot of kitchen appliances. Do you agree? Is there a solution for small kitchens? I'm sure there's a way out. One of the solutions is setting its layout and use of modern kitchen design concept. This concept is the use of all kitchen space and a minimalist design concept. If you intend to renovate your kitchen you should use this concept. Get all information about small kitchen designs and kitchen remodel ideas in our site.

  8. Excellent post! I think it is very informative post.

  9. Awesome - I am going to tackle this in my Mom's home and will show you pics! Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Awesome! I am going to try the same in my Mom's kitchen - same story - blocks light.... will update pics!


We always enjoy your visits to our blog and love reading your comments. Thanks for visiting and check back with us soon!

Judy :)