In this post I will be sharing how I transformed our painted white kitchen cabinets into a faux wood island simply using paint, water based stain and some brushes.
Pin for later: DIY Faux Wood Cabinets
We recently purchased my Grandparents home that they built in 1996. The house hadn’t been touched since they originally built it and was in it’s full 90’s glory when we moved in.
We planned on renovating the entire main floor, and finally finished after 4 months of living in construction.
To save money we decided to keep all the existing oak cabinets but repurpose them into a more modern style kitchen and butlers pantry.
Refinishing Orange Oak Cabinets
My original plan was to take most of these cabinets and turn them into a large island, and have only one wall of lower cabinets against the back wall. I wanted the island to be wood and the lower back wall cabinets, fridge cabinet and range hood to be a tan color.
We were having all the cabinets professionally painted and my husband was nervous about the work of having them sand the orange oak and retain them as most oak can be tricky to get the right stain color and it can change over time due to the tannins in the wood.
We ended up decided to paint all the cabinets Swiss coffee by Benjamin Moore. Unfortunately the paint color was off, which can happen when you color match paint at another store, and our cabinets all ended u being stark white. Not the look I was going for.
I decided to repaint them but was still dreaming of that wooden island. I googled gel stain on painted cabinets and it turns out you can apply gel stain to a painted piece of furniture. But I wondered fir you could use gel stain, certainly using a water based stain would be even better.
Water based stain is a new to us product and we have used it on our butlers pantry pine door and our fireplace mantle.
Basically its base is water instead of oil, which actually makes staining straight wood tricker because it doesn’t sit on top like an oil based product. However I prefer the shade options in water based stain and thats why we used it in the past. It is however ideal for painting on top of a paint cabinet because it works essentially like paint.
It can also be easily covered over if you make a mistake or change your mind later with a regular latex based paint.
Steps for staining your cabinets to look like wood
What you’ll need
- Regular paint, I used Rodeo Tan by Behr
- Water based wood stain, I used Early American by Behr
- An assortment of foam brushes, I used 2″ and 1″. Get lots as they will fill up with stain and you’ll want a fresh one.
- A good quality paint brush that doesn’t lose bristles.
Start by making sure your cabinets are good and clean. Our cabinets were already painted white but if yours aren’t you may want to try using a good primer to make sure no wood tannins show through. I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about this however as you will be painting your cabinets a darker brown first.
I didn’t sand my cabinets because they were already painted however you could sand them with 220 grit sandpaper if yours arent to make sure the paint sticks. Again if you are priming first an oil based primer like zinsser works great because you do not need to sand first. You could also throw caution to the wind and paint without sanding or priming as you will be using a water based varathane at the end to seal them.
I used two coats of the rodeo tan by Behr on all the cabinet door fronts and drawer fronts. I also did the side panels of the island which burnt wood but MDF and any places that you will see even if the doors are on.
Next I stirred my water based stain well, this is important, and started applying it first to the MDF panels. For these pieces that had no grain I used a regular paint brush to give me the look of grain. The key is to start at the top of your section and pull down to the bottom without breaking your stroke. Then go back over with a very very light hand to smooth it out.
This will give you a more modern grain. If your prefer rustic you don’t have to worry about starting at the top and ending at the bottom in one motion.
I did this all over the island and then moved onto the cabinet doors and drawers.
For the drawers and doors I started with a foam brush to get a smoother appearance. Again working with the grain of the wood. Make sure to go vertical on the vertical edges of your cabinets and horizontal on the top and bottom to get a natural look.
Our cabinets have a swoop to them so some stain will pool but it just adds texture, don’t stress.
I ended up doing 3 coats of stain on the cabinet doors and drawers and only two on the rest of the island.
Lastly let it dry overnight and the next day seal it with water based varathane. Use a foam brush to apply the varathane, a regular brush will leave more streak marks and it doesn’t apply as smoothly making it more frustrating to work with. Apply 2-3 coats of varathane all over the island.
DIY Faux Wood Cabinets
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