5 ideas to repaint Rebecca’s faded wood kitchen cabinets

retro-kitchen-beforeDesignDilemmaReader Rebecca’s 1963 kitchen is in need of some TLC. She already has come up with a great solution to swap a wall oven with a full size stove — which she documented on her blog, The Vintage Life. But now she’s stuck. Rebecca will use Formica aqua boomerang laminate on the counter tops… she has picked out a mosaic tile back splash… and she’s decided on a wall color. Her final dilemma: What color to paint or refinish the faded chippy wood kitchen cabinets?

retro-kitchen-wood-cabinetsRebecca writes:

We are redoing our 1963 kitchen and have decided on an aqua, orange and white palate.  We are keeping the current cabinets and my dilemma is what color should the cabinets be.  We are considering using the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation product but I am stuck as to what color. Our thinking was that the cabinets needed a “refresh”.  They are leaning a little yellow and yes there is some damage in a few places.  I have attached a couple pics I put together from the Sherman Williams Color Visualizer. [Editor’s note – we did not show these photos – but we made our own, below.] They are crude but give a little bit of a vision of what it could be. One picture is with the cabinets in a darker color and one picture is with the cabinets staying as they are.  We thought the painting of the cabinets at least in a darker color really made the other colors pop a little more.  So that is what we were thinking.  It would be easier to leave them alone but I really think we need to do something with them.  We are open to your suggestions.

aqua boomerang laminateThe counter tops are going to be the Formica aqua boomerang that we bought before they discontinued it.

mosaic tile backsplashThe back splash is going to be glass mosaic tile from Mosaic Tile Supplies. I used their tile maximizer to create my own blend of white at 70% then aqua and orange at 15% each.  Here is a link to their site.  Colors we chose are Snow white – KA077, Pumpkin – KD101 and Rochester – KB009.  If you haven’t played with it before it is really fun.

aqua-stove-vintageWe have an aqua oven and I was thinking of putting some of the Formica in the front of the dishwasher like the gal did with her Betty Crocker cookbook cover. We are looking at doing a cork floor in perhaps a lighter cork color. Any painted wall space will be in the Holiday Turquoise from Sherman Williams.

With all this in mind, what is your suggestion on the color of the cabinets?

Thank you for helping me get unstuck!!

5 ideas to repaint or refinish these old wood kitchen cabinets

Kitchen-mock-up-natural-cabinetsThis first mock up (above) shows what Rebecca’s kitchen would look like with her new counter top, backsplash, flooring and paint choices while keeping the wood cabinets the same color they are now. While I personally like the current look of the natural wood cabinets — I understand her need to paint them — since my kitchen cabinets — which were a similar color and construction — were also heavily chipped and damaged. Using about a gallon of wood putty, several coats of primer and a fresh coating of paint really helped my kitchen feel cleaner and removed the “rough around the edges” feeling. If you want to replicate the look of the natural wood, yes, Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations might be great — you can add just enough glaze (maybe further diluted) at the end to bring out the natural grain after the painting.

Kitchen-mock-up-dark-cabinetsRebecca also is considering painting her cabinets a darker wood toned color like the mock up above. While I like the idea of keeping a wood like finish on the cabinets — this darker color in combination with the other choices — makes me think of the 1970s more than the 1960s. This is fine if that is the look that Rebecca is going for, or if she likes this look — but I was under the impression that she is wanting a more late 50s early 60s look.

Kitchen-mock-up-white-cabinetsMy initial thought — if the original wood tone cannot be preserved — was to paint all of the cabinets white. This will help the dishwasher be less obvious — though I would not use the laminate panel in this case. The all-over white will also substantially lighten and brighten the space and really let the fabulous aqua boomerang countertops, aqua appliances and mosaic tile backsplash take center stage. Because of the warm cork flooring it and other color on the walls — the space will not feel too sterile.

Kitchen-mock-up-white-and-aqua-cabinetsPam suggested trying the mock up above — instead of painting all the cabinets white — paint the bottom cabinets aqua.

Kitchen-mock-up-aqua-cabinetsOr even going as far as to paint all the cabinets aqua (like the above mock up) and making the wall orange to match the tile?

Readers — what do you think that Rebecca should do with her cabinets?


  1. Rita says:

    Hands down, the natural wood. Get the door refinished, maybe, if it needs freshening. I have similar cabinets and would love to do this color scheme. However ALL my dishes, linens, etc. for kitchen & dining room (together) are blues and reds. Wish I could figure out how to do something similar to this in a different color scheme. But the aqua & orange go so perfectly with the mid-century cabinets.

  2. Eeka says:

    Hello, I was wondering which program was used for the mock up kitchen? I currently need lots of help and ideas for my kitchen and it seems like that program would be helpful. I’m having such a hard time deciding on colors and what our priorities should be in the kitchen on a tight budget. Thank you for your time!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Eeka, Kate uses Photoshop for projects like this… I don’t know how to use this program, so I usually just use Powerpoint…

  3. Carol says:

    Limed oak on the cabinets is an excellent choice if you don’t want to paint. This will lighten the kitchen and not compete with the colors chosen. Grey linoleum on the floor would be great. The limed oak finish isn’t for everyone, but in this case I think it would look great.

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