Kitchen: Painting Cabinets & Recessed Lights {Our Two Story}

Remodel Part One
{Painting Cabinets & Installing Recessed Lights}

We’re completely remodeling our 1950s original ranch-style house {here’s a tour of the house when we purchased it, but we’ve been making progress so I’ll be updating some of these pics soon}.  It’s a lot of work, but so much fun!!  Very soon I’m going to share our newest kitchen remodel with you {here’s a link to our kitchen progress so far}, but first I found these pictures from our last house and thought they’d be fun to share with you.  This kitchen remodel was definitely the inspiration for our current kitchen!!!  I hope you’ll enjoy!  We had so much fun working on it!  DIY projects offer such an adrenaline rush!  We’re addicted!!!

When we first married we lived in a 600 square foot apartment and I remember being so proud!  A friend of the family brought over some furniture for us and I quickly asked if I could give her a tour.  She laughed so hard, then she took a step away from me, mad a quick 360 degree spin, said, there, I just did!  I was blissfully in love and proudly showed her every corner, including our closet that had been transformed into our office!  About a year later, Stud was offered a position in another city!  The biggest treat of all is that Stud’s parents had moved to that same city just months prior!  While Stud was away for training for his new career, I lived with my in-laws for a month {aren’t they super sweet}.  During this time I spent a lot of time searching for our first home!
Our first house was an adorable 1200 sq. ft. 1950s rancher in an older neighborhood and we totally loved it.  We had lots of projects to keep us busy which quickly became our favorite past time!  We bought our first puppy here, and a year later we brought our beautiful baby girl home!  So many sweet memories were made in our first home.  {Here’s a picture of the house when we brought our baby girl home for the first time…we hadn’t landscaped yet….we were so young here!}

A year later, Stud was offered a promotion within his company so we transferred back to our original area,  close to my family again.  We put a For Sale by Owner sign in the front yard and within a week we had a buyer.  The housing market was great and our newly updated kitchen definitely helped seal the deal for the buyers.  Two months later, we put an offer on a brand new 2 story speck home {click here to see more about our two story home} and {click here for a story about how our two story sold} with a kitchen that I totally didn’t love!  I tried to negotiate having the cabinets painted into the contract, but I couldn’t swing it!  So for the next two years as Stud was heavily enmeshed in the learning curve of his new position.  I grinned and bared it and tried not to obsess with totally not liking my kitchen by adding as many “pretties” as I could stand {I’m usually a minimalist with “stuff” so that was totally not me}.

The cabinet color wasn’t my favorite, the black laminate countertop was shiny, spotlighting every spill and fingerprint.  Making those spots even more obvious was the huge fluorescent light fixture that the builders wrapped with molding to try and make it look fancy…didn’t really work for me.

The space above the fridge was a total pet peeve, too.  Screaming “Cabinet, please!”
Finally after a whole lot of patience {for me at least}, the day came for us to take on the kitchen!  I could hardly stand it I was so excited!  Big B and I quickly got to work washing and de-greasing all the cabinets!

Doesn’t Stud look SUPER CUTE as he’s sanding the cabinet doors!!!  In addition to sanding the doors, we also filled the cabinet pull holes so that we could replace them once the cabinet painting was complete.

My sister’s husband…who also was my husband’s roommate in college lives around the corner and was so sweet to come and help us  rip the island apart and take down the fluorescent light box!  After removing the shoe molding, the shiny sheets came right off, ready to be exchanged with beadboard!  The more texture in a house…the BETTER!
We made a quick run to home depot and they had a very similar ready-made cabinet.  The stain was different, but since dreamy white was all I could imagine, we knew that would be an issue at all!  When we hung the cabinet up, we left the fridge in place, put a thick piece of wood on top of the fridge for the cabinet to rest on.  We placed lots of screws into studs and when the cabinet was secure, we moved the thick piece of wood that the cabinet had been resting on away and the cabinet hung perfectly level as if it had been there all along!
In order for the new cabinet to mesh well with the existing cabinets, molding was a total necessity! We had to take the existing molding down as well so we could adjoin the cuts and make it look like the cabinet had always been there.
There was a gap between the end of our cabinet and the wall so we cut a piece of wood and used a thin wood screw to attach it to the cabinet.  We had a slight worry that the cabinet would split, but because we drilled a thin hole prior to the screw, it went in effortlessly.  A little wood filler and a coat of paint and this will blend in perfectly!
We covered the inside of our cabinets with plastic while we did a light sanding on all of the surfaces.  Call me crazy, but emptying all those cabinets seemed crazy.  We’ve found that dust goes EVERYWHERE when you’re sanding so had we placed the kitchen dishes on the table or elsewhere, they’d still have a layer of dust.  Covering the openings with plastic worked for us.  After all the sanding was complete and I had a chance to vacuum and dust, I took the plastic down so we could still use our kitchen.  A mommy of three needs her kitchen, don’t you know it!!!  After sanding and dusting, I wiped the cabinets down with a degreaser {always recommended when painting in the kitchen}.  I primed the kitchen cabinet during nap time.  I used a thin smooth texture roller and Kilz 2 Latex primer and sealer, the same stuff I used when we painted our fireplace a few months ago!  It took two thick coats, but thankfully primer dries very fast!
Had we painted when we first moved in to our home I wouldn’t have had quite so much time to dream!  But we didn’t, so as I pictured the cabinets turning white, I also decided that all three original light fixtures ~ sink, island and table, had to go!  Prying off the Florescent Light Box was a big job, and not knowing what you’ll find underneath is also a little concerning.
Thankfully, we found a fully finished ceiling and only three holes that needed to be filled.  Had the painters left us more of their ceiling paint it would have been an easy fix, but instead we had to cut a little piece off of the ceiling and have that paint color matched.  I have to admit, the color match wasn’t perfect, but once the new lights went up and everything was bright and clean looking I knew the ceiling would not be noticed.  I’ve found that projects turn out best when I focus on the big picture and not get too lost in the details!

Our Cute Little Helpers


See what I mean…not too many holes to fill thankfully!  Doesn’t seeing all of that texture make you breath a sigh of relief for us!!!  LOL!
Stud patched the holes and then we let the joint compound dry overnight.  I’m never one to worry about getting dirty.  It’s all worth it in the end!  Do you see all the sanding I did the next morning while Stud was at work!?!?  I’m telling you, I looked GREAT!

After all the sanding I added a bit more joint compound, let it dry slightly and then added a little texture!  Thankfully Baby B was on the job supervising me!


The light fixture above the island was a simple install… totally improved over the prior fluorescent lightbox!   {Random side note: my place of clutter is always fridge art.  If it makes the fridge, I’ve fallen in love.  Difficult to take it down when I’m that attached!!!  Tell me I’m normal, pretty please!}  Do you love the new Bead Board on Island!!?  I totally love the thick base board we added to the island, too!  Now if I can get that around my whole house!!!
The fixtures above the sink and above the table are still needing to be replaced, but the paint is looking great.  For the cabinet base, I used a small smooth textured foam roller.  Paint always goes on thicker with a roller so I only needed three coats of finishing paint.
We laid plastic around the edges of our garage, and behind where the cabinet doors would be sprayed.  We lined the cabinets up in order and drew a little diagram so we would remember where each would need to go when we reassembled.  Each cabinet door was sprayed at least six times, flipping after they dried and then spraying again.  The great thing about spraying cabinet doors is that each coat is super thin and so the dry time is brief.  We sanded lightly between coats with a superfine sandpaper.
Our first drawer and cabinet door installed!!!  I’m LOVING our new hardware, too!  The Satin Nickel cabinet cup pulls were on clearance at Home Depot for $2.80 each, I snatched those up the second I saw them.  The drawer knobs came in a package of 10 from Home Depot {Liberty 1 1/4 inch} and were the perfect compliment to the cup pulls {which I absolutely love by the way}.
Oh my goodness, I think I’m in LOVE!  Totally what I was wanting from the day we bought the house.
With the cabinets complete all we had left to do was add some recessed lights because I just love the streamline look so much!!
As crazy as it seems, installing recessed lights is really pretty easy and the beauty of it all is selecting them is brainless…they all look pretty much the same!  The only decisions to make are the color and size of the recessed light, and whether you need a insulated or non-insulated lightbox.  Since my kitchen has black appliances, I decided to use black reflectors to compliment.  Each recessed light comes with a template so once we knew where we want the light to go and had checked to make sure we weren’t cutting into a stud, all we had to do was trace the template and then use a dry wall saw to cut around the hole.

Perfect Fit

Splicing Wires

All three recessed lights were wired together.  Once the bulbs were in place and a dimmer switch was installed, we were set!  {By the way, dimmer switches take no skill to install and they’re FANTASTIC for recessed lights especially where sometimes you may not want quite such intense light, but it’s nice to have the intense light option}.

Here it is…

After Two and a Half Weeks of Non-Stop Work!
Cabinets, island and lights all to my liking!  I have so much more to share with you so keep checking back!!!  Next up, GRANITE!  Sadly the floor, backsplash, and countertops are conflicting with the bright dreamy white kitchen that I totally adore!

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  1. Tracy Smith says:

    Your blog post has inspired me to paint my kitchen cabinets. Question…any tips on type of paint to use? Also, I see you sprayed your doors and drawers. Did you do that yourself? What kind of sprayer do you have? I’m thinking a sprayer might be useful because i want to redo my woodwork as well.

  2. Mariaelena says:

    Good morning…just blog hopping and so happy to run into yours…I LOVE your kitchen and can totally relate to the work that went into it…we painted ours last year..(it’s on my blog) and I LOVE it too…we painted the ones we actually put into our home 10 years earlier…I know crazy!!…I couldn’t be happier though and I’m sure you and your family are enjoying the fruits of your labor as well!…come on over and visit and take a peek at our kitchen…(tons of pics)….have a great day, Mariaelena

  3. barb says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am thinking about doing recessed lights in our kitchern and you show how it can be done. I was also thinking of getting black granite and you gave wise advice on why it may not be a good choice.

    • Aimee says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by Barb! XO, Aimee

  4. Susie says:

    Be my best friend and come to my house and make it beautiful! I am agonizing over the 80’s wood trim and poor paint and carpet choices the previous owners made. Love love love your fireplace! Turned out great!

  5. Tutu Phongadith says:

    Wow Aimee, your kitchen looks beautiful! I will be starting on my kitchen soon as well, and was thinking about putting recess lighting also. We will be doing all the labor ourselves since hiring a contractor puts the costs way above our budget. Just one question though, is your place a two-story home? I have a two-story and therefore no crawl space. I wanted to put recess lighting and wasn’t sure how to go about it without having an attic above.

    • Aimee says:

      Thanks so much for your sweet note. Our current house is a one story, but our other kitchen remodel was a two story. We added recessed lights to both kitchens! Two Story Kitchen Remodel. There are tons of recessed light varieties…including ones specific for two stories! Definitely share your fun before/after pics, I love those!!! XO, Aimee

  6. I like the new look of your kitchen. It’s very compelling. I also like the idea of using different materials to make new cabinets and furniture. I hope to see more of these soon.

  7. says:

    It’s fabulous!!! You’ve given me hope for my VERY dated 70’s kitchen!

  8. Geneva says:

    What a wonderful remodel… from the pictures I can see it was a lot of work, but well worth it. What an inspiration! Thank You!

  9. cathy@My1929Charmer says:

    What an incredible transformation! So much work that really paid off in the end. Well done, you must be very proud! Thanks for sharing all your creativeness and inspiration at Sunday’s Best!

  10. Courtney ~ French Country Cottage says:

    Lots of work- but it was worth it- it came out just beautiful!! Thanks for linking up at FNF! 🙂

  11. Denyse@Crazy Beautiful Life says:

    Aimee!!! I absolutely LOVE it!! I would never leave my kitchen if it looked like that…Thanks for sharing at my linky party!!

  12. Aimee - says:

    Oh my goodness, it’s so much better! I love it too! I know I’d LOVE your kitchen LOTS too! I just know it!!!
    XO, Aimee

  13. Honey at 2805 says:

    It looks fabulous Aimee! Your hard work really paid off big time!

    Thanks for linking to Potpourri Friday!

  14. Honey at 2805 says:

    It looks fabulous Aimee! Your hard work really paid off big time!

    Thanks for linking to Potpourri Friday!

  15. Erin {Lavender and Lemon Drops} says:

    It looks fantastic Aimee!

  16. Cindy says:

    What a beautiful makeover, doesn’t it make you feel good to look back and see what you accomplished in that house?
    Hugs, cindy

  17. mrshinesclass says:

    Aimee, it would be an honor for me if you shared this kitchen at my Show & Tell party on Wednesday.


  18. ✿ⒹⒺⒺ✿@ A Lapin Life says:

    Hi Aimee,

    I love your kitchen transformation!!!

    Your pictures are outstanding. I could see your vision.

    Well done indeed!!


  19. Chrissy says:

    This looks beautiful! And, holy cats, so much bigger!! Awesome work!!

  20. Ruth says:

    An amazing job. It will take me a bit to catch up with all the links you have here but I can’t wait to read them all.

  21. Heaven's Walk says:

    What an amaaaazing transformation, Aimee!! GREAT job!!! I have always wanted white cabinetry in my house, but can’t talk Hubby into that just yet seeing our cabinets were built in 1895 from wood on the property. Yours turned out so beautiful! Your whole kitchen is light and airy and welcoming! 🙂

    xoxo laurie

  22. Jenny says:

    Oh how I love the power of paint!! Your kitchen looks so light, bright and pretty! I just undertook this project myself, and while it was a lot of work (with kiddos in the house, like you), but oh so worth the end result!! It’s like childbirth – you forget the pain after you see the finished product, right? 😉

    Well done!!

  23. Just Made That Way says:

    Wow! I love your kitchen makeover, you guys did a fabulous job.

    Happy New Year!

  24. Terry says:

    I am so glad that you got your painted cabinets…finally! Your kitchen now looks really great! Happy cooking.

  25. mrshinesclass says:

    Looking good! I’m happy you now have the kitchen you wanted.


  26. Crafty Mischief says:

    Beautiful! I loved hearing your story and seeing all your fun pics! For a minute I thought you were going to leave the cabinets open and while it looked amazing and organized I was thinking wow! she’s a better woman than I am, I could never! I’ll bet they’re still probably all organized and gorgeous even with the doors on! 🙂

  27. Carrie @ My Favorite Finds says:

    Awesome. I agree….it needed some help, and you did a wonderful job! Come back Wednesday, if you want, and link to my Wednesday Pinterest Favorites.

  28. Tonia @ says:

    Such a great transformation! How wonderful that you and your husband did the work yourself!

  29. Tonya says:

    What a beautiful transformation!! You guys definitely put some long hard hours in!! Can’t wait to see more! 🙂

  30. Lindsay says:

    SO impressive! I absolutely love what you have done! Amazing job!

  31. White Ironstone Cottage says:

    Hi Aimee Love the new white cabinets and the new lighting too
    Beautiful job
    glad to have found your blog will be visiting often to see what else you are working on
    Happy New Year Blessings

  32. Janel@hatingmartha says:

    What an outstanding improvement! All that light…wonderful!