Design Crew

Posted on Sat, 21 Jan 2012 by midcenturyjo

Got a problem? Need some help? Just standing there shaking your head? Don’t know what to do? You’re not alone. Send us a link to photos of your design quandary and let the Desire to Inspire design crew help you …. that’s you lot… the readers! This week’s problem comes from Christa. (And I must say what a lovely home you have Christa!)

I have a design dilemma and was wondering if you would mind asking your savvy readers their opinion on what color to use for refinishing my kitchen cabinets? Stain or paint, and what color? The wood is not in good shape as you can see from the detail photo, so I need to clean them up and I can’t really leave them unstained because I have to disguise the chips. The wood is Honduras mahogany.


I could stain them a darker semi-solid, or paint. New stainless dishwasher and fridge are on their way, and I would like to get the cabinets freshened up at the same time. Right now the floors are natural red oak, the fir ceilings are stained Cabot Sandstone (taupe) and the fir beams are Cabot Cordovan (chocolate with violet/taupe tone). Thoughts? I’m open to ideas.

Jeff Flemings says:

I hear you on wanting to camouflage the wear, but mahogany has such a great grain and I'd hate to see you completely lose the richness of the wood. I am wondering if staining in a complementary tone (like gray, as mentioned earlier) would be good. As long as it's a warm gray to complement the great warmth you already have in your main living area. Lovely space!

Lisa says:

I like the idea of using a grey paint or stain on the bottom cabinets, similar to (or slightly lighter than, to blend in with the stainless) the back of the living room divider/shelves. What about open shelves instead of the upper cabinets? They could be wood, like the ones over the sink, or painted white or even stainless. I think it would open the space up and lighten the room.

kates says:

You have a lovely home with lots of natural wood finishes. I would agree with the posters who suggest something a
little different with a stain, and would go with green. Depending on how the wood takes the stain
it will vary -light and dark.
I did it with my wood floors eight years ago and still love it!

ella says:

Beautiful home!!! I am definitely with susan keep the wood the same stain. Don't paint.
Lovely wood is what your home is all about and makes us all love it 🙂

Emma says:

I agree with Susan and everyone else who say go with a similar color.

Carolyn says:

We have a very similar home- it's a deckhouse w/ tongue&groove pine ceilings and darker beams, and the same wood "walls" on the back of our cabinets into our dining room, etc. I have seen other homes similar to ours where they have painted or replaced the original mahoghany cabinets w/ white and I prefer the wood look in these spaces.
Have you tried Howard's Restore-a-finish on the cabinets? followed by a layer of their Feed'n'Wax?
Our cabinets (original to our 1968 home) were really dried out looking when we moved in, but I went over them w/ that combo and a magic eraser (very carefully in a few rough spots) and they really came back to life. Not perfect, but painted cabinets don't look perfect for long either, and it's much easier to just go over again w/ the Restore-a-finish than the touch up paint.
If the restore-a-finish doesn't polish them up enough, then I would look into restaining a similar, possibly darker shade.

christa says:

Thanks, everyone, for your kind and considered comments. I have been thinking of these suggestions and tend to agree that refinishing the wood and keeping it close to the original design is probably the best option (and darn it, the messiest). I'll likely test a few stain colors – natural, gray, etc. Carolyn, I did try Restor-a-finish. It didn't do the trick. Thanks also to Jo and Kim!

Jason says:

I like the blonde coloured timber on all the doors, maybe give it a stain and lacquer, add black kitchen door knobs. Then for a bit of drama maybe paint the rest of the kitchen cabinet frames in either a black stain or paint finish. It would be the reverse of your wall unit in the living room and could look pretty stylish and also help intergrate the black kitchen tops with the rest of the kitchen. I've always loved the contrast between black and a light colured timber and your place could certainly take it. Maybe even a strip of white subway tiles or mosaics running on top of your black splash back for some extra detail. Cheers J

:^)e rin says:

I agree with trying to keep them wood grain and flow with the entire home. What if you found a clean simple moulding trim to cover the edges of the door faces? It would change the clean flat style of the period look a bit, but maybe a simple flat, lathe-size "band" across all the bottom edges is all you need (can't see exactly where all the worn spots are). then a nice rich stain color a bit darker than you have now, and I would definitely paint the toe-kick area below the cabinets a rich dark that will essentially disappear and let the cabinets "float" visually. good luck!

oregonbird says:

Like everyone said, "That is a LOT of wood!" I agree with the poster who recommended shelving rather than leaving the upper cabinets as they are — you could use metal to tie the chairs (very nice) and the extra storage in. Upper cabinets are definitely on their way out – the future is shelves, shelves, shelves!

It's a darn shame to cover mahogany with paint, though. It's not a huge kitchen by any means — going with a cooler palatte will open the space, and give your eye a break from the consistantly warm tones. I would recommend something in the line of a light or medium cool blue/grey stain – allowing the grain to show through will be enough to connect the kitchen visually to the textures already in play. http://

With that much cooling (and with opening the upper reaches and utilizing metal shelving) you could bring warmth in by matching a new rug to the red chairs.

I would think you would want to match new hardware up to your dining room – rectantular knobs in metal and glass would help modernize the look: http://

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