15 Ways to Update Your Kitchen with Paint

With the primers and paints available now, it's easy to transform a dowdy, outdated kitchen from top to bottom. From the cabinets to the floor, find colorful ideas to revive your kitchen.

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Vinyl Flooring
A New Lease on Life for Vinyl and Laminate

    If your vinyl flooring isn't chipped and cracked, you can give it a whole new look with paint. The key is to use a liquid deglosser and a latex stain-blocking primer formulated for glossy surfaces. These two steps provide for better paint adhesion. Apply a modified epoxy latex paint, which is formulated with a harder binder than wall paint and, when properly applied and cured, can stand up to normal traffic.

    Finally, protect the painted surface with clear polyurethane. Painting laminate counters is a more temporary measure because countertops receive so much use, but until you can afford to replace laminate countertops, give them a facelift with a specialty primer for nonporous surfaces and two coats of acrylic latex enamel. Primers and paints for vinyl and laminate are available at most home improvement centers. (For a faux granite paint finish that works on laminate, visit liquidstainlesssteel.com.)

Easy Custom Shades

    Add custom color at the window with a painted vinyl roller shade. Stripes like this are easy to create using painter's tape to mark off evenly spaced stripes. Roll on semigloss latex paint or acrylic crafts paint with a 4-inch roller, then peel off the painter's tape to reveal the white stripes. Here the gray stripes match the cabinets, the white stripe blends with the walls, and yellow-green adds a fashion-forward accent.

    If your kitchen color scheme includes three colors, repeat all of them on the window shade to reinforce the scheme, or use just one with white to give that hue greater emphasis in the room.

Put Color Underfoot

    Painting a wooden floor with cool color and stencils can change the entire atmosphere of the kitchen. Before committing to a color, test it on a large piece of foam-core board. Place the board on the floor to see how the color works with the cabinetry and affects the sense of space in the room. (A dark navy, for example, could have made this kitchen feel smaller, but this medium shade adds interest without constricting the space.)

    Prepare the floor by cleaning it with a high-strength household cleaner and roughening the surface with 150-grit sandpaper. For a stenciled floor, apply a high-quality primer and use standard latex paint for both the background color and the stencil design. Protect the treatment with several coats of clear polyurethane. You'll need to reapply polyurethane every year or two to keep the painted finish in good shape.

A Two-Toned Painted Rug

    Use paint to dress up a plain wooden floor with diamond shapes that mimic large tiles. In addition to punching up an understated kitchen, the diamonds visually expand the space, creating an illusion of greater width. In this kitchen, the entire floor was first painted gray, and a narrow black border defined the edge of the patterned area. Only the white diamonds needed to be painted inside the border.

Mad for Plaid

    Painted cabinets and flooring bestow instant age and country charm on this brand-new kitchen. Because it's a large space, the plaid effect is based on a generous 12-inch grid. Executing this design requires patience and accurate measuring, but the painting is easy, using a 4-inch roller and alkyd paint formulated for floors. Start in the center of the room so that partial squares end at the cabinets. To achieve the plaid effect, paint every other row of squares with white and light green and the rows in between with light green and dark green.

Personalize a Tile Backsplash

    Once upon a time, painting tile was a smelly, messy project that might or might not work. Now, with new primers and paint technology, it's possible to brush or stencil on color and be confident of the results. (Note that painting tile is only recommended for surfaces that won't be exposed to standing water -- so a backsplash is fine, but a shower isn't.)

    Some experts recommend using an oil-base primer and oil-base paints followed by a top coat of water-base polyurethane to protect the treatment. Another option is to use specialty crafts paints designed for use on glazed ceramic tile, such as Plaid Folk Art Enamels. Follow the instructions carefully, and allow the backsplash to cure for about 3 weeks before cleaning.

Furniture Makeover

    A coat of white paint on a less-than-precious dining table and chairs lightens and brightens a kitchen-breakfast room dominated by too much brown wood. While painting antiques would destroy their value, reproductions of recent vintage are fair game for a facelift. Sand the wood or rub on a liquid deglosser to roughen the surface so the paint will adhere better, and apply at least two coats of a semigloss or satin paint for an easy-to-clean surface. For the most professional finish, use a self-leveling paint, which hides brushstrokes, and apply the paint in thin coats.

Banish Boring Cabinetry

    Rescue stock cabinetry from boredom with a coat of bright color. It's an easy project, but proper preparation is the key to a good-looking, hardwearing finish. You also need plenty of room to work, because all of the doors and drawers need to be removed and painted separately from the cabinet frames. Sanding to roughen the surface used to be standard practice, but now liquid deglossers make the job easier and much less messy.

    Apply a stain-blocking primer-sealer for good paint adhesion, and as soon as it's dry, brush on two or more thin coats of semi-gloss or satin self-leveling paint. Matte-finish paints don't stand up well to the wear and tear kitchen cabinets receive, and high-gloss reveals surface imperfections.

Painted Patina

    Sometimes updating with paint can mean creating the illusion of venerable antiquity. A distressed finish on the perimeter cabinetry and island brings vintage charm to this new kitchen. Creating the finish is time-consuming but not difficult -- sanding the surface to receive the paint may be the most tedious part, but then you just brush on the base color (here it was red) and the top color, letting each dry thoroughly. Then sand off the top coat along edges, moldings, and areas that normally receive wear and tear to let the first color show through.

    To enhance the look of age and tone down bright colors, go over the painted surfaces with a glaze of raw umber. (Glaze is used for decorative paint finishes and can be found in the paint aisles of home improvement stores.)

Create a Focal Point

    Apply paint selectively to draw attention to one area of the kitchen. A creamy butter color unifies perimeter cabinets, allowing the black "hutch" to take center stage. This piece was cleverly created by cutting French-style openings in the cabinet doors, adding furniture-style feet to the base of the cabinet, and crowning the top with molding. A shelving unit completes the illusion. Black countertops and Colonial-style hardware tie the unit into the overall color scheme.

Color Blocking

    Using two or three colors in large blocks in the kitchen makes a large space feel less intimidating and gives it a less formal, unfitted look. Dark colors appear heavy, so use them on the base cabinets and island and save the light tones for upper cabinets. Here, blue on the perimeter cabinets complement butter-yellow walls, and bright yellow-green makes the island a focal point.

Blackboard Walls

    If you can never find a scrap of paper when you need to leave a note, take a message, or make a grocery list, here's a creative solution: Coat the walls with blackboard paint. Originally marketed for kids' rooms and playrooms, this paint works in any room on a smooth, dry surface. Clean off chalked messages with a damp sponge. Try underpainting with magnetic paint first if you like to post children's artwork or favorite photos on your walls.

Quick, Budget-Friendly Changes

    A basic, timeless color scheme, such as yellow walls and white cabinetry, lends itself to easy, low-cost changes with accessories. Bar stools painted glossy tomato red, chandelier shades stamped with a checkerboard pattern of red and yellow, and artwork in a red-and-yellow theme energize this kitchen with a lively, warm mood.

    For a calm, classic look, paint the stools blue, change the shades, and replace the artwork with blue- and-white plates. Lime-green would perk up the yellow and white with a fresh, modern look. To personalize inexpensive chandelier shades, brush or sponge them with acrylic crafts paints. Brush strokes may show when the lights are on, but if you make the strokes uniformly horizontal or vertical, the effect will look like fabric.

Showcase Your Artistry

    If you like your wooden cabinetry but want to give it a new look, try painting an image on the center panels of a few of the doors. Rub on a background color without deglossing or priming. This lets the wood grain show through. Paint or stencil the motif with artists' acrylic paints or crafts paints, and seal the panel with a clear, water-base polyurethane.

Create Drama with Contrasts

    Instead of painting cabinetry doors and frames the same color, paint only the cabinet frames and drawer fronts, creating a dramatic background for wooden doors. This cabinetry is custom-finished, but the use of contrasting dark and light tones shows the dramatic effects you can achieve by painting frames ebony or dark brown and leaving the original pale doors intact. To give the doors even more panache, stencil a delicate design on them using paints in neutral shades that are slightly darker than the wood stain.

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