Golden oak, open concept feels small
November 27, 2013 in Design Dilemma
We have a "great" room with our kitchen, living and dining room all within the same space. Golden oak prevails on trim, doors, cabinets even the shades. We are wanting to paint the cabinets but since its so open we can't agree. White cabinets? Espresso? Gray? Help!!
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Royal Kitchen and Bath Cabinets
You can't go wrong with white. Espresso will go well with your dinning table chairs, but it might be too dark for the space. You can always paint kitchen cabinets white and the cabinets on the island espresso. I don't think gray will look good in your space.
November 27, 2013 at 12:13PM     
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
I think white or off-white would look fine. I think, given the size of your space, that espresso would be overpowering.
November 27, 2013 at 12:20PM     
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Yes, white. Classic and beautiful.
November 27, 2013 at 12:21PM     
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Thank you! We're worried white would be boring but I like the idea of mixing it w/ espresso on the island for a little punch. Any opinions on light fixtures?
November 27, 2013 at 12:27PM     
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November 27, 2013 at 6:42PM     
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I would definitely do a soft warm white with a cocoa/hazelnut glaze and then stain/paint the island expresso.
November 28, 2013 at 6:23PM     
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TMK Remodeling
It's a small galley kitchen. I am not sure that changing the color will make it appear any bigger. Trade off between cost vs aesthetic is your call.
November 28, 2013 at 6:38PM     
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Your kitchen in white with upper cabinets replaced and taken all the way to the ceiling:
November 28, 2013 at 7:49PM     
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William Roy Designer Kitchens
Personally, I would do the opposite of what groveraxle has photoshop'ed. leave the cabients and paint the Oak door. Note: Red Oak is a highly pores and when painted you will see ALL the grain telegraph through the paint. Note: If you do paint the kitchen be sure to do the correct prep, use a high end paint finish (no lacquer) and paint it professionally. It will last longer and you will be more satisfied. wr
November 28, 2013 at 8:00PM     
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I'd purchase a new door for your pantry! A pretty oak door with glass in it. I'll look for an example. Adding a backsplash to your kitchen will help also.
November 28, 2013 at 8:09PM     
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November 28, 2013 at 8:10PM     
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November 28, 2013 at 8:10PM     
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November 28, 2013 at 8:11PM     
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Lisa Pugmire - Lowe's In Elk Grove
What kind of feel do you want the end result to be? I personally like the Espresso Finish in Oak, I feel the graining actually works well with it! I do not think it would be too dark for your area. You could paint the doors and trim out in white to update it. Do you like any other colors? You could do the Island in one of them and carry that color throughout your space with the accent pieces. It is much easier to change an Island color in the future than all the cabs. Just my thoughts.
November 28, 2013 at 8:13PM     
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William Roy Designer Kitchens
Actually mrr001, I post stated to paint "Professionally" meaning don't do it yourself. We do agree.
November 28, 2013 at 8:55PM     
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William Roy Designer Kitchens
To make a point, I painted the walls in my new home although I paid a professional to come in and paint the oil trim as it is not easy and can yield a disaster.
November 28, 2013 at 8:57PM     
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Yes, I see what you said now. And you are very correct that it can be a disaster. I hesitated for years to have my oak cabinets painted because I saw a bad paint job where every little crevice and grain showed. I have seen so many beautiful painted white cabinets on Houzz with all kinds of neutral colors on the walls as well as beautiful shades of green, blue, etc. To me it is a great way to update a kitchen like mine or his without the expense of brand new cabinets. By the way, your website is awesome.
November 28, 2013 at 9:09PM     
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Thanks! Wow this is great. TMK remodeling its not a galley, the rest of the kitchen is past the island out if the picture (2nd pic shows it). Grover axle thanks for the photo shop! That helped a lot. Meghan Alissa I think I will get a new pantry door. Great options. Thx!
November 29, 2013 at 7:06AM     
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Lisa, I want my kitchen to welcoming. Light and bright would be nice. We love red and have used it before. Our biggest concern with this space is consistency into the living room/dining room
November 29, 2013 at 7:08AM   
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White would look clean and bright as well as look good paired with the red that you love. Red pendants lights would look nice ... Lowe's has nice, inexpensive ones.
November 29, 2013 at 7:38AM     
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Rustix Woodbrix Inc.
How about warm and rustic for your kitchen back splash. You can buy wooden wall tiles at Rustix Woodbrix
November 29, 2013 at 8:27AM     
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i would do a warm white. so something like a winter white, or a very pale cream.

as someone who has painted red oak furniture with no problem, i can tell you that it IS something that can be DIY'd.

you have to be willing to do it the right way. but you can do it.

the right way means you clean with tsp substitute to get all grease off, sand, and wipe down with tack cloths and vaccuum the nooks and crannies to get all the dust off.
then you prime with a GOOD primer. this is not the time to skimp. killz is good, zinnzer is better. doing 2 coats of primer is a good idea. thin, even coats is the name of the game. don't just slop it on, it'll look horrible. use good brushes and rollers.

for the top coat, get a good paint. don't skimp out here either. don't get contractor grade, go for the paint and primer combined. yes, you already primed, but the paint and primer is a better coverage paint, and it goes on better/smoother.

i've used behr with great results. don't like using glidden, it just never works out for me, with the exception of their gel paint.

do a satin finish, it's more forgiving, both of slight painting mistakes and fingerprints.
make sure you let everything dry and cure before heavy use happens. 24-48hrs for dry, 7-10 days for full cure, depending on humidity.
November 29, 2013 at 9:04AM     
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I would make your island a color like red with a black glaze to break up the oak. I would order a frosted glass pantry door. Add some of the red in the back wall. A nice runner at the sink would also add color.
November 29, 2013 at 10:46PM   
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Check into what it would cost to get new fronts/doors and just paint the boxes to match.
November 30, 2013 at 5:23PM   
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I have a similar kitchen that I'm trying to update. I'm interested in what houzzers suggest for light fixtures...I have the same pendant light that I'd like to update! Also, in terms of the pantry door, can you add a white door and keep the trim wood? Or would we need to paint the trim as well?
November 30, 2013 at 8:05PM     
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Patricia Colwell
Make sure to send doors out to pro to be painted, there is nothing worse than a botched paint job on cabinet doors. I would vote for a warm white with the island in a darker tone. Don't forget to paint the pantry door. Then paint the wall behind cabinets on stove wall a nice color to co-ordinate with DR and LR. I would also get rid of all the stuff on top of the cabinets and just settle for a couple of nice items. Be prepared that once you paint the cabinets you might want to paint all the woodwork in the rest of the space too.
December 1, 2013 at 5:48AM   
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This is almost identical to our kitchen and we are thinking the same thing. Great ideas. Like the idea of white cabinets and espresso island. There is paint on the market that is 'self leveling' in other words won't leave paint streaks with the brush. I would also change out the pantry door, white if you are going with white cupboards. We also changed our hardware to a brushed nickle to update - used straight 5" handles. Looks nice. Lastly a nice update is to get a funky kitchen tap, quickly adds a contemporary feel.
December 1, 2013 at 6:44AM     
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We had the same cabinets and also an open floor plan. White outer cabs and black island done with Rustoleum Transformations. DIY. We also raised the cabinets to the ceiling and took the doors off the short cabs over fridge and micro. This made it feel more open.
December 1, 2013 at 7:26AM     
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Janie Blank
Groveraxle how did you take that kitchen photo and redo it like that? I need to know! Fantastic!
December 1, 2013 at 7:27AM     
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Shannon Olden
personally i like the idea of darker, closer to your dining room set. also i do not mind the oak grain when it is darker. shows that the cabinets are real wood!! as long as your pot lights and pendants can carry a good wattage the room can be as bright as you want. your family room is very cozy and inviting. i would also paint the blinds darker as well since your coffee table is dark. also like the touches of red. nicely done!
December 1, 2013 at 8:33AM   
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@Janie Blank, Photoshop Elements.
December 1, 2013 at 9:49AM     
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Take cabinets to ceiling with some pretty crown going around the entire space I tie it all together. If unable to so that, the little decorative items on top of cabinets makes the space seem smaller. Replace with fewer items and larger, large baskets and pottery. No fake greenery.
December 1, 2013 at 9:56AM   
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December 1, 2013 at 12:57PM     
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I added mirrored back splashes and a bold granite to the counters that has black, gold and cream in it. The mirrors give depth to the space while the granite adds interest. My cabinets are the same color as yours. I love it!
December 1, 2013 at 5:03PM   
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I would go for a cream or off white which would go better with the dark wood and blend in better. Seeing things in real helps to get a better picture of things - if you can drop into a showroom you might get a better feel for what you are doing. In New York we have a great showroom in center Manhattan or you can find us online -want to see the cabintes we cater .
December 2, 2013 at 4:08PM   
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We have been refinishing a lot of old oak with either a darker more rich stain, or painting them white to freshen the area. We use a very high quality latex enamel that dries harder than oil, but is water soluble. Its also chip resistant which is important when refinishing cabinets.
Another option is to paint the majority of the cabinets white and then use a dark stain, or a dark paint on the kitchen island. It acts as an accent for the space.
December 3, 2013 at 6:17PM   
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I'd go off white or white on the upper cabinets and espresso or black on the lower. That way the stove and d/w will blend. This will also blend with your dining room furniture and make a cohesive statement.

Like your living room furniture arrangement and colors.
December 4, 2013 at 3:40AM   
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Check out the pendant lights at Home Depot -- everything from contemporary to classic, + all reasonably priced. I am especially fond of their schoolhouse-style pendants. The white globes would look great with white cabs. I super LOVE the photo shopped upper cabinet suggestion! Good luck!
December 4, 2013 at 5:26AM   
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Warm white cupboards would be lovely! Two years ago I painted my honey oak cabinets with Benjamin Moore Cloud White, and I've never regretted it. It took a bit of prep to fill the oak grain - I skim coated wood filler on the fronts and sanded well with a palm sander. The wood filler was quite thick, so I diluted it with water so I could put a light coat on. I love the way they turned out! I've also seen oak cupboards painted without using wood filler and they look wonderful. It just depends on the look you want. I'm now in the process of painting my baseboards, windows, etc. with the same paint. It's really brightening our house and bringing it up to date without much cost - just a lot of work! Good luck with whatever you decide!
December 4, 2013 at 5:50AM     
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Just paint that full length door the same color as your walls, and maybe your island espresso or red. Leave your cabinets alone until you see what a difference that will make....painted cabinets are a pain after a few years or sooner if you have hubby or kids who leave mustard prints on them.
December 4, 2013 at 10:11AM   
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What colors are in your living and dining rooms?
December 4, 2013 at 12:14PM   
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You could paint the island and the lower cabinets one colour (grey) and the upper cabinets a soft white. Also, consider painting out the oak doors in your kitchen the same colour you use for the walls. The trim on those doors could also be painted out or left in oak to match the other trim in your house.
December 4, 2013 at 1:03PM   
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White cabinets for sure. Paint the walls a buttery yellow or sage green.
December 4, 2013 at 1:24PM   
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Teeter Cabinets
Just remember that oak has a very open grain and frankly does not paint very well. I'm not saying not to go for it but just keep in mind that it will not have a very smooth painted surface. As for color, I am keen on grey, but an off white would also look great.
December 4, 2013 at 1:58PM   
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Love, love groveraxle's pic of (what could be) your kitchen. Taking out the panels and adding glass is a perfect way to open up the space. One of my favorite "whites" is Dover White by Sherwin Williams. It's a creamy white. It's warm and inviting without being too yellow. I attached two photos, one of a kitchen in Dover and another with Living room trim in Dover.
December 4, 2013 at 4:07PM   
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While I agree white (especially with glass) will open up the space I think more than anything having the cabinets all the way up no matter what color will add height and clean lines along with more storage. I do not see anything in your photo of the living room that is white so the espresso would tie in better (color wise) the way it is now. However it would be easy enough to pull some white into the living area if that is your desire. As was mentioned before and is very true, oak is much easier to stain than paint especially when considering white paint. Not saying it cant be done but it is something I would not want to do even myself knowing what all is involved and having a high skill level. What would be done in production is they would use a high build sealer that would create a more smooth look in heavy grained woods like oak, then 2-3 coats of finish.These products are normally sprayed on in a shop that's why it comes out so smooth. So you may want to seriously consider a dark espresso stain/finish as it would be easy to achieve and works well with your existing color scheme. Ultimately it depends how big a project you want to undertake and if you want to change other things to make it work or just paint as you said.
December 4, 2013 at 5:31PM     
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I love just about everyone's ideas but I wanted to say to the homeowner that the family room looks warm and inviting and the Christmas decorations just sweet! Good job!
December 4, 2013 at 7:28PM     
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If you are demolishing and starting over then easy, you have all kinds of choices. But I believe you are just refurbishing. Also looks like you have lack of light. Espresso will make it
darker and gloomy. No white because the counter-tops are white. So the answer is GREY.
Not light grey. But medium grey and all frames around the doors one to two shades
darker. The doors will pop. You will have depth. Take away all that "stuff" from the tops of cabs. Your kitchen is going to be more contemporary and match your dining room.
Hope this helps.
Happy Holidays!
December 5, 2013 at 9:19AM   
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Go white, if you don't like the look its easier to go darker than the opposite
December 5, 2013 at 10:28AM   
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we welcome you to take a look at our online store at
December 6, 2013 at 10:06PM   
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I think the white cabinets and espresso island is the most versatile. Definitely change the big door to have window panes. If you can swing it, get the cabinets to a higher point. Your need for red can be easily introduced after you do these "big" changes. Red as an accent color in a white and espresso kitchen will be cheerful. And your house is charming. Love your decorations!
December 7, 2013 at 2:21PM   
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save yourself a lot of time and $$$

as spectacular as white kitchens are (including my own)
1. the oak cabinets tie in with the rest of the space (your living area is lovely). Leave them alone, white does not fit here.

2. the pantry door; either paint it out (match wall color) or use one with frosted glass panes.

3. introduce more color. Paint the island a weathered barn red or introduce some teal. Paint with brush, if there are some skips, leave alone, and then sand edges and corners for a quick vintage look. Do not prime. Some crackling would look good, if you know how.

4. top island with tiles that have a natural stone look, a DIY project.

5. the cabinets next to the fridge; turn more into a hutch look by using corbels or brackets under the uppers. Room for more creativity here with backsplash or glass upper doors and paint or wallpaper.

6. Oh yes, get rid of the clutter. Taking uppers to ceiling is nice, but costly. Either put nothing on top or use old crockery bowls, etc. Something chunky and large scale and keep it simple.

Work with what you have, it's a good beginning.
December 8, 2013 at 10:45AM     
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PS from above
if you decide to paint the island, give it a base coast of flat black. The $3 sample sizes from Home Depot or Lowes will be enough. This will give some depth to your color and ensure the color stays true and is not influenced by the golden oak.
December 8, 2013 at 1:25PM     
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