Painting These Wood Cabinets Isn't Going To Solve The Problem

New clients have just purchased a fantastic mid-century executive ranch for their retirement home.  They are ready to kick back and live life in this spacious and well-designed home.  Big remodeling projects are definitely NOT on their wish list, so we have chosen new wall colors and will be doing some small updates to bring the house into alignment with the way they want to live.  

But, one thing they knew before I even got there, is that this kitchen needs help.

The 90's are calling...they want their backsplash back!

The 90's are calling...they want their backsplash back!


My clients had already spoken with a contractor about painting the cabinets white. I let them know how important prep is, and that it could be done so long as we chose the right white.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that there are hundreds of whites to choose from and selecting the correct white is tricky.  We wandered the rest of the house, choosing color and discussing the look and feel they want.  And when we circled back to the kitchen to revisit the idea of painting the cabinets white, I made the following observation:

What's wrong with this kitchen is not the cabinets but the tile.

The home was built around 1960 and I believe the cabinets are original.  They are solid as a rock, even after half a century!  Where things went wrong was in the mid-90's when the previous owners put on an addition and decided to spruce up the kitchen.  They mistakenly selected tile that was popular at the time and really had nothing to do with the style of the kitchen or the architecture of the house.  (Add to that, the serious mis-matching of the colors...a bunch of orange-y browns that just don't play well together.  UGH!)

I had to be honest with my clients (because that's how I roll!) so I told them that the problem was NOT going to be solved by painting the cabinets.  Those mid-century cabinets want to be wood.  Painting them white, even if they did get the job done properly, would never suit the style of the house.  And we'd still have that 90's tile to contend with. 

My advice was to pull that backsplash pronto, leave the wood as-is and do something really gorgeous and a bit whimsical (colorful!) to balance the orange-y wood and distract from not-terrific flooring.   Because my client's favorite color is a rich blue, and because blue and orange make a smashing complementary color scheme, we pulled Benjamin Moore's Buckland Blue as an inspiration.  Here's a mock-up...

Now we're having some fun!   (Disclaimer:  I am a Color Expert, not a Photoshop Expert!!)

Now we're having some fun!   (Disclaimer:  I am a Color Expert, not a Photoshop Expert!!)


This week, I spent some time in the tile store, looking at some spectacular blue tile for my client.  Here is what I found:


The goal is to use color intelligently -- to honor the style and era of the house, to use color to draw the eye such that the floor will be less of an issue, and to have some fun, of course, by using one of these really gorgeous materials.

Sorry, but that tumbled stone just doesn't say "Gorgeous" to me!

Stay tuned....I'll let you know what my client decides, whether to paint the cabinets white and live with that backsplash, or go for something way more appropriate.  You know which plan has got my vote!  How about you....paint or tile?