web analytics

How I Painted my Kitchen Cabinets: Chalk Paint, Latex, and Benjamin Moore Advance

by Angie on February 6, 2013

Welcome to the second instalment of our new series “In Angie’s Kitchen: Pretty Kitchen, Bad Cook”!

angie kitchen 300 x 150

Today I’ll tell you about all the mistakes I’ve ever made in painting my kitchen cabinets and all the things I’ve ever done right.

how i painted my cabinets chalk paint verses benjamin moore

In 2009 when we bought our house the kitchen boasted oak cabinets. The house was built in the 80’s when I looked like this:

angie kissing fish lake powell

My dad tells me that in the 80’s, oak cabinets were the thing to have. But 25 years later when we moved in, I felt like black cabinets were the thing for me to have.

Hence we went from this to this:

before and between

But right this second, here in 2013 when I do a search on Pinterest for simply the term, “KITCHEN” most of the images that come up are white kitchens. I can hardly find a dark-toned cabinet in the bunch! A white kitchen is and will always be a classic design standard. You really can’t go wrong with it.

Two other things I see almost in almost 100% of my white “kitchen” search results? A contrasting kitchen island and a contrasting natural texture like a butcher block counter top or natural wood beams on the ceiling. Yep. (These themes are an entirely separate post waiting to happen. Stay tuned.)

Let’s focus on paint- The first time we painted the cabinets this is how we did it:

  1. we lightly sanded and cleaned the cabinets with TSP
  2. we bought a paint sprayer, set up shop outside, and painted the doors with a coat of gray primer
  3. we sprayed the doors with Valspar’s Martha Stewart paint called “French Bulldog Black”
  4. we used both angled brushes and small high-density foam rollers to paint the cabinets themselves
  5. we kicked ourselves for 3 years and cried on and off about how poorly they turned out

I can’t explain why, but the paint we used never set right. It never hardened solidly on the cabinets. Honest. I could take my fingernail and scratch the paint off if I wanted to torture myself. The cabinets remained slightly tacky until it was time to “Sell the House” and then I knew it was time to tackle the paint job all over again and fix the mess I had created in Round 1.

I did a lot of research the second time around. First question? Should I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP)?

side note: I realize that while most Home/DIY Bloggers and their readers know what ASCP is, really only a slim portion of the general population does. It’s a new product not sold on the mass market. Does your Mom or Mother-in-Law know what ASCP is? See? So let me just take a second to explain–>

annie sloan chalk paint source: decoratedlife,com

Annie Sloan, a lady in England (who doesn’t live at Downton Abbey) created some paint that is awesome. It’s called “chalk paint”, but it’s not CHALKBOARD PAINT. That’s the paint that you can use to turn a wall into a chalkboard. This paint is different. It has chalk IN IT. That makes it awesome somehow. It allows the painter to skip sanding and priming. It adheres amazingly to everything. Yet, at the same time, the chalk paint can be sanded away easily to create a distressed effect. Let me rephrase that– the paint was CREATED to be distressed and to create a weathered look. When you paint with ASCP you should sand between each coat to create the SMOOTHEST FINISH EVER. It’s like baby’s butt smooth! NO BRUSH STREAKS. The paint job is sealed typically with a wax coat that is rubbed on and buffed off. (Dear Mother-in-Law, is that enough back story for you? Call me if you have questions. And please come visit soon :-) Moving on…

Back to my question- Should I paint the cabinets in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint so I don’t have to sand down and prime the cabinets? Could it really be that easy?

I knew I wanted the upper cabinets to be white this time and I would keep the bottoms black. There are some amazing kitchens out there sporting this two-toned look. The most famous and best example of this is Tommy Smythe’s kitchen:

white upper cabinets black lower cabinets

(Tommy Smythe is Sarah Richardson’s assistant on her HGTV shows and an incredible designer in his own right. If you don’t know who Sarah Richardson is, I forgive you. We are all people.)

sarah richardson tommy smythe

I drove to my nearest ASCP stockist (you have to get it from licensed stockists) and bought one quart of Pure White for the uppers and one quart of Graphite for the lowers.

I flew my mom out to help me paint the cabinets. I need her for these types of intense projects. She is my painter fairy.

We wiped the cabinets clean, but didn’t sand them. Did we, Mom? I don’t think so. She wanted to though. She was all, “Can I sand just a little?” And I was like, “Only if you do it behind my back and stop making fun of me for eating McDonalds for every single meal.”

The chalk paint went on very nicely with a brush. We were able to just slap it on thick-like (which also gave my mom nervous twitches) and didn’t worry about brush strokes, because since we had to sand it lightly (with a “between coats” sanding block) any brush strokes that were there came off with that sanding. The paint sorta crackled as it dried too. Which was also fine as that top layer just sanded right down.

I know this picture is dark, but it has to be in order to show you the crackly, rough finish that is there after a good layer of paint has dried and it is ready for a light sanding:

annie sloan chalk paint crackles before sanding

Tidbit of info for ya– This sanding process, though not difficult, does make a mess. It’s as if you are throwing chalk dust all over your house/face/clothes/burger. And also, I thought the point of using ASCP was to skip the “sanding and priming” steps. Hello? I’m sanding here, people! A Lot!

Actually, that’s where my problems began. Chalk paint is ideal for a weathered, primitive, or beachy look. If you want the edges of your cabinets to have a worn, darker look, you should paint them with chalk paint. If you want a clean, crisp white look (I did), then DON’T use chalk paint! The paint, although lovely and smooth as baby bum-bums, was working against me the whole time. I think we did 3 or 4 coats on the upper cabinets, because every time I went to do that last bit of sanding (to smooth off the subtle grit of the paint), a dark edge would reveal itself and I’d have to go back and paint again! Remember that I was going from BLACK to WHITE. It was tough work.

edges annie sloan chalk paint

By the time we had finished painting the upper doors (front and back) and the actual cabinet skeletons we were TOTALLY BEAT. In the meantime we had gone back to the ASCP Stockist to get a second quart of the paint, because of all the coats we were cranking out. Did I forget to tell you that the paint is $38 PER QUART?! Ouchy.

I told myself that the base cabinets would be a totally different story and that the ASCP would be way easier on them, because we were just going to do “Graphite” over black. But then I took a look at the grout on my tiled kitchen counter top and saw BLACK not Graphite. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint doesn’t come in a true black.

how i painted my grout

See where the wood edge and the grout meet? The thought of having to make a distinct line in that grout between gray and black made me want to hurl. I wanted the black grout and the cabinets to be the same color so that I wouldn’t have to obsess over a clean line. As you can see in the image above the paint I ended up choosing is the exact match to the black grout.

My solution? I did what any sane DIY painter would do- I went to Benjamin Moore.

“Dear Benjamin, give me your most amazing paint ever. The most expensively amazing paint ever. In your very darkest black.”

I walked away with this:

bm satin

Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in Jet Black. It is not a latex, and it is not an oil-based paint exactly, either. It’s an Alkyd Paint. “An oil-based paint that requires only soap and water clean-up,” the lady said.

benjamin moore advance paint on cabinets


Wow, that image is really bad. I promise it looks great!!

What’s the most amazing feature about this Advance Paint? It is self-levelling. I used a brush, but you wouldn’t know it! It’s as if it levels to completely flat before it dries. It has an amazingly silky texture. I love it so much. I feel like I should send it a Valentine right now. This is getting weird.

painted kitchen cabinets white upper black lower

ONE COAT AND DONE, people! AND… for the kicker. I was so tired of the whole painting charade that I didn’t even paint the insides of the cabinet doors!!!! I left them the old black! yikes. I shouldn’t admit that, but guess what- I THOUGHT I WAS MOVING AND THAT THE NEW PEOPLE WOULDN’T NOTICE MY TRICK BEFORE WE WERE LONG GONE! *LOL* “Jokes on Me!”

Actually, to be honest, I haven’t noticed it myself since then. I guess it was an okay choice?

So, to wrap it up nicely for you:

Don’t use chalk paint to cover dark-colored or dark-stained cabinets if you DON’T want a distressed edge.

That was a double negative…

So, IF you want a distressed look to your cabinets, USE CHALK PAINT! It’s so easy and a total no-brainer way to achieve that look.

If you want an amazingly smooth painted finish that requires minimal skill and little to no sanding AND you don’t want a distressed look- just go get some Benjamin Moore Advanced Paint.


  1. Should I buy a paint sprayer to apply the paint in an even smoother fashion? No.Don’t bother with buying a paint sprayer like we did in Round 1. Those things clog up SO EASILY. And even when you think you’ve cleaned it to perfection after using it– you haven’t. You likely won’t get a good second use out of the thing.
  2. Should I put a protective coat on top of the paint? For the upper cabinets I rubbed on some Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, waited 10 minutes, then buffed it. For the lowers? The ones with the Benjamin Moore Paint? I didn’t cover-coat with anything! That sorta scared me at first, but I was so tired by the time we were done with this project that I had another one of those, “let the next buyers of the house deal with how this holds up” moments. But since that “next buyer” is me, I am happy to say that the paint is holding up beautifully without a poly coat.
  3. What paint colors did you use, again? Allow me to show you…

paint my cabinets in annie sloan chalk paint benjamin moore advance paint

What other questions do you guys have for me? Lay ’em on me.

angie kitchen 300 x 150

As part of this “In Angie’s Kitchen” series I am encouraging you guys to try out the PlantoEat Website to make your meal planning, shopping, and cooking SO MUCH EASIER. I love that site and especially the way I can pull up the web version on my iPhone and grocery shop from my list so easily. I used to print my list and put it on a clipboard (which made me feel like a boss!) but now I don’t even have to do that. They let you try the site for a month without even entering your credit card info. It’s not one of those, “here enter your credit card now, but you can cancel at any time in the next 17.5 days and not pay a penny!” kind of tricks.

Last night we ate cooked-from-scratch Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Sandwiches on Home made hamburger buns with the creamy tomatillo dressing in our fancy kitchen. I made the food, but PlantoEat got me there.

Other than that, have I talked you into painting your cabinets? Or have I scared you away?!


how i painted my cabinets chalk paint verses benjamin moore

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...