Rearranging the Kitchen Cabinets and Deciding on a Paint Color!

August 5, 2019

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Last week we introduced our phase 1 kitchen renovation and we wasted no time diving in. Our first item of business was removing cabinetry and trim that we really didn’t need to open up the kitchen a little bit and also rearranging a few cabinets that we did want to keep but just wanted in a different location and height. If you have staggered cabinets like we did, or just a LOT of extra cabinetry, taking some down or moving them to all be level is relatively easy–but may snowball into more projects, especially if you have a tile backsplash. Luckily, we have that on our short list for this phase 1 renovation, too.

After removing and rearranging, here’s how our kitchen looks now:

And here’s where we started:

Okay, I know, it looks worse in some ways. Haha. But it’s gotta get worse before it gets better. Before we dive into what’s left to do (ahem, a lot), here’s a recap of what we did–you can also watch it in video form in my Instagram Story highlights.

We removed all of the upper cabinets, and the dip down desk area in the kitchen. We also removed the embellished trim around the range area. We got extremely lucky here because we assumed the walls would be unfinished behind the trim but it must have been added way after the fact because the walls were in tact and painted like the original walls were. It felt like the biggest win!

Even though we felt the glass front cabinets crowded the range a little too much over there, we loved the seeded glass and they were just about the right size to fit next to the fridge! At the last minute, we decided to hang them a smidge higher (our ceilings are a little higher than 9 feet in here) and add trim to the top of the fridge to make them all level and really take advantage of these taller ceilings. We’ll also be trimming out the cabinetry (we saved all the filler pieces!) so it will be flush from wall to wall.

Here’s what else is on our phase 1 to-do list this week:

• Trim out upper cabinetry and Refrigeratior

• Remove tile backsplash and hang beadboard. We were going to try to make this tile work, but it got damaged in a couple places when removing the cabinets (which are worth more than the tile anyway) and it kind of clashes with our new trim color. We took a note from on of our inspiration photos (below) and are going with beadboard painted the same color as the cabinets.

• Build a shelf under the glass front cabinets for extra pretty storage. We did this in the Baltimore kitchen and it ended up being one of my favorite little details about it, so we are excited to repeat something similar here!

• Degloss cabinets, Fill knots, Prime and Paint!

Last week I showed a bunch of examples of paint colors/vibes we’re considering for our cabinetry and over the past few days I’ve held up so many swatches in our actual kitchen and came to a conclusion. I thought it might be interesting to walk you through how I got there.

My two favorite from last week’s post were Farrow & Ball’s Mouse Back

And Sherwin William’s Pewter Green.  

Which actually could not be more different. But I pulled both samples and held them up in our kitchen to see how they looked. I can’t express the importance of being inspired by something and making it your own rather than saying–Emily used Pewter Green so I’m going to use Pewter Green. Because the truth is–it will not look the same and you might be disappointed! Instead be inspired to use a green-y gray or a warm taupe/brown and find a color that works in YOUR space.

The biggest challenge (?) obstacle (?) for us are our brown granite countertops. But we’re committed to them for now so I wanted to make sure this phase 1 paint color was all about making them work. The taupe-y browns  (mouse back is vertical below) I actually loved SO MUCH and it worked really well with our countertops, but it felt like a lot of brown next to our countertops, especially since we wanted to carry the color up with the beadboard.

Next I checked out Pewter green (pg 217 below) and it was much too cool for our countertops. I needed something to blend a little more. So I started looking at neighboring cards. Generally neighboring color swatch cards will gradually go one color direction. In this case–to the right went more green and to the left, blue. Right in the middle of Pewter Green and green-y greens, there was a card that contained a lot of great gray-d out warm greens and I was immediately drawn to them.

Below you can see the comparison between 217 (where Pewter Green lives) and 216 (that’s a lot more neutral but still definitely green undertones.) It’s almost like I mixed my two inspiration photos together and came out with this card. Chris and I narrowed it down to Link Gray and Thunderous pretty quick. 

After holding it up on every plane and direction in the kitchen, we decided on….Thunderous! because this room gets a lot of natural light and can handle a deep color.

We’ll definitely share our whole painting process as it happens on Instagram and a full how-to here! It’s going to be an exciting week!

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What do you think?

  1. Carol Spurlin says:

    Can you tell me the granite used! Thanks

  2. Michelle says:

    What is that color on your island? I love it. I have tropical brown countertops and want to paint my oak cabinets to compliment them.

  3. Annie says:

    Hi! I love this and want to do a similar semi-kitchen update too. Have you ever painted IKEA kitchen cabinets? Do you think it would hold up or chip too much? Thanks!

  4. Lindsey says:

    I’ve scoured your site to find the trim and baseboard color…but I’m sorry I haven’t been able to find it. Can you share the color you chose for your trim?

  5. Julie paciorek says:

    Whenever I need advice on a decision I’m making about our house…..I google….”paint sheet Chris loves Julia” lol. ????. Anyways…..I can’t seem to find this answer. What sheen did you choose for your house for the walls and trim? (I saw cabinets were satin.)


  6. Hope knight says:

    LOVE THIS RENO!! Just wow! Curious, the glass front cabinets with the open shelf under it.. how tall are your cabinets?! We are doing something similar but I’m have trouble with deciding the height of the cabinet with the addition of an open shelf under! We only have about 37 inches to work with total. Thanks for all your inspo❤️ I follow religiously!

  7. Emma says:

    Thank you for sharing your color selection method! We’re getting ready to change our cabinets up. We’re not moving anything around (thank goodness! That seems like so much work!) but we do need to choose a color before we can get to work refinishing our cabinets. I was getting really overwhelmed, but you’ve got me inspired to grab a bunch of paint chips and find the right color for us!

  8. Teresa says:

    I’m really inspired by your reno. I’d like to learn about how you degloss and prep your cabinets. I have cheap builder grade cabinets and was curious if those could be painted.

  9. Yivo says:

    I didnt get a chance to screen shot the paint sprayer you guys use. Can you share again?? ????

  10. Rebecca Neustel says:

    I love your cabinet color choice and especially appreciate your tips on how to find a perfect color for “our” own spaces! I find it so hard to believe the difference in the kitchen—I guess that why y’all earn the big bucks!! ????

  11. Jess Jones says:

    Love it! May I ask what the FB color next to mouse back was? The one sitting horizontally in the picture?

  12. Betsy says:

    Your counters are probably Iberian Sunset Granite! It looks just like ours. It was the only stone we could afford when we remodeled our kitchen about 8 years ago — I think Lowe’s had a deal where it was $29/sq. ft. (Our cabinetry is white.) Love following along with your remodel! You are so talented and creative!

  13. Christina Palo says:

    When you paint the cabinets will you do a polyurethane coat on top to protect the paint from chipping or is that not needed? I’ve read different advice on many different sites.

  14. Tash says:

    Are you planning to somehow simplify the overly ornate columns that are part of the island? Or are you just going to leave it as it but paint over?

  15. Brooke says:

    Have you considered refinishing the countertops? I think i remember Jenny Comenda doing a concrete finish on top of her granite countertops as a “phase 1” remodle years ago. Could be an option that gives a bit more freedom for color and style. Excited to follow your transformation!

    • Julia says:

      We have thought about that but these counters are in such great condition, when it comes time for phase 2, we’d love to donate them to someone who would love them as is so we’re committed to working with them.

      • jenn says:

        Im curious…do you think its possible to remove existing granite counters without damaging the paint? I am working around a VERY warm granite so its limiting the color choices….and am holding off until I can do it all at once.

  16. Toné Moody says:

    Oh my gosh, I am so excited for this project. I am looking to paint my existing kitchen cabinets, because they are in perfect condition and it, obviously helped save money on the overall kitchen budget. We ended up getting Ikea cabinet bases for an island and a built in “bar” area next to our dining table with Semi Handmade matte black shaker fronts. Woohoo, also so stoked for those! But have been contemplating what color we would do for the rest, not wanting to go dark because of lighting. I am loving the Grey Brown tones over the popular white, that we have considered. And we’ll be getting the GE cafe matte appliances :)

  17. Vicki says:

    Bravo! You two are amazing. Can’t wait to see how this all comes together. Love the paint choice! You are so right about choosing what works for you. It is so easy to pick the wrong color for your home because you love it in someone else’s!

  18. Andrea says:

    The cabinets next to the fridge need to lowered so there’s one line across.

  19. Sandy Moss says:


  20. Betsey says:

    I think so many of us are in the same countertop situation as you! Would love love love a post with more ideas on how to work with dated granite – paint color/backsplash ideas that could inspire our own Phase 1 renovations.

    Thanks for letting us follow along!

  21. Nicole says:

    *Julia posts phase 1 kitchen & captions it with, “sources linked in blog post”*
    Everyone: What color are your cabinets?
    Me: ⛈


    • Amanda says:

      I’m totally with you!!! Man oh man, I don’t know how people get by in life sometimes. ????????????


  22. Michelle says:

    We painted the exterior of our home Thunderous last fall and we get so many compliments! I love this color! I can’t wait to see how it looks in your kitchen! I’ve been planning to use it on the cabinets in our bathroom just haven’t gotten to that project yet!

  23. Sarah says:

    eeeeeeeeppppp!!! i love it! can’t wait!!

  24. Abby P. says:

    Can you link the source for the beadboard inspiration kitchen? I’d love to see the rest of the space.

  25. Michelle says:

    LOVE it!!! So loving watching you reuse, remake and re-purpose this space on IG, too! It’s inspirational to see and to many, this phase 1 might last a lot longer that a year, but they’d be so much happier with budget updates in the interim. Gorgeous color choice!

  26. Rachel says:

    Ohhhh I cannot wait to see the new color on those cabinets!! Exciting week indeed????

  27. Kim says:

    Check out Design Improvised. They used Thunderous. Those darker colors are always lighter in actuality.

  28. Kim says:

    Just don’t forget those dark chips come out one to two colors lighter in actuality. I’d test the one you like and the darker one below just to be sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting. Fabulous so far!, Streamlining that island is gonna be huge too!,

  29. Kelly says:

    Thank you for sharing your process on how you pick paint colors yet again. I’ve learned so much from previous posts like this one and your podcast. We recently painted the exterior of our house with a difficult brick red roof to work with but I was confident in narrowing down my color choices thanks to tips like the ones in today’s post.

    Just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work :)

  30. Cherish says:

    Looking good, Marcums! ???????? Glad you mentioned that colors can look completely different in different spaces. We used Pewter Green for our mudroom and kitchen renovation a few years back, and I could hardly believe it was the same color when Emily revealed her Portland kitchen! Ours reads much darker and moodier in our spaces. So good for you reminding people to test it out in their own place!

  31. Lauren says:

    Pls tell me you’re changing the light fixture too lol.

  32. Emily says:

    It’s so great to see you saving what you can, both from an inspiration perspective and a sustainability one. Can’t wait to see the results.

  33. Michelle says:

    I love it! It’s so fun to see you reworking things and is inspiring me to think about my own bathroom. I can’t fully gut it yet but a phase 1 make over is definitely possible.

  34. Jordan says:

    I think we have the same countertops! I have decided I want to make mine work, too, despite the fact that they wouldn’t have been my choice. I’m thinking of going with almost-black lowers and warm white uppers, with a white shimmery backsplash (Bedrosians?) instead of the existing travertine. I’m thinking it’s all the stuff around the counters that really kills it – in my case, the 1980s oak cabinets and beige travertine backsplash – and it might actually fade into the background with other supporting pieces. I’m not doing my Phase I makeover for a bit so I have time to chew on it. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

  35. Jenn says:

    Can’t wait to see! We did beadboard in our kitchen as a backsplash. Although I love it, it’s been a little difficult to keep clean around the stove area. But it’s our phase 1 too. If it’s only for a year or two it should be fine. For us it’s been almost 5 and it’s showing it’s wear. It’s mostly from cooking oils or sauce splatter. Maybe an extra coat of paint in that area might make it more durable. Phase 1 is fun, and it’s lower risk so it’s great to experiment!

  36. Hannah says:

    That color is more fun to tell people on Instagram, too! So pumped to see how it turns out

  37. Kristine says:

    This post is what I’ve been waiting months to stumble across! We have a 1980s kitchen with brown granite counters that needs a phase one as well!
    Question about the headboard because I’m also loving that idea… will it replace the tile on the walls behind the stove and behind the sink as well?

  38. Emlia says:

    I cannot tell you how excited I am to see the results! My granite countertops/cabinets are the same color, and I’ve been searching for ways to modernize my kitchen without spending so much money!

  39. Jen says:

    YES!!!! So excited to see the progress. I also think seeing the process and new cabinet color will be so helpful for the many many people who inherited similar granite in their homes and can’t afford/don’t want to tackle a complete remodel.

  40. Wanda says:

    I’m really disappointed that you removed that BEAUTIFUL oak branch trim above your range. Lolol

  41. Leslie says:

    What level of gloss will you do on the cabinets?

  42. Cristin says:

    Can’t wait to see the progress this week!!!

  43. Gia says:

    I am so excited to see what color you chose and how you landed there.

    You mentioned filling the knots, but you didn’t mention what primer. If you haven’t tried it, I would check out a shellac based primer (BIN) to prevent bleed through from the knots. It has worked great (I used it on oak and painted the cabinets white). It smells, but it dries quickly (I think because it is alcohol based?) and sands easily. (The smell goes away quickly, too.) I apply with cheap chip brushes and then throw them away (it isn’t easy to clean the brushes). Shellac based primer is thin, so it doesn’t have to look pretty when you apply it. (And have the hardware store mix the can because it can really settle). It can be tinted darker, too, which helps when you are painting a darker color.

  44. Love the color and direction!! That saturated hue is so fun. I love a bold dark kitchen so much. Will you also add open shelving besides the range hood?

    • Julia says:

      We have thought about adding a singular shelf spanning the whole space for pots and pans but we are saving the decision for when we get there

  45. Kathleen Kinkella says:

    Love the color Thunderous! Looks great with your granite countertops too. I agree with Elizabeth- it would be great to learn more about removing and replacing the backsplash-

  46. Debbie Ricks says:

    Just curious if you are painting all of the cabinets? I was wondering if so, why hold them up to the cabinets? Hope that makes sense… You guys picked a FABULOUS color!!!! I cannot wait to see it and follow along on Instagram!!

  47. You’re 100% right about finding a good color for your own space. Photo filters, screens, lighting…there are so many factors for pics online and it’s always going to look different in real life! I can’t wait to see how the cabinets look once you realign them. Thanks for sharing!

  48. Erin says:

    Amazing difference so far, and can’t wait to see the final phase 1 results! Will the freestanding china cabinet cover the spot where there is no tile on the floor, or what is the plan for that area? What is that pipe in the floor? I’ve always wanted to remove cabinets in my home but patching our tile floor would be impossible.

  49. Molly B says:

    I love y’all, and absolutely ADORE how y’all take us along for the journey. It helps build confidence as I work through my own renovations.
    You truly truly do inspire and encourage me to do more and trust my instincts.
    Thank you for sharing your process, and not just the finished “Ahaa!” moments. Truly helps me develop my own design muscles, and I’m grateful.
    God bless y’all. You are truly “the greats!”

  50. Amanda says:

    Love the colour you choose and that you’re adding in a shelf. And that cabinet!!! Man, I swoon for it.

  51. Jennifer says:

    Love this color! And so helpful because I have the same color granite tops and almost same before color cabinets and not in our budget to replace them in the near future. Would love to paint our cabinets and you are giving me major inspo as a fellow lover of green! Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to see it!

  52. Audrey says:

    So excited to see the tricolor go and to see how Thunderous looks! Thanks for bringing us along!

  53. Christa says:

    Yay! When you put all of the swatches on the countertop Thunderous stood out to me at the best option immediately, so happy that’s what you’re going with! Can’t wait to see it all come to life :)

  54. Jessie says:

    Thunderous is our exterior color on our home! Such a great hue. I also saw acacia haze on one of your cards and that’s my boys’ room color and I have pretty much never loved a room color more. So excited to see the progress!

  55. Rebecca says:

    Hopefully this doesn’t come across as negative about the other house projects you’ve been doing, but I have to say – watching you guys work on this project has given me a lot of old-school CLJ vibes and I love it. Maybe since your old house had been more or less “finished” for a while, and maybe since you bought something huge and new and were immediately getting architects and contractors in, I was missing the CLJ content of yore where you and Chris got down and dirty and made small/medium-ish updates yourselves that truly transformed the space. I am so happy to see more of that again!

  56. Karen says:

    I pretended I had talent and chose Thunderous as I was reading your post! Unfortunately, my pick was probably just luck! I am so happy I came across your IG. Your vision intrigues me, and also how you have more hours in a day then I do ????

  57. Hillary says:

    Love the color! Thank you for sharing your process in narrowing down tryout color choice! Curious how you go about finding inspiration? There’s just SO MUCH out there, and I like so much, I find it hard to nail down my inspiration.

  58. Ashley says:

    I’m not going to lie, I was really rooting for that deep, green blue color that was shared. It had alot of different wood tones in the picture that i thought MIGHT work with your coutertops. But mostly I wanted to be selfish and see you guys use it. Its glorious! I would be way too scared to do it myself. Living vicariously through you guys and getting all the info for our own kitchen reno!

  59. Leslie says:

    I love that you found a way to repurpose the glass front cabinets – that’s awesome! Would it have been easier to paint them before re-hanging or did you feel like you needed to hang them to be sure you’d like it/they would work?

  60. Linda Grubbs says:

    Love following this process. Great color choice….pretty exciting! Ready to see it all tied together.

  61. Hilary says:

    10 years ago I hired an interior designer to help me pick out paint colors for my Victorian town house. She suggested “rare gray” with thunderous as an accent on the back wall of our kitchen to draw your eye back through the open floor plan. I was intimidated by the dark color but it is the best part of the whole space! The property is now a rental and we still receive compliments on the colors! We even painted a few rooms in our current, modern style house off of that swatch.

    I love that you found my favorite swatch in the deck and can’t wait to see the result! It is definitely a timeless color.

  62. Elizabeth says:

    Excited to see how you take out the backsplash as well! We want to swap out our backsplash, but are terrified of destroying everything behind it and having to call in the pros to repair it.

    • Mary says:

      I’m in the same boat! Switching out there backsplash sounds easy… until you tear your drywall up! I’d love a tutorial.

  63. Ann says:

    One of the rooms in my house is Pewter Green. Sometimes it leans completely green, while other times, it’s completely blue! So I think you made a good decision with Thunderous. Looking forward to your progress posts!

  64. Erin says:

    Love the color choice! Looking forward to following along on the journey.

  65. Catherine says:

    This color will be beautiful in here (we just went dark in our kitchen too!). Thank you for sharing the process <3

  66. Jen says:

    Love this project! Small(ish) upgrades using mostly what you already have are so gratifying! I’m wondering – are you going to run the shelf along the sink wall as well?

  67. Kimberly says:

    Love that color!! Can’t wait to see the new paint!

  68. Carmen says:

    I’m so excited to see this process!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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