Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Question About Oak Cabinets…HELP, PLEASE

Hey my friends!


I have a question and need some help.


A lot of you who have followed me for awhile know that my kitchen has the dated “orangey oak” cabinets.    I would love for them not to be orange oak, but they are and that’s how they will stay because my husband has put his sweet foot down that they cannot be painted.  (bless his heart, he has let me paint and change  so much in our house, but this is just something he doesn’t want painted)


So that’s where the question lies…


I heard something about a wax or something that you could use on wood that could alter the color or maybe tone it down.  I have little information on it, actually.


Do any of you have any knowledge about this "wax”? 


What about something else that I might could use?


I would probably do the same thing on my same color oak fireplace.


Okay, are you up for giving me some friendly advice?


I really really really would love to hear what you have to say.


You know that feeling you get when you truly want to change something and have for quite awhile and just don’t know what to do and can’t do what you want?  That’s where I am .  Not desperate but eager.


Here are my cabinets…


oak 1


I took the two glass cabinet doors off the middle section and painted foam board to put in the back.  (suggestion from another sweet blogger)


I also just changed out my cabinet knobs from shiny brass to black.  The hinges need to be changed, but that’s yet to come.


oak 2



I am trying hard to lighten my kitchen in other ways, but these cabinets will forever be dark.  But, do they have to be orange?




I know you ladies have major talent and would love for you to pass some along to me.


Thank you in advance.



Sue said...

I painted and glazed my old oak cabinets about 9 years ago, Amy and they still look good! I was ahead of my time, I guess. :-) I've never heard of a wax that changes wood tone. I take it that you want to stay with a stained finish?

bella said...

Hi Amy
I'm not sure what you could use - maybe askat the paint shop. I do think you would have to have a squeaky clean surface to begin so you may have to wash the cabinets with TSP. Be sure to wear gloves and follow the directions. It looks quite harmless but its not.
Love your playlist, I keep it on in the background when I am working on the computer

Gracie's Cottage said...

I'm hoping you get some great answers because I am "oaked out" also, and in the same position - the hubster does not want me to paint the cabinets...good thing he's a keeper in most other ways ;)


Heidi said...

I am here to comiserate as well. My oak cabinets look just like yours. They are pretty, but the room is so dark. My Hubby won't let me pint them so I am looking into changing my lighting system from the giant overhead UV box to sleek track lighting that you can focus wherever you want and under cabinet LED lights.

Grammy Goodwill said...

Wish I could help, but I don't have any ideas. Good luck.

Ceekay- Thinkin of Home said...

Email Marty at a Stroll thru life. She did it on here cabinets and in fact did a post on it quite a while back.

Becky C said...

Love to read these comments. Some really good ideas, so far. And looks like several others are in the same boat :)
Sorry, I have no idea about this :(
Great idea to ask these ladies...

blhitchcock901 said...

I just love visiting you. The music is so refreshig. Glorious Day! Wow! Gets me excited.
Too funny about the cabinets. My brother-in-law found a great primitive piece beside the road that was completely undone that would do great for an entertainment center redo. My husband says our entertainment center is the best piece in the house and he refuses to let me paint it. Since he never refuses me, I have to let it stand as is. We sound alot alike. Be really sweet and maybe he'll change his mind.

Anne said...

I wonder if Annie Sloan Dark Wax could be used to darken wood?? Maybe try googling it. I haven't used the AS products yet, but everyone is raving about them!

Jan@southernjunkin' said...

I'm not any help but anxious to hear an answer! I'm thinking I could also use it on some great oak furniture that Hubs does not wanted painted!!

Pattie said...

Amy I'm not sure, I wish he would let you paint them they turn out beautiful... Pretty Please Mr.All Thinks Home, With sugar and whipped cream on top and OH yea and a cherry. Let us know what you come up with...I painted mine Gray and they aren't wood and they look amazing and still holding up...


On Crooked Creek said...

I finally put MY FOOT DOWN and said...either I paint 'em...or I'm not cookin'. Then we had a snowstorm that lasted FOREVER on the Prairie...he worked nights FOREVER...and I painted 'em!
About those hinges (the knobs and pulls)...we spray painted ours flat black. Less than $3 for a can of Rustoleum paint. About stains or waxes, I can't help, dear friend. I believe one should honor your mates thoughts and opions...but after 7 years of the dark...I felt it was time I had a say, as well. I'm still cookin'!!!

Tracy's Trinkets and Treasures said...

I have researched redoing my orange oak beams in my family room recently. If you get a dark gel stain and use a dry brush technique you dont' have to sand your cabinets and it will change and darken the color. You have to use poly over it. I won't because no one will be touching my beams on my ceiling. :)Also you don't wipe off the stain when you dry brush it on. I read about it on this thread. You have to read through a lot of the posts to get where the poster figures out how to do it. Hope this helps. Let me know.

Debbie said...

Marty at A Stroll Thru Life did a feature on her kitchen, and she used a wax (Minwax, I think) to darken her cabinets. I remember because I desperately want to change mine too.

I'll try to find it on her site, but I'm not sure if I can.

I like what you've done so far. My handles are HANDLES, not knobs. Yuck. I can't even change to a simple little knob without painting mine to cover a hole.

Mine are also not in as good of shape as yours. I don't think our current ones are anywhere near the quality of the cabinets in our little starter home. (pout)

Alabaster Rose Designs said...

Hi Amy,
I have used Briwax for years and this will darken the cabinets for you. It comes in different colors. Also, you could sand them down a bit and put a darker stain on them. I did this on an old reddish oak table and it worked. I don't have tons of experience with this, but that's what I've done in the past, so I hope this helped.
Hope you and your family are doing well.

Jennifer @ Studio JRU said...

I could have written this post word for word! lol Our cabinets are identical. I have painted this house from top to bottom... but hubs is drawing the line with those darn cabinets! Looking forward to what you come up with to try.

Paula Graves said...

The finish they put on oak cabinets is orange based and in time they really look orange. Take one of the doors and use denatured alchol and remove some of the finish. If you like then wax them with a non yellowing wax.

Mrs T said...

gel stain. it goes right over the old finish (provided it is good) no sanding

I learned about using it in a plaster/faux class I took. I also just used it on the wood wall in my house. I had white and red oak planks (flooring) that I stained with Minwax with sealer. I ran out and of course they don't make the color I used anymore (teach me to save stain) I went and bought a quart of Minwax gel stain in Hickory and went right over it. BEAUTIFUL! It absorbed and I can't tell the planks were ever the reddish stain they started as. Just dark chocolate yumminess!

I'll try to get pics on my blog but it might take til this weekend. (the computer with pics is out of comission for interent use right now)

Get a sample and try it on the inside of the cabs if they are stained wood or a door you won't mind experimenting on.

blessedmom's simple home said...

Well, I see quite a few of us are wanting the same answers. If you find out what to do, be sure to take photos and share it with us :)
My hubby doesn't want the oak painted either.

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

This is a link to another blogger who is a wonderful country decorator and whose husband does not want the kitchen cabinets painted - Last I read her blog, the cabinets had not been painted; but you may want to email her and see what she has done with them. Just a suggestion.....

Ana said...

Hi Kim,
I wish I had a good answer for you :-( I don't know what it is about men and wood. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I also love the look of it painted...Hee, hee, hee. If it's the grain of the wood that he my dad, maybe a light whitewash technique that still shows the grain through would be the way to go. Sorry I couldn't be more help. Good luck...Oh and a very Happy Birthday to your daughter. What time was she born...Maybe we were in labor at the same time. Wouldn't that be funny?

Hugs and Kisses,

Kolein said...

email Jennifer...she's a painter, waxer extraordinaire!!! and the kindest person!!!! She does this for a living and alters furniture and homes to look like castles with kings and queens residing in them!!! Her work is beautiful!!!

You could just get out the paint brush and paint the darlings white!!

Love ya!

Heaven's Walk said...

Ah....Amy....I SO feel your pain. I have the same one! My hubs won't let me touch our vintage kitchen cabinets, either. I've smiled, winked, and schmoozed him til the sun came down and he still won't budge! lol! I'm glad to read that I'm not the only one out here disliking her kitchen cabinets. I'm also glad that a few gals had some suggestions for you. I'll be checking them out, too. Hope one of them works for you (us)! :)

xoxo laurie

Chrissy...The Apothecary Shop said...

OH what a shame you can't paint them,John was like that for years till I finally won! Have you thought about staining them dark? Wish I could help,sorry! xoxo

The Mustard Seed said...


I know hubby says no, but we had the same honey oak cabinets and I was dying. My hubby said no, but I begged to paint the cabinets in the dining nook just to break up the dark wood look. It wasn't easy, but they looked so good that my hubby wanted to paint the rest of the cabinets too.

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Mary said...

you are such a good wife.
i love your sweet spirit. :)
have a wonderful weekend!

Anonymous said...

Check out pickled oak finish. You basically use white paint as a stain. The wood still shows but the grain is white. It might be a good compromise. Paula in Oklahoma

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

I was thinking of briwax as well. Maybe find something small to practice on.

Magic Brush said...

Kolein is way too sweet!!!!!! But I agree with Mrs. need gel stain. Not any gelstain ...the home depot or lowes brand will NOT work. All gel stains are not created equal...those are like water. You need Old Masters brand of Gel Stain in the color Dark Walnut. We use a liquid deglosser on our cabinets, brush the stain on, use cheesecloth ( to wipe alot of the stain back, but leave it dark in the cracks especially. We topcoat with a HOme Depot/Lowes product called Polyacylic in a satin sheen. 2 coats. Best to you! I will email this also!

Suzanne said...

Amy, I have been a kitchen designer for many years and I run into this male vs female conflict all the time. I can tell you that the husbands who eventually concede to their wives' desire for painted cabinets have ultimately been thrilled with the results.

As to your original question: the product you have probably heard about is Briwax. Go to and also for more information. It's a great product, but the effect will be subtle rather than dramatic.

Cabinet manufacturers use a catalyzed (heat-set) finish that is extremely tough. Denatured alcohol, as suggested in another post, will only work on a shellac finish. Even small custom cabinet makers would be unlikely to use shellac as a clear coat.

Gel stain, unfortunately, is not likely to properly adhere to your cabinets without proper prep. It won't hold up over time, even with a poly top coat.

I wish I had an easy answer to offer, but the only reliable way to go darker is to remove the clear coat and sand the cabinets so that you can use a darker stain.

Also, I want to emphasize that you have to follow the directions and wipe off excess stain after the recommended wait time because stain that is not absorbed into the wood will never dry completely.

Oak -- properly prepared -- can be stained very dark and the darker the better if you are trying to tone down the pronounced oak grain.

That said, I've never been afraid to experiement, but I recommend using the inside of a cabinet door that isn't going to be seen frequently

Good luck and try to find an experienced person at a paint store or home center for advice. There are some around -- I'm lucky enough to be married to one!


raggygirlvintage said...

Amy I want you to paint them white, then I can show Mr RGV how awesome they look and he will let me paint mine! I think orangey can be hard to hide?

Miss Gracie's House said...

I so appreciate your attitude! Have you found a solution yet? I'm curious to know if any of those ways worked?

Pamela@ Our Pioneer Homestead said...

i have 2 suggestions. First:I would use the paint colour and accessories in the room to detract away from the cabinets. Right now the cabinets are dominant. They can be kept as is, by making something else in the room more dominant. This really works! Because the cabinets have tones of yellow, anything green should be kept out of that room, as green is a another yellow combined colour. You need to balance it out with deep,dark reds. This will balance it out in the colour wheel. The perceived orange cabinet effect will dissapear. Second: The only other option, that does not involve painting, would be curtains. Like french ticking.(as it is thick and will hide, and hang well. Your husband however might complain about curtains over cabinets- having to move them aside. However, grommet pannels on an iron rod shift with ease. Below the cabinets (and curtains) you can install a long strip of white shelving, thus when the curtains are closed, it will appear as if there are curtains above white shelving. Good luck!

Michelle Frame said...

Amy, ask The Paint Doctor (Davin) at Paint Works. I've consulted him for years. If he won't let you paint I would sand/re-stain to a darker color like chocolate, or a dark grey - they would be a great compliment to your color palette. Good luck!
P.S. l love your background music! Lova ya girlfriend.

Michelle Frame said...

Amy, ask The Paint Doctor (Davin) at Paint Works. I've consulted him for years. If he won't let you paint I would sand/re-stain to a darker color like chocolate, or a dark grey - they would be a great compliment to your color palette. Good luck!
P.S. l love your background music! Lova ya girlfriend.

Michelle Frame said...

I forgot to add.. I painted my cabinets white, and being "thrifty" I painted my handles and hinges with spray paint. The handles are showing a little wear, but it looks cool to me and kind of "antiquey". As you know, the hardware can get very expensive so this can be a temporary fix until you find the ones you really like.

Becky@DoodleBug said...

I don't know if you're still looking for any answers on this post, but Minwax does make a product that you can use without sanding. It's called PolyShades, and is a combined stain-polyurethane. If I had your cabinets, this is probably what I would use for a simple solution without stripping the old finish. The link below is their how-to page:

Heather Shayne said...

Hi Amy,

I'm in the process of updating my kitchen. I also have out dated orange oak cabinets. I painted them a grayish color and they look beautiful. I also updated the countertops and appliances which took up my budget. I would have loved new cabinets but it wasn't possible... I'm telling you of this because I think you should talk to your DH again and explain that by painting the cabinets, the kitchen will look much more updated and it doesn't cost much for paint. That is, if you have what it takes to paint them yourself...

I just started a blog to share my DIY projects. I plan on putting in the back splash this weekend and then I'll have lots of pictures. I do have some posts about our kitchen makeover and I painted our oak bathroom cabinet and it turned out great too.

You should check out my blog and other blogs with B&A pictures. I think you can change your husbands mind!!

Good luck!

Julie said...

You may have updated your kitchen but I thought I'd pass along this link for others who may come across your blog while searching for ways to modify the kitchen while leaving the cabinets in their original state. Apparently the link below is an "assignment" to update the kitchen without changing the 1980's oak cabinets. There are lots of ideas, pictures, and comments for every decorator taste!