Before and After {Kitchen}: Oak to White

I love before and afters, especially when it comes to interior decor. I’m excited to introduce the second project in my oak to white series: our kitchen makeover. I’ve received several questions about the process we took to transform our kitchen from oak to white cabinets: Did we have new cabinetry installed or were our existing cabinets painted? The answer is all of the above. Here’s the story.

Once upon a time, there was a couple who built a house. Now the female half of the couple loves decorating and high-end finishes, but the male half of the couple is admittedly frugal. They still love each other. The end.

In all seriousness, I’m married to a financial wiz. {I can see him blushing now.} He runs the finance/accounting department for a company, which means he runs the budget at home, too. Good thing for me, since I always had an aversion to math. With that said, my hubby will openly admit he’s frugal. That doesn’t mean he’s cheap or a miser, quite on the contrary, but it means he analyzes everything before he makes a large purchase, which I greatly admire. When we built our home in 2002, he had been looking — without me — for at least a year at neighborhoods, house plans, etc. I didn’t want anything to do with it until he was ready to buy, as I get too excited and am willing to jump way before he is. Once my hubby is ready, he always has a number in his head regarding what he’s willing to spend. That meant any extra upgrades that most people might be interested in, he promptly said no. Forget the cabinets I really wanted, forget the upgraded finishes. When we were pre-approved for our house, my hubby’s budget was so conservative that we were basically told we could afford two of our houses. (I don’t tell you that in a boastful way at all, but to fill you in on our way of living.) We don’t do anything unless we can pay for it immediately. Therefore, with a little patience and time, I was confident we could pay cash to customize our home to our liking.

One of my favorite transformations has been in our kitchen. Take a look at the before and after of our kitchen makeover:


Our kitchen before, while totally useful, was basic builder grade oak. As I mentioned in previous posts, we had a lot of oak — oak cabinets, oak floors, oak chairs, oak trim. Oak is extremely durable and not easily damaged, so it’s great for cabinetry. But white woodwork has always been my fav, even before it became the “in” thing the last few years. My parents moved near Savannah, Georgia when my hubby and I were newlyweds 18 years ago, and I was able to tour homes with them when they were house hunting. Every home we looked at featured white woodwork, and I fell in love. {Ya’ll, southerners know sweet tea and interior design!}

white-paint-chipsWhen it came time to makeover our cabinetry, I knew the look I wanted: bright white. Fresh. Clean. Crisp. Did you know there are literally hundreds of “whites” to choose from when it comes to paint? There are paints that look more cream or yellow, or have a blue, gray, brown, pink or even green hue to them. There also is glazing, which can totally change the look of the paint. It was a tough choice. Fortunately, I could match some paint chips with the white doors and stools that would be in the room, and ended up with Sugar Dust by Benjamin Moore.

We completed our kitchen makeover in stages. In the first stage, we had a larger custom island and granite countertops (color: Tropic Brown) installed. Our original island was 4×3 with the overhang, so it was pretty small. Our new island measures just over 6×4. Three extra square feet made the island feel gigantic, and works perfect when I do my freezer cooking! (See that post here.) I designed the island with drawers rather than doors, which hold the cookware, miscellaneous food containers and spices. I also had a pull-out garbage/recycling drawer installed in the island. We used to walk across the kitchen to the pantry door, which housed the garbage. I can’t even remember doing that now! Underneath the overhang, we have cabinets to store cookbooks and serving ware, such as platters and miscellaneous baking pans.

kitchen transition white island

We also had to get the electrical rewired over the island to install more lighting, since the one light fixture we had would have been off-center over the new island. As you can see, the white island with the oak cabinets didn’t quite have the same style, but it was a great start.

In the next stage, nearly 2.5 years later, we had the bases to the kitchen cabinets painted on site, while new doors and drawers were created and sprayed off site. We used paint-grade maple for the drawers and doors, which when sprayed with enamel, gives a clean, smooth finish. This was the most inconvenient part of the project, as I had to clear all of the cabinets and leave them empty for about a week. {Bonus is that’s one great way to declutter!}

unfinished cabinets 2 unfinished cabinets

My favorite part about the doors and drawers is the soft-close hardware, which prevents any door slamming. Every door and drawer glides to a gentle close. We retained the knobs on the doors but changed out all the hardware on the drawers to match the island. We also had an “appliance garage” built and installed near the end of the counter. While it’s made to fit appliances, such as a coffee maker or toaster, we use it to hide the phone and miscellaneous paperwork.

cabinet-appliance garage


Here’s a better shot of the before and after, where you can see the added cabinet.


The final stage was the installation of new appliances. When we finished our basement with a full kitchen/bar last summer (you can read that post here), we decided to move our existing appliances to that space and put the new ones in our main kitchen. Great excuse, right?

after kitchen view from dining appliances after

I think the white makes it so much lighter and brighter, don’t you agree? I actually love the contrast between the oak floor and the white woodwork, which gives it some depth. And I have found that white is pretty easy to keep clean. My next goal is to change out the paint color on the walls. I’m not sure when that will happen, but it’s on my radar. Now to tell the frugal husband!

Julee sig 2014_pink_xoxo-1_edited-1

To continue to grow my blog, would you kindly subscribe? Enter your email in the subscription box underneath my photo and you won’t miss a post!

2 Comments on Before and After {Kitchen}: Oak to White

  1. Tone
    May 12, 2015 at 5:34 am (3 years ago)

    Hi! I found your post over at a link party:)
    I must say I LOVE your “new” kitchen! You did an amazing job! You must be so proud:) Allso, youre husband sounds amazing! Emagine having someone in your life with that kind of controll. It must be very relaxing;)
    Thanks for letting me have a look at your kitchen:) Have a great day!

    • Julee
      May 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much or the kind words. I will be sure to check out your blog, as well!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *