How to Paint Shabby Chic Kitchen Cabinets

Painting your kitchen cabinets in the shabby chic style is an effective way to decorate for people who like the comfortable feel of grandma's house or cottage or country style decors. Painting an object to appear shabby chic means to age it so that it looks worn and vintage, like an artefact that has been handed down from generation to generation. Wooden kitchen cabinets are relatively simple to refinish with this effect.

Mark all the kitchen doors and drawers on the inside with a lead pencil, numbering them in the order you will take them down. This step will make it a lot easier when it is time to reinstall them.

Unscrew all the hardware, drawer pulls and doorknobs from your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Remove the hinges. Taking the doors down will make them a lot easier to paint. Place all the hardware into a zipper-type plastic bag so you don't misplace it, as suggested by "Painting Shabby Chic Furniture" by Lynn Richardson on the Catalogs website.

Sand all the wood areas lightly with fine grit sandpaper. This will help the primer to adhere better.

Dust off the areas you have sanded with a soft cleaning cloth or an old T-shirt.

Paint the cabinets with primer using a roller brush or paint brush. You can find the primer at paint, discount and home supply stores. Allow the paint to dry as directed on the can, usually overnight.

Apply a base coat of latex or oil-based paint, best for kitchen cabinets, according to the Kitchen Cabinet Decor website. You will need two shades. The first coat you put on after the primer will be the colour that shows through when you rough up the edges to give it a shabby chic look. Allow this paint to thoroughly dry. You might want the first colour to be a tan, sand or other neutral shade and the top and final coat to be a white or antique white, but you can choose whatever colours will go best with your colour scheme.

Paint the cabinets with the second colour you have selected.

Allow the second colour of paint to dry thoroughly. Give the edges, corners and areas where the drawer pulls and doorknobs attach a distressed look by rubbing fine-grit sandpaper over them gently. Dust it off and survey the area. You want it to have a worn look and for the first colour to show through a bit. Most vintage items show wear near the areas used the most, so concentrate on areas where you would grab the cabinet door or drawer with your hands.

Install the cabinets and drawers back where they belong, following the numbers you previously wrote inside the doors and drawers.


Using a paintbrush on the final colour of paint will give the cabinets more of a wood-grain look, but it does take more time than using a paint roller.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Zipper-type plastic bag
  • Lead pencil
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Old T-shirt or soft cleaning cloth
  • Paintbrushes or a paint roller
  • Primer
  • Latex or oil-based paint (you will need two pale shades)
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About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.