Learning to Love My Oak Cabinets

August 3, 2018 began like any other day.  I woke up after a certain Englishman (as usual) went downstairs barefoot (as usual) and walked through the kitchen to say hello to my husband working in the adjoining office (as usual).

And that's when things didn't go as usual.  My bare feet noticed that the hardwood floor didn't feel right.  Bumpy in fact.

Our floor had flooded and the oak planks had warped.

Here is what I thought in order:


Oh no!


First I was shocked to discover that my kitchen floor was ruined.  Then I was upset to realize my kitchen was about to get demolished.  Then I was ecstatic when I realized I was getting a brand new kitchen.

When the demolition team arrived I told the owner that I didn't like my oak cabinets and thought I'd use this chance to replace them.

He told me that I had good, high-quality cabinets and that it would be a shame to get rid of them.  He also told me that he was seeing oak cabinets slowly coming back and that in 5 years they will be probably be popular again.

Notice how cluttered the countertops are.
With my kitchen ripped up,  I had lots of time to think about what he had said.

Save my oak cabinets?  My cathedral-top, orange-colored oak cabinets?  The cabinets I have hated for 12 years?

I couldn't imagine how these cabinets and I could live happily together in the same place.  Unless one of us made a drastic change.   Turns out, the drastic change needed to be me.

I began by googling "updating oak cabinets"  and found an article by design blogger Julie Blanner.  She wrote an article about how she did a kitchen makeover without changing her cabinets.

Click here for the article. 

I saw her picture and thought, "Hey! Her cabinets look like mine!"  And then I thought, "I like that kitchen.  Why do I like that kitchen?"

This started me on a journey to study all that I could about oak cabinets and design.  Here are a few things that I learned.

1. Oak is very busy.  You don't want anything to compete with the busy-ness of oak.  All decor items should be neutral and simple.

2. Drawer pulls should match the hinges and blend with the cabinets.  They also should have a shape that blends in with the shape of the cabinets.  Since mine were cathedral top (like Julie's) I wanted curvy soft lines.

3. Oak cabinets are a warm color.  Any items in the kitchen that are cool will compete with the oak.

4. Have as little on your counters as possible.

Oops!  I definitely was breaking all these rules.  Here's a picture from a few years ago.  Here you get to see my cluttered kitchen in all its glory.

It's blurry, but I think you get the idea.  
Hey, I never claimed to be a designer, but if you need me to edit something or help with a resume, I'm your man... or woman... or person!

So while my kitchen was getting dried out and new oak planks were getting installed, I decided now was a good time to completely dejunk my kitchen and move some things around.

After cleaning out every single cupboard, I realized I needed lighter kitchen walls.  I ended up taking it back to its original color.

That dark mushroom color had to go.  See how bad it looks with the orange cabinets?  

Next was moving the large, black china cabinet.  We moved it into my living room which currently has very little furniture.

Original location
New location
After weeks of repair, restoration, and ordering lots of things online I was finally able to update my kitchen.  

Not only am I not a designer, I'm also not a photographer.  Hopefully these pics will help you see what changes I made.  

This is where the china cabinet used to be.  I moved our family picture into the kitchen and placed what used to be our centerpiece on top of the small cabinet.  It's amazing how much this has opened up the cabinet to have that big heavy black cabinet gone.

With all the moving around, our dining room table broke.  So we had to order a new one.  I decided to go with something lighter and a farmhouse style.  I also ordered an outdoor rug to go underneath to protect the newly refinished floor.  I choose blue as an accent to the orange cabinets.  Since they are opposite colors on the color wheel, my hope is that it will create some energy for the room.  Plus, I just really like dark blue.  

Still not sure about the centerpiece.  I want something big and bold, a certain Englishman wants something small and simple.  This is our current compromise. 
Here are my newly decluttered countertops.  I'll show in greater detail what are on the countertops.  Can you see that I took down the curtains?  We also bought new bright white blinds.  I wanted a few pops of my accent color so I bought navy/white striped towels at Crate and Barrel and a new floor mat at Wayfair.

These jars used to store pasta in the pantry.  I decided to bring them out and put cold cereal in them.  
Pinterest told me that oak cabinets like greenery so I added some grass that I had used in my NYC apartment.  

It's really hard for me to take a picture of my kitchen window because it's really hard for me to take pictures. 
The vases are from Kirkland, and soap dispensers are from Target.  Eventually I want my dish soap to be clear like the hand soap.  Does Dawn come in clear?  I really like Dawn. 
We put our appliance hutch in storage and these are the two that allowed on the counter.  They are both white.  In the winter, I might put my white electric tea kettle on the counter as well.

I really like my Family Rules plaque but I feel like it's too busy for that corner.  I might switch it to something more neutral.  But I really like the message on it and having it in my kitchen.  Still thinking... 
Next is my food prep area.  I brought out my wood and white cutting boards and bought a magnetic knife holder at Crate and Barrel.  My daughter suggested I get a hammered copper bowl to hold fruit.  I found one at a restaurant supply place for $15.  I really like it.  

Just found out the magnet bar went on sale.  Time to call Crate and Barrel. 
To throw in some more greenery, I bought some boxwood wreaths at Home Depot.  I also got a copper hanging fruit basket to clear up some counter space.  

I am using a white ramekin to hold my salt for cooking. 

This used to be really cluttered.  I moved most of my cooking utensils to a drawer and left out the ones I really like.  I also grabbed an owl from downstairs to hold my small whisks.  The spoon rest is from Target and was what I used in NYC.  My oils are tucked beside my microwave.

This has always been an awkward space.  I'm not sure the glass vase and twigs are going to survive.  That's why I haven't taken the tags off.  The napkins are hiding my google home speaker, and the other stuff is too keep people from dropping stuff on that little counter.  It gets cluttered really fast.  

I love this glass vase but I just can't figure out how to use it.  Maybe I should keep it and store it until inspiration hits me. 
I found my new drawer pulls on Amazon.  I went with spoon foot antique brass. 

You can buy them by clicking here. 

 It's hard to see them in the pictures which is the point.  Here is a before and after.  

For 12 years we've had these black spoon foot handles. 
I got some pull cups to give them an updated look.

See how they disappear?

I still have lots of changes I want to make to my kitchen, especially the lighting.  But that's going to have to wait while we recover from what we've done so far.  While it's not the kitchen I would pick if I were starting from scratch, I actually really like my kitchen now.  It's much easier to keep clean and easy to work in.  

I think I got the best compliment today when someone saw my kitchen for the first time.  

She said...

"Your kitchen is beautiful! Did you get new cabinets?"  

I'll take it.  

Here's a before and after of the kitchen.

To follow the Pinterest Board I created for inspiration, click here.  


Jeanelyn Bier said…
Your kitchen is beautiful! I would like to know what paint color you used? I do have oak cabinets as well and husband doesn’t wanna get rid of them so here I am looking in Pinterest and saw your work. Please let me know the paint you used. Thanks so much
Unknown said…
Have you tried reversing the doors? I just moved into a 1986 home with the same beautiful cabinets. I will be reversing my doors because they look like shaker on the backside.
Anonymous said…
I really enjoyed reading your post and I too have similar cabinets. I like the upgrades. Your kitchen looks so much bigger. Just my though, I think I would keep your light above the table. It adds character to your kitchen and it is the one thing from the before that really goes with your new look. It's the farmhouse look to compliment your table. Good job and thank you for sharing. It has given me new inspiration for my kitchen. I love your honesty.