But it's done! And it's fabulous! Well, as fabulous as a tiny kitchen with no window and a small budget can be.
The timetable ended up being something like this:
October - sand upper doors in preparation for staining dark brown. Sanding off green factory stain is hard.
November & December - do absolutely nothing. Host Christmas dinner with no cabinet doors. Classy.
January & February - sand a few more doors. It's too cold out!
March - realize stain won't all come off and change plans from staining cabinets to painting them white.
April - paint doors a little at a time, with a marathon on Easter weekend.
May - install doors and hardware, sand and paint drawers.
June - go on vacation & don't think about kitchen.
July - buy new refrigerator, try to burn kitchen down the next day (my bad).
August - try to figure out what to do with backsplash - tile? paint? tile & get new countertops? just leave it and live with it? Flip-flop back and forth.
September - paint backsplash to match cabinets because we can't find tile to match the countertop and a new one is too expensive.
So, needless to say, getting the kitchen done wasn't exactly a high priority for us this year.
Let me show you the before shot:
This is about 2 years ago. You can see that we had yellow walls, green cabinets, and orange tile. Margarita, anyone? It didn't really bother us that much until we painted the walls. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are open-concept, so if you paint one you have to paint them all. The wall colour we chose was Benjamin Moore's Ranchwood. It's a taupe colour that looks slightly green in our house. We love the colour, but it definitely clashed with the kitchen cupboards.
I'll make a long story short (you can read more about it here and here) by saying that I decided to sand all of the cabinets bare and then stain them a dark espresso shade. I even did some tests on a spare piece of toe kick trim.
After weeks of sanding and not getting very far I was starting to lose faith. I had been strongly opposed to painting the cabinets white - one, because everyone else is doing it, and two, because I wanted to see the wood grain. But I had to be realistic and admit that sanding/staining wasn't going to happen. Since the countertops are so dark and there is no window in the room, it really did need to be lightened up.
So full steam ahead with the white paint. We used Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Primer (two coats) and Benjamin Moore Advance paint in pearl finish (3 coats). They dry slowly, giving them time to self-level and produce a nice, flat surface. We didn't have them tinted, just used them straight out of the can. For reference, the BM Advance's white is slightly more yellow than the Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint & primer's white.
We sped up the process a bit by taking 15 doors to Tom's work and painting them over the Easter weekend. I'm not sure we slept at all that weekend, trying to hit those minimum drying times.
We chose door hardware from the Threshold line at Target. The handles have a nautical feel with the raised detail giving the look of a boat cleat. We bought matching cup pulls for the drawers, also from Target.
When we were at the tile store picking out tile for the bathroom, we looked at tile for the kitchen as well. Even with the help of the sales staff, we came to the conclusion that no tile (except white subway tile which Tom didn't like at all) was going to match the dark countertop. We spent a week entertaining the idea of putting in a new one, but Tom wanted an undermount sink and you can't do that with laminate, so it was going to be pricey. Putting that kind of money into this kitchen just isn't worth it.
So one night while Tom was out I painted it white. This is where I found out the difference between the Behr white and the Benjamin Moore white. I could definitely notice the difference and it just looked odd, like the cabinets were dirty. Luckily, we had just enough cabinet paint left over to do one coat. You can still see the "tile" detail on the backsplash, but it's subtle now.
We also replaced the appliances. Not all at once, because it took us just as long to pick out a stove and refrigerator as it does everything else. We replaced the dishwasher soon after we moved in, then the stove last spring, the microwave at Christmas, and finally the refrigerator in July. The stove is a GE from Home Depot and the refrigerator is an LG from Lowe's.
We installed under-cabinet lighting from Ikea to brighten the room even more. These lights are neat in that they come in sets of four that snap together, so you can configure them however you want. We put three pieces along the longer counters and one under the cabinets on each side of the stove. We swapped out the standard plug for a flat plug, and Tom added an on/off switch so they're easier to, well, turn on and off.
Here is one more before and after so you can get the full effect:
And the view from the other side with the pantry and mini dining room.