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MCM Kitchen Remodel: Phase I

I’ve been working on the kitchen any spare moment I’ve had for the past few weeks, and I’m finally done! Phase I, sanding and staining the cabinets black, is complete, and I’m so excited to start on Phase II, the floors.

Most of the details on why we are updating our kitchen can be found in my previous post here, so I won’t bore you with the details again. Just know that I wanted a kitchen that leaned much harder on the modern in Mid Century Modern. I used a black stain instead of black paint for the cabinets so you could still see the texture of the grain, a request from my husband. Plus, I think stained cabinets will hold up longer than if I painted them. I’m really happy with the results, even though I shed a few stressful tears towards the end (uneven cabinets were almost my downfall).

I tried a few different processes of removing the old varnish and stain, like Citristrip and Liquid Sandpaper before sanding…but it turns out just a good 80 grit sandpaper on my electric sander and some elbow grease did the trick. I started sanding, staining, and poly coating all the cabinet doors and drawers outside before I touched the inside. I knew it would be a mess, and I put it off as long as possible.

I had to use wood filler putty for the old hardware holes since my new handles would have different placement on the cabinets. I don’t think it would have looked seamless filling in the holes with a lighter stain choice, so I’m glad the black was so saturated.

Some products that did help me in the process, besides my electric sander, were a degreaser to clean gunk off the cabinets and a wood conditioner before applying the stain (helps the stain soak in better). I should have used the degreaser more, since I ended up gunking up more sanding pads than I should have, but I was getting impatient and wanted to go straight to sanding. The other trick I used was adding a bit of stain to my polyurethane. I noticed the poly was taking off some of the stain while I was brushing it on, so adding a bit of stain to color it helped for an even coat. Some professional wood workers don’t like this trick, but I’m by no means a professional….so no shame in my game!

Once I finished all the cabinet fronts, I moved on to the base of the cabinets inside. I taped off whatever I could with plastic to reduce dust in the kitchen and the rest of the house. Really glad I did that since it was a dusty mess in there after. After the base of the cabinets got sanded, stained, and poly coated (and allowed ample time to dry), I reinstalled the cabinet doors with the existing black hinges. I didn’t want to fill holes from the hinges in addition to the holes I filled from the handles. Plus, the hinges being black meant they blended in, and the new white semi-circle handles became the showstoppers! This project was done completely on my own until it got to the handles…I had started installing them and quickly found out I wasn’t accounting for old cabinets not sitting completely straight. They looked a crooked mess and I was pretty distraught…until Ryan helped save the day. We have to fill a few of the holes with putty and try again, but the handles are so large that they luckily hid any mistakes we made.

Phase II (the floors) will hopefully start at the beginning of the new year, but we shall see what my schedule permits. I will be doing a graphic black and white pattern with vinyl tiles and I’ve been scheming on what design to choose. Stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “MCM Kitchen Remodel: Phase I”

  1. I grew up with cabinets like those, and then moved into a house with my own with them. I could never get myself to do anything to them except maintenance, the wood grain and the textures in the wood seemed untouchable.
    I’ve since moved into a different house with 1990s Maple cabinetry, it will probably also date this house.
    It’s fun to see you make the knotty pine your own.
    I’m writing because I have tried a number of different kinds of flooring and I know the black and white floor would drive me nuts if the tile you select is solid white and solid black. The flooring I have selected, in places where I’ve chosen flooring, has always had some variety in material so I could relax in between cleaning. The one floor we had that was particularly bad was a linoleum that was very light and showed dirt. I also painted a set of stairs white, they immediately became grubby. They were construction grade that had been carpeted, we got rid of the carpet because it was awful, a runner made the stairs much better, stapled in place. The dog is much happier too running up and down the stairs without slipping.


    1. It’ll be the type of vinyl tile that has slight variation to each color, like little speckles. It’s the type of tile you see a lot in hospitals and schools, which is probably why it has the speckles, to hide dirt, lol.


      1. I just visited a friend in Portland who had just moved into a house that used those in both the bath and kitchen, my daughter’s home also uses those in the bath and kitchen. My daughter’s are in a less-imaginative black and white checkerboard and they’re happy with it.


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