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Colouring the Kitchen. Woodworking ideas for your home.

Wood Project Inspiration

A dated 1970's kitchen is renovated to have a vintage look and modern conveniences.

The mismatch was all too obvious. A kitchen from the 1970's simply didn't pair well with a circa 1920's cottage-style bungalow. Harvest gold countertops, darker-than-dark cabinets, fake brick backsplash, and dated appliances and fixtures made the room a 30-year-old period piece, and all wrong for the house it occupied. It was also user-"un" friendly, sized and set up for just one cook. But the new owner of this little house knew exactly what she was getting when she decided to buy: an opportunity to create a style that belonged in a 1920's bungalow yet worked like a 21st-century kitchen.

In developing a new design, the owner was determined to get the look and function she wanted while also staying on budget. To complement the house's style, she searched for cabinets that would resemble freestanding furniture and create a countrified "unfitted" look that has become popular in kitchen design. This led her to an unlikely place, an unfinished furniture store. That's where she found them: ready-made maple cabinets that gave her both the right design and the storage she needed, all at a price that kept the project on budget.

With the cabinets setting the style, creative use of stains and finishes enhanced the look even more. To ensure even distribution and absorption of the stain colour, the lower cabinets were first treated with Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner and the upper cabinets with Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. The lowers then took on an unexpected vibrancy with Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain China Red while the uppers were enhanced with Minwax® Wood Finish™ Provincial. Then came two coats of crystal-clear Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish in a semi-gloss sheen. To add another accent, the China Red stain was applied to new dining chairs, which were then also topcoated with Polycrylic®.

After the cabinets were installed, the owner covered the backsplash with embossed tin panels found at a local home center. Over time, the uncoated tin will take on a pleasing patina that will complement the overall kitchen style. She also installed a new floor, using a lesser grade red oak that had a few knots and other small imperfections that spoke more of antiquity than of brand-newness. To complete the room, the oak floor was finished with the Minwax® Water Based Polyurethane Floors Semi-Gloss. It's a highly durable, low-odour topcoat that dries in just two hours, allowing multiple coats to be applied in a single day and thus minimizing a room's "downtime".

In her quest for a cohesive style, the owner struck gold when she found an old hutch at a nearby antique store. It was just right for the kitchen's casual, eclectic look. And as a bonus coincidence, the colour of the antique pine matched that of the wall cabinets.

With its opened-up layout, the kitchen now welcomes several cooks for meal-making. Stainless-steal fixtures and appliances and state-coloured countertops add a contemporary edge that suits the scene while new recessed lights bathe the once-dim room in a welcome brightness. Switch them on and the new cabinets and floor show why their beautiful colour and sheen command, and much admiration.


Cabinets purchased at an unfinished furniture store are likely to appear ready for staining and finishing, but take a close look for scratches, milling marks or even occasional rough spots. In fact, it's a good idea to sand the entire cabinet exterior with 220-grit paper. Sand again after the first coat of clear protective finish has dried, before applying the final coat, to ensure smoothness.