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Painting cabinets is one of the best ways to transform your kitchen, but it can be meticulous and daunting. While we often suggest consulting a pro, we spoke with designer Sarah Sherman Samuel, lover of DIY and one of our favorite collaborators, to get her best tips on painting our DIY fronts. 

Picking the Right Shade

How many times have you fallen in love with a paint color you saw on Instagram, and then been underwhelmed when  you saw it in person? It’s happened to Samuel too. “Paint colors look different in every room even in the same city, let alone different parts of the world,” she says, noting that the light at her home in Michigan is different from that in say Southern California. Her advice? Get to really know a color before making a purchase. 

When looking at a 2-by-2 swatch, it’s impossible to tell what that paint color will feel like when it’s covering your walls. So, Samuel paints 2-by-2-foot pieces of foam core board to place in her home, painting them in varying colors. This process helped her settle on a gorgeous green for her A-frame, Behr’s Chard. She also looked at Behr’s Equestrian Green, Emerald Forest, and Trailing Vine. And when you choose your favorite color, she recommends buying the best paint you can afford. She’s personally a big fan of Farrow & Ball and Behr. 

Design and Photography by Sarah Sherman Samuel. Painted in Farrow & Ball's Pigeon

Use a Sprayer When Possible

If you want a smooth, professional-looking finish, Samuel suggests investing in a paint sprayer. If you don’t want to buy one, look into renting from a hardware or local equipment rental store. It works in tandem with an air compressor, and it’s important to use a screen to keep paint from clogging the sprayer.

The first step is to place the doors one foot apart (Samuel recommends on saw horses), then set up the paint compressor and sprayer according to the directions. Next, place the strainer inside and add some water so the paint is the thickness of whole milk. Finally, start spraying and don’t be afraid to do a few tests on scrap paper.

Design by Sarah Sherman Samuel; Photography by Thomas Story

Technique Matters

“You want to do multiple light coats of paint instead of trying to lay it all on there,” says the designer. As you spray paint, hold the sprayer at least 10 inches to one foot away from the surface for a thin coat that covers well. As you spray, pull the trigger so paint starts flowing before you get to your door, and use a wide sweeping motion that goes past the edges of the cabinet. If you stop at the edge, you’ll get a thicker buildup of paint on the edges. Let them dry for at least 24 hours before handling them. 

Design and Photography by Tessa Neusdat

Choosing Rollers and Brushes

While spray painting outdoors is ideal, if you’re living in a condo or apartment, then you may not have the space to do such a project. Professional painters can achieve a smooth finish with high quality synthetic brushes, but she says it might be challenging for novices. Samuel says the next best option is to use a superfine foam-type roller, and sanding the finish in between coats so it stays smooth. “Just don’t use the nappy roller,” she says. “And, the only time you’re going to use a bristle brush is doing a finish and you purposely want those brush lines.”

Kitchen Home Bar Ideas

Design by Tyler and Jessica Marés, Renovate108; Photography by Margaret Wright

The Next Big Color

Samuel says shades drawn from nature will be strong in 2022 and beyond. She’s still a fan of terracotta and ochre, but says green is the one to watch. “I feel like there’s a lot of fig leaf and other greens,” she says. “It’s so grounding and everybody could use some of that right now.”

Sage Green Kitchen Cabinets

Design by Oak Trail Home; Photography by Kaleigh Gamache

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We are no strangers to DIY home renovations at Semihandmade. After all, that’s where the idea for making doors for IKEA kitchen systems came from. So naturally, we had to dedicate an entire section of SemiStories to celebrating our design community’s ingenuity, from DIY kitchen ideas to thinking of smaller details like rattan glassware and easy-to-make wall hangings. Don’t just take it from us: we’ve tapped the best in the business. Anita Yokota shared her best trick for a $20 bathroom renovation, Jessica D’Itri Marés shared her favorite spray painter, and Jenna LeBlanc showed us how to give wall-to-wall storage a custom touch. Maybe you’re just dipping your toes in the world of do-it-yourself, in which case we recommend starting small: try your hand at making your own speckled candle holders, for example, or give your greenery an updated home with pretty stacked planters. If you have a handy side (maybe you’ve put together DIY kitchen cabinets or are not afraid to use a power tool), we have projects for you too: painting a hand-painted mural is a fun way to give your favorite room some life or maybe you’re game to try putting together your own TV cabinet like Sarah Sherman Samuel did (PS: she saved thousands in the process). Experts, we’ve got you covered too: from learning to tile and grout your own backsplash to painting your cabinets without a hitch, we have plenty of DIY kitchen renovation ideas to keep you busy. We don’t stop at the kitchen either: from wall-to-wall media centers to fluted doors made for playroom storage, you’ll find ideas to improve every room in the house