Recently, I encountered an Architect Client who pushed me a little out of my comfort zone to design  with natural fir cabinets combined with custom painted blue bases in Benjamin Moore’s  Gentleman’s Grey – see below.

This inspired me to share some of my kitchen cabinet solutions and try to explain how to choose a PAINTED  cabinet and to explain what are the pros and cons of the different types of painted doors.  Though white kitchens have been a prevailing and leading trend for more than 10 years – it is very simple to have colours such as soft greys, and pop colours to change it up a bit and add some colour to your kitchen!  You just have to know the steps..

Traditional Blue and Fir Cabinets By Shelley Scales Design

Fir and Painted Kitchen By Shelley Scales Design

Choosing the painted cabinet:

You may believe that painted cabinets are the least expensive of all because paint is so cheap. However this is not true and  can be easily dispelled by looking at the number of steps to painted cabinetry. Essentially cabinets are furniture, however  the doors need to stand up to constant movement and abrasion.  Paint  used on cabinets is a  high quality epoxy paint with 2 coats over primer with two stages of sanding – totalling 5 steps. It is applied by commercial spray machines and dried in a totally dust free space. The painted cabinets above are an MDF – Medium Density Fiberboard painted with a “Softtouch” paint finish 35 degree sheen.   


 The first thing to decide is should your painted cabinets be made of  Wood or MDF?

There are 3 types of doors

1) MDF

2) Solid Wood

3) A combination of both

1) MDF is a stable, smooth man-made product. MDF stands for Medium Density Fiber board. It has no knots and therefore it is easy to work with and has little waste (so its less expensive). The back  of an MDF door can be lined with a melamine, usually white, making the back of the door easy to clean and light-reflecting to make it easier to see into the cabinets.  The front of the door is painted.  Some doors are made all from one piece. Some are made from 2 and some from 5 pieces. The less pieces – the less movement = the less cracks.

If the door is a solid slab or a routed bead board  door  (as shown below) – made out of one piece, it does not have any movement as with a traditional wood door. It will not get cracks in the paint.

The downside of an MDF door is that if its painted surface is damaged to the point of exposing the fibrous MDF, the wood surface can swell. This can be repaired in the factory with sanding and respraying, which is best left to the manufacturer.

Tiny Kitchen White Traditional, Neo Traditional Kitchen By Shelley Scales Design

French Neo Traditional Kitchen By Shelley Scales Design

2) A  Painted Solid Wood Door Style

A solid wood cabinet door is constructed out of 5 separate pieces, two horizontal rails top and bottom, and side rails with a center panel that is attached with a joint that allows for movement. This is a good way to make a wood door that that can handle the seasonal changes in humidity. The movement of the center panel allows for expansion and contraction that gives longevity to the door. However when you paint a wood door made this way, the paint will crack at all the joints over time. The grain telegraphs through the paint slightly, and does not allow as smooth of a finish as MDF.

Over time, the painted wood door gets hairline cracks will appear at the joints.  You could say that the cracks just add a patina. “The word “patina” comes from the Latin for “shallow dish”. Figuratively, patina can refer to any fading, darkening or other signs of age, which are felt to be natural or unavoidable (or both).” Wikipedia.  

This kitchen (below) is paint over a solid maple frame door. After 12 years is still looks like new but the slight cracks are just part of the old world look. 

Traditional Kitchen

Traditional Antique White Kitchen by Shelley Scales Design

3) A combination of  wood and MDF can be durable and save a bit of money. The wood frame takes bumps a bit better because its harder for water to penetrate its grain if its chipped and you reduce swelling. It can be repaired much easier on site with a bit of a chip repair kit.

Choose the one that fits your needs. Now you can start to figure out which colour to chose.

You can choose any colour you want!  My cabinet manufacturer takes exact steps to create an exact custom colour match to any Benjamin Moore colour.  At the door factory, cabinet epoxy paint is used.  It is applied by machines where the paint flows are controlled to evenly spray through heads onto the surface of the door and baked to perfection. You can have light shades, or  rich and robust  colours.

Painted finishes have stamina and yet are soft and smooth to the touch. Finishes are available in  three common sheens 15%, 20% and 35% Some manufactures can do  total matte all the way up to  90% gloss.   Painted doors are durable, and timeless.  Actually colours are only limited to your imagination! So do not hesitate to add some colour to your kitchen cabinets. To help you sort through all the choices I would be happy to do some E-design with you and we can work together online or in-person. 


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