Question: I live in a large custom built home in a high-end subdivision that we built fourteen years ago. It is time to start updating some of the finishes and I am struggling. We currently have natural maple cabinets that are starting to yellow. We recently added black granite countertops and a porcelain tile backsplash that looks like stainless steel. The floor is oak hardwood and all of the wood work is narrow oak, which is also yellowing compared to the flooring. The walls are a nice warm grey color and the ceilings are nine and ten feet tall with an overall contemporary style. What should I do to update my home? Should I take it all out and start fresh?
Light cabinets are definitely making a comeback after the invasion of dark cabinets flooded the market over that past seven years. I love the look of natural maple with black so I would be tempted to have them striped and re-stained the same color. However, it is definitely a tremendous amount of work to stripe and re-stain cabinets when they are beginning to yellow. Furthermore, with the oak hardwood flooring running throughout the kitchen it would be nice to have some contrast against the cabinetry. I also think you will appreciate the warmth and organic characteristics of the oak flooring when you have something contrasting against it. If the cabinets have a nice simple profile such as a shaker style (recessed panel), I would suggest that a simpler solution would be to sand, primer and paint the cabinets for a fresh and new look to the space. A soft white cabinet is all the rage right now, but it is also a timeless choice. Although white cabinets fluctuate in popularity they never really go out of style. The nice thing about white cabinetry is that it is very versatile in style; from traditional to contemporary, rustic to modern, it works for all looks. Popular paint colors for white cabinetry include, Benjamin Moore’s White Down CC-50, Cloud White CC-30, Dune White CC-70 and Decorator White CC-20. For a totally unique and contemporary look you could paint them a dark charcoal color such as Benjamin Moore’s Kendal Charcoal HC-166.
The wood work throughout the home should probably be changed. You definitely could paint the oak, but I assume the profile is not right with a contemporary look and definitely too small with nine and ten foot ceilings. The general rule of thumb when it comes to baseboards is that when they are less than three inches high, they should be painted out the same color as the wall to have them disappear. When changing them out, I would suggest five to seven inches in height unless you are going for a more dramatic or traditional look, in which case I would suggest an even larger baseboard eight to ten inches in height. You need to be careful with your trim and casing to ensure that there is enough room for the size that you are after. Generally trim is three to four inches wide unless you can accommodate wider. To create more drama, the header/architrave above the window and door frame can always be made larger. The use of solid wood such as pine or oak is always a good choice, but typically more of an investment. When it is being painted anyway, the popular and more economical choice is an MDF product. It paints beautifully and provides a flawless finish. However, the MDF can swell and warp with an abundance of water exposure, so best not to use in water saturated areas such as bathrooms or around sinks. A tile baseboard is the best choice for heavily used bathrooms. MDF products have been a concern for those wanting their house to be environmentally friendly, however Moulding and Millwork’s now provide a green product called SPERO Eco-wise MDF mouldings that contains no urea-formaldehyde and meets other green initiatives.
Changing the cabinetry, wood work and door profile is probably all that is required to update your finishes. It sounds like the flooring, counter top, backsplash and paint are already updated and will only look better once the other finishes are modernized.