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Antique Painted Cabinets: Tips and Techniques to Try at Home

Update the look of your kitchen by giving your existing cabinets a new, yet old look. Antique painted cabinets give your kitchen a fresh feel without the big price tag of brand new cabinets. Here's how to achieve the antique cabinet look.

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How to Paint Cabinets to Look Antique

Yes, you can give your current kitchen cabinets an antique look without spending a fortune. One way to do it, according to The Home Depot, is with the standard Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations Kit, which is explained by a DIYer on Home Depot’s online blog. The DIYer used the technique on a cabinet door that was already painted.

“After the glaze was nicely laid out and dried, I then took a dampened 3M scrubby pad and purposely rubbed away some of the glaze to give a worn look. Indeed, some of the base coat was deliberately worn away back to the original finish, again giving a worn look.”

You can see before and after photos on Home Depot’s website. You can also watch a YouTube video of the process.

If you can’t find authentic reclaimed lumber for a project, you can use new wood and apply surface distressing techniques to simulate centuries of use and wear. We’ll show you how.

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How Do You Distress Painted Cabinets?

You can also get the look of antique painted cabinets with milk paint. Milk paint is made from simple ingredients—milk protein, lime and clay—and it can be used on nearly any surface without sanding or priming first, making it a great option for distressing painted cabinets.

The Real Milk Paint Company offers finishing creams that can be applied with a rag, brush, damp sponge or even a spatula. These creams dry to a clear finish, giving your cabinets a distressed, antique look when applied over paint.

Dwayne Siever of the Real Milk Paint Company offers how-to videos on YouTube on giving your kitchen cabinets a distressed look with milk paint.

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Staining Cabinets

Depending on the look you’re going for, staining your kitchen cabinets can be a low-cost option for an antique look. Consider giving your kitchen cabinets a quick makeover with a fresh coat of stain.

“Using a different color stain—even as simple as going one shade darker or lighter—can give your kitchen, bathroom or other rooms in your home the new, updated look you want,” according to True Value. And, a stain in an unexpected color such as green or purple can help you achieve the antique painted cabinet look.

To stain cabinets, you’ll need to remove cabinet hardware, doors and drawers. Clean the surfaces and remove the old finish. True Value then recommends applying a sanding sealer or wood conditioner before you begin staining. Here are our best tips for how to stain wood evenly without blotches and dark spots.

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How to Pick a Paint Color

Choosing the right color for your antique painted cabinets may be the hardest part of your project. The Kitchen Company says you should choose what you like, whether or not it’s a trendy color. They offer the pros and cons of colors in the form of tips that can help you make a choice you won’t regret.

“Whether you go with white or purple, pale blue or cerulean, it’s your home and you get to make the decisions,” The Kitchen Company notes. “Embrace what you love and have fun with it.”

Tidal Blue from Nuvo (shown here) is a dusty pale blue, perfect for kitchen cabinets, and this water-based acrylic paint is low-odor.

Buy it now on Amazon.

Silver Bullet from Behr is a soft gray, a good option as a base for kitchen cabinets if you plan on giving them a distressed, antique finish.

Buy it now at The Home Depot.

Transform the look of your kitchen cabinets with these trending colors.

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How to Use Antiquing Glaze

Antique glaze will give your kitchen cabinets a unique, distressed-antique finish with minimal effort. “Glazing is a very doable DIY project for homeowners hoping to achieve a different look for their cabinets at home. Even if your cabinets are already painted or stained and sealed, glaze can be applied directly over the old finish,” according to Ace Paints. But, keep in mind that glaze generally doesn’t work over dark colors because the effect of the glaze simply won’t show.

Try True Value Simply Glaze, which is easy to use for an antique effect on painted cabinets.

Buy it now on Amazon.

Weathered Wood from the Heritage Collection is a thick glaze that can give kitchen cabinets a faux linen texture (shown here).

Buy it now on Amazon.

If you love the look of weathered barn wood, learn how to take new wood and make it look like you just pulled it off of an old barn.

Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.