Kitchen Renovation Part 3: Painting & Lighting

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[This is the 3rd part of a kitchen renovation series. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, or keep going if you only care about painting and lights]

In the early winter of 2018 – approximately nine months after we put in the

Painted stairwell and appliance shelf.
Here is the stairwell area, located directly behind the dining space in the kitchen. We chose a bright red accent wall for the stairwell itself. The rest of the house (except bedrooms) is the pale blue color. You can also see our appliance shelf in the picture, which my husband built himself and is one of my favorite things in the world – it keeps all the appliances off the counters!

stove and vent hood – my husband and I decided to paint the kitchen. We didn’t paint the whole kitchen at this point – we figured we’d be damaging walls when we tore down cupboards and fixed electrical outlets so there was no point. However, we did want to paint the dining area of our kitchen. The eating space in the kitchen flows into the stairwell that heads to the basement, so there is a lot of surface area that would need a coat of paint that was totally separated from the main renovation area. We figured we’d paint that early to get it out of the way before we ripped everything apart. It also provided a nice motivator, since the dining area looked fantastic, while the rest of the kitchen began to look increasingly more dreadful.


I’m going to go over some basics for how-to paint, in case you need help with that. If you don’t, skip down to the next section where I talk about our decisions regarding overhead lighting.

Choosing Paint


There are a ton of different paint brands on the market, and you can find a comparison of some of the common brands here. Basically – as with a lot of home improvement stuff – you get what you pay for, to some extent. Lower quality brands might not cover as well, or they might fade faster.

However, the quality you need depends on what you’re using the paint for. If you’re painting the interior of a closet, you can probably get away with using cheap paint – you’re not trying to cover a different color, and it’s not an area that sees much traffic. You should probably use cheap paint if you’re just painting to sell your home, or to rent a residence out to tenants. But if you’re planning to be in your home for awhile, or you’re painting a high-use area, a better quality paint is probably worth the money. Since we were painting a heavily used area that we wanted to last a long time, we chose Sherwin Williams paint – it worked great. I can’t speak for the longevity of the paint (yet), but the application was easy, and we didn’t even prime.

VOC Count

VOCs (volative organic compounds) are these nasty, toxic pollutants that are present in paints, caulks, sealants, and other chemical-based household items. They are a major source of indoor air pollution, and have been linked to all kinds of nasties like asthma, cancer, and more. California put strict restrictions on VOC content of products in 2014, and federal guidelines restrict the amount of VOCs in some products. Different chemicals have different VOC levels. You want to pick low or no VOC paint, if you can. It’ll smell less bad, and be less of a pollutant. It also works just fine.

Even low-VOC paints can have nasty toxic air pollutants in them, so make sure you paint in a well-ventilated area, and air the house out if you can. If you have health concerns – or if you’re painting a baby’s room – you may want to consider a truly non-toxic paint. From my research, it doesn’t look like they have the performance of conventional paint, but they are probably better for somebody with health issues. has paints like this with good reviews and a high level of product transparency. I’ve never tried a paint like this, though I might someday…and if I do, I’ll definitely share my results!

Paint Type

There are several different paint types to choose from. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Flat/Matte: This paint isn’t shiny. Boom. It doesn’t glisten or reflect any light – instead it absorbs light. On the plus side, matte paint is inexpensive, and it hides imperfections on the wall. On the downside, it tends to get marks on it and gets damaged pretty easily, so it’s not a good choice for high-traffic areas. It also can be hard to clean marks off the paint without removing the paint itself. It’s perfect for things like ceilings and closets, however.

Eggshell: This is really best described as “between flat and satin paint”. It is smack in the middle in terms of both durability and maintenance, and it still hides a decent amount of imperfections. It’s typically recommended for things like living rooms and bedrooms, though we used it in our kitchen as well. I don’t use harsh cleaners, so I’m not very concerned about maintenance, and I don’t really like glossy-looking finishes. Plus, given the age of our house and condition of the walls, hiding imperfections was pretty important.

Satin: This kind of paint reflects some light, though less than semi-gloss paint. It’s also pretty durable and easy to clean, but it does show marks – including roller marks – more easily. Reportedly, it can be hard to touch it up without having the marks show.

Semi-Gloss: This stuff is pretty shiny, and it’s really popular for trim – we used it on our trim! It also is quite durable and moisture resistant, so it’s popular in kitchens and bathrooms. I think I would use it in a bathroom, but my kitchen is well-ventilated and I have a back-splash, so I’m not concerned about using eggshell instead.

Glossy: In my opinion, this kind of paint isn’t really suitable to interior walls. You might get away with using it for trim or doors. It’s super, super shiny and very easy to clean, but it shows EVERYTHING. Every tiny imperfection. Also, it’s REALLY shiny. If you want really shiny walls and you have perfect walls…go for it I guess? I’ll pass though.


Do yourself a favor, and invest in decent quality painting supplies. A good, cared-for paintbrush will last years, and a good quality roller won’t shed lint into your wet paint (which is pretty important). Here’s basically what you’ll need:

  • Spackling/Drywall Joint Compound/Your-Choice-of-Stuff-to-patch-walls (f applicable to your project)
  • Sanding sponge or screen
  • Something to clean the walls with (I like Murphy Oil Soap)
  • Rags
  • Ladder
  • Large roller w/ roller pads
  • Extension pole for roller (for the ceiling)
  • Small roller w/ roller pads (optional, but really helpful for small areas)
  • Edger w/ pads (optional, but makes edging go WAY faster)
  • Paintbrushes. I recommend a couple different sizes for painting both wide molding and small pieces of trim
  • Dropcloths (we use old sheets. You can also use sheets of plastic)
  • Plastic bags
  • Paint tray
  • Red Solo Cups or reusable plastic containers that can serve as handheld paint trays for brushwork.
  • Plenty of blue painter’s tape

Preparing Your Walls

This is the MOST CRITICAL stage of painting. You want to make sure that your walls are actually READY to be painted.

  1. Fix any issues. Patch holes, sand bumps, and otherwise complete any wall repair. The aim of this post isn’t wall repair, so I’m going to gloss over the exact process, but make SURE this is all done before you start to paint.
  2. Run a sanding sponge gently over the walls. This only takes a few minutes, and it helps make everything super smooth and nice.
  3. Clean and dry your walls. I wiped mine down with a little Murphy’s Oil Soap, then dried them with a rag and let them sit for a little while to further dry out. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP. If everything is smooth, clean, and dry, the paint job will look a LOT better. If you don’t start with clean walls, you’ll end up trapping dust and hair bits in the paint. Whoever painted my house before had lots of dust and hair bits in the paint, and it looked like garbage. Don’t do the work of painting only for it to look like garbage. CLEAN YOUR WALLS!


If you had to patch anything, you will have to at LEAST prime over the patched areas. You should also prime any stained or discolored parts of the wall that didn’t come clean with the wall washing.

If the old color is darker or significantly different from the new color, you should definitely prime all the walls. There’s a lot of experts who will tell you that you should ALWAYS prime, but I’ll be honest with you…we didn’t. Our old walls were a light blueish gray, and our new walls were a light, grayish blue. The colors were similar enough that we didn’t feel the need to prime…and everything turned out fine. When we painted our bedroom in a different project however, the old walls were dark brown – and we DEFINITELY needed to prime everything, and even then it took two coats of paint + touch-ups to fully cover the old, brown paint.

Use your judgement – just be aware that if you should prime and you don’t, you will create way more work for yourself in the long run.

Taping & Covering Surfaces

Covering surfaces is CRITICAL when you are painting. You absolutely do not want paint to get anywhere that it’s not supposed to go. Make sure you tape the edges of where you are painting (if you are painting a wall, you would tape the ceiling and floor/molding. If you are painting the ceiling, you would tape the walls, and if you are painting molding, tape the floor and wall above it). You also should tape light switches, outlets, doorknobs, window frames, window sills, light fixtures, and anywhere else that paint could drip during the painting process.

When you think you’re done, take a step back and look around. See if you can identify any places you missed. Trust me, I miss something pretty much every time I tape, and stepping back to look at it helps me spot the missing areas before it’s too late.

For large areas – like floors – you can simply cover the area with sheets or plastic, though I’d still recommend taping the edges if you are painting molding. I prefer to use sheets, since I hate consumables and don’t like buying large sheets of plastic that I’m just going to throw away. HOWEVER. Make sure that you put a plastic garbage bag under your paint can and paint tray. Sheets can catch drips of paint, but if a large quantity of paint drips down and sits on the sheet for a long time, it CAN soak through and get on the floor. This commonly happens when paint runs down the side of the paint can, or splashes out of the tray. You’re better off safe than sorry…and bonus, if you don’t get any paint on the garbage bag, you can still use it as … a garbage bag.

My biggest advice for the prepping, priming, and taping parts of painting, is to take your time. A little extra care here will make the end result look a lot nicer, and will potentially save a lot of headaches later. It’s really irritating to do hours of preparation before you even see the new color on the walls, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Breaking Paint

  1. Commit to spending a good chunk of time painting. It’s important to paint the entire area all at once, so that you are rolling paint on edging that is STILL WET. You can’t take a break halfway through.
  2. Make sure that all your painting supplies are easily accessible before you start painting. You don’t want to be rummaging in the basement looking for an edger pad right in the middle of the job, only to discover that you don’t have any. Ask me how I know that…
  3. Change into old clothes that you don’t mind getting paint on. Don’t forget to use old shoes or socks too.
  4. Lock up animals. You really don’t want to chase your cat around the house while she tracks paint across your hardwood floors. Even the most well-behaved pet can inadvertently brush against a wet wall and create cleaning nightmares.
  5. Break paint (open the can). Like I already mentioned, make sure to put a garbage bag under the paint can and tray. Stir the paint with a stir stick (typically free from wherever you buy paint).
  6. Pour the paint into the paint tray. To prevent drips, use your paintbrush to wipe away excess paint from the rim before setting the can down.
  7. Place the lid back on the paint can. You don’t want the paint to dry out while you are painting, and you definitely don’t want to accidentally spill the paint can!

Actually Painting

  1. Start by edging. Use your edger (or paint brush if you don’t have an edger) to
    Fun writing with paint.
    Don’t forget to have fun! We love writing weird messages with paint during the first coat and priming phases. In this case, “Die’ was appropriate because the paint was blood-red….we thought it was funny anyway. We also wrote nice things, like “I love you” but we didn’t take pictures of that…

    paint…all of the edges! You want to create a nice, wide edge around all the surfaces that you are not painting. If you are painting walls, this might mean going around the ceiling, floor, outlets, doorjambs, and other walls. Try to feather the edge of your lines so that they will blend well when you start rolling. Translation: Don’t leave thick, drippy lines – smooth them out so that the paint goes from thick (right around the edge you’re painting) to super thin, so you will overlap the lines with your roller.

  2. Roll paint: Use your roller and work in an “M”, “N” or “W” shape to cover the wall. Make sure you overlap your edger lines a bit, but be careful not to scrape your roller on the ceiling or corners. You don’t have to roll paint all the way to the ceiling – that’s what your edging was for. Just get it as close as possible. You also want to make sure that you are overlapping your work well, so that all the paint blends nicely together without leaving obvious roller marks. First time painting? Practice the technique with the first coat of paint, since the second coat should hide any failures.
  3. Use a brush to get into any corners or weird spaces that the roller and/or edger can’t access. They make some specialty tools for spaces like this, but personally, I think a brush works good enough.

You’re going to want to let your paint dry completely before doing a second coat. Check the directions on the paint can to see how long this takes. For references, our paint dries to the touch after an hour (so we can let our cats out), but can’t be repainted for 4 hours.


  1. Pour any excess paint back in the can. Use your paint brush to help catch drips, and close up the can when you’re done.
  2. Put your roller pads in a plastic, Ziploc bag. This will the keep the paint wet so that you can reuse the pads for the second coat of paint. When you’re done painting, you can throw them out.
  3. Wash out your other tools! A well cared for brush will last years, but a brush that has caked, dried paint stuck in it won’t last long at all. You will want to THOROUGHLY clean your brushes and any roller or edger pads that you plan to reuse for a different color. I just use lots of hot water, and maybe some soap, since I used water-based paint. If you use oil-based paint, you’ll need some sort of paint thinner type stuff. I don’t recommend using oil-based paint. I’ve never had much luck completely washing out roller and edger pads, but it can be done with some effort. Personally, I prefer to just use new ones – I will be painting my house once every ten years or so, so I’m not real concerned about that level of waste.
  4. Leave tools out to dry
  5. REMOVE THE TAPE! It is very important to remove painter’s  tape while the paint is still wet, since it can peel off some of the paint if you wait for everything to dry. I usually leave the tape up until I’m done with the second coat. That works most of the time, but sometimes I’ll need to touch up an edge. Whatever you do, make sure you remove it before the second coat dries.

2nd coat (and 3rd coat if needed)

You will almost certainly need a second  coat, and should follow the same steps as you did in the first coat. This time, it’s even more important to blend your roller strokes together, because this is the final coat (hopefully).

Hopefully, you’ll be done after the second coat, but if the paint looks thin or the old color is bleeding through, you can do a third coat. If a third coat is needed, you probably didn’t prime when you should have.


For a week or so after you’re done painting, pay attention and see if you can see any spots where the paint is thin or where you missed something. Mark the spot with a piece of painter’s tape, and when it’s been awhile and you haven’t seen anything new, get your paint out again and touch it up with the brush.

Special Considerations for Brush Work

You may just need a little brush work in the corners, or you may be painting a bunch of trim (like we did) that requires a LOT of brush work. Here are a few pointers:

  1. First, make short strokes with the brush to get a decent layer of paint that carefully covers everything in a section. Don’t worry about brush marks yet.
  2. Then, make one long stroke (or two, depending on the width of the trim your are painting), down the entire section. Keep the stroke super straight. This is to get rid of undesirable brush marks, and catch any drips.
  3. Don’t let your brush dry out. Leave the brush in some wet paint until you are able to clean it. If the paint dries in the brush, you’ll be unable to wash it out and it’ll ruin the brush.
  4. Fill a red solo cup about half full with paint, and carry it around with you while you do your brush work. This is a lot easier than carrying around the entire paint can, and the cup can be thrown out when you’re done. If you don’t want to waste the cup, you can use an old plastic Tupperware container that you rinse out when you’re washing your other paint tools.

Painting is probably my least favorite job. It’s boring, it smells bad, and it takes forever. However, once you do it…you won’t have to do it again for a long time. So good luck, and get it done!


This is going to much shorter than the painting section; I just wanted to share the thought process behind our kitchen lighting choices.

When planning your lighting, there are several things to consider:

  1. Where do you need light? This may sound like a dumb question, but it’s actually pretty important for a kitchen. You need to think about having light over your eating area (if you have one), your sink, your stove, and any preparation area that you use often.
  2. What kind of aesthetic do you want? Some people opt for industrial style lights, and other go for a country/rustic vibe. A lot of lighting choices are aesthetic, so this is a personal preference.
  3. Do you want any special features? Some lights are dimmable, some are attached to ceiling fans, and some can be wired so they can be turned on/off from multiple locations. Take some time to really think through what you want before purchasing lighting.

Our Lighting Decisions

Let me walk you through what we chose for each of the lighting areas

First of all, we wanted a country/rustic vibe, so quickly eliminated a lot of the modern-looking fixtures


Our vent hood comes with two really bright LED lights over our stove, so we didn’t need to worry about this.

Dining Area:

It was important to me to have a ceiling fan in the kitchen, since we don’t have air conditioning and cooking in the summer can be miserable. We decided to put a ceiling fan in the center of the kitchen to provide air circulation, and light to our dining room table. The fan isn’t directly centered over the table, but it has 3 LED lights and provides plenty of light to eat by.

We also have an overhead light fixture with an old incandescent bulb in the stairwell behind the dining area. When we want super-dim light (such as during breakfast), we use this light fixture instead.  I didn’t want dimmable lights, and this set-up work just fine.

We bought a Hunter ceiling fan from Menards when they were on sale for less than $50. It looks a lot like this one, with barnwood-looking blades and a bronze-colored housing.

Sink Area:

Due to the window placement in our kitchen, we decided NOT to install ceiling-based lighting over the sink. Since the sink is off-set from the window, any overhead lighting would have looked really weird. Instead, we are purchasing a rustic-looking LED light to put in the side of the cabinet, directly over the sink. This should provide plenty of light, and also look really cool.

I want to note that we haven’t actually purchased this light yet, and not having a light over the sink really sucks. Put a light over your sink! *looks at husband*

Once it’s up, I’ll include a picture. *looks at husband again*.

Preparation Zone:

We actually weren’t sure if we wanted any additional lighting over our preparation zone. We wanted to wait and see how much light the ceiling fan provided…and you know what? It’s fine. It’s not super bright or anything, but it’s more than enough to cut up veggies and salt meat. If you like really bright light though, I’d recommend adding some preparation zone lights – probably can lights in the ceiling or under-the-counter lights.

Electrical Considerations

Our electrical was pretty straight forward – our kitchen had plenty of outlets already, and existing light switches for the lights that we wanted to include. However, when you are planning your lighting, consider the following:

  1. Do you want to move the light switches to a more convenient location?
  2. Do you need to add switches?
  3. Do you need to get rid of switches?
  4. Do you want to add or remove electrical outlets? Now is the ideal time.

Otherwise, you just follow the installation instructions on the unit you purchase. The ceiling fan was really easy. We were able to screw it directly into a beam in the attic, and the installation was textbook-simple. If you can’t screw it into a beam, they make these fun install kit thingys that are also pretty easy. Just make sure you read through it and understand what you are doing before hand. This was the second Hunter fan I have installed, and I gotta say…their instruction manuals are excellent.

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