Paint Your Kitchen Counters

I love Pink as much as most people, but a couple of weeks ago, I was done. Done with the faded, ugly Pink counters in our kitchen. You see, when we bought this house, the previous owners had made the whole interior Pink. Yes. Pink.

Not only the kitchen counters, but all the floorcoverings, the bathrooms, the window treatments…you get the picture. A totally Pink home. There were even Pink fake Flower Baskets hanging from the ceiling in the Livingroom, which the owner kindly left behind for us. I put those in the trash the very next day {at my Mom’s, just in case the last owner drove by our street on trash day.}

So over the years, we vigorously un~pinked everything, laying down wood floors, and Seagrass carpeting, tiling, painting, and replacing window coverings. But the counters were okay for a while, I just pretended they weren’t there and went on my merry decorating way. We’ve even had photoshoots here for magazines, like last year’s Holiday shoot for Cottages & Bungalows, but those focused on the livingroom, so it wasn’t an issue.

Hard to imagine, I know. Just look at the counter, below. A 1980’s nightmare. Pink. Flecked. Laminate. {insert the famous sounds from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho here}

A couple of weeks ago, though, Romantic Homes Editor Jacqueline de Montravel was coming over with her photographer to do a shoot. EEk! Mr. FgH and I had chosen a new counter and sink a few months ago, with the idea that we could have that done before the shoot . Only thing was, once we got home, our plumber came over, and nixed the sink idea.

Seems the one we thought we wanted, wasn’t going to work well. It’s porcelain, and cracks when a heavy pan is dropped on it. sigh. okay, so NOT for us then. And the counters were too heavy for the old, dated cabinets I thought we could just paint again. So plan B. meant a total kitchen overhaul. About $35,000. more than we planned, and about three months of remodeling. So. not.

Since there was no way I was going to have these Pink things in a shoot, I decided to paint the counters! I have to say right now and right here, that I am amazed and thankful that my Mr. FgH said “Okay.” That took guts. big time. But he did. Even my own children said “oh, that doesn’t sound good, Mom!” I have to tell you, I’m so glad I did it. And am kicking myself for not doing it years ago. Here’s what I did:

I decided to use a spray primer made especially for plastic surfaces, so I would have a smooth surface to start with. I lightly sanded the counter tops and sides, cleaned them, and then washed the surfaces with TSP {get it at a hardware store} mixed with water. As you already saw, the key is taping off every single surface with brown paper, and using lots of painter’s tape to protect edges etc. I first put tape on every edge, the window edges, the edges where the counters meet the beadboard etc. Be sure to take your time doing this, you don’t want to get the primer on anything else.

Then I used this product, in an Oil Base. I actually used two cans for our kitchen. I did wear a mask, and suggest you do, too, if you choose to spray your primer. But you can also use Kilz, and just use a brush to paint it on, you will have more paintbrush strokes in your final counters.

After I let that dry as long as it was recommended on the instructions, I pulled out the can of RustOleum Black Oil Based Paint in Gloss I still had, since it was almost full. And started painting. I used a smaller brush, that is just my personal preference, you could certainly use a much larger brush. It didn’t take much time to paint all the surfaces.

This is how the counters looked at lunch time, when the adventurous Mr. FgH came home. {He brought lunch, since he rightly assumed that there would be no lunch making here}

The key to this is to let it dry long enough. Long. Since I painted with the Oil based Paint, I only had to do one layer. I let that dry for 24 – 26 hours. The next day, I double checked to make sure that everything was well covered. Then, I pulled out a combination of my craft paints in Creams and Whites.

On a plastic plate, I just put squirts of the craft paint, and with a sea sponge, which I had rinsed out and squeezed out, I swirled and dabbed. Then I just sponged on the variations of White and Cream and Grey to look sort of like stone. It took me a total of 20 minutes to do that. If you have never sponged with paint, it might be good to try it out on a piece of paper first. The thing is not to overthink it.

This is what I ended up with right after the sponging. It looks a little spotty, but because there is a little water left in the sponge, the paint spreads out and blends a little bit more as it dries.

You can kind of see that happening on the top part of the counter, below. If you don’t like what you have, you can go over it a little, but I really think you can do it in one go like I did. If you overwork it, it won’t be natural looking. I think it’s a good idea to maybe have a little stone tile or photo of stone to look at while you are doing your surfaces.

After that dries, which doesn’t take long since it’s craft paint, it’s time to put the top layer over it that is going to protect it, and really make it look great. I used an Oil based Gloss that I brushed on. I happened to have this at home from our kitchen floor {which we did paint right after we moved in} but any oil based varnish will do. We painted our floor in the kitchen with water base paint, and varnish, and it has lasted for over 12 years, but I think for kitchen counters, the oil base dries harder, and will probably last longer.

The varnish I chose is very shiny, but you could also use semi gloss. I probably wouldn’t use Eggshell on the counters since that isn’t as durable. Let this dry very, very looooooong. The paint instructions recommended 24 hours, but I let this dry longer before putting on the second coat. and even longer for the final and third coat. You do see some brush strokes, but I love that. This is a handpainted counter, it will never look absolutely machine made.

I did this whole Counter Redo on Wednesday, and the Romantic Homes shoot was Saturday. Okay. Call me crazy.

I love the way our kitchen looks now. LOVE. I should have done this years ago. And the remodeling can wait a while. With our faux Black Stone Counters, even the sink is something I can live with for a few more years. I don’t want to show the whole thing in case the magazine chooses to showcase some shots in print.

We still need to do a good new White paint job on the cabinets, as you can see. We did have a new window installed before the shoot, but that was already due, the old one no longer closed or locked. Unfortunately these windows they put in before the shoot were not the windows we ordered! Those, had grids. And were totally beautiful.

So while I had a totally Cottage window in mind, I got these. After they knocked out the old windows, I saw that these were definitely not the windows we bought. But they had to put them in until the right ones could arrive. sigh. Oh well, I don’t worry about the small stuff. Since the shoot, the windows have been replaced with the right ones. {not shown in any of these photos}

If you have something you hate about your home, and you can’t replace it, Paint it! You will be glad you did. These days, there are so many great products for painting, with such great looks. Hammered Copper, Stainless Steel, Powder Coating…..if I didn’t have a fairly new Fridge, I’d probably spray paint that to look like Stainless Steel.


Ta da……so , what do you think? Would you paint your counters or something else in your home to change the look? {I hope you’ll say YES!}


ps. in answer to the most often asked question in your emails: I think this will last a few years. It’s all about the durability of the varnish layer. Three coats should do it. I wasn’t that worried about it since we were going to replace the counters anyway. So even if they only last two years that would be fine. You should use a cutting board, and be a little careful when moving heavy pieces around on the counter {like my Kitchen Aid, I wouldn’t slide that around, but pick it up instead.}

But our painted wood floors are walked on a lot, by people and animals. They have three layers of water~based varnish, instead of the more durable Oil based. We only re~varnish those every six years or so, and they have lasted 12 or more years so far.

If you want to romance your Home and Garden with antique and vintage treasures to make you smile each time you come home, visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.

10 thoughts on “Paint Your Kitchen Counters”

  1. Love this!! I have been thinking of doing this. My cabinets and walls are white but my floor is a dark and light brown marbley looking tile. What color do you think I should paint the counters, I really like the black.

    1. Becky, I love the black. I suggest you try it out by putting either black construction paper on your counters or felt or something so you can get a visual.

  2. Jean E. McCormick

    That’s great work, but you should never put acrylic paint/latex over oil. You can however paint oil over acrylic/latex. You may be able to get by with it because you only put a smattering of it on your counters, but it really can end up making your nice job a bigger job to strip, and redo if you add a traditional latex layer over Oil. I have done it, and yes, the paint actually begins to look like it is sagging down off of the wall. You would never believe it if you haven’t seen it. That’s Chemistry for you. I know you just didn’t want to purchase cans of the oil for your touches. Next time, just purchase some artist’s tube paints, which will not cost that much, and you can use a cheap brand, as long as it is Oil over Oil. Eventually the latex may cause some bubbling and your topcoat may peel off in those areas where you used latex, because the latex cannot bond with the oil, it bonds to itself instead, over time. Good luck with it, though.

    1. It’s because I only used a teeny tiny bit to make the marbled effect that it was okay. It’s been years, and it’s doing great. But I do know no to mix oil and latex. {although I will admit to always pushing the envelope and not sticking to the rules all the time!}

  3. LaVerne N

    All I have to say is…I am going to paint my PINK counter tops in the kitchen. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed reading every single word of this article.

  4. Rebecca

    I’m wondering about the varnish and whether it’s safe to have food on it. Was there a food grade option to the finish? Wondering if you thought about this too and researched it, as it wasn’t part of your post. Love the idea of it though!

  5. Martha

    I painted my counters a year ago and they look terrific! I also painted my oven with a specialty paint to look like stainless steel…fools everyone who sees it. Paint can transform almost anything!

  6. Is the oil bases varnish safe for food preparation and whatnot?

    1. Jeni, I would never recommend that you cut food products on the counter, at any time, because you will damage your counter. But the varnish will be DRY. And if you use a cutting board, there shouldn’t be an issue. You may want to google this online for your own information, though.

  7. Love it! How has it held up? Moving into a house with pink counters in a month.

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