Ask Maria: Will my Cabinets Look Dated Even if I Paint Them?

This question has not been covered on the blog so when Sherry sent it in, I decided it would be a good post! Here’s her question:

I love your blog! We are in the process of updating our kitchen.  The cabinets will be white and a new countertop/island will be installed.  We are now empty nesters and the huge refrigerator will be downsized. 

After looking at many online photos and touring new homes in the area I noted that none had wood valances over the sink.  Are they dated, or just another cost savings to builders to omit them? 

There is only one cabinet on the left side so I feel it ties it to the rest of the cabinets.  Also, there are two other raised cabinets and if I remove the valance it might look unbalanced.  If it matters, we have a very wooded lot to view from the kitchen window.  Help!

This is a really good question and it brings up a couple of common issues to be aware of, if you are planning to update your kitchen by painting your existing cabinets.

First of all, technically, yes, wood valances over kitchen windows are dated.

However, Sherry is right, in this case it DOES connect the lonely cabinet on the right to the rest, and it DOES repeat the raised cabinetry above the stove and the fridge. So in this case, I might keep it UNLESS she is starting from scratch with all new cabinetry.

Here’s an image of her kitchen.

Sherry’s kitchen, you can see how lonely the one cabinet on the right would be without the valance.

The other side of Sherry’s kitchen has cabinets that relate to the valance

Painting her cabinets some kind of white (depending on what she installs for a countertop and backsplash) will be a lovely update, but it will just look like a painted builder grade wood kitchen unless she takes it to the next level with a simple update, closing in the space above the cabinets.

You’ll notice that the awkward dust collecting gap above the cabinets is the feature that always gives away a builder grade kitchen.

You’ll never see that space between the cabinets and the ceiling in a current high end custom kitchen like the one below.

Connie Newberry in House Beautiful

Fortunately, it’s a relatively simple fix that can be done when you paint your cabinets. You can create the illusion of current cabinetry by boxing in the gap between the cabinets and the ceiling and adding some decorative molding to create a custom look that relates to the style of your cabinets.


I always recommend this to my eDesign clients when they are updating their kitchens, it just makes such a big difference.

Here’s a stunning before and after over at Remodelacasa complete with a walk through of how it was done.

Kitchen Before from Remodelacasa

And the gorgeous after below.

Stunning transformation by closing the gap above the cabinets from Remodelacasa

In the process of closing the gap above the cabinets, they also designed a lovely custom hood fan which I highly recommend. I just put one in my kitchen and I love it, you can see it here.  Those above the stove microwave fans are just never pretty.

It’s clever the way they removed the doors from the cabinets directly flanking the hood fan.

And the other important improvement to notice here is the way they installed a deeper box over the fridge to properly match up with it and closed it in so it looks more like a custom kitchen. Refrigerators that stick out and don’t fit are never a good look. Little details like this can make all the difference.

The trick is to add the right molding to relate to your cabinets. Crown molding is usually a good idea, but since the gap is fairly large in Shelly’s kitchen, I recommend that she break up the faux soffit with a few strips of molding so it doesn’t look like a blank box.

Here is a breakdown of the different moldings used in the above kitchen below.

Once you get the hang of a miter saw, DIY moulding is pretty easy. See how here.


If you search, there’s a few DIY bloggers that have done the same thing to their cabinets.

For Sherry’s kitchen, installing a custom hood fan to resemble her wood valance and boxing everything up to the top before painting would be a dramatic transformation.

Recently, I saw this dramatic cabinet makeover that I posted on my Instagram:


Given the cabinets in this kitchen were so low, adding the shelving made it look so much less like the space was being covered! Brilliant!

After {image via Shanty Chic}

Okay so over to you my lovelies and back to Sherry’s kitchen, I’m on the fence about keeping her valance now, what do you think? Yay or nay? If she covers up the gap above her cabinets, maybe she could remove the valance?

Let me know what you think!

Terreeia and I are on our way to Dallas tomorrow morning for my Specify Colour with Confidence workshop which starts Wednesday and then Charleston is next week! I’m excited!

Also I’m just a few followers away from 10,000 on Instagram, follow me here!

And I’ve been nominated as a Modenus Top 100 Interior Design influencer for 2019, please vote for me here. Scroll through to find me and hit like! Thanks so much! (you can vote every day 🙂

If you are planning on a kitchen remodel and want to make sure to get your colours and finishes right along with other important tips and suggestions you can use our popular Create a Classic Kitchen eDesign consultation here.

Related posts:

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Kitchen Mistakes

Ask Maria: Will my White Kitchen be Cold?

‘Interesting’ to Classic Kitchen Counter and Backsplash Makeover



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