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Hand painted kitchen in South Shields

Listed under Blog, festool, hand-painted kitchen, Lee Baker Posted May 30 2020

Lee Baker, Traditional Painter for the North East, tackled this large hand painted kitchen in South Shields. The project was interrupted by Covid-19, but with the support of the clients and a well conceived working policy, the results speak for themselves.

Hand painted kitchen in South Shields by Lee Baker

This beautiful kitchen started life 15 years ago as solid oak, made by Paul Lamb Interiors. The large period property that was to be my workplace for a while was in a small village just outside of South Shields, South Tyneside. The scale of the kitchen, around 50-doors, and its workflow really worked for my client. As with many kitchens we paint, it was simply too good to replace.

The oak kitchen in South Shields before painting
A beautifully made kitchen that could be transformed with a hand painted finish.

Initial Enquiry for the Hand painted kitchen in South Shields

I received the original enquiry via Whatsapp. They then emailed me the initial information and photos This is the typical way of enquiries these days.

Once I had reviewed all the photos, I used my pricing software to cost the project.  

The use of software enables me to price accurately and fairly for everyone. There is no bias in the quality of the kitchen, prestige of the property, location, or car on the drive. I price all kitchens blind based on the same pricing rates. It’s all about integrity.

I emailed through my quotation and my client accepted it ‘subject to survey’. 

The clients, a mature couple, spend much of the year apart, due to overseas work commitments. Given the small window of opportunity for being together, it was imperative that we nailed down all the details and colours in one sitting.

We scheduled a meeting for the next day. 

Colours suitable for painting this kitchen

The clients had a clear sense of what they wanted the space to ‘be like’, but they had no ideas about colours or finishes. My only indicator was that they liked and wanted to retain the existing cream backsplash tiles and granite worktops. 

Colour are very subjective and a face-to-face discussion is a great way of working through people’s perceptions of colours and beliefs. “Happy”, “sad”, “warm”, “cold” “peaceful” and “noisy” are descriptive words I hear regularly when chatting. This project was no different.

It is good to look for inspiration in magazines, Instagram or Pinterest, but you need to bear in mind that they are often stage photo-ed. In other words, a lovely looking kitchen in a picture can look entirely wrong in your house without the same studio lighting and filters. 

I had hand painted some samples which the client had an immediate ‘gut feel’ about. Too overbearing! Next.

During the meeting, I ran through my swatch charts and I went on to prepare about 20 Hand Painted samples. 

I demonstrated the changing nature of colour by placing the samples in natural and artificial light in different parts of the room. They condensed the samples down to around 5 or 6, which I left with them for a few days, to view at different times of the day and night. 

The client elected for a two-tone scheme. It was Farrow and Ball Lime White for the doors and drawers, and Calke Green for the dresser /Press. I also used it as an accent colour in some of the cabinet interiors. It was a fairly involved process but they made a confident final choice.

Protecting the kitchen whilst painting work was in progress

It is safe to say that my client is incredibly house-proud. I allayed any fears about dust, dirt and disruption, by explaining the Festool dust-free sanding system (99.9% dust-free).

Additionally, the kitchen worktops and floors were protected with a waterproof covering. They were delighted with my efforts, especially as I removed any waste from the site and disposed of it correctly.

Work Process

I followed my tried and tested process, where I strip out, clean, sand, prepare and paint the cabinets. Work progressed as ever, without any issues. 

I made a minor change to my system and conducted the bulk of the work outside the main house. So, after the doors were refitted I applied a final topcoat. 

painted cabinet
Finished dresser
Original oak dresser

All in all I applied around 5-6 coats of paint. When I say this, it was probably more in some instances, rather than less. The conditions were tricky with alternating hot and cold days. Many times the paint started to drag or took an age to cure. Overcoming variables is where years of experience comes in to play. 

I always commit to a perfect finish. What you see on the face of a door will be the same finish on an end-panel or the underside of a cabinet. I don’t hide anything. No shortcuts. Every kitchen is painted the same way, to the same standard, regardless of its size or original price tag.

Finished Hand painted kitchen in South Shields


The client wanted to upgrade the handles and cabinet knobs to match the new look of the kitchen. They asked for recommendations, which I was happy to provide. 

In the end they went for a contemporary long cup handle, which is solid brass but with a polished chrome finish. They complemented that with a Victorian turned 38mm knob. I was happy to demonstrate the ergonomics of where and how high the knobs and handles should be fitted.

hand painted cabinets South Shields

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Around one week into the work, news broke of the coronavirus lockdown. 

This was an ethical dilemma. 

The kitchen was out of commission during the working day, but I had a moral imperative to reinstate it. The clients needed to cook and to self-isolate, as soon as possible. I was conflicted.

We discussed the news at length. I gave the option to postpone, but we determined that work would continue. I agreed on some immediate measures to ensure it was safe for all of us. 

•    Give me use of their workshop situated around 100 meters from the main house, so I could work every day in isolation.  

•    Use the back of the house for access to the kitchen, and the kitchen to be off-limits during working hours. 

•    The client allocated separate welfare facilities for me. 

•    Use hand sanitisers and soaps, and always wear gloves and masks as needed.

The client was very happy with the daily progress and we never came into contact for the duration of the job. It was unusual, but these are unconventional times. 

Hobbled by Covid but not stopped

The preparation and painting of the doors and drawer took about 10 days on-site. Conditions in the workshop were pretty good, but there were times where the temperature meant painting was not possible. 

At those times, I could get back to the main house, undertake the preparations and paint the existing cabinet frames and features. It certainly wasn’t the best ‘time in motion’ study ever completed, but the work was moving forward and that was the objective.

I painted the freestanding dresser in two tones. It was quite the job. I dismantled and handled it in such a way that I could finish the worktop on the unit in one colour and the rest of the cabinetry in an alternative colour. It was heavier than it looked!

Finishing touches

I painted all the components and ferried them to the house from the workshop, one at a time. The kitchen took around two days to reassemble and realign everything. Plinths, pelmets, lights, door and drawers all functioning well, in their place. 

The fitting of the new handles and knobs took an additional day. Cleaning down and stripping out all the floor and surface protection took another. 

The work took around 4 weeks. This obviously took longer than planned but with a compressed working week, restrictions on travel, limited access to materials and homeschooling in the mix, it was fine. 

Overmantle hand painted by Lee Baker

Being thankful 

Most crucially, the final result was down to the patience of the client, allowing me the latitude and flexibility to maintain my integrity in the work.  

Ultimately, that is what matters most to me, I will never break my stride on quality and that always comes out in my attitude and work. I always believe the best jobs come with the best clients and this was no different. 

In the end, the client generously supplied me with three Easter eggs for my children, the barometer of any happy job, I’m sure you’d agree!

Thanks for reading about this Hand painted kitchen in South Shields. If you have a similar project in mind, I would be happy to talk you through it and provide a full specification and quotation. You can see my contact details and work history here on TP.

About working during Covid-19 times

As a group Traditional Painters around the country sat down and worked out a comprehensive Covid-19 working policy. We remain committed to delivering the highest standard of workmanship, but we will not pay lip service to social distancing and hygiene and PPE. We also have an in-house manual that the members can refer to for finer points.

While so many question marks hang over Covid-19 neither we, nor our clients, for the most part know if we carry the virus. Therefore we all need to look out for each other’s welfare. Lee’s story illustrates that working safely is possible, if not strictly “normal”.

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