Home & Garden

Glossy cabinets shine in contemporary kitchens

Benjamin Moore White Dove Advance semigloss paint was used on cabinets for an update on a traditional-style kitchen.
Benjamin Moore White Dove Advance semigloss paint was used on cabinets for an update on a traditional-style kitchen. Benjamin Moore

As ultra-contemporary kitchens gain in popularity, interest is soaring in shiny cabinets that contribute a huge modern cachet.

Patrick Mele, a New York designer, loves the sheen and reflection that variations on glossy paint, other finishes and lacquer add to a kitchen. He and other designers credit European cabinetmakers for producing some of the smoothest, glass- or mirror-like finishes, rivaling those from automotive manufacturers.

Patty Vila is among American homeowners who like the look. She resurfaced kitchen cabinets in her Miami Beach home by having them spray-lacquered white. “They look amazing, and it’s a popular look for others living on the beach. It makes the room look larger, sleeker and cleaner,” Vila says.

Scott Dresner, a Chicago designer, also likes glossy cabinets as a way to add a pop of shine and make a kitchen look more distinct. He has his own private label line fabricated in Italy.

But another trend has emerged that appeals to those who may not want such spare sophistication. They favor warming up minimalist glossy cabinets with some matte or wood-grain cabinets and honed countertops, says designer Veronica Van Deusen, a Virginia designer.

Besides deciding whether to go with a total or partial glossy look, another key decision is which type of gloss to select, which can affect price. Many of the glossiest cabinets reflect a labor-intensive process of rolling or brushing on paint, spray-painting, applying a urethane-type finish or lacquering, often in multiple layers and sometimes with an automobile manufacturer-style buffing afterward. These choices can end up being as expensive as pricey stainless-steel and custom-painted cabinets, says Dresner.

Because of the time-consuming labor required and regulations regarding VOC off-gassing with oil-based finishes, the work may have to be done off-site, before installation.

Less-costly versions are available, though not all are exact clones. Vila shopped hard to find an installer to lacquer her cabinets for an affordable fee. Van Deusen has discovered costs sometimes can be trimmed if clients take their cabinets to an auto body shop, skilled in this type of work. Ikea retails high-gloss cabinets. And many paint manufacturers like Benjamin Moore and Dunn-Edwards have semigloss and high-gloss products for DIYers or professional painters.

Benjamin Moore’s Advance line is an innovative product — a waterborne alkyd, a type of paint that produces a look similar to an automotive finish, says brand manager Joe Dellafave.

Still another option is to use cabinet boxes covered in a laminated paper or plastic material that’s thermoformed to an engineered wood surface. They look glossy and are practical and affordable. Designer Alena Capra from Fort Lauderdale likes thermofoil fronts for their cost-effective look and durability when she seeks a shiny look.

But before you make a choice, ask yourself the following questions to make a smart investment that works for you:

▪ How important is going green? Many glossy paints are green but not all; lacquers can be either oil- or water-based.

▪ How much will fingerprints show? Some reflective surfaces show them more than others — white more than black. To avoid smudges, install knobs or pulls.

▪ How do you want to open cabinet doors? Some designers and homeowners prefer an absolutely spare look and no pulls, which means cabinets have to have another option built in to open them. Those who favor pulls are advised to choose a style that’s sleek and in stainless steel if they want to play up a modern look, Dresner says.

▪ How durable is durable? A glossy finish will make caring for cabinets exposed to grease, moisture and other contaminants easier, according to paint manufacturer Dunn-Edwards. Generally, the harder the coating, the greater its washability. But lacquer may require extra care to install.