Skip to main content

Adding a Decorative Hand-Painted Panel to Your Kitchen Island

Decorating and entertaining for special occasions gives me great joy. I love to share some of my more creative ideas.

My kitchen island, before and after

My kitchen island, before and after

Painting Your Kitchen Island

Here are the step-by-step instructions to add a little pizzazz to your kitchen island. This version is the one I used in my kitchen and has a hand-painted design. If you doubt your painting skills, you can always use a stencil or decoupage a design onto the panel insert instead.


Dull, drab kitchen island

Dull, drab kitchen island


The finished kitchen island

The finished kitchen island

Necessary Materials and Tools

  • Paint for the frame and panel insert
  • 1 inch to 2 1/2 inch paintbrush
  • Picture frame in a suitable size
  • Plywood board cut to fit the frame
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint in your choice of colors, quart-size (optional)
  • Small paintbrushes (optional)
  • Paper plates or palette for mixing paints
  • Wood glue
  • Mounting tape
  • Spray bottle or mister, filled with water

More Info About the Materials

Color Matching My Kitchen Island

I chose to paint my frame and panel the exact color of my kitchen island. I emptied a drawer and took it to the paint store. Their computer was able to match the color exactly. Every paint store and home improvement store—that I am aware of—now has color-matching equipment. The finish selection is not done by computer, but the store associate and I agreed an eggshell finish was the best match. (Other choices were: matte, satin, gloss and high gloss.)

Size of My Materials

I did not list the size of the picture frame as it should be in a size appropriate for your island end cap. I used a plain unfinished, 16 X 20 inch, wood frame which I purchased ready-made in the framing department of a craft store. If you are only able to find one that is already finished, just rough it up a little with sandpaper before painting.

For the insert, I purchased a 24 X 48 inch 1/4 inch thick plywood piece in a large home improvement store. Look around. Most of them have a separate section where they have smaller pieces of plywood rather than the 4 X 8 foot pieces. Some have lauan and birch plywood, which would also work.

Composite board is not a good choice. Pick your piece carefully. Some of the pieces have imperfections and they are still the same price. I needed a 16 X 20 inch piece so I had them cut it for me. I was not charged for the cutting.

The depth of the insert is important. The 1/4 panel fit nicely into my frame. If it is too thick it will protrude out the back of the frame and will keep the frame from lying flat against the end of the island.

Where to Purchase Items

A small multicolored set of acrylic paint was purchased in a discount store. I listed the acrylic paint set and paintbrushes as optional on the materials list. These are only needed if you are going to draw and paint your own design, as I did.

If you are going to stencil a design then pick a stencil and the appropriate stenciling paints and brushes. These are available at most craft stores. The same holds true if you are going to decoupage or wallpaper the insert.

I touched up the drips and finger prints and straightened out the design using some more of the latex paint.

I touched up the drips and finger prints and straightened out the design using some more of the latex paint.

Ideas for Kitchen Islands With Other Finishes

If you have a kitchen island with a stained finish, there are still possibilities for doing something similar to this.

Match the Stain Color

Take the drawer or any other detachable piece from your island to the paint store and try to match the stain to the stain samples they have. For stain, most stores have pieces of wood actually stained with the product. You can probably get a pretty close match.

Paint the Frame

If that is not satisfactory, one idea is to paint the frame a contrasting color and stain the panel. You could even use a frame made from a deeper molding to keep the panel further away from the existing island color. Thus, any mismatch would not be as obvious.

Stain With Contrasting Color

The other possibility is to stain the whole thing a completely contrasting color. I can visualize adding a panel in a light stain, maybe a honey color, to the front of a dark oak cabinet. It would just look like an inset.

If you are going to stain the panel, selecting a high-quality piece of wood is important, as any imperfections will show through. You might want to spend a little more and get a birch panel. Birch plywood has a fine grain and holds a stain well.

Tending to Mishaps

The downside to using a stained panel as opposed to a painted one is that mishaps are not as easily corrected. One suggestion would be to stain the panel and then give it several coats of polyurethane. Let that dry for several days and it should be highly washable. Then add your design in water-based paint. Tend to spills and mishaps quickly with a little soap and water and you should be okay.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Ellen Gregory


RTalloni on March 18, 2017:

Projects like this are such fun and I enjoy seeing others' work. Thanks for sharing your method of creating a kitchen island dress up. Your decor idea is stylish and turned out nicely!