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Adding a Decorative Hand-Painted Panel to Your Kitchen Island

Updated on February 21, 2017
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Decorating and entertaining for special occasions give me great joy. I love to share some of my more creative ideas.

Kitchen Island Before And After
Kitchen Island Before And After | Source

Makeover Your Drab 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.

We Are Going to Change This...........

Dull Drab Kitchen Island
Dull Drab Kitchen Island | Source

To This

The Finished Kitchen Island
The Finished Kitchen Island | Source

You Will Need a Few Materials and Tools

  • Paint for the frame and panel insert
  • 1 inch to 2-1/2 inch paint brush
  • 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 paint brushes (optional)
  • Paper plates or palette for mixing paints
  • Wood glue
  • Mounting tape
  • Spray bottle - mister - filled with water

Let's Talk About the Materials a Little More

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).

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 luaun 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.

A small multicolored set of acrylic paint was purchased in a discount store. I listed the acrylic paint set and paint brushes 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.

Helpful Painting Hints

In order to create the lighter colors I used the cream colored latex paint, purchased for the base color, and tinted it with the acrylic paints. I did this to keep all the hues in the same family. The down side is the latex paint dries very quickly.

If you are going to use my method, or even just use acrylic paint, you might want to keep a spray bottle of water handy. The paints dry out quickly. A light spray every so often will keep them liquid.

Step by Step Instructions With Photos

Lightly sand the frame and plywood insert to get rid of the rough spots and imperfections.
Lightly sand the frame and plywood insert to get rid of the rough spots and imperfections. | Source
Paint the insert and the frame.  They may need a second coat.  Let dry completely.
Paint the insert and the frame. They may need a second coat. Let dry completely. | Source
I traced around dinner plate, a glass and a dessert plate to get the round shapes.  Then I joined them in the middle.
I traced around dinner plate, a glass and a dessert plate to get the round shapes. Then I joined them in the middle. | Source
Next I drew in some detail and added fruit and started to paint.  I mixed my paint on a paper plate.
Next I drew in some detail and added fruit and started to paint. I mixed my paint on a paper plate. | Source
It looked a little blank on the side so I added trailing vines.  Also the colors looked too bright so I made a thin wash of water and yellow ochre and painted over the whole picture.  Then some white highlights.
It looked a little blank on the side so I added trailing vines. Also the colors looked too bright so I made a thin wash of water and yellow ochre and painted over the whole picture. Then some white highlights. | Source
When completely dry  I used wood glue to glue the panel in the frame.  When that dried, I applied mounting tape to the back following package instructions.  I removed the liner paper and pressed the panel to my kitchen island.
When completely dry I used wood glue to glue the panel in the frame. When that dried, I applied mounting tape to the back following package instructions. I removed the liner paper and pressed the panel to my kitchen island. | Source

Close Up of the Finished Kitchen Island

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. | Source

Mishaps Are Not a Problem

Any smudges, fingerprints or design elements that you do not like, can be quickly painted over with one or two coats of the base color.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


© 2017 Ellen Gregory

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 months ago from the short journey

      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!