Mountains and Birds on the Cabinet Doors

One of the challenges of home ownership is reconciling your improvement ambitions with the realities of your finite time and (especially) budget. In our house, one of those projects has been the cabinets. When Brandon and I first bought the place, we imagined what it would be like to replace them, as they definitely contributed to the house’s dated 80s look. But we also wanted to get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting to reduce the amount of allergens in the house for Iris, who has feline asthma. Since we couldn’t afford to do both, we prioritized replacing the floor and repainting the walls since we knew those tasks would be much harder to do after moving in all our furniture.

In the meantime, we’ve been finding more economical solutions to making the cabinets appear less dated, namely by painting them. In the kitchen, I repainted the doors a bright turquoise to complement the honey yellow we’d picked for the walls, instantly changing their look. Not everyone would like these colors, but they work for us and our taste.

While a solution to updating the kitchen cabinets presented itself relatively quickly, the bathroom cabinets have proven more challenging. Covered with the same taupe wallpaper-like substance as the kitchen cabinets, I initially left them as is after we repainted the bathrooms, but soon thought they started looking tired and dingy. Before the wedding then, while refreshing our doors with a coat of the same paint I’d used for the trim, I painted the cabinet doors. While they certainly brightened the space, I thought the contrast with the purple-gray walls was a little harsh and made the sink counters appear browner than before.

Repainting the pocket door with some of my Virginia abstractions made me think that similar treatments would work well on the bathrooms’ cabinet doors.

After painting the pocket door connecting the bathrooms, I got another idea. Why not paint some of my abstractions on the cabinets? After all, as much as I like the painted pocket door now, it’s not on view most of the time. What if I painted something in the bathrooms that could always be visible?

Before heading up to CAA then, I decided to redo the cabinet doors one more time. After going through my abstractions again, I settled on two different scenes. Unlike the pocket door, I didn’t pick these scenes with the intention of making them a pair, but instead opted for abstractions that fit the vertical or horizontal orientation of each cabinet. Rather than pick a different scene for each door, I chose one abstraction for each bathroom, with the intention of stretching the scene across their respective cabinets.

Scene of the Blue Ridge Mountain up by Roanoke. The colors in this scene also formed the basis of my first knitted blanket.

For the longer bathroom, where the cabinets feature three doors, I picked a horizontally-oriented abstraction of a mountain scene I’d painted during a weekend trip to Roanoke. Brandon especially loves mountains, so I thought it’d be nice to feature some Blue Ridge scenery in our home, especially since the image was linked to a memory we both enjoy.

Birds perching in winter trees, 2019

For the smaller bathroom with a two-door cabinet, I picked an abstraction of birds I’d seen perching in bare trees while taking a morning walk in New Town. My stylized approach to the branches invoked Gothic tracery and Art Nouveau, and I thought it would be interesting to see the lines continue over two separate surfaces.

Having settled on my designs, I set about adapting them to the space, as I had done for the pocket door. I repainted them as they would appear on the cabinets, breaking up the compositions at strategic points so that they would form a continuous whole while also functioning on their own as separate panels. I also modified the colors to better suit the purples and blues dominating the bathrooms.

With these reworked compositions in hand, I set to the doors. I completed both bathrooms over a weekend, painting the Blue Ridge scene on Saturday and the winter birds on Sunday. Here’s how they turned out:

My modified birds for the smaller of the two bathrooms
The Blue Ridge Mountains painted across three cabinet doors. I’m especially pleased with how this one turned out, and the potential these abstractions suggest for future canvas-based works.

I’m especially pleased with the mountain scene. I think the birds turned out fine too, but I really like the colors and forms of the mountain image, acting as both landscape and abstraction.

Like the pocket doors, the cabinets were an opportunity to see how my abstractions carry on a larger scale, but I also think there’s something else going on here. I’m testing out how these abstractions would look as canvas pieces, whether as singular works, diptychs, triptychs, or more. In short, I’m testing how my abstract compositions might work not just as sketches in a book, or as the background to a figural piece, but as paintings in and of themselves, as art to be displayed on the wall.

And I think I like what I’m seeing.

Categorized as Art

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