Hand Painted Kitchens- Interview with expert Neil Geraghty

An interview with Neil Geraghty, hand painted kitchen specialist.

Finished Neil Geraghty kitchen

Finished Neil Geraghty kitchen

Neil Geraghty is one of the finest kitchen painters working today and I caught up with him to discuss his processes and to try to get him to reveal some of his closely guarded secrets.

Tell us a bit about yourself Neil.

I have been Decorating since I left school in 1983, starting an apprenticeship with a company sadly no longer with us called F Rendall and sons, after completing my time as an apprentice and getting my city and guilds in basic and advanced craft.  I left and started up on my own at the age of 20, going on to build up a good client base while still working with other craftsmen learning and honing my skills.

I specialize in hand painted furniture, mainly kitchens working for some very good kitchen companies. This is what I now prefer to do as I find it a challenge but gives great satisfaction.  In my work I find I have to travel all over the country and have even worked abroad.

Although I mainly concentrate on the kitchen and furniture side of Decorating, I still do, and enjoy the usual side of decorating (and not so usual)!

For the purposes of this interview, we will deal with a new, factory primed kitchen, where do you start Neil?

I photograph the area, check for damage and photograph any that is there and at the first chance point it out. Allow any trades that need access to come in, once you have protected the area, but not once the paint starts to go on.

Speak to the decorators on site, ask for some wall paint, so you can touch up if need be.

Bring in as little kit as possible until the protection is down.

Talk us through your protection process Neil.

The floor first, run a good quality tape around where the painted surface meets the floor, once done lay corrugated cardboard down taping this to the already put down tape.

Now working up, protect the worktops, this will be a mix of corrugated cardboard below units you will be decorating and lining paper on the work tops with no work being performed above.

Mask up everything that is a painted surface to a surface that you will not be painting. Although you have masked up, the idea is protection, so don’t get any paint on the masking tape. Some masking will be done after the filling/caulking is done.


Now you have taped up and protected all surfaces, what’s the next stage?

Start the strip down, remove all the shelves and furniture. Take the drawers out marking each one in a way that is easy for other people not just yourself as to where they go.

With the drawers you will need to paint them somewhere. I use a couple of work platforms and also utilize some of the worktop space.

We will assume the primer is sound albeit full of bits, with runs and sags but sound.

If it is not sound then it will need to be sanded right back and reprimed. This is unusual but can happen, although I have heard of it, I have yet to have had primer that bad.

Before any primer, it will need to be rubbed down, 240 paper with a festool 400 and some hand sanding where the festool won’t go.


All rubbed down, hoover the whole thing down using the round brush attachment, then wipe down with tack rags, once done we will need to decide on which primer, easy I take no chances, Dulux super grip.

We now caulk up, we do this first as it will take the most time to dry. With the caulking, we want it sharp, not just wiped with the finger, no you want a newish flat head screw driver and use that to remove the excess caulk.

Try to cut the tip of the caulk nozzle to give a small hole for the caulk to come out, that way there will not be masses of excess caulk to form.

Filling, powder for normal size hole, two pack for large holes (shouldn’t really need that) fine surface for the minor imperfections.

You will need a halogen lamp to shine across the surface from different angles to show up the imperfections, if you can see it, fill it.

Ideally, you’ll be able to leave it over night before you go over it with a sander again, the caulk has to be dry.

So left over night, go over with 320, hoover and tack off.


Finally ready for paint then?

When it comes to paint, even with a new tin, strain it, only pour out about an inch into your Kettle (wipe kettle first) dampen brushes before use.

You want to thin it down with clean water and add Flotorol to it (I’m just about to try Zamix but not used yet).

With thinning you want it to flow out but not be too thin so it becomes weak, you’ll know if it is too thick, it will feel like it is “pulling”, just add small amounts of water until it feels right, sorry can’t be more precise there.

Paint every edge that you can possible get to first.

You will need to keep wet edges going so there are no shuts, with large areas, it may help to dampen down by wiping a clean, damp sponge over the area prior to paint.

You do not want any over laps of paint, even if you wipe the overlap off it can show a different level of sheen, once dry.

Laying off, left to right bottom to top, right to left, top to bottom, getting progressively lighter with each pass.

I apply three coats of the top coat as a rule, if it is a dark colour, tint the primer to match the finish colour.

While applying the first coat of finish you will, guaranteed, spot bits of filling you missed first time, get a small piece of masking tape and stick it on the imperfection. Once you have done the first coat, go round and second fill where the bits of tape are.


Between each coat a light rub with 400 grade paper, do this by hand , you will take too much off using mech’ sanding, hoovering and tacking as you go

Leave at least the recommended recoat time, if after that it feels like it is pulling then overnight.

Any paint that is left at the end of each day is put into a crap pot not back into the stock pot, this is always kept clean and fresh.

With some paints they will recommend you use their primer, F&B being one. If it is a dark colour I’ll use their recommend primer for that colour otherwise you’ll be putting up to 6-8 coats trying to get it to cover.

Once done and you have checked it over, check again.


Remove all masking tape, now hopefully there will be no splashes on the wall, even better the wall have yet to have the final coat applied. If neither is so, touch up.

Put everything back, refit all furniture, clean down and dust with a household polish the inside of the units

You want to leave it so the client can come in and put their stuff straight into the cupboards.


Tell us a bit about the paints you use Neil, you have mentioned Dulux super grip, what about finish paints?

I use predominantly water based paints, here are some observations based on direct experience.

Zoffany- Good opacity, quite a high sheen level, highly durable, same day recoat. Great flow

Earthbourne- A favourite of mine. Good opacity good sheen level, highly durable, same day recoat, great flow

F&B- Good opacity, good sheen level. Excellent durability, not same day recoat, good flow.

 Dulux Diamond- ok opacity, good sheen level, good durability, same day recoat, ok flow.

Mylands- good opacity, excellent sheen level, excellent durability, same day recoat, great flow.

Feelings- good opacity, good sheen level. Good durability, not same day recoat. Good flow over-hyped.

Little Greene- average opacity good sheen level. Average durability probably the worst for durability, same day recoat, good flow.

Sandersons- good opacity good sheen level, good durability, same day recoat, same day recoat. Good flow.

What application tools do you use on your kitchens Neil?

All painting is carried out with Purdy sprig elite beaver tail brushes.


Purdy Sprig Elite

Purdy Sprig Elite

What sundries and supplies do you prefer?





Masking tapes

Tesa precision Yellow http://www.tesa.com/craftsmen/products/tesa_4334_precision_mask,m.html

Tesa sensitive pink       http://www.tesa.com/industry/products/tesa_4333_pv1_precision_mask_sensitive,i.html

A big thank you to Neil Geraghty for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.  An inspiration to all traditionally trained decorators that with careful preparation and application, mastery of water-based paint systems can be achieved.  We need only look at some finished work of Neil’s to be inspired!


Finished Kitchens

Finished Kitchens



Up close finish on door

Up close finish on door

pic18 pic19


Work of Neil Geraghty

Work of Neil Geraghty


8 thoughts on “Hand Painted Kitchens- Interview with expert Neil Geraghty

  1. Cait

    We have spent many years painting kitchens and I would say this is the best, most comprehensive and well documented article anywhere on the internet that describes best practice in this field.

  2. Gary Tilbury

    Very good article. It’s exactly as I would approach high end cabinetry. Id probably opt for hand sanding rather than mechanical though. I’m sad to say that the majority of Kitchen companies wouldn’t allow the time or expense for such a comprehensive job, good job we like a challenge.

  3. David Agnew

    A very thorough article & excellent guidance for proffessionals. With the draws, fittings, handles & shelves removed, I was curious how the cupboard hinges are dealt with, as I noticed in the pictures, they seem to be left on. Are these removed as well & the doors painted as loose leaves, maybe laid flat or are they left on & the flaps masked whilst cutting into the barrel on the external face? I suppose it’s down to what available space there is, to do them detached from the carcasses.

    1. Neil Geraghty

      I leave the doors on as a rule, i don’t like to lay doors flat.
      I will cut into the barrel and flaps.
      This does change with certain hinges where they have to removed.

      1. David Agnew

        Yes & thanks. Different situations/ironmongery require tweeking to suit. I would leave them on too, as less prone to settling dust, plus both sides can be done at the same time.

  4. duluxmark

    A very clear and well written article on hand painting kitchens. Very precise description from start to finish and great advice on which paints are best suited for the job. The end results are excellent. Mark


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