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C2 Paint ... Artisan Pigments, Exclusive Technology, and Eco-Friendly

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)

Have you ever thought of painting your kitchen cabinets? I’ve had countless discussions with homeowners on this topic - all of which have included a caveat. We first discuss the condition of the cabinets as well as the wood species and grain pattern. We also discuss the way cabinets are exposed to considerable wear and tear, hand prints, food, beverage, and cleaning products. If, at the end of the discussion, homeowners choose to paint, I tell them that the finish must be durable, and this is where the caveat begins.

The most durable paint has historically been oil-based. However, it is increasingly difficult to find, especially in California due to its restrictive environmental regulations. Up to 2016 (and perhaps later), such paint could still be found in the State depending on the county in which a retailer was located. Is it a good idea to county-hop in order to purchase oil-based paint? Not if you care about your health as its fumes can irritate your eyes, skin and lungs, and possibly cause even greater harm. There are studies that also suggest oil-based paint can damage the environment and the ozone layer.

A scant history of oil-based paint may be of interest. The first pre-mixed, oil-based paint in the United States became available just after the Civil War. Its coverage, leveling, durability, and color retention created a beautiful result. Surfaces were not only strong and smooth as glass, they were also easy to clean without disturbing the color or finish. But, in the 1950s, water-based paint was introduced to the market, and although not as durable and pristine as its older rival, it proved to be much easier to use. By the way, water-based paint is usually referred to as “latex” although it does not actually contain any latex.

In the 1990s, oil-based paint began to face a second challenger – the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers made the choice to concentrate on improving their latex product and only adjust their oil-based formulas enough to meet the letter of the latest law. As a result, the use of the once-favored oil-based paint has declined to the point of near extinction.

This decline, and almost-certain health and environmental damage, are at the root of my caveat. Since oil-based paint is no longer the favored option, I have advised homeowners to use the best quality latex paint, primer, (and paint contractor) in order to get the best possible results. I have also advised that they take extra care when cleaning their cabinets and to do so with a light touch.

It has been a persistent disappointment to me that latex paint has never equaled the appearance and strength of the original oil-based alternative. While most latex brands come in good, better, and best categories, the durability of even the best can sometimes be wanting. So-called specialty topcoats and technology have also fallen short of their promises.

Last year, my disappointment transformed into giddy delight. I owe this attitude adjustment to C2 Paint. I was first introduced to it by Owen McAdams, co-owner of Napa’s Devine Paint Center. As much as I have always relied on him, I still had my doubts when he recommended C2 Paint for two of my upcoming kitchen projects. But once I saw the results, I became a true believer. The finishes were smooth, deep and rich in the spirit of the old, oil-based paint.

C2 Paint was created by Thomas Hill III, a former paint chemist, who became frustrated with the poor quality of products in his industry. In his words, “The focus was less on quality and color and more on how they could be made cheaper, faster and more mainstream.” So, in 1998, he gathered a group of independent paint dealers to form the first and only dealer-owned paint brand in North America. “We wanted to redefine what it meant to be a paint company … to avoid the trappings of a large corporate structure so we could concentrate on innovation, creativity and selling an exclusive, best-in-class product—all while maintaining our independence. Our product is designed for the savvy consumer who truly appreciates color and quality,” said Hill.

C2 Paint color is made with unique, finely ground, artist-grade pigments. The company approaches this like a fine painter who uses complementary colors to tone (instead of simply using black). Multiple colorants are mixed together to create unmatchable, luminous hues. C2 Paint’s design professionals took their cue from nature to curate a harmonious 496-color palette.

C2 Paint also has a low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) level at 50 grams per liter. The traditional standard, even under strict EPA guidelines, is 380 grams per liter.

Given all of its excellent qualities, you’re right to assume that C2 Paint cost more than its competitors. A gallon of semi-gloss costs from $55 to $92 whereas semi-gloss from other manufacturers ranges from $35 to $55. Having seen many painted cabinets over the years, the cost difference is well worth it.

One of the two kitchens that caused my giddiness was that of Napa residents, Jim and Nancy Henry. We used C2’s Cabinet & Trim Semi-Gloss with patented PolyWhey® technology. It’s comprised of recycled dairy whey protein and is one of the most eco-friendly and durable products available. It is so durable that it can be used on floors.

The color we chose reminds me of delicious blueberry pie. It’s so deep, rich and elegant that the cabinets look like high-end lacquered furniture. In fact, they look brand new even though Smith’s Custom Cabinets in Napa built them 30 years ago. During last year’s update, Smith’s built a panel to cover the Henry’s new dishwasher (which now matches the refrigerator panels) and also retrofitted cabinets to accommodate new Wolf double ovens and cooktop.

Jim and Nancy purchased their appliances at Pearson’s Appliances and their plumbing fixtures, including a Blanco Silgranit sink, at General Plumbing, both in Napa. Other Napa-based companies helped to complete the makeover: Surface Masters replaced the old counter top tile with Zodiac quartz. Henderson Tile removed the existing plaid wallpaper and installed Abbey Carpet and Tile’s Calacatta marble mosaics. And, Manriquez Painting is responsible for this spectacular painted transformation.

Note: C2 Paint is not just for kitchen cabinets but for all surfaces - walls, ceilings, doors, furniture, and floors. There is also a line for exterior use. It comes in a range of sheens from flat to gloss.

My once long, caveated, and often-repeated discussion about painted cabinets has now turned into just three short words, “Use C2 Paint.”

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