15 Ways to Update Kitchen Cabinets

One of the best ways to bring a big change to your kitchen is to update your cabinets. There are a surprising number of ways to refresh the appearance of your cabinets. These range in the style you can achieve, the remodel expense, and the amount of remodel work required.

Remodeled kitchen with white painted cabinets quartz countertop island with legs and tile backsplash

Revamping your kitchen cabinets can make a significant difference in how you feel in your cooking space without the expense and effort of replacing them entirely. You can create renewed interest in your kitchen’s design by simply updating items like paint, stain, or even small embellishments.

How to Update Kitchen Cabinets Without Replacing Them

Replacing your kitchen cabinets entirely can be a large and expensive job. Luckily, you can revamp their appearance without taking measures quite as drastic as this to make an impressive difference.

From paint to stain, even small embellishments can help you shake things up in your design. We’ll start with the most common way to refresh your kitchen cabinet design.

Paint the Cabinets

Updated kitchen with black painted cabinets wall tile pattern backsplash bare wood plank island

Nothing is quite as easy and fundamentally changing as painting a piece of home decor. With a little work, you can transform the look of your space by painting your kitchen cabinets without investing in a full replacement.

The color you use on your cabinets can also set the tone of the theme in your kitchen. For instance, darker, matte cabinets tend to have a more modern appearance, while pastel colors such as baby blue lend themselves to a more rustic design. An antique kitchen cabinet paint can achieve an updated traditional style.

You can get even more creative than that, too. With options like chalk paint, you can create a one-of-a-kind look that isn’t just aesthetically pleasing but functional. It can go a long way to make a note while you cook or even add some whimsical doodles for a personal touch. This can also be a fun design in homes with children where the chance to “draw on the walls” is a fun as well as a welcome novelty.

Similarly, if you want a lighter appearance with the same functional aspects of chalkboard cabinets, there is also the choice of paint that makes them act as a whiteboard. This way, you can still jot down notes or add personalized designs without adding anything too dramatic if that better fits your taste.

Stain the Cabinets with Gel

Kitchen with gel stained cabinets granite breakfast bar island long peninsula

Staining cabinets with gel stain is another way to get a refreshed and revamped look. It’s also a job that will only cost you under $200. If you already have the tools to complete the stain, then the cost will be minimal.

You only really need a few tools for this job, including the gel stain, some wood sanding blocks, steel wool, socks, and poly finish. It’s also a good idea to lay down a tarp or covering to catch any spills and keep some paint thinner around for cleanup.

First, you’ll want to remove your cabinet doors from their frames and remove any handles or hinges. Then, lightly sand the frames and doors down. You don’t want to completely strip them, but you do want a smooth surface to work on. Make sure to clean them after sanding.

Now, you can start to apply the stain with a sock. You don’t need to use a lot – thin coats are best – but make sure you get into every nook and cranny. Let each coat sit for about 6 hours before using your wet steel wool to finish the coat off. You’ll want to repeat the process until you have about four coats applied.

For the final coat, let it sit for a full day, and don’t use the steel wool tip this time. Instead, add a poly satin finish for a clean seal. You’ll need about three coats. Once this has dried for another 24 hours, you can reassemble your cabinets.

Meanwhile, consider the other appliances in your kitchen, such as the faucet and sink, to ensure they match your desired aesthetic.

Distress the Wood Finish

Kitchen with white glazed distressed cabinets black island

While shiny, new, and polished cabinets are attractive, they aren’t your only option. In fact, cabinets that look a little aged can add a bit of rustic or farmhouse charm to your kitchen.

Much like when you gel to seal a cabinet, the first step for distressed kitchen cabinets is to remove the hardware and sand the surface down. Instead of sanding lightly, though, you’re going to want to sand them enough to create a distressed appearance.

You can add extra touches by using a small sharp tool or nail to add more profound, more defined distress marks in places. Of course, older cabinetry may not need as much effort to distress due to its natural aging.

You can also use antiquing glaze to help you achieve a more distressed look on your wood. This tool can help you pull off an older, antique look without forcing you to manually age the surface by hand.

To help ensure the longevity of glazed cabinets, many homeowners decide to use a gloss varnish. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to need to make sure that you use a gloss that is compatible with antiqued cabinetry so that their appearance is maintained correctly.

Change the Cabinet Hardware

kitchen with painted blue cabinets and new hardware handles

Aside from the appearance of the doors and frames themselves, you can change the hardware on your cabinets to update their appearance.

This includes touches such as the kitchen knobs and pulls and hinges. While you might not immediately think of these pieces of hardware as highly consequential to the overall aesthetic of your cabinets, they can actually change things up quite a bit.

Hardware on cabinets not only serves a functional purpose but also adds a decorative one. These details can refresh the look Just like the accents you might put in your living room or bedroom.

In addition, there are plenty of different types of cabinet hinges and handles that you can use to customize not only the appearance but how they function. For instance, certain hinges can change the way your cabinets open and how they look in function as well.

Add Trim and Molding

Kitchen remodel with added trim above cabinets with lighting

Adding trim and molding to your cabinets can add a little flair and tap into traditional design concepts. This design adds an extra few inches at the top and/or bottom of the design in the form of flaring out the frame.

This removes open space above the cabinetry and can be used in conjunction with under or over-cabinet lighting to give a dramatic effect.

This is also an opportunity to help tie the overall kitchen design together, ensuring the island, appliances, faucet, and sink all contribute to a cohesive, fashionable, and trendy space.

Add Beadboard

Kitchen with beadboard cabinet doors

Beadboard is a great way to add some texture to surfaces that may have previously been smooth and lifeless. Even if you keep your beadboard cabinets the same color, this texture can help transform the aesthetic impact of a decor piece.

Beadboard can be added to cabinet doors or as a kitchen island facade to achieve a farmhouse or cottage-style look.

Add Height Above

Kitchen cabinet remodel with added trim height above and a butcher block peninsula

Changing the general shape of your cabinets is one of the best ways to ensure that you get a new look for your kitchen. In addition, giving yourself taller cabinetry also means offering yourself more storage space. Since it’s vertical height, it’s also a great solution for smaller kitchens.

Besides enhancing organization and reducing clutter, this removes open space above the cabinets and can be used in conjunction with under or over-cabinet lighting to give a dramatic effect. 

This feature particularly appeals to people and customers searching for a cohesive and orderly store or kitchen layout.

Add Under Cabinet Lighting

White kitchen with under cabinet lighting and beadboard peninsula

Especially if you cook a lot, adding lighting under your cabinets is an easy and inexpensive way to add extra functionality to your kitchen. These fixtures can increase the light you have in a kitchen and add a spotlight function when preparing food on the counter.

Add Feet to the Base

Kitchen with accent feet molding on island

Many lower cabinets sit flush with the ground. However, adding a set of feet to your cabinetry changes the general aesthetic by changing its shape. You can play around with the specific design, too, so that you have something that fits your tastes.

Replacing the Cabinet Doors

Add new doors and fronts

One option worth considering is replacing traditional cabinet doors and drawer fronts to get a completely new look. Replacing cabinetry doors can save you thousands of dollars in remodeling costs and instantly give your kitchen the refresh it needs. 

With cabinet refacing, you can replace an older style design with a new-looking shaker-style door or any other type you desire. You can also get bold and transform the look with sleek metal or bohemian ones by adding a touch of wallpaper to create a unique look.

Add Corbels Under the Cabinets

Kitchen island with corbels and white cabinets

Corbels are embellished architectural tools that are made to bear weight. Because of their unique designs, these kitchen corbels can not only help to hold your cabinets in place but add visual appeal to them as well.

How to Update Cabinets Without Painting

Updating your cabinets without painting is an easy process. You can use many design changes discussed above, such as corbels and beadboard, without necessarily having to paint your cabinetry. If you want to go a step further, you can opt for a total replacement as a change of pace.

Here are some great ideas on how to help you do a “less is more” approach to refurbishing them.

One way to improve organization and reduce clutter is by making use of shelf space and storage bins. Move small appliances to a storage closet to enhance the feel. These practical solutions can assist people in keeping their kitchens tidy and functional.

Update Oak Cabinets

Kitchen with stained oak cabinets marble countertops

Oak is a very strong and durable type of wood. Its coarse and distinct grain pattern makes it a popular choice in traditional kitchen designs.

The most popular choice when updating oak cabinets is to refinish and stain them. This renews the appearance of even dated cabinets and gives you a chance to play with color.

The grain pattern of natural oak wood is often highlighted by applying a good-quality wood stain. Since oak is considered a hardwood, it tends to absorb stains better and more evenly. Thus, it is a great technique to use for refinishing oak cabinets and making them more attractive.

It is important to consider the type of cabinet door profiles you use when updating. Shaker-style cabinet door profiles with either a raised panel or flat panel are much easier to transform from old and dated to a modern style look by staining or painting. Meanwhile, the cathedral style or the arched door profile requires more imagination.

Updating your oak cabinet can also mean changing old and dated hardware, such as handles. Hardware with an antique brass finish gives a low contrast look with oak but still gives it a great facelift.

If you want to give your oak a bit of contrast, oil rubbed bronze finish hardware will give you that beautiful drama that fits perfectly with your cabinetry. For cathedral or arched style doors, choose handles with slightly soft, curved lines which will give your oak cabinets a perfect natural match.

For another design update, consider adding glass doors to a few key cabinets, creating some artful value to your oak wood and also lightening some of its visual weight. These glass doors can provide easy access to often-used items and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal.

If you still want your oak kitchen cabinetry to be more appealing and more modern, you may want to consider painting. Just because it is wood, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play around with color, but keep in mind that in painting, it is best to keep a low contrast in your choice of paint color.

Update Cherry Cabinets

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and subway tile

Solid cherry wood cabinets offer warm elegance and a luxurious look in the kitchen. The natural wood grains and durability of cherry wood make it a practical choice for cabinetry. Cherry cabinets may be traditional, but they are versatile and match different design concepts well.

Nowadays, cherry cabinetry is associated with a dated look, but you can bring it up to date with fresh new design ideas. If you want to preserve the natural darkness and beauty of the wood, it can be a good idea to consider structural changes such as increasing the height of the cabinets or adding corbels. Consider adding crown molding to your top kitchen cabinets to increase their visual height.

Also, by adding valance to the bottom part of the upper cabinetry, you can install under-cabinet lighting, which can create a more dramatic appeal to your cherry kitchen.

For a more modern look, try installing a white subway tile backsplash – it is very popular and also a timeless choice. Try adding a bright and bold color backsplash to help make your cherry surfaces stand out in contrast. For a complete overhaul, painting your cherry cabinets can be a good choice.

This wood can also darken over time, especially due to exposure to UV rays. Lightening cherry cabinetry can help it look newer and make your room appear brighter.

Update Laminate Cabinets

Kitchen with painted white laminate cabinets

Visual and structural changes can alter your laminate kitchen cabinets significantly. When updating, you may want to consider refacing them or painting over the surface. The easiest and potentially most transformative choice is to paint. Both techniques cost less than replacing your laminate with custom cabinetry.

Refacing is mainly the replacement of the cabinet “skins” by applying new veneer over the old and existing door and drawer face. Replacing the hardware and adding trim to the laminate doors and drawers will enhance the new look of your laminate cabinetry.

Repainting is another affordable way of updating into more modern cabinetry. Do keep in mind that, unlike wooden surfaces, repainting your laminate cabinets requires a different type of preparation, special paint, and a unique way of applying paint to the surfaces of the laminated doors and drawers.

When changing them structurally, adding trim to laminate cabinets is an attractive and popular choice. This is possible by applying a thin veneer of real wood or plastic laminate to the doors.

It’s possible to fix peeling laminate cabinetry by carefully sliding a piece of sandpaper between the substrate and the laminate material. You can remove the leftover adhesive that no longer holds the laminate in place by sanding there.

Next, apply a small amount of waterproof laminate adhesive in between the substrate and the laminate to create a new bond.

How Much Does Cabinet Updating Cost?

kitchen with white cabinets, gray island and raised tile splash guard

The cost to remodel your kitchen cabinets depends heavily on the exact process you use.

Repainting standard kitchen cabinets have an average cost ranging from $1,200 to $7,000, while refacing with laminate veneer begins at $1,000 to $3,000, and real wood veneer cost can go as high as $2,500 to $6,000. For a basic gel stain as a DIY project, the cost can run under $200 for all the supplies you need.

An average full-size kitchen generally costs $12,000 up to $20,000 to remodel, depending on the process you choose to work with, the materials you want to use, and the size and layout of your floor plan.

Before paying for any remodeling work, it’s a good idea to use kitchen remodel software to streamline the process. This can help you visualize the design you want before hiring a professional contractor or buying any materials.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *