Easy Kitchen Cabinet Makeovers

Giving your kitchen cabinets a makeover is one of the best ways to update the look of your kitchen without undergoing a full renovation. With some clever DIY solutions, you can transform the style and feel of your kitchen cabinets without breaking the bank. In this detailed guide, we will explore some of the easiest and most budget-friendly ways to give your outdated or dull kitchen cabinets a fresh, new look.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

One of the simplest and most dramatic ways to instantly change the look of your kitchen cabinets is by painting them. Painting cabinets is an affordable project that allows you to change the color completely, whether you want to go for a crisp, bright white or add a punch of color like navy blue or sage green.

When painting cabinets, proper preparation is key. Start by removing all hardware like hinges and handles and thoroughly cleaning the cabinet boxes and doors. Lightly sand to rough up the surface before priming. Opt for a high-quality primer specifically formulated for painting kitchen cabinets, as this will help the paint better adhere to the surface. After priming, apply two coats of a durable cabinet paint, allowing sufficient drying time between coats. Finally, replace the hardware and you’ve got an almost brand new-looking set of kitchen cabinets on a DIY budget.

Some paint color ideas to consider for easy kitchen cabinet makeovers:

  • Bright white – A fresh coat of bright white paint is a foolproof way to make your cabinets look crisp and updated. White has a timeless, classic appeal.
  • Navy blue – For a more daring but still versatile color, navy blue on cabinets can add stylish drama to your kitchen. The dark color grounds the space beautifully.
  • Light gray – Subtle and sophisticated, light gray painted cabinets serve as a gorgeous neutral backdrop in any kitchen style from modern to farmhouse.
  • Sage green – Earthy, calming sage green cabinets bring a breath of fresh air to a dated kitchen. The nature-inspired color pairs well with woods.

Staining Kitchen Cabinets

Staining offers ways to refresh the color of your cabinets while still allowing the wood’s natural grain to show through. Stain transforms the existing hue of the wood while accentuating its inherent texture. Changing up the stain color of your cabinets can give them an instant style update.

When taking on a staining project, make sure to thoroughly clean and lightly sand the existing cabinets first to prep the surfaces. Wood surfaces should be stripped of any prior finishes or coating first as well. Test your stain choice on an inconspicuous spot before proceeding. Opt for a gel stain, which is thicker and often easier to control compared to thin liquid stains.

Apply your chosen stain color using a foam brush or lint-free cloth. Allow the stain to sit for 5-10 minutes before wiping away any excess. Multiple coats may be needed to achieve your ideal depth of color. Finally, apply a polyurethane topcoat for the best protection.

Some trendy stain color ideas for kitchen cabinets:

  • Espresso – For a rich, sophisticated look, espresso stained cabinets pair well with marble, brass hardware, and pendant lighting.
  • Gray wash – A whitewashed gray creates a weathered, timeworn look perfect for farmhouse style kitchens.
  • Dark walnut – For a traditional touch, try staining cabinets in dark walnut. The reddish-brown color looks striking with black countertops.
  • Charcoal – Bold charcoal-stained cabinets make a dramatic style statement and add cozy, moody contrast to all-white kitchens.

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets

Instead of completely changing the color of your cabinets, refinishing allows you to revive their existing finish. Refinishing removes accumulated grime and wear from the current finish or stain on your cabinets, reveals the wood beneath, and applies new protective topcoats.

Start by cleaning cabinets thoroughly and sanding to strip away the old finish completely. For a smooth surface, sand progressively with 120, 150, and finally 180 or 220-grit sandpaper. Vacuum after each sanding session.

Wipe cabinets with a tack cloth before refinishing. Consider applying wood conditioner before staining, which can help avoid splotchy results. Follow by applying your chosen new stain or finish coating like polyurethane. Add multiple thin coats for the best protection, lightly sanding between each application.

Refinishing your cabinets allows you to breathe new life into the existing wood or stain color, while removing any faded, yellowed finish or damage. The results will restore your cabinets to a like-new condition for far less cost than brand new cabinetry.

Adding New Hardware

One of the easiest cabinet makeovers is simply switching out the existing hardware. Cabinet pulls and knobs come in a vast array of styles, from sleek modern metals to ornate glass, making it simple to match any decor. Just swapping hardware is an inexpensive way to give cabinets an instant updated look.

When selecting new hardware, take into account the look you want as well as practical factors like size. Larger pulls may be better for wider drawers and doors, while smaller knobs allow for more precision opening and closing. The scale should align with the proportions of your cabinets.

Installing new hardware takes just basic DIY skills, a drill, and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Start by removing the old hardware. Replace knobs and handles by securing each new piece with the included screws. For a collected look, opt for mismatched knobs or a combination of pulls and knobs in complementary finishes.

Hardware style ideas to refresh kitchen cabinets:

  • Sleek bar pulls in matte black or brass
  • Vintage glass knobs for a retro cottage look
  • Angular metal handles in satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze
  • Rustic iron pulls on country farmhouse cabinets
  • Clear lucite knobs for a contemporary accent

Adding Trim

For cabinets with simple slab-style fronts, adding trim molding is an easy upgrade. Trim can add layered detailing that transforms plain cabinet faces into something more custom-looking and expensive. Different types of trim like recessed panels, beads, accents along the edges or other decorative molding can be applied to build up style.

When selecting trim, take proportions into account – larger cabinets can handle thicker, wider trims while smaller cabinets may need something more delicate. Molded trims that wrap the corners are a great option as they hide seams well. Glue, brad nail, and wood putty in place before painting or staining the trim to match the cabinets.

DIY trim ideas for sprucing up kitchen cabinets on a budget:

  • Vertical beadboard trim for a timeworn cottage kitchen look
  • Rope molding outlines for a nautical vibe
  • Raised recessed panel details for traditional elegance
  • Elegant crown molding trims for a built-in look
  • Shaker-style grooves and inserts to mimic the popular style

Wallpapering Cabinet Interiors

Looking for easy ways to give tired cabinets a lift without much effort? Apply wallpaper or removable paper inside open cabinets for a punch of pattern and color whenever you open the doors. This simple upgrade adds visual interest when cabinets are left open without making a permanent change.

When selecting paper for cabinet interiors, look for peel-and-stick options or wallpapers designed specifically for cabinets. These are coated with sealants that can stand up to moisture better than basic papers. Measure the interior space and cut paper to fit each backwall and shelf neatly.

Some creative ways to use wallpaper or paper inside cabinets for quick and easy updates:

  • Vintage botanical prints for a charming cottage accent
  • Bold graphic black-and-white prints for eclectic pop
  • Sophisticated grasscloth texture for an earthy spa-like feel
  • Marble or woodgrain prints to echo countertops without the cost
  • Full-color scenic wallpaper for a secret surprise inside

Adding Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting is one of the best ways to make a dark, dated kitchen feel fresh and new. Adding lighting serves both form and function – task lighting brightens up key prep and work zones while also adding style. LED strip lighting is affordable, easy to install, and makes a big impact.

For best results, opt for LED tape lights designed specifically for under-cabinet use. Look for UL-certified strips that are adhesive, connectable, and can be trimmed to fit. Install the strips to illuminate countertops and highlight cabinets, either directly adhering to the underside or along the facing for an ambient glow.

Connect strips to a power source like an outlet or hardwired junction box. Use remote controls or dimmers to control brightness. Adding lighting instantly makes kitchens feel more modern and opens up smaller, darker spaces. Paired with an easy cabinet refresh, you can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen.

Cabinet Resurfacing With Veneers

If your kitchen cabinets are structurally sound but show surface damage like chips, peeling laminate or discoloration, resurfacing with new veneers can give them a facelift. Cabinet veneers are thin sheets of real wood that adhere directly onto cabinet door and drawer fronts, concealing flaws.

Veneers come in different wood types like oak or maple to match any decor. Choosing iron-on veneers allows for easy DIY installation. Clean cabinet surfaces thoroughly before applying. Place the veneers over the fronts, remove the backing paper, then apply heat with an iron to activate the adhesive backing and adhere the new wood surface.

Trim veneers along edges with a sharp utility knife. Finish by adding new hardware, pulls or handles to complete your upgraded kitchen cabinet look. Veneers offer an easy shortcut to wood cabinets without the cost of fully replacing doors and drawers.

Glass Insert Cabinet Doors

Swapping out solid cabinet doors for new ones with glass inserts can provide an almost instant kitchen transformation with minimal effort. Glass doors open up the look of kitchen cabinets, add dimension, and create the illusion that a small kitchen is larger.

Look for replacement cabinet doors that come ready to install over existing doors, with all the needed hardware and cut-to-size tempered glass inserts. Available in styles from traditional framed to modern strips of metal and glass, it’s easy to find an on-trend look. Upgrading just the upper cabinets can provide style impact while retaining privacy in lower cabinets.

When installing, first remove existing doors and hinges from the cabinet boxes. Mount the new glass door frames using the provided screws and hardware. Insert the glass panels and secure them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally, make any needed adjustments to the alignment of the doors to complete the upgrade.

Frequently Asked Questions About Easy Kitchen Cabinet Makeovers

Changing up your kitchen cabinets can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re doing it yourself on a budget. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about DIY cabinet makeovers:

How much do easy kitchen cabinet makeovers cost?

The cost of a cabinet makeover can vary greatly depending on which DIY route you take. Small changes like new hardware could cost $20-$60 per cabinet. Painting may run you $100-$300 for supplies. Refacing with veneers falls around $700. For a full set of new ready-to-assemble cabinets expect $1,500+ on average.

Should I replace or refinish existing cabinets?

If your current cabinets are solid wood and in good structural condition, refinishing, refacing or painting them is usually best to save money. Replacing makes sense if cabinets are damaged, low quality or you want to significantly change the layout.

What are the easiest cabinet makeovers for DIY?

Painting, adding new hardware and installing glass doors are all relatively straightforward cabinet makeovers suitable for DIY. Staining and refinishing take a bit more skill and practice first is recommended. Refacing requires accurately applying adhesive veneers. Hiring a pro for tricky makeovers is wise if you’re inexperienced.

What paint finish works best for kitchen cabinets?

Opt for cabinet paint with a satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheen. Matte finishes show wear easily. High-gloss looks plasticky. Satin or eggsell offer a subtle shine, are wipeable, and show fewer flaws.

Should I paint cabinets or stain for resale value?

Realtors recommend light, neutral painted cabinets for the widest resale appeal in most markets. White, gray, beige and taupe are safe bets. Walnut or dark wood stains are classic as well. Bold colors may limit buyers unless in an edgy urban market.

Can I paint over wood stain without stripping?

Painting over stain or wood finish is possible but requires proper prep work. Lightly sand, then apply a stain-blocking primer made for wood before painting. The Kilz brand offers effective stain-blocking primers for painted cabinet makeovers.

What is the most affordable way to redo kitchen cabinets?

The most budget-friendly makeovers are small upgrades like adding hardware, accessory trim, under-cabinet lighting or interior wallpaper. Changing hardware makes the biggest visual impact for $20-60 per door. Painting can have a big effect for just the cost of supplies if you DIY.

How long will my painted cabinets last?

With proper prep and application of a high-quality cabinet paint, your painted kitchen cabinets should maintain their freshly updated look for 5-7 years at minimum. Avoid touching up paint frequently. Plan to fully clean and recoat every 5 years.


Upgrading your kitchen cabinets is one of the smartest ways to revive the style and functionality of your kitchen. With creative DIY solutions like painting, staining, hardware updates, and more, you can transform the look of your cabinets without breaking the budget. Easy weekend makeovers allow you to tailor your kitchen to match your sense of style. Renewing your cabinets prevents the need for a full remodel. Implement one or more of these affordable makeover techniques and you’ll gain beautiful new kitchen cabinets that look like you splurged, at just a fraction of the cost of professional cabinet replacement.