26 DIY Ideas to Update Kitchen Cabinets Without Replacing Them
For this kitchen cabinet update, you'll need 1-inch wooden ball knobs and a cabinet door with an inset panel. Lay the balls along the inner edge of the panel, fitting as many as you can along each side, evenly spaced. Use a strong adhesive, such as E6000 glue, to secure them in place. When the glue is dry, prime and paint the cabinet your desired color and reattach hardware.
DIY Glass Cabinet Door
Update an old cabinet door by adding a glass panel. You can order panels from a glass shop, selecting between clear, frosted, seeded, or ribbed glass for a unique look. Use a router to remove the center panel, then sand and paint if desired. Have the glass cut to size, adding an extra half-inch on each side. Place the glass piece on the back of the frame and secure it with clips. Reattach hardware.
Editor's Tip: A glass shop can do this for you or sell you the necessary parts.
Caned Cabinet Update
Follow the instructions from the previous slide to create a glass-panel cabinet door. Lay a sheet of cane webbing behind the glass. For a solid background, cut a 1/4-inch-thick wood panel to the same size as the glass, and paint it the same color as the cabinet door. This will prevent any light from coming through the caning. Place the wood panel behind the caning and glass, then secure the three layers together using small square dowels and a pin nailer tool.
Star Stenciled Door
Dress up an ordinary cabinet door with a pretty painted pattern. First, paint the cabinet your desired background color and let dry. Tape a stencil in place on the door. (We used the "You're a Star" tile stencil from Royal Designs.) If you're working with a door that has a recessed panel, you may need to cut the stencil to fit. Using a stencil paint brush, paint the open areas of the stencil with an tapping motion. Peel off the stencil to reveal your painted pattern.
Farmhouse Kitchen Cabinets
Create a barn door-inspired pattern across the front of Shaker-style cabinetry. Cut a piece of wood trim that fits inside the recessed panel lengthwise and secure it using E6000 adhesive or wood glue. Add two more pieces perpendicular to the first trim piece to create a cross figure and glue them in place. Cut angled trim pieces and attach them from corner to corner to create diagonal lines that form an X. Use wood filler to fill any gaps between trim pieces; then sand, prime, and paint the cabinet door.
Kitchen Cabinet Refresh
Use adhesive wallpaper to give your kitchen cabinets a fresh look. (We used Lemon Fresh from Chasing Paper.) Cut the wallpaper to fit inside the cabinet's recessed panel. Peel off the adhesive backing about 2 inches down, and line up the edge with the inner corner of the panel. Slowly pull back the backing as you continue adhering the rest of the paper.
DIY Herringbone Design
A basic slab door works best for this DIY kitchen cabinet idea. Start by dividing the door into fourths vertically and marking the lines with a pencil. Purchase edge banding in various sizes and species of wood and melamine (most craft and hardware stores offer iron-on varieties and peel-and-stick options). Cut the banding into strips at 45-degree angles at both ends so they will fit between the drawn lines. As you make the angled cuts, note that every other section of banding will be going in the opposite direction. Arrange the sections of banding, making sure to vary the colors and species of wood in your design. Use an iron to adhere the pieces one at a time (or peel off the adhesive backing and stick) between the lines. Use a polyurethane wood finish to seal the cabinet surface after all of the pieces have been attached.
Copper Panel Cabinet
A simple sheet of copper metal can transform an outdated kitchen cabinet into an eye-catching focal point. Cut the copper to the size of the door's raised panel. Cut narrow wood trim pieces to create a frame around the copper sheet. Use a pin nailer to attach the trim pieces and copper to the cabinet's panel. Tape a printed pattern (we found a simple honeycomb design online) to the copper panel. Use an awl and hammer to punch equally spaced holes into the copper sheet according to the pattern.
Buffalo Check Painted Cabinet
Paint kitchen cabinet doors with a buffalo check pattern for a farmhouse-inspired upgrade. Start by painting a recessed-panel door white. Using a pencil and ruler, mark a grid of 2-inch squares on the inset panel surface. Beginning with the far-right vertical column, tape around every other square with painters tape. Paint the exposed squares black (covering every other row), and wait until the paint has dried to remove the tape. Next, tape the squares in between the black ones on the same row and paint them gray. Repeat this painting process on the second vertical column from the left. For the remaining rows, tape around each square that lines up horizontally with a black square; paint these exposed squares gray. When the paint has dried, remove the tape to reveal the buffalo check pattern.
Trimmed to Perfection
Add your own trim to a simple slab cabinet door. Start by cutting baseboard trim pieces with mitered corners to create a thick frame on the face of your door; adhere the pieces with wood glue and a pin nailer. Use medium-sized decorative trim pieces to create another frame along the inside flat edge of the baseboard pieces. After cutting the pieces to size, secure them in place using wood glue and a pin nailer. Using even smaller decorative trim (less than 1-inch wide), add another frame inside the layered baseboard frame using the same process. Paint the door your desired base color. For an aged look, mix brown paint with a glazing compound and paint over the first color. Immediately wipe away the excess paint so the color stays mostly in the low spots and inner curves of the trim.
This kitchen cabinet update idea works well for recessed-panel cabinet doors. Cut 1.5-inch craft boards to the length of the inside measurement of the inset panel. Lay one board at the bottom of the panel, angling it slightly upward to overlap the inside edge of the cabinet frame. Apply E6000 glue along the top underside of the board and adhere it in place. Set the second board in the panel, slightly overlapping the first, and glue it in place, repeating this process to cover the entire inset panel. Use narrow wood trim pieces to create a frame around the shutter design. Allow the glue to dry; then prime and paint the door your desired base color. Give the cabinet door an antiqued look by layering on paint in different colors and sanding between coats.
The Basics: Painting Cabinets
Beyond fun embellishments and personality-adding details, a good cabinet makeover often starts with fresh paint. Watch this video to learn how to master the basics of painting cabinets.
Put extra wallpaper to use as a pretty patterned insert. For this easy kitchen cabinet update, start by painting the cabinet door with semigloss interior latex paint. When the paint is dry, cut a piece of scrap wallpaper to fit the recessed panel. Apply spray adhesive to the back of the paper, then carefully smooth it onto the panel. To seal the surface, use a paintbrush to apply a thin coat of decoupage medium over the paper and the entire door.
Bird Stencil Design
Give old wood doors a makeover, but let a bit of their original character show through. First, apply a coat of polyurethane spray paint to seal the wood. To create this bird, trace your desired shape onto contact paper (we used clip art found online), then cut it out and press it onto the cabinet front. Use your fingernail to seal the edges tightly. Paint the cabinet (we used off-white semigloss interior latex paint). When dry, carefully remove the contact paper to reveal your design. Use a damp cloth to remove any paint that bleeds under the contact paper.
Add interest to a plain cabinet door by parading pretty trimwork around the door's perimeter. Measure your cabinet door to determine how much molding you'll need. Be sure to factor in the size of the four embellishments for the corners. Use a miter box to cut the molding strips to size. Paint the cabinet, molding, and embellishments the same color. When dry, use wood glue to affix the molding and embellishments to the cabinet. Clamp the pieces in place until the glue dries.
Sheet Metal Refresh
For this kitchen cabinet update, we used Patterned sheet metal to give these doors a fresh yet vintage vibe. After removing the inner door panel with a jigsaw, paint the cabinet door and let dry. To create a frame for the mesh insert, glue wood strips, painted black, around the back of the door frame so they partially show in the front. Cut the sheet metal to fit the frame using tin snips, then secure it to the wood strips with wood glue.
DIY Beaded-Board Cabinets
Add country charm to plain kitchen cabinets with this DIY project idea. Replace the inset center section of the door with beaded-board panels for a farmhouse-inspired look. Customize the design with any paint color, stain, or glaze you prefer.
Chalkboard Painted Kitchen Cabinets
DIY Lattice Design
Use electrical tape and bright paint to create a design that really pops. Start with a base coat of white paint, then apply electrical tape to the door in a lattice design. Tape on the vertical and horizontal lines first before intersecting them with diagonals. Paint the door your desired color (we chose a vibrant aqua) and let dry before carefully peeling off the electrical tape.
The intricate designs of tin ceiling tiles make them great accents for cabinets, especially when painted. Remove the inner door panel using a jigsaw, then paint the cabinet door and let dry. Cut a tin ceiling panel to fit inside the frame and paint it your desired color. When dry, glue the panel to the wood base.
Give your kitchen a whimsical feel with a bird transfer and twig handle. Evenly spaced drill holes create the bird's outline. For kitchens or bathrooms, use two coats of glossy paint for a moisture-resistant, easy-to-clean finish. If you're using a flat or eggshell finish, apply varnish or a clear coat over the paint for more durability.
Fabric Cabinet Panels
Add texture to your kitchen cabinets with fabric. Use a jigsaw to cut out the door center, then use a router to create a lip or ledge on the back of the door to hold the fabric. Lightly sand and paint the door. Wrap fabric around a 1/4-inch-thick piece of wood, then nail fabric-covered wood to the back of the door.
Turn a boring door into a modern masterpiece by adding strips of thin molding. Start by cutting a 1/2-inch board into strips. Paint the door and the strips in the same color and let dry. Lay the strips on the door to create a labyrinth design and nail them in place. Cover up the nailheads with dabs of paint.
Turn your kitchen into a photo album by displaying your favorite photos. Affix a picture frame to the door, add a photo, and finish with a new knob. Learn how to make these photo-embellished doors.