26 DIY Kitchen Cabinet Updates So You Don't Have to Replace Them

white and blue mosaic pattern cabinet door
Photo: Brie Passano

You don't have to tear out old cabinetry to give your kitchen a fresh new look. With these creative DIY ideas, you can update your kitchen cabinets without replacing them. Try these easy ways to refresh your cabinets with paint, molding, inserts, and new hardware. These tricks work for bathroom cabinetry, too!

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Decorative Edge

green cabinet door with decorative beads
Brie Passano

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 ($5, Michaels), to secure them in place. When the glue is dry, prime and paint the cabinet your desired color and reattach hardware.

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DIY Glass Cabinet Door

white frame glass cabinet door
Brie Passano

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.

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Caned Cabinet Update

black framed woven cabinet door
Brie Passano

Follow the instructions from the previous slide to create a glass-panel cabinet door. Lay a sheet of cane webbing ($16, Joann) 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 ($159, The Home Depot).

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Star Stenciled Door

white and blue mosaic pattern cabinet door
Brie Passano

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 , $16, 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, ($2, Hobby Lobby) paint the open areas of the stencil with an tapping motion. Peel off the stencil to reveal your painted pattern.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Cabinets

slate blue cabinet door with nickel pull
Brie Passano

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.

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Kitchen Cabinet Refresh

kelly green cabinet door with lemon pattern inset
Brie Passano

Use adhesive wallpaper to give your kitchen cabinets a fresh look. (We used Lemon Fresh, $45-$120, 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.

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DIY Herringbone Design

black, brown, and white chevron cabinet
Brie Passano

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 ($19, Amazon) and peel-and-stick options ($8, The Home Depot). 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.

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Copper Panel Cabinet

blue frame copper cabinet door

A simple sheet of copper metal ($7, Hobby Lobby) 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.

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Buffalo Check Painted Cabinet

black and white checkered cabinet
Brie Passano

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.

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Trimmed to Perfection

cream colored cabinet with vintage knob

Add your own trim to a simple slab cabinet door. Start by cutting baseboard trim pieces ($4, The Home Depot) 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 ($7, The Home Depot) (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.

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Shutter Style

faded rustic cabinet door

This kitchen cabinet update idea works well for recessed-panel cabinet doors. Cut 1.5-inch craft boards ($2, Michaels) 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.

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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.

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Wallpapered Door

lime green cabinet door with bold mod pear scrapbook paper inset
Steven McDonald

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 ($120 for 5 gallons, Home Depot). 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 ($5, Michaels) over the paper and the entire door.

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Bird Stencil Design

painted white cabinet with floral knob and peekaboo bird silhouette
Steven McDonald

Give old wood doors a makeover, but let a bit of their original character show through. First, apply a coat of polyurethane spray paint ($16, The Home Depot) 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.

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Trimwork Update

desaturated blue cabinet door with crystal knob and decorative molding trim
Steven McDonald

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 ($4, The Home Depot) to affix the molding and embellishments to the cabinet. Clamp the pieces in place until the glue dries.

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Sheet Metal Refresh

white cabinet with black patterned sheet metal inset
Kim Cornelison

For this kitchen cabinet update, we used Patterned sheet metal to give these doors a fresh yet vintage quality. 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.

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DIY Beaded-Board Cabinets

beaded board cabinets in cottage kitchen
Ed Gohlich

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.

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Cabinet Cutouts

baby blue distressed cottage cabinets with ivory wooden appliques
Kim Cornelison

Add cottage style to your kitchen with simple embellishments and a little paint. Wooden appliques—available at home improvement centers and crafts stores—can be easily painted and attached to cabinet doors with wood glue. For an antiqued look, mix up a paint wash to create a distressed finish.

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Chalkboard Painted Kitchen Cabinets

chalkboard cabinet

Remember your shopping list by jotting it down right on the cupboard. Use quick-release painter's tape ($3, Walmart) to cover the door frame so only the inner panel is showing. Spray the door with chalkboard paint ($10, Michaels) and let dry before removing the tape.

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DIY Lattice Design

robin's egg blue cabinet with white lattice design
Adam Albright

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.

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Corkboard Cabinets

black painted cabinet with adhered cork and notes
Adam Albright

Applying cork to a door is a good way to hide even major imperfections. Plus, you'll have a handy place for notes, lists, and recipes. To achieve this kitchen cabinet update, cut self-adhesive cork paper ($2, Hobby Lobby) to fit the door panel, peel off the backing, and press the cork to adhere.

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Tin Tiles

white cabinet with bronze knob and light green decorative tin ceiling tile
Adam Albright

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.

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Drilled Pattern

painted blue cabinet with branch-themed pull and drilled bird outline
Marty Baldwin

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.

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Fabric Cabinet Panels

pale blue cabinet door with vintage bird-themed wallpaper inset
Marty Baldwin

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.

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painted green cabinet door with De Stijl style geometric molding
Marty Baldwin

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.

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Photo Finish

white cabinet with attached frame and black and white print
Marty Baldwin

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. These photo-embellished doors help personalize your kitchen space with your favorite memories.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you update metal kitchen cabinets?

    Yes—metal kitchen cabinets are actually quite easy to update. Simply choose a paint color of your choice and be sure to buy it in a metal-friendly finish, like spray paint from Rustoleum or another acrylic-latex finish. On a smaller scale, you can also update metal kitchen cabinets with new hardware or peel-and-stick wallpaper.

  • What's the best paint for kitchen cabinets?

    When painting your kitchen cabinets, you want to choose a paint finish that is both durable and smooth. In most instances, this means choosing a semi-gloss or satin paint in as high-quality of a formulation as you can afford. In some instances, home owners may also opt for a high gloss finish which can be very durable but can show flaws easily and should always be done by a professional.

  • What the best stain for kitchen cabinets?

    If you're looking to stain your cabinets for a natural wood look, your best bet is to use an oil-based stain. Not only are there plenty of stain brands and color options out there to choose from, but oil-based stains are the best choice because they deeply penetrate the wood, are able to stand up to daily wear and tear, and provide an even finish.

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