How Can I Decorate My Old Kitchen Cabinets?

Old kitchen cabinets can make your entire kitchen feel dated and drab. But replacing them is often a costly and time-consuming endeavor. So, what’s a homeowner to do?

Luckily, there are countless ways to refresh and decorate your kitchen cabinets without the need for a full remodel. Whether you want to add a splash of color, introduce new textures, or simply refresh the existing look, this guide has got you covered. Get ready to breathe new life into your kitchen space with these creative and practical ideas.

1. Repainting Your Cabinets

Choosing the Right Color

One of the most effective ways to rejuvenate old kitchen cabinets is with a fresh coat of paint. But before you start wielding your paintbrush, it’s essential to pick the right color. Consider the overall theme and color palette of your kitchen. Are you looking for a vibrant, bold statement or a soft, understated look?

Bold and Bright Colors: If you want your kitchen to pop, consider bright hues like turquoise, sunshine yellow, or vibrant red. These colors can add a modern and energetic vibe to your kitchen. Just be sure to balance these bold choices with neutral walls and countertops to avoid overwhelming the space.

Neutral and Classic Tones: For a timeless and elegant look, stick to classic shades like white, gray, or beige. These colors can make your kitchen appear larger and more open. They also provide a neutral backdrop that complements various kitchen styles, from rustic to contemporary.

Types of Paint Finishes

The finish you choose is just as important as the color. Different finishes can drastically change the look and durability of your cabinets.

Matte Finish: A matte finish provides a soft, non-reflective surface that hides imperfections well. It’s great for a sophisticated and modern look but may require more maintenance as it doesn’t clean as easily as other finishes.

Satin Finish: Satin is the most popular finish for kitchen cabinets. It offers a slight sheen that is easy to clean and durable enough to withstand the hustle and bustle of a kitchen.

Glossy Finish: If you want your cabinets to shine, go for a glossy finish. It’s highly durable and easy to clean, making it perfect for a busy kitchen. However, it can also highlight imperfections, so proper preparation and application are key.

Painting Techniques

Once you’ve chosen your color and finish, it’s time to get painting. Here are a few techniques to consider:

Brushing and Rolling: The traditional method involves using a brush and roller. This technique is accessible for DIY enthusiasts but requires a steady hand to avoid streaks and brush marks.

Spraying: For a smooth and professional finish, consider using a paint sprayer. It’s quicker than brushing and rolling and provides an even coat without brush marks. However, it requires more prep work to protect surrounding areas from overspray.

Distressing: For a rustic or vintage look, try distressing your cabinets. This involves lightly sanding the edges and surfaces after painting to give them a worn, antique appearance.

2. Adding New Hardware

Selecting Stylish Handles and Knobs

Swapping out old, worn-out hardware for new handles and knobs can make a significant difference in the appearance of your cabinets. Here’s how to choose the right ones:

Material Matters: From brushed nickel to oil-rubbed bronze, the material of your hardware can set the tone for your kitchen’s style. For a modern look, stainless steel or chrome works well. For a more traditional or farmhouse style, consider brass or copper.

Shape and Size: Handles and knobs come in various shapes and sizes. Sleek, straight handles are perfect for a contemporary kitchen, while ornate, detailed knobs fit well in a classic or vintage space.

Matching the Theme: Ensure that the hardware you choose complements the overall theme of your kitchen. If you have a rustic kitchen, choose hardware with a distressed or antique finish. For a minimalist kitchen, opt for simple, streamlined designs.

Installation Tips

Installing new hardware is a straightforward process, but a few tips can ensure a smooth job:

Measure Twice: Before drilling any holes, make sure to measure carefully. Use a template to ensure that all handles and knobs are aligned correctly.

Use the Right Tools: A power drill makes the job easier, but be sure to use the correct drill bit size for your screws. A manual screwdriver can be used for final tightening to avoid overdriving the screws.

Upgrade Soft-Close Mechanisms: While you’re updating hardware, consider adding soft-close hinges. These can prevent slamming doors and drawers, adding a touch of luxury to your kitchen.

3. Incorporating Open Shelving

Benefits of Open Shelving

Open shelving can transform your kitchen by creating a sense of openness and accessibility. Here are some benefits:

Aesthetic Appeal: Open shelves provide an airy and spacious feel. They can also serve as a display area for your favorite dishes, glassware, or decorative items.

Ease of Access: With everything in plain sight, open shelving makes it easy to find and grab what you need, speeding up your kitchen tasks.

Cost-Effective: Removing cabinet doors or installing new open shelves can be a budget-friendly way to update your kitchen without the cost of replacing all the cabinetry.

Design Tips for Open Shelving

To make the most of open shelving, consider these design tips:

Keep It Organized: Clutter can quickly turn open shelving into a chaotic mess. Keep items organized and group similar items together. Use baskets or bins to store smaller items.

Mix and Match: Combine different materials and styles. Wooden shelves with metal brackets can create a rustic look, while glass shelves with sleek brackets offer a modern touch.

Decorative Elements: Incorporate some decorative elements along with your functional items. Plants, cookbooks, and art pieces can add personality and warmth to your kitchen.

DIY Open Shelving Projects

If you’re handy with tools, creating your own open shelves can be a fun and rewarding project. Here’s a basic outline:

Materials Needed:

  • Wooden boards
  • Brackets
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain


  1. Measure and Cut: Measure the space where you want the shelves and cut the wooden boards to size.
  2. Sand and Finish: Sand the boards smooth and apply paint or stain to match your kitchen decor.
  3. Install Brackets: Mark the positions for the brackets on the wall, ensuring they are level and evenly spaced.
  4. Mount Shelves: Attach the shelves to the brackets and ensure they are secure.

4. Adding Decorative Molding

Types of Molding

Adding decorative molding to your cabinets can elevate their look from basic to beautiful. Here are some types of molding to consider:

Crown Molding: Installed at the top of the cabinets, crown molding adds an elegant touch and makes the cabinets look taller.

Base Molding: Base molding at the bottom of the cabinets can provide a finished look and hide any gaps between the cabinets and the floor.

Trim Molding: Trim molding around the edges of the cabinets can add detail and definition, making them stand out more.

Installation Tips

Installing molding requires precision and patience. Here are some tips:

Measure Accurately: Always measure twice before cutting to ensure a perfect fit. Use a miter saw for precise angled cuts.

Use Adhesive and Nails: Secure the molding with both adhesive and finishing nails to ensure it stays in place. Fill any gaps or nail holes with wood filler and sand smooth before painting.

Paint Before Installation: Painting the molding before installation can make the job easier and result in a cleaner finish.

5. Applying Decorative Film or Wallpaper

Benefits of Decorative Film

Decorative films and wallpapers can give your cabinets a new look without the permanence of paint. They are also great for renters who cannot make permanent changes.

Easy to Apply: Most decorative films are peel-and-stick, making them easy to apply and remove without damaging the surface underneath.

Variety of Designs: From wood grain to geometric patterns, decorative films come in a wide variety of designs to suit any style.

Cost-Effective: They are an affordable way to achieve a high-end look without the cost of new cabinetry.

Application Tips

For a smooth and bubble-free finish, follow these tips:

Clean the Surface: Ensure the cabinet surfaces are clean and free of dust or grease before applying the film.

Measure and Cut: Carefully measure the areas you want to cover and cut the film slightly larger. Trim the excess after application.

Smooth Out Bubbles: Use a squeegee or a credit card to smooth out any bubbles as you apply the film. Start from the center and work your way outwards.

6. Adding Glass Inserts

Types of Glass Inserts

Adding glass inserts to your cabinet doors can give your kitchen an elegant and airy feel. Here are some options:

Clear Glass: Clear glass inserts allow you to showcase your dishware and add depth to your kitchen. They work well in both modern and traditional kitchens.

Frosted Glass: Frosted glass provides a

bit of privacy while still allowing light to pass through. It’s a great option if you want to hide the contents of your cabinets.

Textured Glass: Textured glass, such as seeded or ribbed glass, adds visual interest and can complement various kitchen styles.

Installation Tips

Installing glass inserts involves some carpentry skills. Here’s a basic guide:

Remove the Door Panels: Carefully remove the center panel of the cabinet doors using a router or a jigsaw.

Prepare the Frames: Sand the edges smoothly and apply a finish that matches the rest of the cabinet.

Insert the Glass: Fit the glass into the frame and secure it with glazing points or silicone adhesive.


Decorating your old kitchen cabinets doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. With a bit of creativity and effort, you can transform your kitchen into a stylish and functional space. Whether you choose to repaint, add new hardware, incorporate open shelving, or apply decorative film, each of these ideas offers a unique way to breathe new life into your cabinets. Remember, the key to a successful makeover is planning and attention to detail. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your tools, and get started on your kitchen transformation today!


1. What is the best paint for kitchen cabinets? 

For kitchen cabinets, it’s best to use a high-quality, durable paint such as satin or semi-gloss. These finishes are easy to clean and can withstand the wear and tear of a busy kitchen.

2. Can I install new hardware on old cabinets? 

Absolutely! Installing new handles and knobs is one of the easiest and most effective ways to update the look of your cabinets. Just ensure you measure and align the new hardware correctly.

3. How do I clean my cabinets before painting? 

To clean your cabinets before painting, use a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. For tougher grease and grime, a degreaser or vinegar solution can be effective. Make sure the cabinets are thoroughly dry before you start painting.

4. What are some budget-friendly ways to update kitchen cabinets? 

Some budget-friendly ways to update your kitchen cabinets include repainting, adding new hardware, applying decorative film, and incorporating open shelving. These methods are cost-effective and can significantly enhance the look of your kitchen.

5. How can I make my small kitchen look bigger? 

To make a small kitchen look bigger, use light colors for your cabinets and walls, incorporate open shelving, and keep the countertops clutter-free. Adding mirrors or glass inserts to cabinet doors can also create an illusion of more space.