February 28, 2022

Updating your cabinet's appearance and function

A home improvement contractor can repair your cabinets without replacing them. During the repair process, you can improve the appearance and functionality of your cabinets—with an installation that will integrate repair and updates the look of your cabinets.

Updating your cabinets

1. Repair or refinish your cabinets

Dark cabinets can suck all the light out of any room. But a brighter makeover doesn’t necessarily mean replacing those gloomy boxes with all-new ones. Color with a bit of flair can change the style of your cabinets from plain or simple to shabby chic, rustic, provincial, or modern. If the frames and doors are structurally sound, you can clean them up and brush on a fresh coat of paint—and within a weekend, take that kitchen from dreary to sunny.

  • Crackle. This weathered finish comes from a unique “crackling glaze” available at paint stores. Apply the glaze over a dry base coat, brushing in only one direction (thick for large cracks and thin for fine cracks). Let it dry, then finish with a flat topcoat of the base color, brushed perpendicular to the glaze. The paint will start to form cracks as it dries, which takes about an hour.
  • Distressed. Whether it’s simply worn or beat up, this rustic finish is made of layered colors and spattered dark paint (to mimic flyspecks). When the paint is dry, you can “distress” the finish by hitting it with a chain and lightly sanding it to reveal the colors underneath.
  • Antiqued. This provincial look evokes a slowly aged surface. Speed the aging process by dipping the tips of a paintbrush in color lighter than the cabinets, dabbing the excess onto a cloth until the brush is almost dry and lightly grazing the surface of detail trim, corners, or seams.
  • High Gloss. A high-gloss finish will repel dirty fingerprints better than any matte (and it’s easier to wipe clean), but it will also stimulate the look of metal or glass in a modern setting. To shine up your smooth cabinets, paint a high-gloss clear acrylic varnish over your final coat to add depth and effect a glassy finish

 2. Reface cabinets

That sweet older woman you bought your house from is remarkable, especially when she gave out homemade cookies during the holidays. But that kitchen where she baked them is ugly. What’s old may be new again, but those grease-caked, kid-scratched cabinets have to go. We’re not saying you must gut and rebuild. Instead of spending $5,000 on new cabinets, save some serious cash and reface the ones you have. It’s amazing what a little veneer and some new doors can do to brighten an aging space. Both are available through woodworking companies, and some manufacturers offer a peel-and-stick surface to simplify the task. Just be sure to measure twice and cut once. Work carefully, and your kitchen will look brand-new in no time.

3. Install a pull-out cabinet shelf

Make the most of your kitchen’s existing storage space by installing a pull-out shelf in one of the base cabinets. The frame resembles a shallow drawer that glides out for easy access to items stored in the back of the cabinet. A shelf built for a standard 24-inch-deep by the 33-inch-wide base cabinet is adaptable to virtually any size cabinet. It has a 1x4 pine frame and ¾-inch birch plywood bottom. If you’re only building one or two shelves, you can save money by going to a home center or lumberyard that sells plywood half sheets. And in most cases, they’ll even cut the plywood to your dimensions.

4. Install under-cabinet lighting

There’s a missing element in most American kitchens, and it’s not a $7,500 range or a 4-acre refrigerator. It’s simply good lighting. The hidden fixtures of under-cabinet task lighting, which are relatively easy to retrofit beneath upper wall cabinets, bathe the countertop in bright whit eight—a boon for everything from dicing veggies to reading recipes. Connect the fixtures to a dimmer switch, and you also have the key to dramatic accent lighting or a night light for midnight snacks. If you’re a bit tentative about working with electricity, don’t worry. This installation is shock-free and straightforward if you first cut the power at the breaker box. 

5. Add a butcher block kitchen island

If you’re going homey and cozy in your kitchen, skip the built-in cabinet-base island and make the central work area a furniture-like table with a butcher block counter. Because these thick wood-slab tops have their edge or end grain exposed, they are stronger than wood laid on the flat. That means they resist warping and nicks better than laminate and almost as well as stone. Butcher block islands mimicking 19th-century worktables are perfect for toning down the coldness of stone counters and metal appliances in modern cook spaces. You can bring this classic aesthetic to your kitchen by constructing a prep island from easy-to-buy materials or choosing one of the many available styles through retailers and furniture makers. 

6. Add a sideboard

Dishes, serving platters, table linens—a sideboard packs a lot of storage space into a relatively small footprint, making it a handy addition to any household. A sturdy, high-quality one can leave a thousand-dollar dentin your finances. Still, you can enhance a few stock kitchen base cabinets with molding, furniture feet, and knobs to produce a handcrafted piece for a fraction of the cost of buying one ready-made. Select unfinished 15” or 18” cabinets fitted with doors and operable drawers (not the fake drawer fronts used for sink cabinets) and take a day to put all the pieces together. Your stunning creation will turn heads at dinner parties for years to come.

7. Install a window seat 

As attractive as window seats are, only a few older homes with deep dormers seem to have them. And adding a window seat has always been considered impractical. First, you need a niche that features a window. Then, the seat has to be custom-built by a cabinet maker or trim carpenter to fit the window’s exact width and sill height. Not surprisingly, this approach is expensive and time-consuming. A simple, do-it-yourself approach provides both the “niche” and the window seat and abundant storage space.

8. Add a plate rack

You could leave your dishes tucked away behind closed doors.Or, if they’re exciting and vibrant, you could create a place to display them, freeing up precious storage space and adding a splash of color to your kitchen.

9. Add cabinet crown molding

Nothing screams, “I spent lots of money on custom cabinets” like crown molding. The trim transforms your kitchen storage into a seamless design. Add extra personality to your cabinets simpler by mounting molding on a hardwood frame that sits above cabinets. Using a frame allows for doing the detail work on a bench—much more manageable than from a ladder—then you can attach the crown from the backside, so there are no nail holes to fill. Once the frame and crown are attached, you install the entire assembly.

10. Add storage with more cabinets

The goal is to take a collection of cabinet boxes and bring them together to make a beautiful piece of built-in furniture. The primary installation sequence is straightforward. You want to get everything straight, erect, and level. But often, the room itself lacks those attributes. Not to worry! We will get the job done right.