Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets: DIY Ways to Improve the Look of Your Cabinets and Be Green About it Too

by Mark Zimmerman

Okay, you’ve decided that you want to update your cabinets. But your cabinets are in good shape and provide enough storage. What to do? Well, obviously, you have options. In essence you have three ways to improve your cabinets:
1.) You can buy new cabinets
2.) you can Reface your cabinets
3.) you can add a new look to your existing cabinets

Replacing and Refacing your cabinets are an expensive and often lengthy process. Since we’re assuming your cabinets are in decent shape and work for your needs, we’re going to focus on the Low-Cost ways to improve the look of your cabinets. Plus, one big benefit of re-using your existing cabinets is that they won’t end up in a landfill. Many of the following techniques can be done by the do-it-yourselfer but you may want to call in the Pros in certain circumstances.
Here are a few ideas:

Paint your cabinets. But have a little fun with it and paint the doors a contrasting color from the cabinet boxes. Be sure to use Low/Zero VOC paint. Use the color wheel as your guide and it will be simple to create just the right mood in your room.

Use a decorative painting technique on some or all of your cabinets. Stippling, Ragging, Dragging and Glazing are excellent ways to dress up your cabinets. Or combine both “normal” painting on the boxes with a decorative technique on the door, or perhaps just the inset of the door.

Paint an accent color onto certain parts of the door. Let’s say you’ve painted your cabinets a timeless off-white but want just a little accent color. If your cabinet doors have an inset or a raised panel, you could paint the border of the architecturally interesting door to highlight the shape and to give your room a little touch of color, too.

Add moulding to your doors. Find decorative trim or moulding that you can add to your doors to give them more architectural interest. If you have a miter saw you can make what amounts to a frame to mount on your cabinet door. You can then glue or nail the moulding in place. Another option is to use the services of a carpenter or even a custom frame shop to have them do the work for you.

Add stenciled artwork. Stencils are widely available. From the very common leaves and vines, to damask patterns and just about anything else you can think of.

Remove some of your cabinet doors altogether for an open, display-cabinet look. You’ll need some wood putty to fill in the screw holes left by the hinges and you’ll want to make sure you have some nice pieces to put in this very conspicuous display cabinet.

Replace a door or two with a small curtain. This technique will add an informal feel to your kitchen. Easy to do it yourself with a curtain rod, fabric and some grommets.

Add decorative panels to the front of your cabinet doors. One of the newest trends is to add an interesting decorative or artistic panel to the front of your cabinet doors. You may have seen Interior Designers use this technique on TV. Because many cabinet doors act as frames (imagine a Shaker-style door), it’s a creative and low-cost way to dress up your cabinets. Whether you paint your cabinets or not, you can find some fun options to compliment your décor. Options run the gamut and include Jute Grasscloth, Aged Copper or metal sheets painted in a contrasting color. From subtle to dramatic, adding creative panels to your cabinet doors can make a big difference in your room. Just make sure you use the right adhesives with this technique.

Replace the pulls and hinges. Interior Designers have been saying this for years, but it still does change the overall look of your room simply by changing the knobs, pulls and hinges.

With a little creativity and very little money, you can update your cabinets in no time. Just be brave enough to go with what you think looks great in your room.

Author Mark Zimmerman owns a home remodeling and handyman business.