Asked on Jul 28, 2018

How do I update my kitchen cabinets without replacing them?

Johnavallance82HejeThea Osborne/ That Sweet Tea Life


The kitchen cabinetry was reported to have been recently replaced when I moved in several years ago. But it is too dark for me; it is hard to see what stored inside; and they don't make workflow efficient. I don't have the money to replace them, but I'm hesitant to try anything that might make them even worse! I need a sure thing.....but what is it?

I don't use the desk so it becomes a cluttered catch-all. The bottom cabinets are deep....but I can't even see what's in the back. You have to unload everything to find what you need.

The corner cupboards become the black lagoon where multiple containers disappear. And the cupboards over the stove and refrigerator are not functional because I can't reach them. To all of that add that the room faces North and it makes for a dark and hard to use kitchen. There has got to be a better way.

8 answers
  • Mogie
    on Jul 28, 2018

    Do you own or rent? If you rent ask the landlord first. If you own paint and new hardware.

  • Alice
    on Jul 28, 2018

    Have custom doors made - can be made with glass so you can see in the
    cabinet too.
  • Oliva
    on Jul 28, 2018

    Rip out the desk and replace it with a small Baker's rack, or shlves, or another small cabinet. Install pull out shelves where possible. Ikea used to sell lights that fit inside drawers which illuminated when drawer was opened. Use lazy susans in the corner cabinets.

    Paint the ceiling bright white (if it's in good condition, use semi gloss kitchen paint). Remove the window curtain and install a light colored roller shade or up and down shade.install under cabinet lighting. Keep what is rarely used above refrigerator and stove cabinets. Switch out the sink lights to soft white LED. Glass installed in cabinets on either side of sink will "lighten" the look. Line backs of upper cabinets with white liner of some type. Install toe kick LED strip lights, if desired. Paint walls a sand or light beige color.

  • Danielle
    on Jul 28, 2018

    They look like nice quality cabinets, but I see what you mean, the way that room faces it's like looking into a dark hole. I don't know what your budget might be, but the good news is everything is fixable.

    First thing I would do is paint those cabinets! Bright white would look amazing with your wall color and accessories and the glossy finish would help bounce around what light there is.

    Install over cabinet and under cabinet lighting.

    There are lights you can install inside cabinets and drawers that work on a pressure switch and will turn on when the door/drawer is open so you can see what's inside.

    Install pull out shelves and bins in the lower cabinets.

    Install multi level lazy susans in the corner cabinets.

    Under the desk would be a great place to install a recycling center with trash can though it looks like there is a heating/ac wall vent there that you can't block off which is probably why they shoved a desk in there to start with. Because of that I would make the recycle unit a free standing unit on casters that's narrow enough to not block that vent.

    Use the top of the desk area for a beverage bar since I think I saw both a coffee maker and a soda stream machine in another area of the kitchen.

    The cupboards over the stove and fridge, well, they are what they are. Generally I would put items you only rarely use up there and keep a folding stool someplace accessible so you can get to them when you need to.

    Are there any overhead lights other than the ones at the sink? If not I would certainly add one!

  • Kelly Roxanne Logsdon
    Kelly Roxanne Logsdon
    on Jul 29, 2018

    I have the same cupboards in my kitchen, and my kitchen is even smaller and darker, also because of a northern exposure window. I am going to paint only the center panels a soft white, and put sunny decals in the center of each panel. I got my decals on Amazon, and they have quite a selection to get your imagination flowing. I do not want to see what is in my cupboards. (Packaging on foods is so ugly and garish.)

  • I would paint and change out the hardware! Here is a great article that although it specifies white, is the perfect technique for painting cabinets!

  • Heje
    on Aug 26, 2018

    My kitchen cabinets were just painted a semi-gloss white. One thing that I insisted on with the kitchen cabinets was to paint the insides the same as the cabinets. It is easy to see items and it made dishes and everything else look brighter. The shallow cupboards above the stove and elsewhere can be shelving for decorative items by removing the doors. If the insides are painted the items will be clear and easy to see. The desk can be raised level with the other cupboards by putting support under or even by adding wheels. The wheels could allow it to become an island by adding shelving and a side support. It could then be a baking or prep area. Fresh paint can make a difference - enjoy your "new" kitchen.

  • Johnavallance82
    on Dec 21, 2020

    Hello there,

    There are Companies (Kitchen Magic) out there that will replace offer a choice of drawer fronts and doors and fit them too. Or you Stain them darker or Use a Liming Wax to whiten them, or Perhaps only do the recesses or the centre Panels or the outside of the doors. Maybe change the handles or paint them. Good wishes.

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