How to Do a '70s Old Kitchen Cabinets Makeover on a Budget

Katy | LaughCryDIY
by Katy | LaughCryDIY
22 Materials
4 Days

Love the ‘70s, but hate those ‘70s kitchens? Then you’re going to love this ‘70s old kitchen cabinets makeover. Today, we’re giving my friend’s kitchen a much-needed facelift.

I’m going to show you how to put contact paper on cabinets as well as other budget-friendly ways to makeover a kitchen, even if you’re only renting.

Tools and materials:

  • Cleaning materials
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pen and pencil
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Degreaser (optional)
  • Gold spray paint
  • Gloss spray
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Level
  • Paint and painting tools
  • Cabinet hole jig
  • Drill with 3/16” bit
  • Cabinet and draw handles
  • Drywall anchors
  • Shelf wood
  • Brackets
  • X-ACTO knife
  • Contact paper
  • 5-way paint tool
  • Scissors
  • Peel-and-stick floor tiles
  • Scraper
Kitchen before the makeover

This kitchen has a common problem in that it’s disgusting. Hideous. Horrifying. (My friend’s own words.) We’re talking brown floors and brown wood laminate cabinets. It feels so cramped. We need to lighten and brighten the whole area.

Wiping down the cabinets

1. Prep

Wipe everything down and take the doors off the hinges.

Using painter's tape to label the cabinet doors

To keep track of the cabinet doors, I’m writing a number on each cabinet and the direction up that it should go.

Marking where the hardware will go

We’ll also be adding hardware to the cabinets, so I stuck a piece of painter’s tape where the drilled holes will be.

Sticking screw to the outlets

To prep the walls for paint, I’m removing the outlets. One trick is to stick the screws to the back of the outlet so you don’t lose them.

Magnet knife rack

I also removed this magnet knife holder because my friend’s flatmate is quite short, so she struggles to reach it.

Cleaning the old door hinges

2. Paint the hardware

First, clean the hardware.

Spray-painting the hardware gold

Then, spray-paint the hardware gold.

How to spray-paint screws

For the screws, only the tops will be showing, so poke them into a box and spray-paint the tops.

Finish the paint with semi-gloss.

Applying painter's tape for clean lines

3. Paint the walls

Apply painter’s tape to the edges for clean lines.

Applying painter's tape to the walls

I also used a level to get a straight line for where the paint will end.

How to cut in when you paint

When you paint a room, you need to cut in first, which means you do the outer edges and the corners before the middle. I like to use this square painting tool, which perfectly cuts corners.

We’re going with Flamingo Peach by Glidden. It looks more orange in the tray, but pinker on the walls. Always swatch your paint first.

Measuring the holes to drill

4. Drill holes for the new hardware

I’m using this nifty cabinet hole jig tool, which helps measure the drill holes accurately.

Tip: whenever you’re doing a project like this, start with the piece or area that is least visible. Here, I’m using the top cabinet door by the fridge. So, if I make a mistake, it’s hidden in the shadows. 

I ended up mismeasuring the handle holes because they had an overhang, so I drilled the holes further in instead. The contact paper will cover the lower holes anyway.

Drilling holes for the cabinet hardware

Use your 3/16” bit to drill holes for the cabinet hardware. Most cabinets require a 3/16” hole.

How to use drywall anchors

5. Reattach the knife magnet

We’re using drywall anchors to reattach the knife magnet as regular screws would just fall out of the drywall.

Adding a shelf

Once the knife rack was in place, I also added a shelf above it made from white-painted wood and cheap brackets that I spray-painted gold.

How to apply contact paper to cabinets

6. Apply contact paper to the cabinet doors

Peel-and-stick contact paper for cabinets is a great, renter-friendly solution to making over your kitchen. We’re using white for the top cabinets and dark green for the bottom, to make the space feel bigger and brighter.

These cabinets are flat, so they’re easy to DIY. If your cabinets have cut-outs or wooden carvings, follow this hack for how to cut poster board to size and cover it with contact paper.

Tip: contact paper is usually printed to order. So, if you run out and order again, the color match may not be exact. It’s always best to over-order, just in case.

How to apply contact paper to cabinets

Measure and cut your contact paper to size. Don’t peel off all the backing in one go. Peel an inch at a time, peeling the backing under it, keeping that as a guide. Stick the top edge in place and use a scraping tool to prevent creases and bubbles.

Cutting the edges of the contact paper

For the edges, cut in and out to the side, then fold over.

Tip: tie your hair back. It will get stuck to the contact paper.

Applying painter's tape in a grid

7. Apply peel-and-stick floor tiles

Peel-and-stick floor tiles are great, but they have a strong adhesive, so they can be difficult to peel off. So, if you’re in a rental, apply painter’s tape in a grid under the tiles. This will help with the removal process.

How to apply peel-and-stick floor tiles

Peel the backing off and stick the tiles down side by side.

Applying contact paper on cabinets

8. Apply contact paper to the rest of the cabinets

Cut the pieces to size and apply them using the same method. Use your X-ACTO knife to trim the edges if needed.

Adding hardware to the cabinets

9. Add the hardware

Finally, add the hardware. Screw the new handles in place and reattach the cabinet doors with the hinges.

Scraping the floor border

10. Apply contact paper to the floor border

Last but not least, we scraped the surface off the floor border and covered it with—guess what—contact paper.

Rope shelf with memories

Bonus: personal touches

As a final surprise for my friend, I made this small rope shelf, hung it from a cabinet, and added some photos of loved ones who have recently passed on and some dried flowers.

Contact paper kitchen makeover

How to use peel-and-stick contact paper for cabinets

‘70s old kitchen cabinets makeover

‘70s old kitchen cabinets makeover

Here’s the final kitchen makeover reveal! The space looks much more modern, light, and spacious. And there were only a few DIY meltdowns in the process.

But wait, how much did it cost? For the handles ($24), contact paper ($45), paint ($30), and tiles ($51), the total came to just $149.

Let me know your thoughts on this 70's old kitchen cabinets makeover in the comments below.

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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 14 questions
  • Wyt105577258 Wyt105577258 on May 21, 2024

    How long does the contact paper last on the cabinets?

  • Mar105629752 Mar105629752 on May 22, 2024

    How did you wrap the contact paper around the edges of the cabinet doors? And did you paint the inside of the doors? Or contact paper those as well?

  • Nan106468063 Nan106468063 on May 27, 2024

    I would like to see what they look like when everything is peeled off. Over time, does the adhesive damage the finish on the cabinets? Is there glue residue due to heat exposure? If so, how do you remove adhesive without damaging finish??

Join the conversation
2 of 68 comments
  • Clella Clella on Mar 14, 2024

    I Want to do something with my kitchen cabinets. They are very dark and matches the wood in the rest of the house. There are grooves in all the doors. I own so i can do what I want but I also want it attractive enough that when the inevitable happens it will be a plus for the sale of the house. “I’m 78” so I think about these things. I like what you did with yours.

  • Jud101789062 Jud101789062 on Apr 06, 2024

    Love the color you chose. I put peel and stick vinyl wallpaper on my countertop in the bathroom and also covered my refrigerator with peel and stick. It works just great and it's so easy to wipe off. Thank you for showing us what you did❤️