The Big Fat Guide to Hacking Your Kitchen Cabinets

Hometalk Guides
by Hometalk Guides
Content Provided By Home Depot
Most of us spend more time in the kitchen than in any other part of the home. Whether it's hanging out with loved ones or trying a new cookie recipe, kitchens are the living, breathing command center of the household.
Though kitchen cabinets are the defining design element of your kitchen, sometimes, they leave something to be desired, from the color and size to the layout or finish.

If your cabinets are making you crazy, you have one of two options: invest in new cabinets or make the most of what you have. Even stock kitchen cabinets can be transformed with a bit of ingenuity and elbow grease, and we've recruited our favorite design and DIY experts to show you how.

Define Your Dream Cabinets

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
The kitchen cabinets you inherit in a new home are almost never your dream cabinets. There are many looks to choose from, so be sure to choose one that fits in with the rest of your home decor.

  • Modern Style: Modern cabinets often have a flat, minimalist front and a subdued color scheme. You may hear these referred to as "slab" cabinets.

  • Streamlined Style: Shaker cabinets are very popular thanks to their clean, streamlined look. The Mission style has a similarly timeless appeal.

  • Rustic Style: Rustic cabinets have an artfully distressed look that adds old-world charm to a space. Beadboard cabinets fit in this category with handcrafted details reminiscent of an old farmhouse.

  • Custom Style: Raised panel and inset cabinets are a traditional style with more of a custom look.

These cabinet hacks can be done with a variety of materials and on just about any budget. Don't miss the helpful tips and tricks throughout from design experts Kerrie Kelly, ASID, and Sarah Fishburne, the Director of Trend and Design at The Home Depot.

Get the Style You Want

Courtesy of A-Plus Interior Design
It doesn't take much to achieve a custom look in your kitchen. There are many design updates you can implement to give your cabinets a custom feel, and they can typically be done over a weekend with minimal expense.

Expert Tip: "A certain finish doesn't necessarily mean high-end because there are very similar finishes at different price points. It's more about the height of the upper cabinets and decorative details like corbels, moulding and furniture feet."

-Sarah Fishburne, The Home Depot's Director of Trend and Design

Upgrade 1: Add Crown Moulding
Courtesy of Delusions of Ingenuity
Add a high-end look and visual interest to your cabinets by installing crown moulding around the top shelves. This brilliant crown moulding update from Andi Filante of Delusions of Ingenuity brings her cabinets right to the ceiling, while the floating shelves she installed around her stove give her cabinet space a much more custom appearance.

Upgrade 2: Add Furniture Feet to Cabinets
Courtesy of At the Picket Fence
Footed kitchen cabinets make your kitchen appear as though it's full of elegant furniture, as opposed to basic shelving units. Furniture-like cabinetry can be pricey, but adding furniture feet to the bottom of your current cabinets is an inexpensive solution.

Upgrade 3: Install Chair Rail and Paint
If you have flat-front cabinets, give them a quality look by installing some clean, simple chair rail in frames on the cabinet fronts. Hometalk member Connie B. was dealing with vintage stock cabinets and router-grooved cabinet fronts a la 1983. By adding chair rail to cover the grooves, painting the dated pine cabinets glossy black and white, and adding sleek stone countertops, she gave her country drab kitchen a clean, contemporary look. Check out the DIY details here.

Expert Tip:"White cabinets continue to be classic. We're really seeing a tonal layering of colors, like warm grays, which are brown-based and blend well with wood. We're also seeing painted and wood-stained cabinets in the same palette, which emphasizes texture. We are just now seeing cool grays start to increase in popularity."

-Sarah Fishburne, The Home Depot's Director of Trends and Design

Upgrade 4: Swap In Glass Panes
Courtesy of Jennifer Bridgman
Glass fronts can make a small kitchen seem exponentially larger and more airy, giving a tired space the look and feel of a clean, classic kitchen. If you don't relish the idea of people seeing into every cabinet space, try a delicate frost finish on your glass, or only add glass fronts to a few cabinets instead of the whole lot.

Home DIY blogger Jennifer Bridgman offers a complete step-by-step tutorial on glass fronting your old stock cabinets.

Expert Tip:"One of the most obvious and inexpensive ways you can update your space is through cabinet refacing. Unlike gutting, which costs time and money, cabinet refacing requires a simple procedure: swap out the door fronts, keep your doorframes, and voila-you have a brand new kitchen! Another simple fix? Swap out your hardware for a newer, more contemporary style. Sometimes the smallest details can make a world of difference."

-Kerrie Kelly, ASID

Upgrade 5: Apply Antique Finishing
Courtesy of Petticoat Junktion
Blogger Kathy Owen at Petticoat Junktion puts an antique finish on cabinetry with a careful application of milk paint and gentle chipping. Finish the piece with wax or hemp oil to ensure the paint doesn't chip off. This finish can add a huge dose of rustic charm to all of your cabinets or just a feature piece like an island.

Upgrade 6: Add Texture with Pressed Tin Panes
Courtesy of Knick of Time
For an old-world effect, consider working some old tin tiles into your cabinet's repertoire. In this inspiring DIY from Knick of Time blogger Angie Chavez, she and her woodworking husband use two antique tin tile panels as cabinet fronts to replace their under-sink space.

Upgrade 7: Build a Handcrafted Kitchen Island
Courtesy of Heir and Space
Then there's the piece de resistance: the handcrafted kitchen island. Thanks to designer Kate Avery at Heir and Space, you can turn a worn-out dresser into a beautiful, handcrafted kitchen island with little more than some wide bead board, stained wood panels for the shelving and top, and paint.

Once you've settled on a style, you can turn your attention to the more practical matters and limitations of your unique setup. Check out these 'Helpful Pointers' to see a few DIY ideas that might help.

A Few Helpful Pointers

Improving your kitchen cabinets isn't just about cosmetics-it's also about functionality. Let's look at some simple hacks that will help you maximize your space, whatever your needs are.

To Add More Space:

Most of us have had to work in a small kitchen at some point in our lives. With such cramped conditions, it's critical to make use of every inch of space.
Courtesy of The Home Depot

  • Look to underutilized spaces - Building pull-out cabinets into the odd space next to your refrigerator, in the extra space between the stock cabinet and the wall, or in the wedge between your mini microwave or dishwasher and the door jamb can make great use of an otherwise neglected square footage.

  • Bring in light - Well-placed lights can help create the illusion of more counter space by eliminating dark, otherwise forgotten corners of your countertops.

  • Don't discount the doors - Attach magazine racks to the inside of cabinet doors to store packets of food, measuring cups and other small items that you use frequently. Magnetic sheets, hooks and cloth pockets can also make the most of your storage space.

Expert Tip:"Small spaces need great storage solutions. With limited options, you have to get creative. I suggest looking for furniture pieces with multiple uses. In the kitchen, opt for an island with hooks, drawers and shelves for optimal stowage. If you have the wall space, add shelves and cabinets for dishes, linens and knick-knacks you don't necessarily want to display on your counter space.

-Kerrie Kelly, ASID

To Make Your Kitchen More Convenient:

The more open space you can create, the easier it is to access frequently used kitchen tools, which is exactly what busy home chefs need.

  • Stock a snack cabinet - Instead of arguing with her kids each day over what they wanted in their lunch box, creative crafter Christy Little made a deal with them and organized an easy-to-access cabinet for her kids to help her save time and trouble by packing their own lunch.

Courtesy of Our Southern Home

  • Keep spices within easy reach - Blogger Sondra Lyn shares step-by-step instructions for installing a magnetic spice board. "I'd previously kept my spices in the pantry, rather than near the stove," Sondra says. "I made the spice board to attach inside a cabinet door in order to have the spices handy-right next to my stove."

Courtesy of Sondra Lyn at Home

  • Hide the trash - Many home chefs struggle with finding a place for their bins. Kristi Haight at Chatfield Court blog came up with the clever idea for hidden trash and recycle bins out of pure necessity. "We have a tiny kitchen and desperately needed to add counter and cabinet space so there would have been no place to put our full size bins," she says. "I lost some food storage space, but I don't have to look at the ugly bins anymore."

Courtesy of Chatfield Court
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to update a dated kitchen without blowing your budget. Happy hacking!
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  1 question
  • Julia Garrison Duvall Julia Garrison Duvall on Jan 20, 2016
    What about the cabinets that do not go to the ceiling and have the box built in above them? (Oh, and it protrudes about 2 inches farther than the cabinets)
Join the conversation
2 of 8 comments
  • Patricia Patricia on Jan 21, 2016
    This is a great article about how to work with what you've got. Not everyone has the time, energy, or money to do a full remodel. But you've provided some classy alternatives to upgrade the look and function of the kitchen.
  • Ashish Khadke Ashish Khadke on Aug 19, 2016
    wooww...that's really damn awesome ideas. Thanks a lot