Old Formica Cabinet to Modern Coastal

10 Materials
2 Days
My friend‘s kitchen needed an update! After raising twin boys and what seemed like most of the entire football team, Cassy’s kitchen had seen some absuse! Since the boys and their 40 closest friends have finally gone away to college, it seemed like the perfect time to figure out what could be done. If anyone has a child in college, you are well aware... it ain’t cheap! Try having twins!! Needless to say, money was tight- a real budget didn’t exist, so we had to make the most of what we could find- spending the least possible amount. In the end, Cassy has a totally new look! Once the cabinets were done, we built a table to go with the new look. (Her old table looked just as bad as the cabinets!) You may see it in some of these pics- but I will get into the table on another post!
let’s begin!
In this first photo You can see, these are plain (VERY PLAIN), Formica, old-school cabinets. They don’t look horrible here, but trust me... even in their best days, they weren’t very pretty!
Removed the doors, ready to reface!
After researching our options, it seemed the most economic and logical way to go, would be to attempt to fabricate/make trim, to reface the doors. Thankfully, we read that shaker cabinets aren’t going out of style, anytime soon and since the doors were flat, it seemed it would be fairly straight-forward. Some trim, a little sanding and painting and voila!
Well... it wasn’t that simple! Who KNEW there would be so many trim options, for what at first site, seemed like standard straight cuts!! Ultimately we chose hobby board, from Home Depot. It is lightweight, thin, but not too thin and relatively inexpensive. So we measured and picked up the boards, wood glue, paint and Brad nails. (You can do the nailing by hand, but TRUST ME... it went MUCH easier with the pneumatic nailer!!!) initially I thought we would rely primarily on the glue- by spreading it on and clamping. After one cabinet, I realized this way would be a time consuming nightmare- instead, we put very thin layers of glue on the boards and nailed them in, right away.
Making spot to sand and fill/paint
Miter saw- only needed straight cuts though
Brad nailer, HIGHLY recommend!
Our production line!
After a couple mistakes, (measure twice cut once!) we really started moving. I cut and attached while Cassy filled and sanded. We switched “positions” when we got tired of what we were doing. We both painted.
Positioning and nailing the trim
We tried to make the cuts as perfect as possible, but perfect wasn’t really necessary, as we filled in any gaps with joint compound and sanded smooth.
We had this entire project done in two days. Granted, we worked tirelessly day and night, but we even managed to come up with an idea to make a them a bit more modern/feminine with a coastal feel- (will get into that shortly!) keep reading!
We did a total of 23 doors
Sand sand fill fill
My turn!
we Knew we wanted to add a little “bling” but not too much. After all, raising twin boys, athletes... is not a job for the faint. After years of “boyish charm”, Cassy was really craving something that showed that although she had spent the last 19 years being coach, mom, dad, doctor, etc. underneath it all, she was truly a WOMAN!! We spent hours trying to find some photos of inlay- I’m typically good at research and after hours of looking, i could only find ONE photo that even resembled what we were thinking about doing. Ironically, it was a post on this site, where a woman put little tiles in the center of the doors. It was close, but still not really what we had in mind. We took a ride to floor and decor to browse around and see what we could come up with. It practically JUMPED out at us!!
EDIT: since so many are asking where to buy the sheets. I’m attempting to put a link at the bottom of this post, to amazon-
Paper thin mother of pearl sheets
after all of the doors were put together, painted and dry, we used a dremel with carbide tip to cut the sheets to the perfect size. We glued it down with thin set. since we wanted subtle bling, we chose to only place it in the area around the stove and microwave. It was absolutely perfect! we found handles first on Amazon, using prime for next day delivery.. we thought we had a great deal. To our disappointment, the handles were awful. This ended up being the most expensive part. We returned the amazon handles and purchased solid stainless steel, from lowes.
all in all, this was a pretty simple project. With that being said, the right tools definitely made a big difference and I’m not sure I would attempt this without them. We are thrilled with this result! It was fun! In all honesty, I’m not sure i would consider going into business doing this, but seeing the transition was amazing!!
What do you think??
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Jessica Hoffman
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 97 questions
  • Doreen Doreen on Nov 16, 2019

    When u use the nail gun. Exactly where do you nail?

  • Sto9987562 Sto9987562 on Oct 09, 2020

    First, I did the same thing with 1960s cabinets that were just flat plywood. My daughter and her husband bought a starter house, and truly it was a starter! She painted upper cream and bottom espresso. What a difference a few pieces of trim made!

    did you have any problems after putting them back on? I had one that was wonky!

    my second question,

    could that mother of Pearl bling be used for a backsplash???? How pretty that would be with under cabinet lights!!!!

    you did a great job.

  • PeprmintPatti PeprmintPatti on Oct 10, 2020

    with the added wood on the cabinets doors, how is the clearance for opening? Did you have any problems with the thickness?

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