Asked on Aug 09, 2014

Any ideas on how to update these old cabinets

Amy Wassell
by Amy Wassell
Old 90's cabinets white with wood trim and no pulls or handles. Should I just reface the cabinets which are in good shape or repaint the doors? If repaint what color?
Cabinet door
Hate the countertop too but I can wait to replace it
  31 answers
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Aug 09, 2014
    I like your cabinets. I notice your appliance is white and black. Maybe consider painting the wood black or charcoal if you want a change.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 10, 2014
    I have these cabinets in my bathroom that was put in in the mid 80s. I did not want to put in new cabinets because that would be a MAJOR undertaking (nothing ever goes smoothly). (My fronts were white Formica which I LOVE.) I bought kitchen/bath paint in a white that best matched the white on my cabinets (this kind of paint has a finish that can be wiped down). I put on a coat of waterbase Kilz on the wood, let it dry over the week and then put on a second coat the next weekend. Let it dry over the week and then mixed a few drops of the Bher "Baked Scone" color I was using in the white paint to tone down the white a little (matched it perfectly) and put on 2 coats of paint. You could put on modern knobs and it would look fantastic!
  • They make wood trim kits that can be installed on the front of these cabinets to give a raised panel look, You can also simply replace the door fronts. Here is a web site that offers just this type of product, And its not all the expensive.
  • Sandy Sandy on Aug 10, 2014
    Nothing more to say, really. Marion, Jeanette and Woodbridge Environmental all made good suggestions for you to consider. Please share your finished design.
    • Beth Beth on Aug 11, 2014
      Agreed with Sandy however, i would add recessed lighting to under the cabinets. Keep us "posted"
  • Tee Tee on Aug 10, 2014
    You could paint the trim and the face of the cabinet. I love what they are doing with gray and slate blue
  • Kathryn Mosher Kathryn Mosher on Aug 10, 2014
    I have the same cabinets.....loved them then, not so much now! I am having the same dilemma as you. I think I want to paint them and put knobs on. I don't know what kind of paint to use and do I need to sand them a little before I paint them? Please post what you used and after photos :)
  • These laminate surface or Thermofoil type fronts and drawers are very difficult to achieve a long lasting finish when painted. The whole idea of these products is so nothing sticks to them and they are easy to keep clean. Even with a good sanding, and a quality primer. You will get a good look when finished, but the paint can easily chip and come off. So painting is not really suggested on these types of finishes. This is not to say you cannot do it. Its just that depending upon how hard you are on your kitchen will determine how long things will last. We have a Formica top in our kitchen that is over 20 years old. Although not quite as shiny as it once was, it still looks really good. However a neighbor has the same tops done only a few years ago and they are in the worst shape. With scratches and marks. So as I said. Its dependent upon how you care for them if you paint them.
  • SK on Elderberry SK on Elderberry on Aug 11, 2014
    I have attached a 1/4" x 3 inch alder molding to these kinds of cabinetry. I used an an Amish style with the top cross bars at the top and bottom first and then added the side rails. I glued and air nailed the pieces together on the face edge of the each cabinet door, building simple inside front frame. I filled and sanded the laminate lightly and then use a bonding primer to paint. I made sure to caulk all the seams to make the newly pieced framework look seamless with no cracks.. then the whole kitchen was painted. i coated. four times with a very good marine varnish for wear. I then washed with a chocolate glaze and wiped off, leaving the darken colors in the seams and cracks of the whole cabinets. You can wipe off or much a you learn what look you are trying to accomplish Good luck Picturres plaease. sk
  • Norma W Norma W on Aug 11, 2014
    My daughter has the same cabinets and she cleaned them well, rolled a coat of brown paint on the fronts then went back with a sponge in two different lighter shades and the cabinets looks really nice. she toped them off with a coat of polyurethane just to protect the paint finish. She left the wood trim as is. Very inexpensive quick fix,
  • Peggy Peggy on Aug 11, 2014
    I did the same as Jeanette. Plus I put on new knobs, took out the florescent lighting replaced it with track lighting and it gave our tiny kitchen a whole new feel.
  • Change of Art Change of Art on Aug 11, 2014
    I'm a fan of painting, but there is a LOT of prep involved if you want it to look good – and last through daily use... If you want wood, you can veneer the fronts yourself – and finish the sides with matching wood edge banding using just an iron. Even easier option: Contact paper! I haven't tried them yet, but I've seen some amazing wood adhesive papers online. I think it's from Germany. If the repeat isn't too short, it could look pretty nice. Maybe a very pale maple or a dark ebony look to contrast with your floor? Have fun!
    • Centrd Centrd on Dec 10, 2014
      @Change of Art I have experience with the veneer. I did it in my first house and the first hideous kitchen I owned. It was a lot easier than it sounds. I bought unfinished wood veneer, cut the pieces to fit with an exacto knife and stained it the color I wanted once it was all up. It was remarkably easy. Easier than painting to be honest, although I love painted cabinets. Not only is it ideal for flat cabinets, you can definitely take your time with it and you don't have to deal with a lot of prepping or clean up. I still think she'd need to add some molding detail, unless she wants a very streamlined, contemporary look. But that doesn't really seem to match the ceiling detail, etc.
  • Change of Art Change of Art on Aug 11, 2014
    P.S. My sister has a very small kitchen (same layout). The uppers are a creamy white, and the lower cabinets and a dark slate grey. Looks great.
  • Susi Schuele Susi Schuele on Aug 11, 2014
    I'd paint them a light or slate grey and add these pulls. But yes be careful and research the prep work. Sometimes that can make or break a good look. Here's a link to the pulls on
  • Lisa Voss Lisa Voss on Aug 11, 2014
    Ok so I would paint with rust ilium paint and put the long pulls on across the bottom. I would go with a cream ivory color or a grey color. I love the ikea handles that don't have the open ends hanging over to catch on things.
  • Connie Brown Connie Brown on Aug 11, 2014
    Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan! No sanding, stripping or priming. 31 colors to choose from. Go to to find a Stockist near you.
    • Jill Morse Jill Morse on Aug 11, 2014
      @Can I push like a million times about ANNIE SLOAN'S chalk paint!!! I LOVE IT! The only thing they don't recommend you using it on is countertops. And as Connie said no priming etc. Although I think you should sand this doors a tiny bit. Just so the paint sticks.
  • Linda Linda on Aug 11, 2014
    I have these doors too and don't want to change them because they brighten up my shady side of the house kitchen. I am refinishing the strip of wood along the bottom (or top) which is the "handle" and is a medium oak colour. I have a wood countertop and a mid tone backslash and bisque appliances which I feel gives my kitchen a peaceful feel. I know you can no longer get "bisque" which I think is a shame. Stainless and black really make a room feel cold no matter what you add. My stove is the oldest appliance I have and if it goes, I will have a new stove painted bisque. I'm really happy to see so many suggestions that involve re-using what you have. I am disgusted by some decorating shows that tear out perfectly good cabinets (and destroy them in the process).
  • CK CK on Aug 11, 2014
    Don't know your budget but if these were mine and the doors are in good shape, here's what I'd do. I'd lightly sand the wood sections. Prime then paint them the same color as the fronts. Take a door into the paint store to have the paint color matched. Then I'd put on hardware of your choice. They'll look like they're all the same color and much more updated. As for the countertops: if they're in good shape (no cracks or missing pieces) I'd buy Rustoleum's Countertop paint. You can go high end and get their entire kit which will make them look like granite or you can get the quart can that'll give them a new color...but all in one color. That's a very very inexpensive approach to both your cabinets and countertop. If you have more money, there are tons of options as others have mentioned.
    • Jan Goodin Jan Goodin on Aug 11, 2014
      @CK My idea exactly! Paint the wood to match the fronts, they would look great with ikea pulls!
  • Artsy One Artsy One on Aug 11, 2014
    Place painter's tape around the outside a frame...paint the inside the same color as the walls..add a decorative handle! 😊
  • Gloria Levis Gloria Levis on Aug 11, 2014
    I have the same ones and I painted them Veil grey on the trim only
  • CK CK on Aug 11, 2014
    @Gloria Levis....I like how you did your cabinets. Very stylish. So @Jan Goodin, now you can see how it would look on yours :-) This would work very well too if going for a more modern look merely by changing accessories and window treatments.Thanks for posting Gloria :-)
  • GR GR on Aug 11, 2014
    It depends how handy you are! The simplest solution is to paint them and I agree you need to use a good quality primer and finish with a hard wearing varnish. I too think Gloria Levis' cabinets look great and the beauty of doing the same is you don't have to paint the whole door :-) Good luck and keep us posted!
  • Hardy Hardy on Aug 11, 2014
    I recently painted my cabinets. I suggest sanding them down then primer, sand, primer, sand and paint. I also added Floetrol to my paint, this helped with brush marks. I definitely recommend Sherwin Williams paint,
  • Kat Kat on Aug 11, 2014
    If you want some style added to them, you could add molding to each door (like a picture frame only rectangular) then paint a neutral color so you can accent with your favorite colors. You could also put a wall paper inside the framing. I've seen that done too.
  • Lyn D Lyn D on Aug 11, 2014
    Hi Amy, found these on a blog. This is what I would do.
    • See 1 previous
    • Lyn D Lyn D on Aug 12, 2014
      @Laura gamroth That sounds sweet. I know paintable wallpaper is great for projects like that. I did a semi-smooth texture for a client that had rough walls. It looked amazing :) She still loves it to this day.
  • Centrd Centrd on Aug 11, 2014
    I agree with Lyn. I think facing them with thin face boards and molding is going to achieve the most dramatic update. I do like the beadboard look above, but you could also go for a simple shaker style with very thin panels on the front instead of beadboard (or beadboard wallpaper) then topped by flat molding in the same way. More pictures of the above kitchen here:
  • F P Spillers F P Spillers on Aug 11, 2014
    I would paint the wood trim a pale color that goes with the green countertops. Definitely put in under cabinet lighting and get the clutter off the work areas. Whoever designed these kitchens with a single light in the center of the ceiling should be forced to work under those conditions,
  • Chris aka monkey Chris aka monkey on Aug 11, 2014
    @Amy Wassell several good ideas here i like the link that @centrd gave you the most, i have seen painted beadboard wall paper and it does look like the real thing xx
  • Essential Ethnics Essential Ethnics on Aug 11, 2014
    If you could paint, paint the wood trim a crisp white that closely matches with the cabinets. This will give you a fresh and clean look, then add door knobs/ pulls that go with your home design.
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Aug 16, 2014
    It all depends on your budget. The first thing that comes to mind is put some drawer pulls and handles on the cabinets. But I also like what Gloria Levis posted in lightening the wood. If you can afford more, consider having them refaced. We had our done several years ago by Home Depot in another house we no longer live in. Now I wish we had never moved. But I like this house too. Good luck. Please post pictures of what you decide.
  • Deb K Deb K on Jan 08, 2024

    Hi Amy, I am a big fan of chalk paint on cabinets! Hope this helps you, I used a spray on clear coat once it was dry.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Jan 08, 2024

    I would paint the trim white first to see if I like that. If not, then consider painting all of the cabinet.