How to Give a Fresh Look to Old Kitchen Cabinets

Updated April 17, 2017

Whether your kitchen cabinets are three or thirty-three years old, you can revamp your kitchen with no more than paint, fabric or a combination of both with some collage thrown in. These days it's not so easy to find a spare £3,250 to replace kitchen cabinets, so brightening up your existing cabinets is a prudent idea, as well as a means to give your kitchen a unique look you will not see anywhere else. Experiment with designs and colour, and enjoy giving your kitchen a new lease of life.

Plan your new colour scheme by looking through home design magazines and making notes of colours and treatments which appeal to you. To keep costs minimal, choose a new colour scheme which won't necessitate your buying new kitchen fitments and accessories to match.

Create a layout of your kitchen on paper or in a computer graphics program, and try different colours and ideas. Experiment with colours for your cabinets to complement the existing fixtures and fittings.

Sand and then paint the cabinets with primer, and allow to dry. Depending on the design of your cabinets, you may have to remove doors and drawers first.

Give the cabinets one or two coats of paint, depending on the paint manufacturer's instructions. Allow to dry for the recommended time, and replace doors and drawers. Accessorise with new handles in bright colours, brushed steel, or brass, depending on the chosen colours and design.

Remove door and drawer handles, and strip paint down to the bare wood underneath using a blowtorch or paint stripper paste. Sand with coarse sandpaper followed by fine, to give a smooth and even finish.

Use wood stain, wood oil or varnish, depending on the effect that you want. If you use wood oil, bear in mind that the surface is likely to require more cleaning if located near the cooker.

Strip the handles if these are made of wood. Alternatively, replace them with newer handles in whatever design you prefer, whether that's brass fittings, wooden replacements, or a colour to complement your other kitchen features.

Decide on the look you want to create, whether it's French country design with wire mesh in the stripped doors and pretty fabric behind it, or collage within the panels, such as old pictures or sketches of animals or birds.

Remove the panels in cabinet doors by drilling 0.5-inch holes along the inside of the panels and using a small hacksaw in between them. Sand the edges to a smooth finish.

Attach fine chicken wire inside the doors with staples to cover the aperture. Make up small gathered pieces of pretty fabric, and attach them to the top and bottom of the inside of the doors, behind the chicken wire, with tacks, staples or strong glue.

Scour old magazines for suitable pictures, and tear them out around the designs rather than cutting them to avoid straight and obvious edges in the finished panel. Attach the images to the outside panels on the doors with adhesive, varnish over the top of them and merge the paper edges together. For a much older look, add a second coat of varnish, which gives a crackled effect when dry.


For a really aged look to wooden cabinets, use a distressed paint technique, or distress the stripped wood with tools to give it a damaged or battered effect.


Laminated doors and cabinets may need extensive sanding to achieve a surface which will accept paint, although modern technologies have made this much easier. Test an inconspicuous area first to gauge the suitability for a paint treatment.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Veronica James has been writing since 1985. Her first career was as a specialty-trained theater sister responsible for running routine and emergency operating theaters, as well as teaching medical/nursing students. James's creative and commercial writing has appeared online, in print and on BBC radio. She graduated with an honors Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of North London.