Old Kitchen Cabinets

Learn about all of the different options for refinishing or recycling old cabinets to bring you a new look your kitchen.


Whether you bought a home with old kitchen cabinets in need of an update or you're looking for a change in your current home's kitchen, there are many affordable options to update your look without purchasing brand new cabinets.

10 Tricks to Wake Up a Kitchen

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Before: Boring Big White Box

The list of design crimes: Barely any cabinet space, the awkward peninsula cabinets that chopped the room in half, broken oven, nasty peel-and-stick floors, and fluorescent lighting


The Winner at Work

When Meg first scoped out this kitchen emergency, she found an out-of-order cooking space in desperate need of a remodel. Turns out the Chicago family of four had plans for an overhaul, but projects in other parts of the house demanded their attention—and their budget—so their reno dreams were put on hold. But then: Meg swooped in to the rescue!


After: Much Smarter Space Planning

Meg didn’t tear out a single wall, but it sure feels like she did! By lining everything up on two facing walls, the layout is a lot less cramped. Meg’s tip: “Countertops on opposite walls shouldn’t be more than eight feet apart,” she says. “Any wider and you’ll want an island in between them.”

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Sleek Storage

For the cabinets, Meg paired rich cherry wood with modernish nickel knobs. Find the same ones at cabinetparts.com.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Invincible Countertops

The smart selection: off-white Corian that looks like marble but won’t stain.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Cushy Floors + Durable Pretty Furniture

Meg picked dark-stained cork for the floors. It’s warm and sound-absorbent. “It feels like you’re walking on gel!” she says. The dining benches can take a beating and keep on seating. Meg gave the floral fabric an iron-on vinyl coating so they can be cleaned with a Windex wipe-down after meals.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Glam Lighting

Meg created a custom fixture by hanging a cluster of mercury glass pendants at different heights over the dining table. “It makes the room shimmer,” she says. A leftover pendant was suspended above the sink.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Unexpected Stripes

Thinking outside the box, Meg flipped the funky glass tiles to run vertically along the backsplash. Little change, big impact!

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

No-Limit Mixing

Forget dining sets (so The Price is Right!). Meg prefers to mix styles and materials, so she pulled up a pair of cane-back wood chairs and upholstered benches to a painted metal table. “These are the kinds of risks that add personality to a room,” she says.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Hide-and-Seek Window Shades

Custom valances made of plywood and supercute fabric cover the blinds, which drop down for privacy.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Multi-Functional Space

It’s art. It’s a bar. It’s both! You have to love a house that says, “Help yourself to a drink.” Meg amped up the kitchen’s bar area with zigzag wallpaper and floating shelves.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

Even More Seating

Metal bistro stools scoot under the extra-thick Corian counter. They come in handy for parties.

Photo By: Douglas Friedman

The first and simplest option for renovating old kitchen cabinets is to simply replace the hardware on your existing cabinets. It's a simple and inexpensive option for your old cabinets that can update their look with ease. If you are looking for a change with a little more impact, but your old cabinets still just need a facelift, you can sand down their surfaces and repaint or re-stain them. This option works well with existing wood cabinets. It's more labor intensive and requires some DIY skills on the homeowner's part, but it can be done at low cost—possibly over a weekend, depending on how many cabinets are involved.

If your old cabinets are in too poor a shape to just be resurfaced, you could replace the doors with new ones made out of whatever material fits your new design or budget. This option gives you a brand new look at a fraction of the cost of replacing the entire cabinet. Your old cabinets must be in good working shape internally, however, for new doors to give you the lasting durability that entirely new cabinets would give you.

Finally, if your old cabinets are just in no shape to be used in your new kitchen or you are looking to change the actual layout of your current kitchen, you can replace your entire bank of cabinets with recycled kitchen cabinets. New kitchen cabinets can be pricey to purchase, but using recycled cabinets from another kitchen or a recycled cabinet retailer can provide you with cabinets at a fraction of the cost of brand new ones. Old kitchen cabinets recycled from somewhere else can be sanded down and restained if made of wood. Doors and pieces can also be taken off and rebuilt in new formations to create a new look.

No matter where you find your old kitchen cabinets, whether in your current kitchen, from salvage stores, or from retailers specializing in old cabinetry, you don't have to build brand new cabinets to get a new look in your home. With a little know-how and some elbow grease, old cabinets can be restored to look like new and give you the new look you were hoping for in your kitchen.

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