Cabinets arguably take up the most real estate in your kitchen. So if they're sad, the whole kitchen looks a bit depressed.
They're also among the most expensive feature to replace in the kitchen. So that's where these inexpensive cosmetic miracles fit in.
#1 Handsome Hardware
Knobs and pulls are kitchen jewelry that can dress cabinets up. Note that cabinet hardware can get very fancy and expensive -- costing $30 and up for a single ornate knob. But you’ll get a huge bang for a few bucks by buying 10-packs of simple, contemporary hardware at big box stores for less than $20 (that’s $2 a knob!).
To save time and money, replace 1-hole hardware with 1-hole upgrades; 2-hole with 2-hole. That way, you won’t need to drill or patch.
#2 Pretty in Paint
Nothing updates old cabinets as quickly as fresh coat of paint.
Painting cabinets yourself is cost-effective -- a few gallons of paint, sandpaper, cleaner -- but the process is time-intensive. You can paint most cabinet surfaces, but proper prep is key to success. For laminate and melamine finishes, be sure to rough up the surface with 150-grit sandpaper, and apply a good bonding primer before topping it off with the color of your choice.
If you’re going to dive into this DIY project, keep these tips in mind:
- Lighter-colored paints will make your kitchen seem bigger.
- Don’t skip on prep. Thoroughly clean cabinet doors and boxes to remove grease and dried-on gunk; fill holes or nicks with wood putty, then sand.
- Sand each coat of paint so your final coat will look perfect.
- Lay doors flat to paint, and wait until each side is completely dry before painting the other side. It will take more time, but you'll avoid ugly drip marks.
#3 Molding Miracles
Crown molding adds a touch of class to the tops of tired cabinets for less than you’d expect. Three-inch, primed composite crown molding with a dentil design costs as little as $20 for 8 feet.
It’s easiest to add molding when you’re repainting cabinets; that way you’ll get a perfect match.
If you order matching wood molding from your cabinet’s manufacturer, be prepared for a color difference between new molding and older cabinets. Natural wood cabinets (especially cherry) will darken with age.
#4 Fancy Glass
Change the glass insert in a cabinet door, and you change the look and feel of your kitchen.
"Decorative glass takes stock cabinets and gives them a custom look,” says Anthony Longo, who sells glass panels.
Not all cabinet doors are candidates for a changeover, however. You’ll need the kind of door with a removable panel. Check the backs of your doors to see if the center panel can be taken out.
Types of glass inserts are limitless -- contemporary, bubbles, raindrops on water, antique -- and cost $7 to $9 per square foot. So, you can change the look of a 2-door, 30-inch-by-24-inch cabinet (about 5 square feet of glass) for between $35 and $45.
#5 Task Lighting
Once, the only way to shed light on kitchen tasks was by hard-wiring under-cabinet lights -- an expensive and messy task. But you can add lighting under and inside cabinets with battery powered, peel-and-stick LED lights.
Of course, battery-run lights are not as bright as their hard-wired cousins. But at about $8 each, you can afford to buy several and scatter them around. LED light bulbs last for thousands of hours of use.