Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Updating cabinets on the cheap: quick, easy and inexpensive

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

When you're on a budget, spending thousands on new cabinets just isn't an option -- but sometimes those dated, hideous cabinets just have to go. Updating the look of your cabinets can change the whole feel of a kitchen and take it from old and ugly to refreshingly awesome and new. Here are a handful of quick, easy tricks to really make a change and do it on a shoestring budget:

  • Blow the doors off: Removing your cabinet doors can really open up the kitchen. Take care to remove all hardware, patch screw holes, and clean thoroughly.
  • Striped backdrop: For this one, you need painter's tape (a.k.a. masking tape), a brush, and one of those little tubs of sample or "oops" paint from the hardware store. It should run you less than $10 for materials. Tape the entire back wall of your cabinets with vertical strips, being careful not to overlap the strips. Remove every other strip, leaving perfectly spaced single strips running from top to bottom. Paint in your stripes, remove the tape, and voila! This looks best in open-faced cabinets.
  • Pro stenciling: From fancy lettering to design accents like leaves, vines, and fleurs-de-lis, if you can draw it or print it out, you can paint it on your cabinets (or wall). Cover the area in question with painter's tape, tape up your design on top, use a sharp knife to cut out your design (make sure you go through the tape), remove the tape, and paint. It's the same concept as the stripes above, just a bit more advanced.
  • Message boarding: You've got two options with this one: hide a message board behind closed doors or convert the whole kitchen. Second set of options: chalk board, cork board, or a combination. For chalk boards, you can find paint that creates near-instant chalk boards (or white boards, if that's more your style) at almost any hardware store. Paint just the back of one cabinet door, or go wild and cover the whole kitchen. For cork board, you can find self-adhesive cork rolls or use spray-on glue with non-adhesive varieties. Cut the cork to shape, install, and start pinning!
  • Light it up: Installing under-cabinet track lighting used to be a lengthy and involved process, but thanks to LED technology, that's a thing of the past. You can find self-adhesive, peel-and-stick LED lights that will last for hundreds of hours on one set of batteries. Stick 'em up where you need a little work light for prepping food or inside open or glass-front cabinets to add ambient light -- or both!

Keep an eye out online, at garage sales, and in your local paper for things people are getting rid of that you can repurpose. You might find new drawer pulls and cabinet door handles; you might find old windows that fit your cabinet boxes perfectly. Be thrifty, and stay creative.

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