Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

From boring to beautiful: upgrading builder's cabinetry

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Cookie-cutter homes in big subdivisions often have kitchens filled with identical, builder-grade cabinetry. There's no denying that these cabinets get the job done, but they lack personality and don't do much for the overall feel of your kitchen. Here are a few ways that you can really make your bland cabinets stand out from the rest:

  • Build 'em up. Builder's cabinets usually stop short of the ceiling, leaving a dusty void of unusable space (or hard-to-dust decorative items and stashed kitchen gadgets). Because of the shadow cast in this space, it can look more oppressive than open. To give your cabinets a custom look, build them up to the ceiling. This can be a do-it-yourself task or something you talk to your contractor about when refacing. Where the cabinet extension meets the ceiling, use crown molding to really give things a custom look. If you're hesitant about going all the way up to the ceiling, a shorter extension with crown molding still makes for a great look. Either way, you get away from the box-nailed-to-a-wall vibe that most of these cabinets put off.
  • Add flashy hardware. A lot of builder-grade cabinets are completely free of handles, knobs and drawer pulls. This saves boatloads of money on the builder's end of things, but tends to give things a monotonous, rather than clean, look. Adding hardware gives your cabinetry extra dimension, breaking things up visually. You can go for fancy brushed metals, paint some wooden knobs yourself or put your crafty cap on and make something truly unique -- think champagne-cork drawer pulls, old paint brushes turned into handles or small, smooth river rocks for a grounding feel.
  • Paint. There are so many cool tricks you can do with paint that nearly any look can be yours. Don't like your old wood grain? Use several coats of primer before painting to cover it up -- or just one if you want the texture to shine through. Give things an antique look by painting; sanding the paint for a distressed look; applying wood stain to match the areas you sanded through to the paint color; wiping off most of the stain, and finishing with polyurethane. This "paint, sand, stain, and wipe off" trick adds a lot of character to any wood, but you may want to try your hand (and your paint/stain combo) on some scrap wood first. Another technique involves using a technique called "dry-brushing", which basically means getting nearly all of the paint off of the brush before touching it to the wood and using light, varied strokes. This technique can be used to add wispy accent colors to anything or give a classic washed-out look.

These are just a few of the myriad ways you can make your generic kitchen look truly your own. Talk to your contractor about other ways to change the feel of your bland kitchen cabinets when refacing.

About the Author
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.

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