8 Kitchen Cabinet Makeovers That Will Inspire You to Pick Up a Paintbrush

Even renters can get on board.
Lydia Geisel Avatar

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pink kitchen
Photography by Jeff Mindell

Painting kitchen cabinets shouldn’t be an intimidating task—you can always redo it, after all—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one. Between picking the right finish and committing to change, it’s a lot, especially if you’re not DIY-prone. The best reassurance: looking at success stories. So we went through our archives and rounded up eight transformations that got it right. There are neutral rooms that make the case for elevated minimalism, and punchier spaces that may just convert even the most color-averse. We even found a rental makeover—yes, temporary homes can still be personal (just be sure to double-check with your landlord before doing anything drastic). These painted kitchen cabinet before-and-afters are the nudge you need to get started.

From Nautical to Artful

Shades of green and brass commonly used on celadon pottery inspired the color of Brooklyn-based food blogger Christine Han‘s cabinets. After stripping the existing dark blue paint off the doors with a goolike product called Citris Strip, she used a spray gun she bought at Lowe’s to swathe them in Cactus Shadow by Valspar

Minty Fresh

To kick off her update, artist Lauren Hom swapped out her old, dark granite countertop for clean, white laminate. Then she painted her cupboards a light teal and covered half of the wall in pink paint to boost the mood in the room. Her only mistake? She didn’t sand the cabinets before painting them, so chips are visible in some spots. “I was so eager to make over the kitchen that I disregarded the prep work,” she says. 

A Side of Mustard

In an effort to stick to her $4,000 budget, Emily Jane Lathan purchased a $50 gallon of paint and embraced her bungalow’s groovy past by applying a mustard coat on everything, including the new budget-friendly drawer pulls.

Brighter Than Ever

Turning dark cabinets white is no easy feat, but if you’re willing to put in the time, it’s worth it. For her transformation, stylist Lita Lee prepped the surface by going over it with coarse sandpaper (she didn’t want to use a mouse sander, because it might create valleys in the MDF doors). Then she primed the fronts with STIX and applied four coats of Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace in a satin finish (each layer takes around 25 hours to dry). 

The French Blue

Designer Elizabeth Stamos saved $20,000 to $30,000 by keeping the cherrywood cabinets in her 1980s Chicago townhouse and covering them in Benjamin Moore’s Solitude, a shade inspired by a trip to Paris, where she saw multiple front doors in the blue-gray hue. She faked a bespoke look by adding trim to the top of the cupboards. 

Going (Olive) Green

Because the kitchen is a high-traffic space, the cupboards have to be scuff- and chip resistant. After sanding down the cabinets in this Philadelphia kitchen so there was no sheen left, designers Dan and Jenna McRorie swathed them in Behr’s Juniper Ash in the form of an oil-based trim enamel (the urethane in it makes it extra-durable). Another work-around is to use regular wall paint and then apply two coats of water-based polyurethane so they’re super-durable. 

Fade Into the Background

You can still save money on revamping your existing cabinets without doing all the work. Designer Natalie Myers had the ones in this dated 2000s kitchen disassembled and sent off to the paint shop to be sprayed and for the old hardware holes to be filled. (Note: She removed most of the uppers and replaced them with white oak open shelves.) The warm neutral allows the new graphic backsplash to shine. 

Drama Queen

dated wood kitchen
Courtesy of Jenika Kurtz

When she designed this space for her parents, Jenika Kurtz blended two very different aesthetics: One favored the classics, the other went bolder. She picked matte black painted kitchen cabinets as a compromise. The shade goes with everything but takes plain old wood cupboards up a notch. Play up the sleek vibe with clean-lined hardware. Anything simple and brass will do; the paint is already splashy enough. 

This story was originally published on March 9, 2020. It has been since updated.