5 Kitchen Cabinet Hacks to Elevate Your Kitchen

Homeowners and apartment dwellers with flexible landlords looking for a way to elevate their kitchen should consider painting the cabinets. 

Painting cabinets seems to elicit strong opinions from contractors that say you really can’t paint the cabinets, that it’s not worth it, or that you somehow shouldn’t. The truth is you can paint just about anything with the right primer and paint. 

We’ve seen all the disasters that come from people who try to take shortcuts; not properly cleaning all of the residue from oils and waxes, not removing the doors and drawers first, poor brush and roller techniques, not using the right primer, and generally rushing the project. 

We’ve also found the kitchen cabinet hacks that elevate a kitchen to the next level.

Use the right primer for your surface

Primer is the unsung hero of most cabinet painting projects.  You may use the best paint but without the right primer its not going to stick around for long.  You want to use the right primer for the surface.  Most kitchen cabinets are made out of wood, oak, maple, or cherry.  For a wood surface you want to use an oil based primer that will block stains and hold on for the long haul.  

We recommend using Zinnser Cover Stain oil based formula primer.  This primer has the qualities you need, it sticks to the wood, blocks stains from the oils in the wood, is sandable, and creates a great surface for the paint to stick to for many years to come.

Use the right paint for your kitchen cabinets

This seems obvious, but paint is a “get what you pay for” product. If you use cheap paint on your cabinets or—and please don’t do this—spray paint, you’re going to find it chips off easily. It’ll never hold up to the heat, humidity, and grime that comes from being in the messiest room in your house.

For cabinets previously painted with oil based paint you want something like Benjamin Moore’s Advance brand of paint. It features waterborne alkyds that behave like oil-based paint but have the durability of water-based paint, meaning you can clean it easily with soap and water, making it the best choice for furniture, cabinets, and wood trim. 

We also recommend Benjamin Moore’s Cabinet Coat.  This paint is a urethane based product, it cleans up with water, but dries to a hard finish and holds up to the years of wear and tear on your cabinet doors and drawers.  If it does get damaged by a sharp knife it touches up easily, and again cleans up with water.

After cleaning, sanding, and priming your kitchen (or bathroom) cabinets, apply the paint with a good quality Polyester or Chinex bristle brush and/or a smooth roller, and it’ll look great after drying. You’ll still want to do the work of taking the doors and knobs off, placing protective barriers on the counters and inside, and be prepared to do two or three coats. 

If that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, call or email us for a quote

Change out the doors and knob hardware

Use different knobs or handles—called pulls—for what might be the cheapest way to a new look. A new knob or handle can be just a few dollars each at the hardware store like Lowes.com or Homedepot.com or at topknobs.com and if you’re getting new ones with a similar size, replacing the hardware is as easy as replacing the screws.

We always recommend brass for a warm look and chrome for a cool one. If you’re unsure which to use, contrast your existing paint or decor. If you have a warm room with yellows and reds, go for chrome. And likewise, if you have a kitchen dotted with greens or blues, go for brass.  

You can also take into account your metal finishes on your faucets and appliances, if you have a satin nickel finish your best to keep with that same look for the new knobs and pulls.

For a little more aggressive change, purchase new doors and drawers for the existing cabinets. The fronts are the focal points anyway, and if you get some with glass panels, they’re easy to match and about as easy to install with just six or nine screws on the inside hinges.  This is a project that you’ll likely want to hire an expert for as measuring the doors and drawers for new replacements is a very precise job.  Some local suppliers who can make your new doors and drawer fronts for you are ciminosonline.com, and caldoor.com.

Remove the doors entirely

This one requires all your family members or roommates to keep things tidy, but if the cabinets are just old and the fronts seem like a foregone conclusion, just take them off entirely. This works well if the insides are generally dark or filled with enough stuff they don’t expose and colors you don’t want to look at.

The result is a modern take on a classy look. If you need to fill out some spaces or add color, jars filled with beans, candy, or dried fruit is a good look. You can also use cookbooks to add color from their spines.

Paint the walls around the cabinets to pop or hide them

If new cabinets aren’t in the budget, new paint on the walls around them can help diminish or escalate their presence.

You can talk with one of our paint consultants for ideas through a virtual or in-home walk-through. We usually recommend people go with colors that incite people to eat and gather. Greens, reds, and yellows are common. Blues and purples aren’t impossible in a kitchen, but because blues and purples occur so infrequently in nature (even blueberries are barely blue), they’re psychologically off-putting in the context of eating.

White, of course, is always classic, but the hot trend in 2021 and 2022 is bright color popping in and around small parts of an all-white kitchen. The days of the neutrals and grays seem to be diminishing. 

Add a soft-close feature to your doors

Soft-close hinges don’t do much for the aesthetics of your kitchen, but they dramatically change how you feel and how the doors sound. 

Find these on Amazon.com; 


These hinges stop doors from closing too harshly and loudly, instead “catching” them about an inch away from the frame and gently easing them into position. It’s one of those modern touches that amaze grandparents and makes everyone realize they never want to live in a place that doesn’t have them.

You can buy them at the hardware store or online in bulk, and most drawers will require only one.  They require a moderate amount of skill with tools to install, so test this out on an inconspicuous area first.

These are also not a bad thing to consider adding while the rest of the cabinets are painted. If the doors have to come off anyway, you might as well change the hinges. Our team can even help do this for you in the process of painting them.

When we paint your doors we can even change the hinges from the old style that shows on the edge of the door to a euro style hinge with soft close option that will radically change the look and feel of your doors.

Whatever you want to do with your kitchen, we would love to come out to your home and talk about what we can do to give you the kitchen of your dreams!