Fixing Up Old Cupboards

by Nikki Willhite

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When it comes to fixing up old cabinets, I like to see the glass half full! If you have new wood cabinets (even if they are economy grade) you probably do not want to touch them - nor will your spouse let you. However, if your cabinets are old and unattractive, this is an opportunity for you to make them special, give them character, and add your personal touch to your home.

There are so many ways you can fix up old cabinets. You can spend the money to have the doors resurfaced, but that is expensive, and you end up with the same thing everyone else has.

Think paint! Begin by choosing a color scheme. Consider how much light the room gets. White cabinets are wonderful for brightening up dark rooms, but could be overly bright in a room in a warm climate with a western exposure.

When you think of color, remember no color stands alone. You will want at least one other color for accent. If doesn't have to be part of the paint job, but it will be used several times in the room. If you can use color from an adjacent room you will blend the two rooms and it will look very professional.

After you settle on your colors, look at the shapes of your cabinets. Before you begin painting, you can change things. Here are some ideas:

  • Take the doors off one of your cupboards and display some of your decorative items on the open shelving. If you like, replace the wood shelving with glass. Some of the things that look good displayed in a kitchen shelf are cookbooks, canned goods, "Make a Mix" items stored in decorative containers, cookie jars, clear storage containers with colored pasta, spices, etc.

  • You can also buy or build something to store your dinner plates upright. You've seen them in expensive kitchens- dishes standing up on end between dividers. Go to your local home improvement store, see how it's done, and copy it- adapting it to your skill and price point.

  • Next think about removing some of the wood in a couple cabinet doors and replacing it with glass. Most doors can be cut away, leaving 2-3 inches around the perimeter, which you can then replace with glass. If you don't want people to be able to see into your cupboards, place a small drapery pole on the inside and sheer some fabric inside the door. This will add elegance, color and personality to your kitchen. Use the same fabric elsewhere in the room if you like that look, or just blend fabrics. Small checks and prints look great. Remember when buying the fabric to scrunch it up so you will see how it will look shirred.

  • Other possibilities for the glass- you can etch it, or use gallery glass and leading. You can even forget the glass and use chicken wire.

There are many different paint finishes you can use, in addition to adding designs by stenciling and decoupage.

Be sure and choose your paint carefully. Talk to a paint professional about your options. It may not take a lot of money, but it is going to take some work, and you want to do it right. Also, don't forget to paint the inside of the cabinets for a fresh, clean finish.

Remember the importance of details. Choose new hardware that goes with the style you have chosen. It may be your biggest expenses, but well worth it.

Take the time, and do it right, and you will have something uniquely yours that you will be proud of and enjoy for many years. It will also be an asset should you decide to sell your home.

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Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! Article first published at

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