11 DIY Kitchen Cabinet Upgrade Ideas That Add Style and Functionality

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated February 2, 2022
A modern kitchen with white and gray cabinets
Photo: Serghei Starus / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Simple strategies for stylish storage

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Not everyone has the time, energy, and money to commit to a full kitchen remodel, and that’s okay! There are plenty of ways to upgrade the look and utility of your kitchen cabinets without having to pay for a cabinet installation specialist in your area or a local general contractor

Read on to learn our top 11 DIY kitchen cabinet upgrade ideas that you can start and finish next weekend.

1. Paint Away the Drab

A kitchen with repainted blue cabinets
Photo: YinYang / E+ / Getty Images

Inject a lot of life into your kitchen with nothing but a paint can and paintbrush. As long as the frame and doors of your cabinets are in good shape, you can simply repaint—something you can do over one weekend—and add a lot of personality without spending a lot of money. 

If you’re feeling extra creative, don’t be afraid to play around with texture.

2. Go for Classic White

A white cabinetry in a kitchen with granite countertops
Photo: Grace Cary / Moment / Getty Images

Whether you have framed or frameless kitchen cabinets, it might be time to update that drab and uninspired shade of brown. Consider repainting them in a vibrant, fresh white. It’s a popular kitchen color for a reason, allowing a room you want to stay hygienic and tidy to look the part.

3. Install New Hardware

A green kitchen cabinetry with a brass knob
Photo: John Keeble / Moment / Getty Images

If your cabinets have hardware that predates the first Bush presidency, it might be time to replace it with modern pieces (vintage ones with modern flair). You can swap out the hardware in only an hour or two, so this is a very quick DIY kitchen upgrade idea that can be done while you wait for your Postmates order to arrive.

4. Open Up Your Shelving

Containers and ceramics arranged beautifully in open shelving
Photo: Inna Klim / Eyeem / EyeEm / Getty Images

Install floating, open shelving wherever you have space to spotlight statement pieces or just kitchen items you want to be able to grab quickly. Open shelving gives you more opportunities to rearrange items and is usually more affordable than installing full cabinets. You can also use this upgrade to decorate the space above your kitchen cabinets.

5. Get Tall

A kitchen with traditional white cabinets
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Some home plans don’t feature tall cabinetry due to budgetary restrictions. If this is the case for you, consider adding some cabinets that stretch all the way or almost all the way to the ceiling. 

There are two main benefits: one, it will give you added kitchen storage space (finally, room for that juicer!) and two, it will make your kitchen look larger by drawing visitors’ eyes upward. 

6. Reface With New Doors

A kitchen with sink, countertop and glass door cabinets
Photo: Andersen Ross / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If your cabinet doors are showing serious signs of wear, replace them with this simple DIY upgrade idea. You’ll give your kitchen an updated appearance while saving the cash you would have spent on replacing all of the cabinets. 

You can also opt to replace solid wood doors with a cabinet style that has glass panels, giving your space a sense of depth and airiness.

7. Add Strategic Lighting

A mother with her son in a kitchen with hidden lighting
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

The area between the top cabinets and the counters can be dark, making it difficult to read recipes or do meal prep. Add under-cabinet lighting to better illuminate your space and save your eyes the strain.

8. Install Pull-Out Shelving

A kitchen corner unit with pullout shelves for cookware
Photo: rois010 / Adobe Stock

Tired of digging around for your saucier or frying pan? Install pull-out shelves in your cabinets to take the stress out of cooking and more easily locate the items you need.

9. Build a Kitchen Island

A wooden island in a fully equipped kitchen
Photo: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

If you don’t already have an island, consider adding a simple wood one. The extra surface will make prep work a breeze, and if you’ve got the woodworking skills, building a cabinet base or adding an extra shelf or two will free up some space in your kitchen.

10. Opt for a Plate Rack

A plate rack inside a wooden cabinet
Photo: hiv360 / Adobe Stock

Installing a plate rack in your cabinets can be a great way to showcase those hand-painted plates you bought in Oaxaca, or simply be a strategic way to keep your kitchen organized.

11. Add Crown Molding

A carpenter adding crown molding to kitchen cabinets
Photo: ungvar / Adobe Stock

A simple upgrade that can really elevate the look of your cabinets, crown molding is installed easily with nails or a very strong adhesive. Make sure to paint the molding to match the rest of the cabinets (and let it dry!) before installing.

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