25 Ways to Upcycle Kitchen Cupboards

Is it time to update your tired kitchen cabinets? From painting them, to adding fresh handles, to interior upgrades, upcycling kitchen cupboards can give your kitchen a totally new look and really bring the room to life. That's why we've come up with 25 ideas to give your cupboards a new lease of life.

25 Ways to Upcycle Kitchen Cupboards
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So, is painting kitchen cupboards a good idea?

In short – yes! Wood cabinets are easiest to paint, but you can paint laminate or veneer cabinets too. Just sand them down and use an adhesion-promoting primer. And if you’re not sure what colours to choose, we’ve got some ideas on how to revamp kitchen cabinets with paint.

So, is painting kitchen cupboards a good idea

A bold colour scheme

Many standard kitchen cabinets are plain, light-wood colour or white. You could shake things up by going for a bold colour scheme. Think rich navy or forest green. If your kitchen is on the darker side, why not go for a bright, bold shade?

Use multiple colours

Most kitchen colour schemes stick to one colour on the cabinets, one on the walls. But if you love colour, why not rip up the rule book? You can paint your cabinets in alternating colours or paint the border one colour and the centre panel another.

Chalk paint

Chalk paint creates a fun and light look in your kitchen. You’ll probably want to apply multiple thin layers (leaving time for them to thoroughly dry between coats) and top it off with a varnish or wax layer so you have a wipeable surface (it is the kitchen, after all).

Blackboard paint

A quirky cupboard option is to paint the fronts in blackboard paint. You can then write lists and meal plans on the doors (or cute notes and drawings for each other).


Distressing is a great way to get an eye-catching vintage look, especially if you’re working with old, previously painted cupboards. You just need to sand down the layers of paint to different levels. Then you’ll see underlayers peeking through in some places and not in others. If you want this fabulous rustic look but have new cupboards, you can look for old cupboard doors on Gumtree, paint them with a few layers and then sand them down.

Crackle paint

You may know the crackle-paint concept from nail varnish and nail art. Basically, you apply this effect paint over a layer of wood or colour. Then, as it dries, it crackles and partially peels off for an intriguing effect.

Sticky-back patterns on the inside (or outside)

Would you love to bring a bit of pattern and colour to your kitchen? Why not try covering the insides of the doors, the cupboard interior or even the front of the cupboards with some sticky-back vinyl? It could be a vintage, 70s pattern inside, for example, or a shiny bright colour on the exterior.

Plastic-ify your cupboard doors

Once you’ve repainted, you might like to add self-adhesive plastic wrap to the front. It gives a contemporary, glossy look and makes your new surface wipeable, and durable too.

How to renovate kitchen cabinets without painting

How to renovate kitchen cabinets without painting

We also have some great ideas for renovations involving no paint. Changing the hardware – cupboard handles to DIY-beginners – makes a surprising difference in your space.

Matte-black handles

Matte black has been all over every DIY website and magazine in recent years. And we’re hardly surprised, because it’s the perfect combo of modern and oh-so-chic. You can swap out your simple wooden or metal hardware for matte-black handles found on Gumtree.

Copper handles

Or you could bring a dash of elegance and opulence to your kitchen with copper handles. This metal has the added bonus of being bright, and it will help to reflect light into a kitchen that doesn’t get much natural sunshine.

Brass handles

Brass handles have a similar effect to copper, but slightly more muted and toned down. These are perfect for a vintage vibe. You could also go for brass knobs instead of handles.

Apothecary handles

The antique-esque, apothecary look is classy but mostly confined to bedrooms and living spaces. You can bring it to the kitchen by switching your drawer handles to apothecary-style ones.

Quirky vintage handles

You can also really express your personality and interior style by going off-piste with your handle choice. Go for quirky vintage or vintage-like cupboard knobs and handles. Antique ceramic handles with flower patterns? Sure. Dolphin-shaped or shell-shaped handles? Why not? Crackle-glaze handles, skull shapes or faux-crystal? The more unique the better!

Under-cupboard lighting

This practical update will really brighten up your kitchen. Strip lighting under wall cupboards or even along the base of your floor-standing cabinets adds a fun and modern look. You can use simple LED strips, and it improves visibility on your worktop too.

Glass fronts

You could replace your old, outdated cupboard doors and go for a glass-fronted look by finding secondhand glass doors on Gumtree. If you combine this move with the previous tip and add strip lights along the shelves inside the cupboards, you have a classy glass cabinet for your drinks or glasses.

Metal grate fronts

If you already have glass-fronted cabinets and you’re searching for a new look, why not try removing the glass altogether and replacing it with wire grille? You can buy rolls or sheets of wire in black, silver, gold, old-gold… your options are endless. Then you just cut the grille to size and use a hot-glue gun to fix it in place.

Rattan look

You can also use cane or rattan webbing to create a chic, mid-century rattan effect on your cupboards. One of the most popular rattan looks involves using light-coloured webbing and painting the surrounds in black for maximum contrast. We talk more about easy DIY rattan projects in our guide to furniture recycling and upcycling.

Add grooving

If you love the 3D look of ‘shaker’ style cabinets or similar but can’t find any second-hand, you can fake it till you find it. You simply need to use wood glue to attach thin wood planks, carefully trimmed to the right length for a neat finish, to the front of your cabinet. Voilà – instant upgrade.

Add fluting

Fluted furniture is truly timeless – and surprisingly easy to DIY. You can glue on reed moulding, slat panels or half-moon wood poles usually used for floor edging. We recommend you take your time cutting them precisely so the finished look is neat.

Remove the doors and go for open cabinets

You may not want all your cupboard fronts open – everyone needs to hide their mess somewhere – but exchanging some of your worn-out cupboard doors for an open front can give a great farmhouse-kitchen vibe.

Hide open cabinets with a curtain

If you’re lacking doors or considering removing your cupboard doors but don’t like the open look, you can hide the contents behind cute curtains. It’s very farmhouse again, so it can be fun to embrace the chintz and go for a pattern like gingham.

Replace doors with crates or baskets that slide in and out

If your cupboards aren’t actually providing the organisation solution you crave, why not replace the doors with baskets or crates? Old produce storage crates or wire baskets are easy to slide in and out of cupboard shelves when you need them. They keep all your items together and organised in the cupboard, to save everything rattling around and falling over.

Get a roll-out or slide-out pantry insert

Envious of people with Pinterest-worthy slide-out pantries? Creating one of your own, surprisingly, doesn’t involve an interior kitchen remodel. You can actually find slide-out pantry inserts and slide-out wire drawers to fit into standard-sized cupboards. You’ll just need to screw them into place in your existing cabinet carcass.

Add in double-depth drawers

If a cupboard isn’t serving you organisation-wise, it’s time to rethink. One solution is to add a double-depth drawer in the space that was a cupboard. You’ll need to screw in the drawer runners and then you can usually reuse your existing cupboard door. Remove the hinges and screw it firmly to the front of the drawer. If you’re fitting two double-depth drawers, you can buy drawer fronts second-hand on Gumtree.

Add swinging pull-outs

It can be tricky to fully use the space in your corner cupboards. However, if you add a swinging pull-out, you’ll be able to – wait for it – pull out the full contents of your cupboard to where you can easily reach and see them. And of course tuck them away neatly again afterwards.

Now you’ve got some ideas on how to update kitchen cabinets, it’s time to find the supplies you’ll need. You can find everything from tools and DIY supplies to paint and even cupboard fronts on Gumtree.