How to Update Kitchen Cabinets Without Painting

The time has come – the kitchen cabinets need a makeover. The good news is you can update the kitchen cabinets without painting them. We will show you a few magical tips and tricks on making outdated kitchen cabinets brand new and beautiful.

People can update their kitchen cabinets without painting them by adding kitchen lighting, refacing cabinets (replacing the cabinet hardware or handles), replacing or resurfacing the countertops, changing the backsplash, and adding open shelving. 

If the thought of painting kitchen cabinets is making you cringe, here are a couple of different solutions on how to update kitchen cabinets without painting! Read on to find out more!

An image of a Cozy daylight kitchen with white cabinets and hardwood floors.

How Can I Update My Cabinets Without Painting Them?

People can update kitchen cabinets without painting them. This is possible with any mix of changing the kitchen lighting, refacing cabinets (replacing the cabinet hardware or handles), replacing or resurfacing the countertops, changing the backsplash, and adding open shelving. 

Here is a how-to list to update kitchen cabinets and transform the whole space – no painting required.

Add kitchen lighting

Adding kitchen lighting makes a big difference, specifically under the cabinets. This type of lighting is very practical because it can optimize the light when cooking in the kitchen or setting a certain mood for house parties.

Adding light to the kitchen can also make it seem larger, so that’s a fun added bonus!

Refacing kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinet refacing is a great way to update kitchen space. It will refresh and rejuvenate the look of the cabinets. Refacing gives an illusion of completely new cabinets because we only change the front-facing kitchen hardware while the inside stays the same. There is no painting required.

You will want to thoroughly clean the kitchen cabinets when you reface them, though. You’ll also want to make sure the new cabinet hardware matches up size-wise with the old ones so you won’t have to drill any new holes in the cabinet doors – and so you will have to fill old holes no longer being used.

If you choose new hardware that doesn’t match up size-wise with old holes, you may need to do some touching up of any front-facing cabinet doors. Depending on the cabinets’ appearance, this could mean filling the holes with wood putty and doing some touch-up sanding, staining, or painting. This is much easier than a full painting job, so don’t eliminate it from a DIY remodel.

If you decide to go with white kitchen cabinets (either by replacing them or painting them), read our article on the 5 Pros and Cons of White Kitchen Cabinets You Should Know first.

Kitchen countertops

Replacing the kitchen countertops is pricier, depending on the material you pick and if you have someone install it for you versus a DIY job. We suggest matching and mixing different surfaces if you are on a budget. An updated countertop will make the kitchen space more modern and fresh.

Kitchen backsplash

When it comes to kitchen backsplashes, we suggest going classic and minimal. Choose a timeless neutral color, and try to avoid mosaics. This way, we can update the kitchen cabinets as we prefer.

Open shelving

Open shelving will update and modernize the entire kitchen space. Of course, use open shelving in moderation, but also be careful. As we mentioned, with open shelving, moderation is the key. We don’t want our kitchen to look like a storage room.

Other kitchen hardware

Replacing kitchen hardware is a great way to update kitchen cabinets without painting. Feel free to play with different styles and materials. Try warm metals such as gold, bronze, copper, or brass. Try stainless steel, brushed nickel, or chrome if you prefer cold metals. The sky is the limit!

Can I Update My Cabinets Without Replacing Them? How?

Replacing kitchen cabinets takes time and money. If people do not want a big kitchen renovation, there are perfect options to revamp cabinets without replacing them, including painting them or various cabinet additions or upgrades.

People can update kitchen cabinets without replacing them. Follow the tips we already mentioned and some new tricks we will disclose.

Pull-out kitchen cabinet shelf

Install a pull-out kitchen cabinet shelf in the base cabinet. This type of shelf is very practical because it glides out from the cabinet just like a drawer. This way, we’ll have easy access to kitchenware.

Plate rack

Consider adding a plate rack. It’s a modern way to change the look of kitchen cabinets. It looks beautiful, and you will free up some extra storage space.

Crown molding

Adding kitchen cabinet crown molding will update the cabinets enormously. It will transform the kitchen space into a stylish design. Crown molding will give extra uniqueness to the cabinets.


Wallpaper would be a great option if we refaced kitchen cabinets with glass doors. Wallpaper the cabinet interior. This will add extra spice to the kitchen design.

Paint the kitchen walls (or the cabinets)

Painting the cabinets or the rest of the kitchen is also an idea. If you don’t want to paint the cabinets (it is a lot of work), try painting the kitchen walls instead. That will give the kitchen a new look – and you don’t have to paint the cabinets.

An image of Custom kitchen cabinets in various stages of installation base for Installation of kitchen cabinets.

How Can I Update My Brown Kitchen Cabinets Without Painting?

There are several ways to update brown kitchen cabinets without painting them. People can paint the kitchen walls, replace the hardware, add white cabinets, and change the backsplash.

Painting brown kitchen cabinets is not always a good idea. Usually, they are wood cabinets, and painting them might not be the best solution. Also, buying new cabinets is not a cheap option.

Although painting seems like an easy and cheap option, the end results are not that great. The painted cabinets look perfect from far away, but we will notice grain and brush lines up close. Another thing to mention is that painted cabinets, over time, chip very easily. 

Here are a couple of options for you to try.

Paint the kitchen walls

Painting the walls appropriately will make brown kitchen cabinets look fresh and light. Depending on the shade of brown, try colors like gray, steamed milk, bluish-green, mint green, beige, yellow, and other similar colors.

Kitchen hardware

We have already mentioned this, but changing kitchen hardware is a practical and fun way to update brown kitchen cabinets. If you want to increase the warm tone in your kitchen, try gold hardware or silver hardware to increase the cold look. 

The most popular color of hardware for brown kitchen cabinets is black. Black hardware pops, so the brown cabinets look updated and new.

White kitchen cabinets

We can update the brown cabinets by adding white ones. These two colors pair very well together and are classic. The best part with brown and white cabinets is that we can have any kitchen style we want; modern, country, or rustic. The possibilities are endless.

Adding a white kitchen island is the most popular way to do this. Kitchen islands are classics when it comes to kitchen aesthetics.

Change the backsplash

Changing the backsplash will make brown kitchen cabinets look trendy and new. Stick to neutral colors. We suggest adding herringbone tiles, hexagons, or subway tiles to make the kitchen space modern and light. Avoid any shade of brown because it will add a dark tone to the kitchen.

Can You Use Peel-And-Stick on Cabinets?

People can use peel-and-stick on kitchen cabinets if desired. Before applying, make sure to clean and prepare kitchen cabinets properly. Peel-and-stick designs can last if properly cared for but may not last as long as other options.

We first clean the cabinets and apply a primer for whatever peel-and-stick product we choose. When the primer dries, apply the peel-and-stick product. 

This method is easy and budget-friendly, and it can last for years. What we like the best about this method is that we can remove it whenever we want without damaging the cabinets, as long as we can get the adhesive off.

This way, we can change the look of the kitchen cabinets anytime we want. Another great thing is that we can apply peel-and-stick on any surface and even on any part of the cabinet.

An image of a Modern kitchen area surrounded by wooden built-in cabinets and a marble kitchen island.

How Do You Make Cabinets Look Modern Without Painting Them?

We can make kitchen cabinets look modern without painting them by adding appropriate lighting and hardware.

We have a couple of aces in our sleeves, so keep reading!

Adding new hardware, lighting, or furniture can make the cabinets look modern and fashionable. But before we do any of this, clean the cabinets. We know how this sounds, but a lot of grease can accumulate on cabinets over the years.

Adjusting kitchen lighting is a simple way to make kitchen cabinets look modern. Buy a natural daylight bulb, and the kitchen will look bigger and lighter. Also, don’t forget to update or add an extra light fixture.

When it comes to hardware, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Choose black hardware on brown or wood cabinets
  • Choose cold metal colors hardware like nickel or chrome on the cabinets
  • Choose warm metal colors hardware like gold or brass on the cabinets

Consider adding glass as a material to a cabinet door. It will make the kitchen space look light and modern. 

Last but not least, use harmonious home decor. Go for consistent colors and avoid bright ones. Also, don’t clutter the kitchen space too much.

The best neutral colors for home decor are cream, white, beige, gray, and black. If we want that extra touch, try copper-colored decor, it will give an earthy-rich tone to the kitchen space.

And let’s not forget the plants. Add some appropriate herbs for cooking in the kitchen. They are practical and beautiful.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

All tips and tricks we mentioned are great examples of how to update kitchen cabinets without painting them. Usually, we forget that the kitchen is a space in our home that can feel warm and cozy. Somehow, we all focus on our bedrooms or living rooms.

Remember that simplicity is key when updating kitchen cabinets. Sometimes, adjusting a lightbulb in the kitchen can make a tremendous change to the whole space, including the kitchen furniture. 

Most of the kitchen trends include painting or replacing kitchen cabinets. Hopefully, you got some inspiration on how to redesign kitchen cabinets in a budget-friendly way without replacing or painting them. Try some of our suggestions and let us know how it went!

That said, don’t be afraid to try these suggestions and then decide to paint the cabinets anyway. That’s what we did.

We’re in the middle of a long kitchen remodel. After some minor, non-painting updates, we chose to go ahead and paint the cabinets using paint, a glaze, and clear-coat sealant. It’s been a long process and a lot of work. However, the result looks fantastic (in my opinion) as it lightens up the kitchen, gives it a timeless look, and is very easy to clean and care for.

Start small, see how it goes, and go from there. Happy DIY renovating, friends! Here’s another DIY kitchen article for you to read next: Does a Sink Have to Be Centered in the Cabinet?


Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These sources were used in this article and our research to be more informed as we DIY and decorate our homestead.

  • Blanner, J. B. (2022, September 12). Modern Kitchen With Oak Cabinets. JULIE BLANNER.
  • (2022, April 29). Can You Update Your Kitchen Cabinets Without Painting? NHance.
  • Erin and Eric, E. (2022, June 23). How To Make Oak Kitchen Cabinets Look Modern (without painting). The DIY Nuts.
  • Gilbert, H. G. (2022, August 4). How to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them. Homes and Gardens.
  • HOW TO UPDATE WOOD CABINETS-NO PAINTING. (2021, November 14). Simply Diy Home.
  • J.F. Johnson Lumber Company. (n.d.). Tips for Upgrading Kitchen Cabinets. Johnson Lumber.
  • Mawdsley, K. M. (2022, June 9). Update Kitchen Cabinets with Hardware, Backsplash, Glass Doors & More! KYLIE M. INTERIORS.
  • Rennie, A. R. (2022, October 24). Make Your Kitchen Cabinets Look Brand New Without Replacing Them.
  • 10 Kitchen Cabinet Makeover Ideas. (n.d.). This Old House.
  • Updating a 90s kitchen – WITHOUT Painting Cabinets! (2017, September 29). IN BETWEEN CHAOS.
  • Wade, O. W. (n.d.). Does peel and stick wallpaper work on kitchen cabinets? Remodel or Move.
  • Wall Colors for Honey Oak Cabinets. (n.d.). Love Remodeled.
  • Yale, J. (2022, October 19). 6 Ways to Update Your Kitchen Cabinets without Replacing Them. U.S. News.

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