Considering a kitchen cabinet makeover but have a limited budget? No problem! Paint them and transform your kitchen without the expense of replacing cabinets.

This kitchen cabinet makeover has been a long time coming. We moved into our home in 2007 when it was only 2 years old and I have always hated my kitchen cabinets. There was this orange tone to the wood that just drove me crazy. They say colors can affect your mood, and from what I read, orange is a happy color. But in my kitchen, the orange was really rather uninspired. It wasn’t bold and intentional. It was a hint of orange in the wood that was muddy and dull. And just not a good fit for kitchen cabinets.

My hatred of my cabinets was fueled by my previous job as a food blogger. All of my food photos would have an orange hue to them that I would have to edit out which made it even more time-consuming. I have since moved on from my food blog, but the desire to change those cabinets with a makeover was still as strong as ever.

I would find myself not turning on the lights in the kitchen to avoid seeing the orange cabinets in all of their glory. But being an architect comes with one glaring issue it turns out. It is practically impossible to make design decisions for my own home. It’s paralyzing and I am constantly second-guessing myself.

So I procrastinated.

But we recently decided to re-do our floors (15-year-old contractor grade carpet with dogs living on it smells terrible) and I was forced to make a decision about my kitchen cabinet makeover. We have an open floor plan and decided that waterproof vinyl flooring was the best option for us and that it would continue into the kitchen from the living and eating areas.

Kitchen Cabinet  Makeover – before

Now, I know what you are thinking. This kitchen doesn’t look too bad. There are certainly worse kitchens out there. The cabinets are in good shape and are structurally sound aside from needing cleaning and some hinge adjustments.

But, orange!

kitchen with orange cabinets (kitchen makeover before picture)

I knew I wanted white cabinets to brighten up the room and make it look less dated. White is timeless and versatile. But then I had to decide if we should replace the cabinets or paint them as part of our kitchen cabinet makeover.

To Paint or To Replace

When deciding to paint or to replace your kitchen cabinets, you have to factor in a lot of things, budget probably being the one that will be the main driving force behind your decision. But it’s not the only thing you have to consider.

  1. What condition are your existing cabinets in? If they will require a lot of repair work prior to painting, replacing may be more cost-effective, or at least not cost that much more than repairing and painting.
  2. Do your cabinets have a distinct dated style that can’t really be covered up by paint?
  3. What are your neighbors doing? If you don’t plan to be in your home forever, and all of your neighbors are replacing their kitchen cabinets, painting them may make your home more difficult to sell down the road.
  4. What is the value of your home? Similar to #3 above, if your home value is in a higher price range (regardless of what you paid for it), and you don’t plan on living there forever, replacement may be a better option for resale.
  5. How much time do you have? Replacing kitchen cabinets means a full tear-out and disruption of your entire home for 3-4 days. Painting is far less disruptive and only requires removal of the doors, you don’t even have to empty out your cabinets. Although it’s a good excuse to clean.
  6. Where does it end? A project like replacing kitchen cabinets can open up so many other potential projects. Do you replace the counters? What about a backsplash? New flooring? If you are tearing out your cabinets, those are all valid decisions you need to make, and it makes sense to do them all at once while everything is torn out of your kitchen. Painting your cabinets reduces the potential to want/need to tackle multiple remodel items because you aren’t tearing anything out.
  7. What is your budget? While all of the items above will play a part in your decision, it does all come down to dollars and cents.

white kitchen cabinets with glass doors

Cost to Replace

There really is no ceiling to the potential cost of replacing kitchen cabinets. There are a huge variety of available options and quality levels, with costs for high-end cabinets reaching $18,000 on up. The average kitchen will likely cost you around $4,500 for stock cabinets with basic features.

For our kitchen, we were quoted around $4,800 (contractor pricing because we have family in the business) just for the cabinets, which doesn’t include installation.

If you are handy, you can find a cabinet liquidator near you and try and piece together the right size cabinets for your kitchen and end up saving a ton of money. But you would likely have to finish them yourself and they will be bottom of the barrel contractor-grade cabinets.

Cost to Paint

The cost to paint your kitchen cabinets can vary widely too, it depends upon your location and the going rates in your area. For us, the painting was a far more economical choice. It cost us less than half of what new cabinets would have cost – $2,000 plus the cost of the paint.

We did pay a slightly higher cost because I had the painter add a special glaze to add a touch of antiquing to the cabinet doors which required extra labor because it was more detailed that just spraying the doors.

Home Value vs Makeover Cost

One of the deciding factors I touched on above when choosing the path for your kitchen cabinet makeover was about the value of your home. If you live in a neighborhood where property values are rising beyond the average middle-class price range, and you don’t see yourself living in your current home forever, you may want to spend the extra money and replace your cabinets. Quite simply, it will likely make your home more attractive to potential buyers.

The kitchen is the one room in your home where you have the chance to recoup more than it cost to remodel it when you go to sell it. So if you can afford it, and it makes sense, replacing those old kitchen cabinets is the way to go. But that’s not going to be true across the board. If you live in a neighborhood full of starter homes and you invest $20,000 in a new kitchen, odds are that you won’t be able to get that money back when you go to resell.

That being said, if you live in a neighborhood of starter homes and you paid significantly under the home’s value and you want to bring the home up to the current standards and value, you may want to put a little bit more into the kitchen.

The bottom line here is that every home is different, and what makes sense for you may not make sense for someone else. Make sure you do your homework and understand the impact your decision may have. You may even want to consult a local realtor if you are planning a kitchen cabinet makeover and do plan to sell within 5-10 years down the road.

kitchen with grey modern cabinets

Why We Went with Paint

In my area, there are a lot of homes with the same orange cabinets. They were built around the same time and the contractor probably got a great deal on the ugly things. Most of the homes, however, are new enough (built in the last 5-15 years) that they don’t have new cabinets.

And while my countertops are laminate, and not anything fancy, I really do like them and wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on new ones. Not only is it yet another decision for me to make, but it’s also an expense, and I’d rather tackle them down the road as more of a “mini” kitchen project the way Lori did with her counters.

We have no plans to move and no plans to stay here either. This is our second home, and being an architect I do have dreams of designing and building my own home one day. But the thing about architects is that most of us are average middle-class folks like anyone else plus, as I mentioned, we can’t make a decision for ourselves to save our lives. Seriously. It took me 3 weeks to choose a new floor – looking at samples every single day.

We also have other projects we want to complete around the house and we decided that they are all important enough to need to be done sooner rather than later. So for the price of new cabinets, we got painted cabinets and paid for the material for over 600 s.f. of new floors.

Design Inspiration

Another factor in the paint or replace discussion about your kitchen cabinets have to do with their style. Let’s face it, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still going to be a pig. And there may be a situation where no amount of paint can cover up what you don’t like about your cabinets. But hope is not lost, you still have options that aren’t as costly as a full replacement.

You can consider cabinet refacing, or even just replace the doors for your kitchen cabinet makeover. Although door replacing probably will also require you to have the frames refaced or paint. But still likely more economical than a full replacement.

In any case, no matter what you choose, you have to figure out what you want your new or “new to you” cabinets to look like. You have to choose the color, style, etc. depending upon which remodel option you choose.

For me the choice was easy. I had purchased a new dining room cabinet from a local woman who paints old furniture and the second I put it in my dining area I knew that I wanted my kitchen cabinets to have the same antique style as the cabinet.

white dining room cabinet

So my kitchen cabinet makeover design was a fairly easy decision for me!

Kitchen Cabinet Makeover – after

I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am with my painted cabinets. They turned amazing and completely changed the look of my kitchen for the better.

kitchen with painted white cabinets

This “after” photo isn’t complete, however. We still have to clean off the table, install the new floor and add the base around the cabinets. So I’ll be sure to follow up with more photos when it’s all done.

close up of white painted kitchen cabinets

We also plan on re-painting the kitchen with a more neutral color and replacing the countertops. Eventually. But in the meantime, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of where it was and even weeks later I can’t stop looking at it!

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  1. It is very lovely. Sure brightens up the space. Even the countertop looks fresher! I might need to try that project, too. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much! I really thought the paint would make me feel like the counter had to go, but I actually like it and think it has a few more good years in it before I have to replace it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a beautiful new solid surface or marble counter but it’s a big investment!

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