Many of us have old oak kitchen cabinets and love them but many of us are well, let’s just say, over them.  They’ve had their moment in the sun, and we are ready to say goodbye.

Maybe you installed your’s 30 years ago ( maybe when Elvis was around) or you inherited them with your new house buy.  Either way,  it’s not in the budget to rip them out and start over, at least not in the next few years.

So if you wake up everyday wondering what you can do with your old oak kitchen cabinets, there is hope and small upgrades to make them easier to love….( its possible)

They are still in great shape, were good quality and you have a decent floorplan

…..maybe something like this? look familiar, anyone?

A few simple things could highly improve the look of this kitchen without spending more than a days’ labor!

  • ditch the dust collectors on top of the cabinets (all of them)
  • remove the wallpaper
  • paint the faux brick (white like countertop)
  • add new simple style hardware
  • add a more modern light fixture…yikes that one has to go
  • But you could also just PAINT the cabinets!

Wouldn’t just that be a big improvement?

Oak kitchen cabinets have been very popular in traditional kitchen designs because it is a very hard, heavy wood that’s strong and durable,  so everyone gravitated to it years ago.   The thought of ripping them out or even painting them……….oooohhhhhhh, let’s just say it’s a very common ‘couples’ disagreement.

.. you have options!

Maybe painting a few select cabinets like this kitchen below could solve some of your issues.  When you are fortunate enough to have a decent kitchen layout, some minor changes will make a world of difference.  Here, they likely installed new counters, sink, faucet and light fixtures so it was a bigger project, but as you can see it looks fairly modernized and current.

And this one;  the dark green paint on selected cabinets gives a nice contrast to the lighter oak cabinets.  It looks like a new hood was made for the vent.  These cabinets could be 30 years old but with new appliances, counters and backsplash it was a nice update. Along with a good cabinet cleaning!!

Carla Aston-designer

How about just repainting them all?  This is probably the most cost effective solution, and the one I would recommend 95% of the time.

There are plenty of sites and Youtube videos to show even the novice how to do this, but when in doubt, consult a pro! or consider hiring a pro to do it.  A great paint job is worth the money and still saves you from a complete demo.

This kitchen below has a good functional layout and probably has retained the original oak cabinets.  But this also could be a brand new kitchen but with new cabinet pulls, new countertops, modern fixtures and painted in this gorgeous blue…..I’d say this ain’t your grandma’s kitchen anymore! Personally, I love that buffalo check roman shade!

Brian Patrick Flynn

The two-tone painted cabinets.  This is a nice look in a country, casual or traditional style of kitchen when the original cabinets were likely oak. Taking off the cabinet doors and painting the inside a coordinated color is a nice update here too.  If you use that open shelving space to display a collection, it looks purposeful.

This was a nice two-tone paint job in an old oak/wood kitchen.  They lightened it all up with white counters and backsplash, new wall color, updated lighting and window treatments.  Here even the white appliances work great; stainless steel would have been too contemporary and break the color flow too much for this little space.

Look how beautiful this is!

…..the wood details in beams and countertop are just the right amount to balance this fantastic color.


In many cases, I have recommended a white paint color for kitchen cabinets because it’s easy to live with, usually works with what you already have in the space and it lightens and brightens an otherwise dark kitchen.

You can actually LOVE your old oak kitchen cabinets!  

Please take a moment to check out my short and sweet ebook regarding choosing white paint.  Many of my clients have said it was a game changer for them!  and it’s FREE!!


It’s a busy and fun summer but more great design projects and before/afters are coming your way!

Thanks for stopping by!