Updating A Kitchen Without Removing Cabinets

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Updating a kitchen without removing cabinets is the easiest way to makeover a kitchen without breaking the bank. Today I am sharing 8 ways we plan to update our kitchen including painting our cabinets and why we decided to keep the inset cabinet doors.

A kitchen renovation is very expensive especially if you are replacing cabinets and while I would have loved a more modern style with new kitchen cabinets, six figures (yes 100K) for a kitchen remodel was not happening.

Updating A Kitchen Without Remodeling

A full kitchen remodel that involves removing cabinets and walls is not only costly but very inconvenient. You likely will be without a kitchen for weeks, if not a month or two.

dark cherry kitchen cabinets, brown granite, dark cherry floors
Tradition kitchen with dark stained cabinets and granite countertops

In the kitchen image above, you will see our current kitchen features maple wood cabinets stained to look like cherry. The dark orangey toned stain was very popular back in the 1990s and early 2000s when the house was built.

First let me start by saying, our current kitchen is beautiful and there is no denying the unique traditional detail is luxurious and rare. It’s hard to believe that our early 2000s kitchen design is almost 20 years old!

mediterranean kitchen with dark cherry cabinets
Traditional kitchen with dark cabinets

FAQs about Kitchen Updates On A Budget

There are several ways to update old kitchen cabinets. If the cabinet wood is in good shape, consider priming and painting the cabinets a new color. Replacing door hardware and hinges is also a great way to modernize kitchen cabinets.

A kitchen remodel can be very expensive. Replacing hardware, hinges, painting or refacing old cabinets and installing new countertops are a few of the most popular choices to refresh a kitchen on a budget.

Some of you may think I have totally lost my mind and that’s ok – I am expecting some backlash! The feedback received from painting our stained trim and stair risers is mixed with mostly favorable reviews but some are horrified, disgusted and frankly, downright rude. I’ve had a few good belly laughs at some of the comments left over on our Facebook page!

Lets Digress for a minute and flashback to 5 years ago: If you are new here and scratching your head as to why we would have bought a house like this to just remodel the entire thing, you can read that story over on our meet Jessica page and this post, modernizing our Mediterranean Home.

Over the next couple weeks I will share the following kitchen updates that we will be doing and I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about this kitchen makeover. If you are looking for kitchen cabinet ideas, look no further! Let’s take a look at 8 ways to update your kitchen that will provide a big impact without replacing your cabinets.

Kitchen Refresh Ideas

1. Paint or Reface Existing Kitchen Cabinets

Depending on your kitchen cabinet wood, you may be able to reface the cabinets. Our cabinets are maple wood which over the years, have taken a beating. With the exception of some dings and scratches due to wear and tear, our overall base cabinets structure and “bones” are in great shape but the hinges, drawer glides and cabinet color need some updating.

Update: See our kitchen painted cabinets in Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray and why was the perfect paint choice.

Updating kitchen walls with a neutral paint color is also an easy way to modernize a kitchen.

Prepping kitchen to paint cabinets

We decided to keep our doors and have all the kitchen cabinets painted professionally Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray. The goal is to brighten up the kitchen (there are no windows other than around the corner beside the refrigerator) so a light gray is going to look amazing!

One of the benefits of not removing the kitchen cabinets is you do not need to remove all the contents inside the cabinets before painting. You can tape off the openings with plastic.

When I tell you I have searched Google and Pinterest for painted kitchen cabinet ideas for weeks, it’s no exaggeration. It’s stressful picking a color! We originally were thinking white cabinets but after having all of our stained trim painted white, we opted to add a little color to the kitchen.

2. Replace Cabinet Doors

We originally were going to replace our inset cabinet doors (see below) and have new overlay cabinet doors made which would have cost between $5000 and $9400 depending on the wood species.

Inset kitchen cabinet door

An overlay shaker door style was my preference but after weighing the pros and cons of the cost, we opted to save the money and refinish the floors in the house instead.

3. Remove Cabinet Hinges & Replace With Soft Close Hinges

If you are keeping your old cabinet doors like we are, consider replacing the hinges with new soft close hinges. This was a no brainer. I bought almost 100 of these Inset Frameless Soft Close Hinges from Amazon and Jim is very excited to install them and rehang the doors (NOT!) haha.

Our original hinges (they are tough to see because the cabinets are so dark) were on the exterior of the cabinet which I was not a fan of.

Soft Close Hinges

See hinges here ↗

3. Install New Drawer Glides

Installing new drawer glides is a great way to get a newer feel when opening and closing drawers. Our drawer glides are beat up and tend to drag on the cabinet and some don’t pull out easily. That’s another project Jim is excited about doing! ha

4. Install New Cabinet Hardware Pulls

Installing modern cabinet pulls that are as long as possible (without looking weird) is an easy way to modernize older style cabinets. We are purchasing stainless steel cabinet pulls (like these) in a variety of sizes from 15″ to 7″ which are going to coordinate perfectly with the lighter cabinet color.

Stainless Steel Cabinet Pulls

See cabinet pulls ↗

5. Replace Countertops

We removed the kitchen granite countertops and will be replacing with Cosmos Calacatta Marcella which is a white quartz with thicker style gray veining. We have partnered with Discover Surfaces in Massachusetts for the counter phase of our project and I cannot wait to see how they look in our kitchen with the gray cabinets. This is very exciting! 🙂

If you ever need anything counter, backsplash or sink related, you have to visit one of their showrooms and be sure to tell them I sent you. They are the best and so nice!

Calacatta Marcella

See quartz ↗

6. Install a Modern Style Backsplash

Updating a kitchen backsplash is an easy way to refresh a kitchen. We are planning to install a full counter height backsplash which means our quartz countertop will continue all the way up to the upper cabinets, creating a sleek modern feel.

Another option, if installing a tile backsplash, is to do an accent wall with “full counter height” behind the sink or a cooktop.

So basically, you would install your countertop behind the cooktop or sink as an accent that creates a beautiful focal point in the kitchen. Another unique backsplash option are Zellige tiles. I love the rectangular option with a hint of shimmer.

7. Install Pull Out Cabinet Drawers

Besides installing new hinges, hardware and drawer glides, installing new pull out drawers and lazy susans to maximize storage space are great ways to update your existing cabinets.

The pull out drawers below that we installed at a recent renovation are perfect for deep drawers.

white pantry kitchen cabinet with pull out drawers for storage

You can buy pull out drawers on Amazon (they come in a variety of sizes) and install them in your existing cabinets. This is an easy kitchen update that will make your existing cabinets feel custom.

7. Install Under Cabinet Lighting

Whether you are replacing kitchen cabinets or keeping your old cabinets, installing under cabinet lighting or lights inside open cabinets is a great way to customize your kitchen and provide ambiance at night.

We have 14″ upper cabinets with glass doors near our crown molding that we plan to add lighting too. There are several wireless cabinet lighting options so if you can’t have wired installed, consider these and these.

Under Cabinet Lights

See lights ↗

8. Replace or Refinish Floors

Updating kitchen floors can have a big impact in your home. Refinishing our hardwood floors throughout the house, eliminating the dark reddish brown stain, was not a decision we took lightly.

Needless to say, our overall house remodel cost will be spent on updating the floors to a lighter natural wood tone. Our floors in the high traffic areas as well as our stair treads are scratched and the dogs have done a number on them over the years so we are looking forward to having all the dark floor stain sanded off and fresh new look in the next couple weeks.

Other Kitchen Renovation Posts You Will Love

Simple Rustic Modern Fall Decor {Our Mediterranean Home Fall Tour} Neutral colored pumpkins, greenery, fall pillows and dried flowers #falldecor #rustic #modern #rusticmodern #livingroom #kitchen #diningroom #openconcept #bhg #gofinding #hgtv #sectional #diningtable #slipcoveredchair

Do you follow us on Facebook and Instagram? If you like real-time and behind the scenes, be sure to follow us!

Remodeling a kitchen (like the full kitchen renovation we did at our previous house) can be time consuming and extremely overwhelming. I would suggest making a list of everything you want to update in your kitchen, get estimates and then decide your top 3 priorities. For us the priority was kitchen cabinet color, backsplash and counters.

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.


  1. Wow! I was one who was not sold on the white trim but have admitted that it looks great now. I am glad to see you are keeping the kitchen cabinets and they are not going to be white. You have beautiful cabinetry that would cost thousands to replicate now. I appreciate you sharing how you decided on the priority items vs the budget costs and your final decisions. I have “oak” with a walnut stain which isn’t orange, thank heavens! the floors, the floors… they appear to be maple hardwood, but have really taken on an amber/orangy tint thru the years and yes, the dog has danced a few times on the floors. I want to get them refinished, but not yet. I will enjoy sitting on the sidelines of your efforts and learn lots! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Marie! Thank you for the sweet comment 🙂 I know I will not change all the “wood tone” lovers opinion which is ok 🙂 I think it looks great too and we are so happy with how the kitchen is turning out. I’ll share the paint process this week, the gray looks amazing! You are definitely lucky you don’t have the orange tone . I think you will want to sand your floors and refinish after you see ours 😂! The floor guys started and omg, I am loving them!

  2. Not sure what I was supposed to see. Never saw inished job. Is that for later.

    1. Hi Bev, we are in the middle of having it done now so the final pictures are not on the blog yet. This post is about our plan and how people can update a kitchen and keep their cabinets 🙂 Kitchen should be done in a couple weeks and I will share the before and after once the new counters are in!

  3. I’m a kitchen designer, and I agree with all your remodeling decisions. Can’t wait to see the finished kitchen. You are not crazy. lol

    1. Thank you ! I am loving the change and brighter look 🙂 Where are you located?

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