Painting your cabinets is a low-cost way to make a major impact in your kitchen—just be sure it’s done to last.

By Maggie Burch

Anyone who’s drastically changed the wall color in a room knows how big of an impact paint alone can make in a space. And it’s a big impact for relatively little investment, which is another major plus. Lucky for you DIY-ers out there, paint jobs don’t have to be limited to your walls. Another high-impact project to consider is painting your kitchen cabinets.

A fresh coat of paint and new hardware can give a dated kitchen a beautiful new life for the fraction of the cost of a full remodel. And considering how popular neutral-hued and two-tone kitchens are right now—think gray, navy blue, tan, and even sage green—painting your dull and dated cabinets probably seems like a no-brainer. But before you get carried away drilling a second hole in your doors for new handles, there are a few practical concerns to attend to first.

Photo: Annie Schlechter; Stylist: Liz Strong

If you decide this is a project you want to take on yourself, follow a thorough, expert-informed how-to guide. There are plenty you can find through Pinterest and DIY blogs, or you can consult an expert at your local hardware for a list of the right tools and step-by-step instructions.

The main takeaway? Don’t skip steps because you’re impatient and want a new kitchen in six hours. Preparation is key: don’t forget that these cabinets will be exposed to cooking grease, steam, splattering foods, and lots of dirty fingers. Your kitchen takes a beating—don’t let amateur workmanship shine a light on that. That said, you're likely working with cabinets that have already taken a beating, so thoroughly cleaning (including degreasing), sanding, and priming your doors and drawers is crucial. Paint is only as good as the base it's applied to, so taking the time to properly prep your cabinets will ensure the paint won't start peeling or chipping within a few months.

It's also important to take the time to disassemble your kitchen entirely: remove doors and drawers from the cabinets and take hardware off before painting—and leave them off until the paint has thoroughly dried. This is a fairly intensive DIY project that will take days to complete, so make sure you're ready to invest the necessary time if you want to re-do those cabinets yourself.

Related: Great Paint Ideas for Kitchen Cabinets:

Even if you decide to hire a professional to tackle the job, deciding what color to use is crucial, especially if you think you might sell your home in the foreseeable future. Just as someone in 1985 might have thought glossy cherry wood cabinets would look classic forever, that matte mint green color you’re eyeing has a pretty good chance of looking dated by 2025. Or more likely than that, your color crush simply won’t appeal to a potential home buyer’s taste. If you’re at all worried about that, you might want to take your cabinets back to a more neutral color before putting your house on the market—as you would with any brightly painted room. That could mean additional work to undo what you’ve changed if your dream color scheme isn’t as classic and timeless as you first thought.

If you’re ready to make a big change in your kitchen but don’t have the budget for a whole overhaul, painting your cabinets and switching out the hardware is a low-cost way to make a huge impact. Unsure what color to commit to? Anything in the white, cream, or gray family is always a safe bet, especially if it coordinates well with your countertops.

Here are some of our favorite kitchens to get you inspired, and see even more in Our Most Colorful Kitchens Ever gallery:

Photo: Amy Neunsinger
Photo: Jessica Glynn; Styling: Liz Strong; Design: Celerie Kemble and Lindsey Herod
Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston