As I’m ramping up work on the hallway, guest bedroom, and home gym, it might be a few more days before I have any real progress to show you. In the meantime, I still have a couple of projects that I want to share in more detail from my mom’s kitchen makeover. But for today, I wanted to share some general ideas of small-ish projects that you can do to update your kitchen without a huge makeover or remodel. These are all ideas that I’ve used in my own kitchens and/or my mom’s kitchen.

1. Extend the cabinets to the ceiling.

This makes such a huge difference in a kitchen where you’re dealing with 8-foot ceilings, like both mine and my mom’s kitchen.

In my mom’s kitchen, the area above the cabinets was already boxed in with paneling, but prior to the makeover, the way in which the cabinets was painted created a choppy look, with the actual cabinets painted the cabinet color, and the area above the cabinets painted the wall color.

That choppy look actually made the ceiling look lower. So in her kitchen, taking the cabinets up to the ceiling was just a matter of painting that area above the cabinets to make it look like part of the cabinets.

mom's kitchen - 2 - after

I think that made such a huge difference in her kitchen! Not only did it calm things down with a more cohesive look, but it actually made the ceiling appear a bit taller.

In my own kitchen, I installed all of the cabinets myself. But because I was using pre-made stock cabinets from Home Depot, I didn’t have the option to customize the height of the upper cabinets. So I installed them at the regular upper cabinet height…

installing lower cabinets 9

And that’s how many kitchen are left with that open area above the cabinets. But I took mine all the way to the ceiling by filling in that area with a 1″ x 10″, a piece of trim where the 1″ x 10″ and the cabinets meet, and some crown molding along the ceiling.

teal kitchen wall of cabinets

Our kitchen in the condo already had cabinets that went all the way to the ceiling (also an 8-foot ceiling), and they came with doors that extended all the way up.

condo kitchen after

Now if you’re looking for a quick project, extending the cabinets and cabinet doors all the way up is probably not the direction you would want to go. But if you’re willing to put the extra time into it, that area above the cabinets could offer some great additional storage space for things that you don’t use very often.

2. Build a custom range hood cover.

When I originally remodeled my kitchen back in 2014, I add this range hood over the stove…

green kitchen - refrigerator and stove wall

It was a perfectly fine range hood, but I wanted a more custom and integrated look, so when I decided to repaint my green kitchen teal, I also took some time to build a custom range hood cover that integrated with the cabinets.

teal kitchen custom range hood

You can click here to find the DIY details on that custom range hood cover project.

3. Add trim, remove trim

Y’all know how much I love trim! I think it’s one of the easiest ways to customize the look of a kitchen. In my own kitchen, I customized the look of the stock oak cabinets most through the use of trim.

In my own kitchen, you can see that I added trim on the area just above the cabinet doors, as well as along the bottom of the upper cabinets. And on the lower cabinets, I added trim just below the cabinet doors. That little bit of trim adds a very custom touch.

teal kitchen - add trim to customize - wall of cabinets

In updating a kitchen, removing trim can be just as important as adding trim. In my mom’s kitchen, one of the first things to catch your eye was the scalloped canopy around the window that had a very distinct vintage 1950s look. So before we could add any new trim, this old trim had to go.

mom's kitchen - 10 - before

I was so amazed at the drastic difference just removing that scalloped trim made. Simplifying and replacing scallops with clean lines went a long way to updating the look.

mom's kitchen - 10 - after2

4. Add furniture feet to your cabinets.

Adding furniture feet on to existing cabinets doesn’t have to be expensive because you can actually make your own out of 1″ lumber, which is what I did in my kitchen. I used 1″ x 5″ lumber, ripped down to the correct height to fit the height of the toe kick area. Then I traced out a design onto a piece of cardboard that I used as a pattern, traced that pattern onto the boards, and cut the design with a jigsaw.

teal kitchen - add trim to customize - peninsula 2

I attached the feet to the bottom edge of the cabinets with wood glue. The toe kick is still in place, so the area under the cabinets is still closed so that things can’t roll underneath the cabinets. The feet only added a decorative touch, and they’re not difficult to clean behind as long as you have a hand-held attachment hose on your vacuum.

5. Replace panels in cabinet doors with glass or decorative metal.

Back during my original kitchen remodel in 2014, there were no glass-front doors available for the inexpensive stock cabinets that I used. So the doors originally looked like this…

installing lower cabinets 9

Using my Dremel Multi-Max, I cut the back around the inset wood panel so that the panel could be removed, and then I replace the panels with glass. You can click here to see more details about how I cut the panel out of the cabinet door to add the glass.

green kitchen with glass front upper cabinets

Then after I painted the kitchen teal, I decided to replace the glass with a cut sheet metal that I found at Lowe’s.

how to add wire mesh inserts to cabinet doors - the easy and inexpensive way - 8

Either one of those is an option if you have recessed panel cabinet doors, and both are a great way to add a custom look to plain cabinet doors. You can click here to see how I added the cut sheet metal to the cabinet doors.

So those are just a few ideas that I’ve personally used, and I think they make such a big difference in a kitchen. Even if you’re not ready to tackle a whole makeover or remodel, just adding a few changes can make a big difference.

And of course, there’s always paint. Paint is always the cheapest way to make the biggest impact in a room. Just think of the huge difference it could make to take those cabinets to the ceiling, add a bit of trim, and paint. It could give you the look of a custom kitchen remodel at a tiny fraction of the price!

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