Oak cabinets were once the height of kitchen fashion. With their rich wood tones and traditional styling, they brought a sense of warmth and comfort to kitchens across the country.
But trends come and go, and those same oak cabinets that once felt so welcoming can start to make a kitchen feel dated and dark. The orangey hues and heavy wood finishes of oak can overwhelm a space, making it feel stuck in the past.
Thankfully, oak cabinets don’t have to be a dated relic of past design eras. With a few simple tricks, you can give those oak cabinets a fresh, modern makeover without taking on an expensive renovation.
Assess Your Existing Oak Cabinets
Before diving into a makeover, take some time to objectively assess your existing oak cabinets. What do you like about them? Are there certain features you want to highlight in your new design? Make note of this.
Also consider what you don’t like. Do the orange tones feel too overwhelming? Does the space feel dark and heavy? Identify problem areas so you can come up with solutions.
Finally, have a realistic view of your budget and timeline. Some upgrades like adding glass doors can be done quickly as DIY projects. But larger undertakings like stripping and refinishing may require professionals with more time and money.
Trick #1: Add a Modern Focal Point
One way to diminish the domineering effect of oak cabinets is to add a bold focal point. This could be a statement backsplash, unique lighting fixture, or colorful accent wall. The goal is to draw eyes to something other than the heavy cabinetry.
For example, a vibrant mosaic tile backsplash provides a pop of color and texture. The cabinets become part of the design rather than the main event. Your oak cabinetry feels intentional instead of overwhelming.
Trick #2: Incorporate Glass and Acrylic Elements
Incorporating glass doors, shelves, and backsplashes can instantly give oak cabinets a more modern, minimalist look. The transparency lets light shine through, making the space feel more open and airy.
Glass cabinet doors allow you to spotlight pretty dishes and glassware while obscuring clutter. Acrylic shelves add a sleek touch and glass subway tile can provide an elegant and breezy backsplash.
Trick #3: Use Matte Finishes
Matte finishes like matte black and brushed nickel have become popular in recent years. Swapping traditional brass knobs for matte black pulls can give your oak cabinets a more contemporary vibe.
You can also paint oak cabinets in a matte finish. Loft-living matte paints will give your cabinets a trendy warehouse aesthetic. The flat matte texture also helps minimize the prominent wood grain for a more unified look.
Trick #4: Introduce Pops of Color
Color is an easy way to offset the warm orange undertones of natural oak. Painting one wall a bold hue like navy blue or emerald green makes the oak finishes feel more intentionally rustic instead of dated.
Colorful accessories like barstools, appliances, and dishware also help modernize oak cabinetry. A bright turquoise refrigerator or chartreuse mixing bowls make for fun surprises against the wood backdrop.
Trick #5: Update the Lighting
Lighting can make or break a kitchen. Dated fluorescent fixtures will drag down even the most modern designs. Sleek pendants, under cabinet lighting, and recessed cans create a clean, contemporary look.
Swapping overhead lighting for task lighting also makes the space feel brighter and more expansive. Good lighting illuminates a kitchen while accentuating the best features of your oak cabinetry.
For maximum impact, try combining several of these tricks when tackling an oak cabinet makeover. Assess your budget and DIY skills to decide which upgrades make the most sense.
The great thing about these simple tweaks is that they can utterly transform the look of your kitchen without the mess and expense of a full renovation. A few weekend DIY projects can give those dated oak cabinets a fresh new life.
Don’t live with a kitchen you dislike. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can modernize oak cabinets in no time. Say goodbye to the outdated orange oak of decades past and welcome a brighter, lighter kitchen perfect for contemporary living.