How To Make Oak Kitchen Cabinets Look Modern

Oak kitchen cabinets will naturally give your kitchen a rustic, traditional look, which is great if that’s what you want for your kitchen. 

However, if your tastes are more modern and you have a kitchen with oak cabinets already built in, you might be less than happy with the overall aesthetic. 

How To Make Oak Kitchen Cabinets Look Modern

Luckily, just because you have oak furnishings in your kitchen doesn’t mean you have to adapt to a more traditional style if that’s not what you want.

There are things you can do to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern, and we’re going to be telling you all about them in today’s guide!

Ways To Modernize Your Oak Kitchen Cabinets 

1. Get Cleaning 

You’d be surprised at the difference simply cleaning your oak kitchen cabinets can make. If your cabinets haven’t been cleaned in a long time, they may look older than they really are due to an accumulation of dust and dirt. 

Cleaning the cabinets can make them look shiny and new again, which will give them a more modern appearance already.

This might not be enough to convince you to leave the cabinets as they are, in which case you should then try some of the other tips in this guide, but we would always recommend cleaning your oak cabinets before you make any further decisions. 

2. Switch Up The Hardware

The hardware built into your kitchen cabinets can have a huge impact on how old or modern they look. You might think it’s the oak wood itself you don’t like about the cabinets, but in reality, the hardware might be the real issue. 

If your oak kitchen cabinets look too old-fashioned for your tastes, try replacing the hardware for something sleek and simple, like angular silver handles.

These will give your cabinets a modern touch without having to replace the cabinets themselves, which will save you money as well as effort.

3. Repaint Your Kitchen Walls

The right color on your kitchen walls can help oak cabinets to seem less ancient. If your kitchen is currently painted a dark color, this can actually make oak wood look older.

If you replace the current color with a clean white or another light, neutral shade, the cabinets will start to look much more trendy. 

The reason for this is that light colors open up any space and help it to look more airy, whereas dark colors can feel more oppressive and give off a ‘historical’ vibe when combined with oak furniture.

4. Modernize Backsplash And Grouting 

If the idea of repainting your whole kitchen fills you with dread, you also have the option of replacing your backsplash and grouting. This is the same principle as repainting your kitchen, but in some ways, it can be even more effective. 

An outdated backsplash and old-looking grouting can make you feel like your kitchen has been transported from the 70s or 80s.

But changing up your grouting for a light-colored, geometric backsplash can make your whole kitchen, including the cabinets, feel much more modern. 

Admittedly, replacing backsplashes and grouting can be hard work, but depending on the size of the backsplash and the size of your kitchen.

It might actually take less time and energy than a full re-painting, especially if you would need to put white paint over a very dark color, which requires many coats.

5. Install Glass Door Panels

Glass door panels can lend a bit of sparkle and modernity to oak kitchen cabinets. True, this isn’t the easiest DIY task, but you can always hire a professional to do it for you if you don’t feel confident. 

If you want to change up the cabinets themselves rather than altering the walls and furnishings around them to give the appearance of modernity, turning your solid oak kitchen cabinets into glass-front cabinets can be a really effective way to modernize them.

Plus, this way, your cabinets aren’t just storage spaces – they can be display areas, too!

6. Swap Upper Cabinets For Shelving 

Swap Upper Cabinets For Shelving 

If the cabinet system in your kitchen currently comprises upper cabinets and lower cabinets, consider leaving the lower cabinets as they are and swapping the upper cabinets for shelves. 

Shelving gives you a place to display your cookbooks and some modern ornaments to offset the traditionalism of the oak lower cabinets, and this may be enough to modernize your kitchen without getting rid of or replacing all of your cabinets. 

7. Buy Modern Furniture 

If the rest of the furniture in your kitchen is outdated, the oak cabinets will probably look even less modern. If you don’t want to go to the effort of revamping the cabinets or changing anything about the walls, you can simply try buying some more modern furniture. 

Contemporary furniture will contrast with the oak cabinets without clashing if you choose the right pieces, and this way, you won’t need to do any complicated DIY to modernize the space.

8. Change Your Countertops

We’ve left this option until last because, due to how much it costs, most people will see this as a last resort. 

However, due to the fact that kitchen cabinets are usually in close proximity to countertops, you might want to consider whether a different countertop would change the overall look of your cabinets and the rest of your kitchen. 

Replacing your countertops is probably something you’ll need professional help with unless you have a lot of remodeling experience, but it’s worth it to see your oak cabinets in a whole new light. 

Final Thoughts 

There are many ways to modernize your oak kitchen cabinets, and a lot of them don’t even involve changing the cabinets themselves. 

You could add glass fronts to the cabinets, replace top cabinets with shelves, or change the hardware. However, you could also adjust the surroundings to give the overall room, including the cabinets, a modern feel.

This could include painting the walls a lighter color, replacing the backsplash, switching up other furnishings, or replacing your countertops. 

Before you do any of this, though, be sure to give your oak cabinets a good clean!

Joel Adams
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