How to Create a 'Custom' Look with Stock Kitchen Cabinets

Learn ideas about staggering cabinets, mixing finishes and colors, and the use of special trims and hardware that give an affordable kitchen makeover a high priced designer’s touch.

A little ingenuity goes a long way on a budget and if you are remodeling your kitchen with stock cabinets, creative design techniques let you add a custom look without the custom price.

Start out by browsing kitchen design shops for inspiration. You local Home Depot or Lowe’s stores are a great place to shop, as well as local kitchen design stores. You might also want to walk through a few model homes to view the latest trends up close and personal.

Here are some of the trends you will likely spot that you can tailor to your particular kitchen and style.

Step 1

Mixing Colors

A great look is to use the same cabinet in two different colors; you’ll often see a wood tone finish, like cherry, mixed with a painted finish, such as a cream or taupe. You can use the mixed colors in a couple of ways: let all the base cabinets be darker tone with the lighter cabinets on top, then use the same dark tone in crown molding or trim on the upper cabinets to pull the entire kitchen together. Or choose a dominant color for a floor to ceiling section in the center of the room – such as the sink or stove areas, making it look like a built-in bank of cabinetry.

Step 2

Staggered Cabinets

You can add a lot of dimension and depth to the kitchen by pulling one or two of the upper cabinets forward into the room, rather than leaving them flat against a wall. Use 2x4s or 2x6s bolted against the wall and secure the cabinets to them. Fill the gap with a wood veneer insert that matches the cabinet for a seamless look. You can gain a little bit of storage space for small items by adding a latch and hinges to the bottom insert. You can get a very customized look by combining this trick with the previous one: Let one color of your cabinetry ‘stagger’ a couple of inches into the room.

Another designer trick is to stagger the height of cabinets. If you have room above the refrigerator, use the standard tall cabinet instead of the typical shorter cabinets used above refrigerators, but push the cabinet all the way to the ceiling. Using a 24-inch deep cabinet for this option gives you maximum storage space, plus a stylish accent.

If your ceilings are tall, you can push a central or end bank of cabinets higher than the rest. Pull it forward as well and your stock cabinets will mimic furniture-style custom built cabinetry.

Step 3

Special Touches

• Add an open shelf between two upper cabinets for focused displayed space for your collectibles.

• Add molding to the top of your cabinets. Crown molding on the upper cabinets add a traditional embellishment; flat molding both above and below the upper cabinet can give them a cottage, country or modern attitude.

• Accent with bull nose trim, corbels, fluted panels, beaded board or wood valances to add a custom touch.

• Add stylish hardware: From jeweled glass knobs, to whimsical lizards or classic stainless steel bin pulls, details make the difference.

Angela Glancy, senior writer and staff designer at American Artisan Art, specializes in creative design with copper wall art, metal wall art and copper wall sculptures.

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