5 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Cabinets Look More Expensive Without Breaking the Bank

These designers reveal the simple changes you can make to transform your kitchen

A kitchen with uniform handles
(Image credit: Nick Glimenakis. Design: The Brownstone Boys)

After spending much of the festive period in the kitchen I'm sick of the sight of my cabinets, and I'm sure many of you can relate. What was once perfectly acceptable wooden cabinetry now looks dull and dated, and my kitchen is crying out for a serious upgrade. Without the budget for a full-scale renovation, however, I'm left asking how I can make my cabinets look more luxe without breaking the bank. 

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make your look more expensive without ripping anything out. Your existing cabinets can be completely transformed with a few easy DIY projects and affordable switches so, if a kitchen renovation isn't in your plans for 2024 but you want to upgrade your current setup, then you'll want to hear what these designers have to say. 

We spoke to some experienced kitchen and interior designers to gather their tips on how to make your kitchen cabinets look expensive, collating them into a list of five ways to upgrade your cabinets for a more elevated look on a budget. Even if you just use one of the suggestions, it's sure to have a huge impact on your modern kitchen

1. Paint your cabinet fronts

Kitchen with island and bar stools

(Image credit: Sherwin Williams)

Giving your home a fresh lick of paint is one of the easiest ways to instantly elevate your home, and there are many amazing paint ideas to choose from. Finding a new shade to adorn your kitchen cabinets is a simple way to make your space look brand new with minimal effort or expense. 

'Choose rich-bold colors,' says Barry Ganti, the founder and owner of 7 Day Kitchens. 'Forget the usual whites and creams. We’re talking about colors that pack a punch,' he says, 'deep blues, smoky greys, even a sleek black. These shades immediately add a layer of sophistication.' If you're in need of inspiration, take a look at this year's color trends to find the perfect hue for your home. 

Cabinets are a good way to try something new as they can easily be repainted if you aren't happy with the result. 'If you want to step outside the box try elegant deep green or a plush burgundy, darker tones just have a way of looking more expensive,' says Barry. Interior designer and founder of Arsight, Artem Kropovinsky agrees. 'Use dark luxurious shades for your cabinets such as midnight blue and charcoal gray taking deviation from common whites,' he says. This will create an elevated mood that will make your whole kitchen feel more expensive.

2. Change the hardware

Pale pink and plum kitchen

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

One thing that could be disrupting your sleek kitchen look is the hardware on your cabinets. Fortunately, this is easy to switch up and offers ample opportunity to add some unique personality to your kitchen. It can also be a way of leaning into contemporary kitchen trends in a nonpermanent way.

'Think of cabinet knobs and handles as the jewelry of your kitchen,' says Barry. These guided accents can transform the look of your cabinets and give the space a more modern feel. 'Brushed gold for a bit of warmth, matte black for a modern edge, or polished nickel for that classic shine,' he says. 'This is an easy swap that can have a big impact.' 

3. Mixing materials

Marble and wooden kitchen

(Image credit: Adrian Gaut.)

It can be easy to get lulled into using a singular material throughout your kitchen. Often wood or marble dominates the space and whilst these features can feel luxe on their own, mixing in other contrasting materials can add an element of intrigue that adds to the allure of your kitchen. 

'In my designs, I like to combine materials of a wood tradition and modernity through mixing their materials of metal or glass for a tactile and a visual contrast,' says Artem. This needn't be a structural change either - if your cabinets are wood, try adding decor accents to contrast with them. Rough natural stone and stainless steel features can be incorporated to elevate the look of your cabinetry, and styling adjacent open shelves with contrasting materials can be a way to do this.

4. Use complimentary lighting 

a kitchen island with LED lighting underneath

(Image credit: Bakes & Kropp)

While lights and cabinets may not go hand in hand, kitchen lighting is key to elevating your space. While you might think that means opting for a big pricey lighting fixture, when it comes to complementing your cabinets, it's smaller side lights that steal the show. 

'Under-cabinet lighting can create a cozy ambiance while also making your space more functional,' says Barry. It can illuminate the dark corners of your kitchen to provide a focal point and showcase all its glory and what's better still is it looks far more expensive than it actually is. No need to get an electrician in, simply get some of these nifty wireless under-cabinet lights from Amazon. We guarantee everyone will think you've spent far more than $20 on them.

5. Moulding

white kitchen with chrome handles

(Image credit: Andrea Papini / Nordiska Kök)

Shaker-style cabinets, with their center panels and square edges, are a classic choice for your kitchen, but there's no reason why you can't get creative with your own molding or paneling idea. DIY molding is a great way to update plain walls but it can be just as useful when it comes to embellishing your kitchen cabinets. 

'Small things like crown molding, fancy legs, or unique design elements can transform basic cabinets into something that looks custom-made,' says Barry. 'Even something as simple as a different trim or color on the island cabinets can give the whole kitchen a more upscale vibe.' 

Try out these cabinet upgrades and give your kitchen a new lease of life this year. They're by far the most effective way to elevate your space without committing to costly refurbishments!

Amy McArdle
News writer

Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.