How to Update '50s Style Cabinetry


Updating '50s style cabinetry in a kitchen or bathroom will dramatically change a room setting. Completely replacing cabinetry can be costly. Avoid spending unnecessary money by completing a simple do-it-yourself update for a brand new look using paint, hardware and a bit of imagination. Don’t forget to take before and after pictures to show of your new cabinetry.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Sponge
  • Kitchen soap
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Medium grit sanding sponge
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood filler
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Drop cloth
  • Latex paint
  • Mini roller or trim brush
  • Polyurethane
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Pencil
  • Hand drill
  • Remove all hardware such as drawer pulls, knobs and other accessories from the cabinetry. Wipe all cabinets clean using warm soapy water. Ensure all greasy, dirt and debris are cleaned off of the cabinets.

  • Sand the cabinets using a medium grit sanding sponge to degloss the surface. Remember to sand in the direction of the wood if the cabinetry is not painted. Wipe cabinets clean with a tack cloth to remove all dust.

  • Fill hardware holes with wood filler. Add a small amount of filler into each hole. Allow to dry and sand smooth with fine grit sandpaper. Add a second portion of filler into the hole and resand the area. Continue the process until the area is smooth and no indention of a hole is visible.

  • Lay all doors and drawers on a clean drop cloth. Paint the front and backs of doors with two layers of latex satin paint. Use a mini roller or brush to apply the paint. Know that a day between coats may be necessary. Plan your project accordingly.

  • Add a coat of polyurethane to the cabinets for added protection. Use clear latex polyurethane. Apply a thin coat of the sealer to all portions of the cabinetry. Ensure light even coverage to avoid hazing and dripping of the sealer. Allow to dry 24 hours.

  • Purchase new hardware for the cabinetry. Count all previous hardware items to ensure enough pulls and knobs are purchased. Use new hinges to replace outdated or old hinges. Mark each drawer and door with a pencil where a small hole will be drilled to attach the hardware. Drill hole into each area using a hand drill and attach hardware. Add new hinges in place and rehang doors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add additional coats of glaze or decorative paint treatments for a unique look. Consider glazing cabinets with dark umber glaze for a vintage look or brushing on metallic paint for a contemporary feel.
  • Don’t forget to wear gloves when painting to protect skin and nails.
  • Make a schedule if the bathroom or kitchen will be out of commission for several days while the project is completed. Be prepared to share bathrooms or go out to eat for meal times.
  • Avoid cleaning cabinetry for 30 days to allow paint to properly cure. Do not use chemicals or cleaning products and only a damp rag for the first month.

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  • Photo Credit David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images
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