If 1980 called and requested that you return your kitchen, it may be time for a remodel. Remodeling your kitchen need not be expensive; you can completely change the overall appearance of the space without gutting old cabinets. For example, if your 1980s cabinets are white with oak trim, paint the trim and the cabinets in a fresh coat of white paint to unify and update the room. New appliances, countertops and a contemporary tile backsplash will also help update the space.
Replace existing white cabinet doors with a new door to fit the overall design of your kitchen. For example, if your kitchen has a country theme, select pine single-panel doors and decorative wrought iron door pulls. To remodel the 1980s-style doors into a traditional-style kitchen, select raised panel oak or cherry cabinet doors. The doors need not be stained. Paint the new doors white to coordinate with the existing cabinets. White kitchen cabinets are classic. You can also paint, stain or reface the existing cabinets to match the new doors. To stain painted cabinets, strip or sand away all the existing paint.
Reface the cabinets with stick-on wood veneers or metal strips to remodel the look of your 1980s kitchen. Refacing materials are available from cabinet manufacturers and home improvement stores. Cut the material to size, peel away the sticky back and press the material onto the cabinet. Refacing doors and drawer fronts with oak trim may be a bit more challenging, but not impossible. Stain the oak trim to match the new veneer and cover the white panel with beadboard, an acrylic sheet or mirror tiles.
Repaint the doors, including the oak trim, and the 1980s cabinets to complement your existing kitchen. This remodeling option is less expensive than replacing or refacing the cabinets, but it can be time-consuming. Remove all of the doors and drawer fronts, lightly sand the surface of all the wood and then repaint in a color of your choice. If you prefer the look of stained wood, strip all painted areas of the cabinets, the doors and the drawer fronts, then apply your choice of stain. Finish the staining project with a coat of clear polyurethane for protection.
Completely change the look of a tired 1980s kitchen by removing the upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelving. Reface, repaint or replace the white, oak-trimmed doors on the base cabinets and drawer fronts. Replacing the upper cabinets with long shelves can make a small kitchen appear larger. Paint or stain the shelves to coordinate with the base cabinets.