13 Easy Ways How To Make Oak Kitchen Cabinets Look Modern

Oak cabinets are timeless and beautiful but can look “worn” when they’ve been in your home for too long.

Oak wood is a common material used for modern kitchen cabinets, but if you want yours to last longer than 15 years and look stunning for decades ahead, it’s worth knowing how to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern.

Old oak cabinets are ideally suited for projects where color and design matter. However, that doesn’t mean you have to paint them.

Besides, there are many things you can do to update oak cabinets that are old without painting that everyone will absolutely love!

Let’s find out how!

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13 ways to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern

Oak kitchen cabinets are classic and timeless. They are a great way to make your kitchen look modern, but it can be difficult to match the style of your cabinets to the rest of your home. But don’t worry! I’ve covered it all.

Below are 13 ways you can try to modernize your kitchen with oak cabinets:

  • 1. Give your cabinets a deep clean.
  • 2. Add a rustic kitchen backsplash.
  • 3. Add an under-cabinet light fixture.
  • 4. Replace some of the upper cabinets with open shelves.
  • 5. Change the cabinet hardware.
  • 6. Replace your countertops.
  • 7. Give the walls a new coat of paint in a neutral color like grey or white.
  • 8. Add crown moulding.
  • 9. Update the kitchen faucet.
  • 10. Add a breakfast bar.
  • 11. Select New Cabinet Doors and Drawers
  • 12. Bring in some trendy furniture.
  • 13. New kitchen appliances

Now, let’s go over each method to modernize oak cabinets in your kitchen.

1. Give your cabinets a deep clean

oak cabinets

If you want to give your oak cabinets a makeover without painting, you’ll need to clean them first.

While this may seem like an odd thing to do, it’s actually very important. The dirt and grime on your cabinets will keep them looking worn and old, making it difficult for the new paint to stick.

But if you give your cabinets a deep cleaning and scrub with a brush or rag, they will look brand new again!

2. Add a Rustic Kitchen Backsplash

oak cabinetry

If you want to make your oak cabinets look modern, add a rustic kitchen backsplash.

This is a great way to add warmth and character to your kitchen without having to do much work on the actual cabinets themselves.

A rustic backsplash will help tie together the different materials in your kitchen—including the wood, stone, and tile—and create a cohesive aesthetic that looks like it was made for the space.

9. Add an under-cabinet light fixture

solid wood cabinets

Under-cabinet lighting is a great way to add light when you need more than what your fixtures provide and you don’t have the money or space for a full chandelier.

You can install under-cabinet lighting yourself or purchase it from a local company specializing in this installation.

You’ll need to measure where you want the fixture installed and buy the right size of bulbs (which you will then have installed by someone who knows what they’re doing).

You can find a variety of styles of under-cabinet lighting at most hardware stores and home centers, like Enbrighten.

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4. Replace some of the upper cabinets with open shelving

wood cabinets

​​If your oak kitchen cabinets look a little worn, you can brighten them up with open shelving.

Open shelves are a great way to add space and storage options to your oak cabinets without taking up too much space or making the cabinets look too small. You can even use them to hold extra dishes or cookware in the kitchen!

5. Change the cabinet hardware

wood cabinets

Instead of using the traditional knob and pull handles, try something like knobs or pulls with a brushed metal finish.

You can also try something like corbels that help hold up the cabinets or even something like pull-out shelves.

With each option, you can get a completely different look without having to repaint your cabinets completely!

6. Replace your countertops.

wood cabinets

If you have oak kitchen cabinets, you may want to consider replacing your countertops. The natural wood grain of oak makes it a lovely choice for modern kitchen cabinets, but if they’re not well-maintained, they can quickly become stained and dull.

Replacing them with granite or quartz is an easy way to freshen up your look and update your cabinets without spending a lot of money on new ones.

7. Give the walls a new coat of paint in a neutral color like grey or white

wood cabinets

If you want to give your oak kitchen cabinets a modern feel but don’t want to lose the rustic charm of their natural wood grain and imperfections, try painting the walls in neutral colors like grey or white.

Lighter wall paint colors will help your kitchen maintain its natural look while also giving it a more modern feel.

You could also keep the overall color palette of your modern kitchen neutral by adding pops of color with accessories such as art or plants.

8. Add Crown Moulding

painting cabinets

Crown molding is a classic way to add interest to traditional oak cabinets. It’s also a great way to tie the cabinets together, especially if you’re doing some other woodwork in the kitchen.

If you’re unsure where to start, pick up an inexpensive book about crown molding and learn about different styles and techniques for adding it. Once you’ve got some ideas, you can start looking for materials at hardware stores or online retailers like Home Depot or Amazon.

9. Update the kitchen faucet

modern kitchen

A kitchen faucet is an important part of any modern kitchen. I love the idea of updating yours with a new one that has a fresh, bright look but also looks like it’s been around for years.

You can do this by replacing old handles and knobs with newer ones with a more modern look.

You can also take a step further by combining a newly updated kitchen faucet with an under-mount sink, which will allow you to save counter space.

The best part is that you don’t have to completely give up your old faucets; you can choose to keep them in your pantry or dining room.

10. Add a Breakfast Bar

upper cabinets

Breakfast bars can be used as a stand-alone piece of furniture or in conjunction with a more traditional kitchen island.

The breakfast bar is a great place to display your favorite dishes and keepsakes while providing additional storage space.

The key to creating a modern breakfast bar is ensuring that the materials used match the rest of your home decor.

If you’re going for an industrial feel, choose stainless steel or dark wood for the frame and cabinets; if you’re going for a more traditional look, try contrasting materials like white or light oak.

When choosing finishes for your breakfast bar, remember that lighter woods like maple cabinets or cherry cabinets will reflect light better than darker woods like mahogany or walnut.

You may also want to consider using different types of wood for other parts of the bar—for example, one end might be made from firmer wood with little dings and scratches, while the other end might have more exposed knots and blemishes.

11. Select New Cabinet Doors and Drawers

original oak cabinets

The next step is selecting new cabinet doors and drawers for your kitchen.

You don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money on new appliances—there are plenty of affordable options out there, even if they may not look as sleek as what you see in stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Suppose you decide to go with something less elaborate. Make sure that it has a smooth, rounded edge on all sides.

In that case, this will help it blend in more with your oak cabinets and won’t stand out when compared side by side with more traditional options like brushed nickel or brushed stainless-steel finishings.

If you want something other than plain white, you could paint one side of each drawer a different color. This will help hide any scuffs or scratches while still giving your kitchen a subtle look that will go with any color scheme you choose.

12. Bring in some trendy furniture.

original oak cabinets

Bring in some of the latest and greatest contemporary pieces that can coordinate with your existing oak cabinets and help create a cohesive kitchen design.

Try out one of these modern pieces:

• A coffee table with a glass top

• An end table with a distressed wood finish

• A console table with storage space below

13. New kitchen appliances

You might be tempted to get new appliances if you’re looking to update your kitchen with oak cabinets. But before you go out and buy them, there are some things you need to know.

First, make sure the appliances are made by a brand you trust. You don’t want to get stuck with a cheap appliance that doesn’t work right or doesn’t last long.

Second, make sure that they’re the right style for your kitchen. If they don’t match the other appliances or items in your kitchen space, they won’t look as good as they could have.

Third, ensure they match your existing decorating scheme as closely as possible.

If your appliances don’t match the rest of your decorating scheme, they might not look right in your kitchen space.


Wrap Up

As you’ve seen, there are many ways to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern without painting them.

Plus, many of these decor ideas are relatively simple and inexpensive, so it’s easy to add a modern touch to your kitchen without going through the hassle (and expense) of replacing all your cabinets.

With a little work and patience, you can give your kitchen an entirely new look that will have your guests talking for years to come.

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