Transform Oak Cabinets To Look Sleek & Modern
Outdated oak kitchens don’t have to stay stuck in the past. With some simple upgrades and DIY renovations, you can easily transform traditional oak cabinets to look sleek, stylish and modern.
In this article, we’ll explore easy techniques for giving oak cabinets a modern makeover. From sanding and restaining to new hardware and fresh paint colors, you can update oak cabinetry to feel crisp and contemporary. Read on to learn how to turn your traditional oak kitchen into a gorgeous modern masterpiece.
Sand & Prepare Oak Cabinets for Paint or Stain
The first step to modernizing oak cabinets is proper sanding and preparation. This prep work ensures the new paint or stain adheres smoothly and evenly.
Here are the key supplies needed:
- Sandpaper in varying grits
- Tack cloth
- Wood filler
- Paint primer
- Rags and brushes
Step-By-Step Sanding Technique
When sanding oak cabinets, work in sections removing any existing stain, varnish or paint. Begin sanding with a coarse 80-100 grit sandpaper to strip the finish, then work up to 180-220 grit for a smooth surface. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain.
Be sure to sand inside drawers and door frames too. Use a tack cloth after each pass to remove residue and prepare for the next grit type. Apply wood filler to patch any scratches or holes.
Priming Oak Cabinets
Priming freshly sanded oak provides an essential base coat before painting. Use a high-quality primer designed for wood cabinets. Apply an even layer with a brush or roller and let fully dry before painting.
Choosing Gel Stain Colors
For staining oak cabinets, select a rich gel stain in a darker modern tone like espresso or dark walnut. The thicker consistency allows more control. Test samples on cabinet interiors first before full application.
Paint Cabinets in a Modern Color Scheme
A fresh coat of modern paint is one of the easiest ways to transform the style of oak cabinets. Painting over oak allows you to cover up orange undertones for a clean, contemporary look.
Benefits of Painting vs. Staining
Painting provides more dramatic transformation than staining. It hides wood grain and fully revamps color. Stain mainly tints the existing oak tones. Paint also allows more options for bold, modern colors from crisp bright white to daring matte black.
Best Modern Paint Colors
For a sleek modern kitchen, popular cabinet paint colors include:
- Bright white
- Dove gray
- Navy blue
- Soft black
Matte and satin sheens have a contemporary vibe. Be sure to buy high-quality cabinet paint.
Thoroughly prepare sanded oak cabinets with primer first. Then apply two coats of cabinet paint using a foam roller or paint sprayer. Allow proper drying time between coats. Finish with a protective topcoat for a smooth, even surface.
Achieving a Modern Finish
Careful sanding ensures results free of brush marks for a seamless modern look. Maintain clean lines with painter’s tape between cabinet and wall or ceiling. Finish with satin or semi-gloss sheen for subtle luster.
Stain Cabinets for a Rich Modern Look
Staining oak cabinets darker enhances their natural beauty while still allowing the wood’s grain to show through.
Applying Gel Stain
Prep sanded cabinets by wiping them with mineral spirits first. Use a foam applicator to brush gel stain liberally over oak. Maintain wet edge and work systematically from top to bottom.
Best Gel Stain Options
For a contemporary vibe, use an espresso or dark walnut gel stain. Black tones with a hint of brown create a rich modern look. Test samples first to ensure the desired color.
Sealing Stained Cabinets
Once stain is dry, apply 2-3 coats of a clear polyurethane topcoat for protection and sheen. Lightly sand between coats for maximum smoothness and durability.
Adding Glaze Over Stain
For extra depth, brush on a dark glaze over stained cabinets. Remove excess for an antiqued finish. Topcoat seals in the glaze for a modern weathered style.
Replace Cabinet Hardware for Instant Update
Simply switching out old cabinet hardware is one of the easiest ways to upgrade oak cabinets to look modern.
Modern Hardware Options
Some of the best hardware finishes for a contemporary look include:
- Matte black knobs and pulls
- Brushed nickel bars
- Oil-rubbed bronze handles
Go for streamlined shapes and clean lines rather than ornate or gaudy hardware.
Measuring for New Hardware
Carefully measure and record the distance between existing hardware pieces. This ensures proper spacing with new hardware. Note hinge locations as well.
Installing New Hardware
Remove old hardware and fill any leftover holes with wood filler. Allow to dry before attaching new modern hardware using a drill. For a finished look, choose matching pulls, knobs, and hinges.
Filling Old Hardware Holes
If opting to go handleless, carefully fill previous hardware holes with wood filler. Sand smooth when dry before painting or staining over.
Upgrade Countertops to Complement Oak
Replacing outdated laminate countertops is a great way to refine an oak kitchen’s look. Modern materials like quartz pair beautifully.
Benefits of Modern Countertops
Materials such as quartz, granite, and concrete offer advantages like:
- Sleek, contemporary appearance
- Durability and easy maintenance
- Customizable colors and patterns
Choosing the Right Countertop
Cool-toned neutral quartz complements oak cabinets nicely for a seamless look. While granite adds elegance and concrete has an industrial vibe. Select a style that matches your modern design vision.
Removing the Old Countertop
Use a reciprocating saw to cut the caulk bead and separate old countertop from cabinets. Then pry up gently. Remove any stubborn leftover adhesive with a chisel.
Installing the New Countertop
Carefully lower and set the new countertop. Apply adhesive to cabinets then press down firmly. Attach countertop braces beneath for support. Re-install backsplash and caulk seams for a finished look.
Install Stylish Modern Backsplash
The backsplash area offers ample opportunity to add modern flair. Tile, stone, metal and glass are all stylish options.
Modern Backsplash Materials
On-trend backsplash materials like:
- Glass tile
Reflect light beautifully and pair nicely beside oak. Keep colors neutral for a seamless look.
Modern Backsplash Design
For contemporary style, opt for clean lines and minimal fuss. Run large format tiles vertically using white grout for cohesion. Accent with metallic mosaics or carved stone.
Preparing the Backsplash Area
Remove old backsplash completely – tile, adhesive and drywall. Cut 1/4 inch backerboard to fit then attach with thinset and screws. mud seams.
Applying New Backsplash Tile
Spread thin-set on backerboard and press tiles in carefully. Spacers keep everything even. Use a grout float to apply grout between tiles. Wipe diagonal across tiles gently to clean grout.
Update Lighting for a Modern Kitchen
The right modern lighting casts oak cabinets in a fresh stylish glow while providing ideal task and ambiance illumination.
Ideal Modern Lighting Options
Perfectly positioned recessed can lights eliminate shadows. LED undercabinet lighting illuminates countertops. Sleek low-hanging pendants make a statement.
Tips for Installing New Lighting
Consult an electrician if wiring new lighting layout. Use dimmers for adjustable brightness. Install any electrical beforehand to avoid damaging new surfaces.
Creating a Lighting Plan
Determine ideal lighting placement based on kitchen layout and cabinetry. Blend task lighting with accent illumination. Highlight modern architectural details.
Choosing LED Light Bulbs
Opt for energy-efficient LED bulbs in clean daylight or soft white tones. Avoid greenish fluorescent or yellow tinted bulbs. Dim warm white bulbs to reduce glare.
Achieve a Modern, Stylish Oak Kitchen
With some strategic upgrades, you can utterly transform the style of your outdated oak kitchen cabinets. The result is a gorgeous modern space perfect for entertaining and everyday life.
Use these tips for sanding, restaining, painting, hardware replacement and lighting installation to remake oak cabinets and achieve your dream kitchen. With a little labor and love, you can craft a breathtaking modern kitchen without breaking the bank.
For more inspiration, check out these stunning oak kitchen makeovers. Then start planning your own easy renovation using the techniques above. You’ll be amazed at the dramatic yet budget-friendly impact small changes can make.