A $1,500 Makeover Makes a Drab ‘70s Kitchen Feel Cozy (The Old Cabinets Look New!)

published May 26, 2024
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Brown kitchen cabinets can be controversial. Sometimes they skew dated, and kitchen renovators choose to paint over them and completely replace them. Other times, homeowners choose wooden cabinets for their remodel, or they find a way to make cabinets from the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s look new again. 

The latter is what Cherisse Blizard (@rissedesignco) did in her home’s 1970s kitchen. “The kitchen cabinets were in good shape and all of the appliances still worked; we just didn’t like how brown everything looked,” Cherisse says.

“Nothing stood out,” she adds, because “everything in our kitchen before was a shade of brown: the cabinets, the wall color, the tiles.” An approximately $1,500 redo helped things feel less overwhelmingly brown. 

White tones balance out the brown. 

To brighten things up, Cherisse’s husband, Dean, painted the kitchen walls white. Originally, Dean wanted to paint the cabinets white, too, as he professionally remodels kitchens for a living and often completely replaces the cabinets.

“Some friends and family had the same idea as well, but I really wanted to keep them [brown],” Cerisse says. “Everyone was surprised how different the kitchen/cabinets looked with the changes we made.”

Those changes included backsplash tiles, floor tiles, and hardware, mainly. “I wanted the wood cabinets to be the main focus of the kitchen, so I chose light-colored tiles,” Cherisse says. The backsplash tiles are a zellige selection from Floor & Decor, and the floor tiles are a light gray ceramic. 

New hardware modernizes the kitchen. 

Cherisse added sleek brass pulls to make the cabinets look more contemporary, and she also replaced the lighting in the room with a black bell flush mount light from CB2.

“Brass hardware really made a huge difference,” Cherisse says. “We saved so much by keeping our old cabinets that I splurged a little.” 

Her kitchen advice is that small changes can make a difference. “Don’t underestimate the power of paint, tiles, and light fixtures!” she says. “If you have older cabinets but want to save money by keeping them, updating those things can make a huge difference!

She says if she were to do anything differently in her kitchen redo, she might add new lighting above the island, too. “We thought it would be too much because we have a pendant hanging over the dining table, and it’s such a small space,” she explains. “I didn’t want it to be overkill, but now that the space is done, I think I could have added them.”

Knocking down a wall made room for an island.

Speaking of the island, one of the biggest changes in the kitchen redo is that Cherisse and Dean knocked down a wall between their kitchen and dining room to make room for an island and create a more free-flowing layout. 

Another change that makes the kitchen feel fresh, not clunky, despite keeping the ’70s cabinets, is the subtraction of one upper cabinet to the left of the sink and the addition of some open shelving. The black metal shelving used for this is from Amazon.

In the end, Cherisse says her kitchen strikes the perfect balance of old-meets-new. “The wooden cabinets really make our kitchen feel more cozy and homey!” she says. Check out these five projects for more kitchen renos that make dated wooden cabinets feel fresh.