Clever Cabinet Upgrade Tips From Your Favorite HGTV Stars

Feeling fed up with tired-looking cabinets but aren't sure how to update them? Cabinets can make or break the aesthetic of a kitchen, and they're also pretty pricey to replace, costing anywhere between $150-$500 per linear foot. Fortunately, there are tons of ways you can spruce up old kitchen cupboards without having to demo and reno.

Most of HGTV's hosts are no strangers to working within budget confines and have a bunch of hacks for making dated cabinets feel fresh. With some simple changes, you can reinvent the look of your kitchen (or bathroom). Spray-painting cabinets can get a whole new color palette going, swapping out your hinges can make your cabinets feel more luxe, and removing some uppers can create a more contemporary look.

If you are in the process of installing brand-new cabinetry, HGTV's stars also have a few upgrade suggestions and tips you don't want to miss. Such as installing toe kick drawers (pure genius), increasing the amount of drawer space, and more. So saddle up and soak in some of HGTV's best advice when it comes to upgrading cabinets.

Joanna Gaines: Get an outlet installed inside your cabinets

If you're struggling with too many appliances cluttering up your countertops, this hack is for you. In her book "Homebody," Joanna Gaines shares a tip (via Yahoo! Finance) saying that if you don't want to have a microwave taking up valuable surface space, see if you can stow it "away in the pantry or a cabinet along with any other small appliances that aren't used every day." Nobody wants to lug a microwave in and out of the pantry every time they want to warm up some pizza — so Gaines also advises that you get "an electrician to install an extra outlet in these spaces." With a well-position outlet, you can turn your pantry into an ad hoc appliance garage.

If you don't feel like footing the bill for an electrician to add an outlet, you might be able to DIY a power supply solution. Do you have an existing outlet that's relatively close to the cupboard where you want to store your microwave? Extend this by plugging in and routing a power strip to your small appliances. You can conceal the cord against the wall with some cord cover (this kit on Amazon includes corner pieces). For a neat join at your outlet, you can also get power strips on Amazon that have rotating plugs. But before you hook up your microwave and toaster, double-check that the power bar has enough voltage for the job. Appliances are one set of items that you should avoid plugging into a power strip unless you're certain it can handle the load. To pick the right power strip, add the wattage of the appliances you wish to plug into it. 

Breegan Jane: Go classic with tuxedo cabinets

Not sure whether to go dark and moody or bright and light with your cabinets? You can have the best of both worlds with this recommendation from Breegan Jane. In an Instagram post, the HGTV star said, "One of my best pieces of advice is to ditch the trends and go classic. The tuxedo kitchen is one of the best examples of this. Characterized by rich, darker hues on the lower surfaces of the room, and bright whites on the uppers, tuxedo kitchens always feel luxe, appropriate and fresh!"

The standard tuxedo take is black lower cabinets and white uppers, but feel free to put your own spin on this. For instance, beige or cream tones combined with black give a softer, but still very sophisticated look. Or, you can swap the black for a dark forest green or elegant navy. If you have some dark stained cabinetry that you'd like to keep but want to lighten up your space, try painting the uppers white and leaving the dark wood at the bottom.

Add personality with paint

A fresh coat of paint is one of the most impactful ways to give your kitchen a new personality. And David Bromstad believes that this is one finish where you shouldn't be shy to add some color. During an interview with Apartment Therapy, Bromstad shared, "Personally, I love to add color to my kitchen by painting the cabinet. I prefer to keep my backsplash neutral and classic with some interesting shapes. Painting your cabinets is such a powerful [form of] self-expression. It's not gonna cost you an arm and a leg, and it's definitely going to make a huge impact." His color of choice? The HGTV star feels that pink is perfect for giving cabinets a modern facelift, especially if you're doing a paint update without replacing.

If a pink kitchen isn't quite your cup of tea, the HGTV designer has a few other hot suggestions. He feels that green is "definitely next on the list for being bold and brave with your kitchen. There are so many delicious shades." Forest, sage, and mint are just a few examples of the most trending types of green. Finally, if you want to keep things sophisticated and confident, why not go for black? According to Bromstad, black is a great choice and is "making a huge resurgence because it's sexy, it's bold, it's still classic, but also very daring."

Jonathan Scott: Get your cabinet fronts sprayed instead of using a brush

If you're opting to repaint your cabinets, Jonathan Scott has a valuable tip. In an Instagram post, the Property Brother said, "I prefer spraying over brushing as it looks more pro." Why? Because spray painting leaves a silky-smooth finish, free from brush lines. It can make your cabinets look like they just rolled off the factory floor, instead of the result of an obviously DIYed refresh.

If you get your cabinets professionally spray painted, this can cost you anywhere in the range of $30-$60 per linear foot. You can bring the cost down by opting to do the prep work yourself, or go the whole hog and do a DIY spray job. Places like Home Depot have paint sprayers for rent, but you can also buy your own for under $70 on Amazon. Make sure you thoroughly sand your cabinets and finish them off with 220-grit sandpaper. Tape off and protect the areas around your cabinets, your faucets, and other elements you don't want to get drifting spray paint on. Before you start spraying, test drive your gun on some scrap wood. One of the most common mistakes you can make when spray painting kitchen cabinets is moving the nozzle too quickly and not maintaining a uniform stroke pattern. Move your sprayer up and down at a medium pace, and try to maintain a 50% overlap to achieve even coverage.

Galey Alix: Get rid of your uppers

Are you loving the open-shelving trend? Or maybe your kitchen feels a little claustrophobic. Either way, HGTV's "Home in a Heartbeat" host has a simple solution. In an Instagram post, Galey Alix suggests getting rid of your uppers, saying, "If you want to make a small kitchen feel instantly bigger, ditch ALL upper cabinets. Only do it if you have enough storage below and perhaps a pantry, but it's an INSTANT game changer because you win so much air space back!"

As Alix says, one of the first things to consider before taking down your uppers is where to store the items they hold. A decluttering spree can help you downsize your kitchen significantly. With some clever pantry storage hacks, you might be able to squeeze extra space out of your other cabinets. For example, if you have a large pantry cupboard, hanging an over-the-door shelving system like the viral Elfa utility rack from The Container Store will give you extra space to house the overflow from your upper cabinets.

If you're wondering what to do with the empty wall space, once you've taken down your uppers, Alix says to "run backsplash ALL THE WAY UP to the ceiling. Always. No question." This creates a very contemporary look, feels high-end, and helps emphasize the height of your walls. To finish things off, take inspiration from some open shelving ideas and mount a few floating pieces of wood or stone on which to display décor, plants and decorative kitchenware. 

Jonathan Scott: Use molding to make pre-fab cabinets look custom

Having custom cabinets installed can give your kitchen a feel of bespoke luxury, but it can also cost you over $40,000. This is a massive price tag, especially compared to stock cabinetry, which costs roughly $10,000-$15,000 (before installation) for an average-sized kitchen. Thanks to the savings you can net, the Property Brothers prefer pre-fab cabinetry, and they have an easy tip for elevating it. Jonathan Scott told Today "The quality of pre-fabricated cabinets is way better than it ever was in the past. And if somebody doesn't have the budget to [do] a custom kitchen, we actually will do prefab and finish it with details like molding to make it look custom."

Not only can this upgrade the look of your cabinetry, but adding some trim and molding can also help you tailor the design style of your kitchen. For instance, if the previous owner installed slab doors, and you want something less modern and a little more traditional, adding some simple trim to the fronts can totally change the look. To achieve this, measure and cut your trim to length, use brad nails and adhesive to mount the strips, and paint them the same color as your cabinets.

If you're installing new uppers, try to butt them close to the ceiling. This will eliminate that awkward gap, which can look builder-grade and be a certified dust trap. After mounting the upper cabinets, adhere a strip of crown molding to the tops. If you're trying to jazz up cabinets with a wide door overlay, you may need to build up the top with some plywood to give the molding something to adhere to.

Jenn Todryk: Drawers are better than doors

If you're in the process of installing new cabinets, one of the decisions you'll have to make is what ratio of cupboards to drawers you want. According to Jenn Todryk, drawers beat doors hands down. When asked during an interview with The Dallas Morning News which is better, the "No Demo Reno" host said, "People do love drawers — drawers over doors any day of the week." And it's not just Todryk who feels this way. Many designers deem drawers to be more practical, versatile, and accessible. You can kit them out with customizable organizers, and you never have to scramble around on your hands and knees scratching in the dark depths of a cupboard.

If you aren't in a position to install new cabinetry — but desperately want easier access to your items — converting your cabinet shelves into slide-out drawers could be a feasible option. DIYing drawer shelves is one avenue, but you can also order custom-made drawers from places like Fast Cabinet Doors. To mount the slides, you may need to cut and attach some strips of wood to act as spacers. And if you don't feel up to this DIY, you can also order a ready-made solution, such as this commercial roll-out drawer in chrome from The Container Store

Jenn Todryk: Kit out your uppers with under-cabinet lighting

Jenn Todryk has another pro tip, and this time it's got to do with lighting. In an Instagram post, the HGVT star asked, "Do you like under-cabinet lighting? It's a must for me. Whether it's day or night, they are on." Installing lighting underneath your upper cabinets is a high-impact upgrade that a) looks very luxe, b) is a great source of task lighting, and c) adds oodles of ambiance.

What's more, just because under-cabinet lights might look expensive, this doesn't mean you can't install them on the cheap. Todryk shared that hers "aren't even fancy, they are LED strips and you'd NEVER know." If you want to implement this must-have light feature of Jenn Todryk's, you can get LED light strips off Amazon for under $10 that come with a power supply (so no hardwiring required), a remote, and app connectivity. If you don't want to have to run and conceal a cord from a nearby outlet, Amazon also sells rechargeable under-cabinet lights.

Add a sense of luxury with soft-close hinges

Do you want your kitchen to not only look luxurious, but feel fancy as well? David Bromstad has an affordable hack for making any kind of kitchen cabinet feel high-end. During Season 14, Episode 11 of "Lottery Dream Home" (via, he recommended keeping the kitchen's solid wood fronts, saying, "I'd redo the doors, get better hinges on so they're soft-closing."

Soft closing hinges are an easy upgrade that can cut down on cupboard door clamor. They can also protect your cabinets from wear and your fingers from getting jammed. Amazon sells 50-packs of soft close hinges with great reviews for under $80. As long as all the holes line up, all you'll need is a screwdriver to install them. You can also kit out your drawers with soft close slides, such as these heavy-duty ones from Amazon. Pro tip: before you purchase new slides, measure the thickness and length of the existing rails on your drawers. If the thicknesses are exactly the same, you're in luck and can simply swap the new ones in. If the old ones are thicker, you may need to create some shims or shop around for an option that's the same thickness. 

Jonathan Scott: Incorporate a drawer microwave

If you hate a cluttered countertop, you might already be considering a built-in microwave. But before you pick a model, here's what Jonathan Scott thinks you should get if you want to seriously impress. A microwave drawer. In an interview with Architectural Digest, he revealed that "Even Snoop Dogg was over the moon when he saw one [on our show Celebrity IOU]. He was like, 'Holy shizzy!'"

Microwave drawers aren't just fancy, they're also pretty practical. Besides freeing up countertop space, they're safer than ones mounted higher up, where there's more chance of spilling hot food or liquid onto yourself. They're also easy to clean and convenient to slide open. Because they're still a premium appliance option, microwave drawers don't come cheap. Most models cost over $1,000. To have one installed, you may need to have a carpenter customize your existing cabinetry, which can cost a further $500.

If this feels like too much to spend on a microwave, and you're in the market for a new range, consider getting one with a multi-functional oven that has a microwave feature built in. This will help keep your countertops free and save you from having to fork out for extra built-in appliances.

Emily Henderson: Add interest with glass-fronted cabinetry

Glass-fronted cabinets can make your kitchen feel luxurious and add depth to the space. Emily Henderson is a confirmed fan, and she has a few suggestions for getting a unique look. On her blog, the designer shares, "I love making them reeded, stained glass ... or chicken wire." Reeded glass doesn't just look pretty; it also helps to partially conceal the contents of your cupboards, making it perfect for cabinets where things aren't always 101% immaculate. Stained glass can be an ideal option for a heritage home.

Chicken wire might feel like the least practical (and pretty) of the three suggestions, but Emily Henderson says she "did chicken wire in our LA kitchen and NEVER regretted it. There was not all the dust that was assumed there would be." If you want a more glamorous take on chicken mesh, there are also a multitude of steel mesh designs in materials like brass and faux gold. Etsy sells a small selection of gold mesh for cabinets, and Amazon stocks products like these pretty cloverleaf sheets.

Jasmin Roth: Turn toe kicks into drawers

There's almost nothing more irritating than having a bunch of sheet pans rattling around in your cupboards, continually falling over whenever you try to extract other items. Wishing you had a better solution? Jasmin Roth has a clever fix. During an episode of "Hidden Potential,"  the serial renovator turned the homeowners' kitchen toe kicks into a hidden storage area, saying, "Toe kicks—or mop boards if you live on the East Coast—are something every kitchen has. You know, the space under your kitchen cabinets? Well, it's forgotten space that can hold the toughest of kitchen items: cookie sheets, giant serving platters, muffin tins," etc.

If you want to DIY this genius idea, you will need to start by removing the toe kicks and building drawers to fit into the space. Mounting drawer slides into the narrow gap under your cabinets can be tricky, but one way to work around this is to build a surrounding enclosure for your drawers, complete with drawer rails, which you can simply slide into place. To negate the need for handles, you'll want to use push-to-open drawer rails, such as these ones from Amazon. Not up for a project of this scale? For a less DIY-intensive solution, you can also consider installing something like this roll-out bakeware organizer from The Container Store. All you need to mount it is a screwdriver and some free cabinet space.