In a house filled with golden oak, it can be a challenge to update things in a way that is both stylish and doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount. This is especially true when it comes to cabinets in the kitchen.
After all, most people are thinking ‘if I’m going to spend so much money to make this oak work, I’m going to just wait to completely renovate the kitchen.’ There is little point to investing in stone counter tops, new flooring and the rest of it, if you are just biding your time until you can deal with the cabinets.
But, what can you do that will update the oak and make your kitchen look amazing in the meantime?
I hear it all the time. You might be wondering, too: ‘is there such a thing as a quick, simple and cheap update for an oak kitchen?’ My answer? Yes!
There are a few ways you can make it work. Right now. For little money. All of them check those boxes and can be done, by you, in a few hours or afternoons. My go-to steps: Paint the walls, change out the lighting fixtures, work with the other colors in the room (art, accessories, rugs) … and one of the biggest impacts: change the hardware!
Hardware makes an enormous difference in the bones of the cabinetry and the style of the room. If I was facing down an oak kitchen that I wanted to live with, in harmony, for a bit of time, here’s what I would do in one weekend: Paint it a great color. Clear the counters. Lay down a great, eye-catching rug. Change out the hardware. Add some color (probably a big framed print and a huge plant in a nice planter). That’s it.
Rest easy, friends, you can do this, too. And then, since it looks much better and you are thrilled and at peace with it, you can move on to dreaming about that full kitchen reno you are still working towards… one day. Or, maybe you will be so happy with the small changes you made that you can cross that idea right off the list and move on to dreaming about making other areas of your home just right.
Wondering if the hardware on your oak cabinets is outdated?
Here’s what’s to look for:
Brass or gold look (yes, I know it’s back but on golden oak and in the 90s styles, it’s not)
Ceramic inserts, especially painted with flowers or fruit
Wood center on pulls
Here’s some thoughts on getting that update right:
Stick to either historic (think luxurious historic mansions or Frank Lloyd Wright) or modern with simple lines.
Respect the integrity and style of your home’s architecture.
Balance the oak with a more updated style when choosing hardware, colors, counters, sink & faucet, appliances and accessories.
Contrasting colors will make the new hardware stand out and give some visual breaks in the monotony of overwhelming golden oak (and add The Power of Distraction!) so go for black, oil-rubbed bronze or a nice silver finish.
Take a look at my 2017 list of top 20 suggestions for updating oak cabinets with fresh hardware!
I have this thing for clear counters. It just makes me feel good. At peace, grounded, organized… maybe it's all the things I wish I had more of in my life. Clearing surfaces is my go-to when I need to refresh a space in my own home and it’s my standard advice to clients before any design transformation takes place.
I don’t think I’m alone, either. I often hear from clients that doing this simple first step gives them a clean slate, space to breathe and opens them to thinking about all the possible ways they want their space to feel after we are done working together.
It’s simple but then again, it’s not. We probably all know it should be done, but we just don’t get around to it, probably because it just seems overwhelming or tedious to deal with all the loose ends of life that are piled up there. Things we need or might need soon, things that need to be dealt with in one way or another. I will suggest, though, that for most of us, there is a very small amount things that actually do need to be dealt with in any time-consuming way. The rest? Quick, fast, simple, and done.
Today I’m throwing out 5 quick steps to get you started. I encourage you to just pick one surface and give it a try. See how it feels afterward – I’m guessing you’ll develop a thing for clear counters, too.
1. Let go
Don’t overthink this. Toss garbage and let it go. If it’s recycling or trash, off it goes into a bag or receptacle. If it’s something that no longer serves you or makes you happy but you think would be useful to someone else, bag it up and take it out to your porch or car right away. Take action and keep your momentum going here. Just stand there with your garbage bag and a recycling box and look quickly at papers with expiry dates, newsletters that are outdated, and at broken bits and pieces. Toss and keep moving.
There are definitely things that don’t belong there. Gather them up. I use an empty laundry basket for this and just pile things in that belong elsewhere in the house. All that stuff you’ve been meaning to put into the storage room, the little bits and pieces that belong in the office or bathroom, the extra stuff you’ve been meaning to move elsewhere when you get time – now is the time to clear it out. Once you’re done with this step, just set the basket aside. Afterward, after everything else is done, take a quick tour around the house with your basket and put things away. Don’t get stuck in each room mulling over where to put things, either, just set them down in a logical spot or out of the way and move on. Momentum!
This is the time to look at what you are using on a daily basis. If you’re not using it every day, clear it away. Items that you use less frequently should be stored in a place that reflects how often they get used. Be wise with your storage and prioritize. The toaster you use every few days should get prime real estate in the kitchen cabinets. The punch bowl you only bring out at Christmas could go to the basement.
Is there anything that can be stored in the drawers rather than out on display? Common offenders that could easily be stored in cabinetry (but often aren’t):
- ye olde grease-dusty spice rack (you know the stickiness of which I speak)
- the ceramic crock full of spoons of questionable aesthetics (no judgement here, my favorite cookie lifter has not had a handle for several years and my go-to bamboo spoon is missing one edge)
- the spreading pile of papers by the phone (school notices, appliance warranties, birthday invites)
- the bedside bowl filled with personal items (nail files, lotions, hair ties, loose change and lego bits… usually some goodies emptied from a pocket at bedtime)
4. Be ruthless with your décor
Take an objective look at the decorations you have on your surface. Seriously consider if you love what’s there. A clear, clean space might feel a bit empty at first, but it feels much better than one that is bogged down with items that don’t really suit you. It’s okay to let things go, to evolve your style or to have a clear space for a bit. Take your time, later, to find a few things that feel right for the surface and make you happy to look at. It doesn’t take much – one lovely, wonderful, colorful little thing in a bowl or on a tray is worth a dozen tired, boring, no-personality, no-connection pieces.
5. Scrub & polish
Finally, give a good soapy wipe down to the surface and everything that’s staying. Give a good clean to all the little nooks and crannies in the woodwork. Polish up frames, lighting and mirrors. Stand back and smile. Doesn’t that feel good?
I’d love to know if you also have a weird love for clear counters… or maybe I convinced you to try to feel a bit of the love?