Project: Making kitchen cabinets with doors become open shelves

Previously, the kitchen seemed to be a huge solid mass of cabinet doors. After looking at many kitchens, especially ones in houses about $20,000 over our selling range, I decided to change the cabinets to a combination of glass front doors, open shelf cubbies and closed cabinet doors and drawers.

The original plan to break up this wall of cabinets was to make the cabinet over the fridge and the stove open, and to make the upper cabinets left of the fridge, with glass inserts. Matching molding would unite the two walls. To keep the kitchen usable, we are going in stages: the upper cabinets on the stove wall is finished except for painting, so now it’s the fridge wall’s turn to be transformed.

The cabinet over the fridge was a deep, 24″ cabinet and the first job was to make it less cave-like by putting in a new back, reducing the depth to 16″. These photos show how it was framed in using available scrap lumber:

If you don’t provide enough framing, the beadboard will warp and won’t sit as nicely. Here the beadboard backing had to be cut in half to fit into the narrow space.

A piece of molding trims out the edge of the beadboard so the rough edge won’t be visible. These touches make the finished project look professional so don’t skip them!

The new cabinet facing was applied. Like the cabinet over the stove, this cabinet will project slightly in order to cover the original cuts made for the hinges of the original cabinet doors. Visually, we change the dimesions with facing to make it look less like a cabinet. (BTW we had to remove the facing to put in the beadboard so do the interior back FIRST, before putting on the facing of the cabinet).

Board sizes (and shelf depth) were chosen to match the perspective of the open cabinet now over the stove – always consider matching ratios to current cabinetry in order for a matched, finished look. Doing this lessens the appearance of new additions and makes the entire project look like it was done at one time.

Because the facing overlaps the existing facing, the cut out hinge holes are no longer seen from the front and are hard to see from the side.

Egg and Dart trim molding that was used on the stove wall of upper cabinets is repeated here. It’s wrapped around the corner of the fridge cabinet wall because the crown will not fit due to the existing sofit (sofit contains central air ducting).

The Egg and Dart pattern repeats in the crown molding we will be installing: repeating themes in molding also gives cohesion. 

Brackets in the same design, slightly larger then the open cabinet over the stove, are installed. To provide additional nailing support, a small piece of 1×1 is nailed onto the inside of the cabinet. This will be hidden by the bracket, and covers the top hinge hole cut for the old cabinet doors.

Across the top, we are doing a combination of base and crown molding just like the stove wall of cabinets. We saw this done at the Parade of Homes in houses slightly above our selling price bracket. For someone who can do it themselves it provides a lot of bang for little buck. It will give an upgraded look to your tired cabinetry!

First the base molding is installed and is cut to work around the new cabinet facing.  Between the egg and dart trim and base trim, the seam of the wall has now been concealed. The base molding is installed upside down to show off the decorative trim and leave a flat area for the future attachment of the crown molding.

After the base is installed, crown molding is added. Plan for some of it to cover the base molding:

Once all the trim is added, some wooden medallions are applied to the brackets. Wood glue is applied to the backs and they are nailed into place using small nails called brads.

The most important thing when applying wood appliques are to make sure they are sraight and centered exactly where you want them. More information on using wood appliques and how to apply them to dress up cabinetry can be found on this former post about our bathroom vanity remodel.

Little touches like this can make your end project more personal. Molding and appliques canprovide interesting detail if you plan on glazing, waxing or distressing in your finishing process.

Next up, we returned to the open cabinet over the stove and put in the beadboard backing around an electrical outlet. This beadboard backing was going right against the wall so no false wall was needed.

The shelf front is trimmed with complimentary molding. The back of the shelf was trimmed off with a table saw to reduce the depth as the molding on the front adds depth and we wanted the shelf to fit it’s current opening.

Again when it comes to projects, like these if you know how to work with molding you can trim out something that is average and make it truly special. With some clever pre-planning you can adapt existing cabinetry in good condition to something new.

Some various photos, mid-stage. Once the paint goes on the project will really pull together!

We’ve got another kitchen cabinetry project coming but that won’t happen til August – we will converting the useless breakfast bar to an open shelving unit. There’s still much to do in the kitchen after that – a revamp of the island, a wooden block island counter, granite counter over the rest, and a stone backsplash.

Meanwhile, we’ll be doing some paint sample doors as the paint I was going to use is no longer available in my area.

One thought on “Project: Making kitchen cabinets with doors become open shelves

  1. Pingback: Room: Kitchen updates on the progress « Simply Rooms (by design)

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