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7 Ideas for Updating Wood Cabinets (Without Painting Them)

If painting, staining, or replacing your wood cabinets is out of the question, try one or a few of these ideas for a fresh look.
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If painting, staining, or replacing your wood cabinets is out of the question, try one or a few of these ideas for a fresh look.

If painting, staining, or replacing your wood cabinets is out of the question, try one or a few of these ideas for a fresh look.

1. A white subway tile backsplash

White subway tile can brighten and modernize oak or maple cabinets, making a dark kitchen seem lighter.

RV owner Morgan Conner used this peel-and-stick tile in her RV kitchen, pictured below:

Peel and tick subway tile backsplash in a motorhome

by Morgan Conner

Peel and tick subway tile backsplash in a motorhome

by Morgan Conner

RV owner Patricia Pradmore used real tile in her RV, shown below.  Flexible grout (available at most home improvement stores) is recommended due to the motion of the vehicle.

by Patricia Pradmore

2. Gray walls

Gray is a trendy choice for wall color (“the new beige”), and it happens to complement amber colored wood nicely.

Dark slate walls are bold choice that may be too dark for some spaces, but with light floors and plenty of natural lighting, the look can be stunning.  (Need advice for painting RV walls?  Check out my article where I wrote about tips for painting RV walls and cabinets.)

Oak cabinets with slate gray walls

by Kirsti via lovelylalaland.com

We chose a light gray (A Benjamin Moore color called “Into the Gloaming”) for the walls in our own RV to compliment the maple cabinetry.  (See more pictures of our RV here.)

Living room of fifth wheel RV camper

Living room of our RV

Kitchen inside our fifth wheel RV camper

Our RV kitchen

Dark gray peel-and-stick subway tiles and stainless steel hardware and appliances give this RV kitchen a sleek look.

Dark gray peel-and-stick subway tiles

by Rene Bahner-Yonkie

3. Accent with stone or brick

A stone or brick backsplash or accent wall makes light wood seem rustic and earthy.

Although real stone is likely too heavy for an RV, a look similar to the one below might be achieved using a faux stone veneer.

Removable peel-and-stick wallpaper offers an affordable and reversible alternative.  The RV kitchen pictured below features this wallpaper.

faux stone wallpaper backsplash

by Sarah Keth

After what was deemed an unsuccessful attempt to paint a “brick” backsplash, this homeowner ended up using brick wallpaper and was very happy with her results.

Brick wallpaper was also used in this RV kitchen.

brick wallpaper in RV kitchen

by Terri Anderson

4. Mosaic tiles

A popular choice for many RVers peel-and-stick Smart Tiles, like these that RV owners Emily and Barry installed in their kitchen, pictured below.  You can see “before” photos at their blog.

Another RV kitchen upgraded with Smart Tiles:

neutral SmartTiles

by Lisa Dondrea

5.  Colorful walls

Try choosing a wall color that contrasts with honey colored wood.

 

Oak cabinets with green walls

by Autumn via itsalwaysautumn.com

Alternatively, oak blends nicely with a neutral wall and gold accents in this bathroom.

6. Replace the hardware.

Dark, modern cabinet hardware can give a kitchen a richer look.

Kitchen before and after new hardware

by Kim via thekimsixfix.com

If you don’t want to spring for all new hardware, you could try spray painting your old hardware, like this RV owner did.  The paint may chip off over time, but this method can at least get you by short term.

7. Add a decorative insert

This RV owner added sheets of imitation black leather contact paper to the panels of her cabinets.  Chalkboard contact paper or any other type of contact paper would work as well.

For more kitchen makeover ideas that don’t require major renovations, check out my blog post about backsplash ideas or this one about RV refrigerator makeovers.

Thinking about painting your cabinets instead?  Check out my blog post “RV Owners Who Painted Their Cabinets” to see some photos.


Updates and makeovers for camper and motorhome kitchens with oak cabinets


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5 comments

  1. 6 RV Refrigerator Makeover Ideas | RV Inspiration 23 October, 2017 at 16:19 Reply

    […] cabinets need a makeover?  Check out this blog post about RV owners who painted their cabinets, or this one about ways you can update cabinets without […]

  2. Julie 13 July, 2018 at 19:01 Reply

    So many great options. Honestly, I am far too lazy to paint the cabinets. I’m just painting the walls and that is enough work for me. 😉

    • Ashley Mann 16 July, 2018 at 10:23 Reply

      That’s a big reason I haven’t wanted to paint our cabinets either! I want to wait and see if we end up keeping this RV long term before I go to all that trouble. For now I’m working with the wood, although I’m seriously considering painting our crown molding and perhaps some of our overhead cabinets to match our walls or perhaps a shade darker than the gray of our walls just to cut down on the AMOUNT of wood color.

  3. Katie 16 July, 2018 at 12:11 Reply

    Hmmm, maybe I should have read this before updating our cabinets, haha. Great tips, especially for those who don’t want to pour a lot of time and money into a project!

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