Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

5 Easy Ways to Transform Cabinets When Painting Isn’t an Option

By Karen Post, Home Frosting

We’ve all been there: You tour a home with a great address and inviting floorplan—but those cabinets, though! They glow with an orange or red tint. The floors may even match the cabinetry. Dated oak or maple cabinets, if they could talk, may scream to a potential buyer: "Big renovation project needed! Not move-in ready!"

Cabinets matter. Light and white remain preferable to buyers, confirms a survey from Home Stratosphere, a home décor blog that surveyed thousands of consumers about their color of choice for kitchen cabinetry. White is by far the most popular cabinet color. 

Painting cabinets can dramatically improve a room and update the overall impression of a home with a more modern finish. But a seller may not always have the extra funds to take on painting the cabinets prior to listing the home. (Expect a price tag of $3,000 or more.) 

So what do you do? Let’s take this example. 

Kitchen with island, and pine colored cabinets

When painting cabinets is not an option, try these five staging tips to transform the look.

A Kitchen with island, and white cabinets with light colored hardwood floor

Photo Credit: Karen Post, Home Frosting

Just paint the island, or add an island with white or metal. This small change costs significantly less, is not as disruptive, and can still have a high impact on the room’s look.

Neutralize dark or bold colors. Tone the cabinets down by adding large white accessories, such as hand towels, big bowls, and trays.

Change out the lighting. Try updating a key decorative light fixture. It can make dated cabinets feel more current. Also, swap out the light bulbs for warmer options, such as a soft white (in the 2700K to 3000K range).

Show prospects some what-ifs. Many of the national paint companies offer tools to show how a new paint color can change a room. This includes cabinets. Drop in your photos and digitally repaint them to show prospective buyers the possibilities for when they move in. 

Before image of kitchen with standard "Warm" lighting
A Kitchen being shown in cool lighting

Photo credit Karen Post, Home Frosting

Have quotes on-hand. Invite a cabinet repainting company to submit a cost and time estimate of refinishing the cabinets. You can use this as a price negotiation point or provide a new buyer with an allowance to get this change completed before they move in.

Check out the pictures below of another before-and-after set of picture to see how these ideas work.

Kitchen with teal cabinets
A kitchen with pendant lighting and white cabinets

Photo credit Karen Post, Home Frosting


Karen Post

Karen Post is president of Home Frosting, a Tampa-based home staging and design firm. She has bought, rented, and sold numerous properties and has been creating memorable environments for over three decades. Post began her career in visual merchandising and has worked with top luxury retailers, fashion, and hospitality brands. She later evolved into an international branding expert. Post is also a published business author and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, FOX News, and The New York Times. In 2016 she founded Home Frosting and has successfully designed and staged over 300 homes. She also does a regular segment on nationally syndicated Daytime TV, where she shares home design/décor ideas and trends.


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REALTOR® Magazine is the official magazine of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the business tool for real estate professionals.