How to Upgrade the End of Builder Grade Cabinets

April 02, 2019

How to make your builder grade cabinets look custom with simple trim. 

Adding just a bit of inexpensive trim makes a big difference on the sides of your kitchen cabinets! 

I've been hard at work in our kitchen finishing up a few smaller projects. I LOVE our kitchen, but I've planned all along to add some small details that add some interest and character. 

You know character is the name of my game! My goal for the past couple decades of home ownership has been to add custom touches to our homes. :) 

I started out with the island makeover I shared last week. We LOVE it! 

This one is a quick project that I never had to address in our old kitchen makeover because we didn't have any exposed cabinet ends: 
Upgrading the ends of builder grade cabinets

Basic cabinet ends don't bother me -- but I do see them as an opportunity to make the kitchen feel more custom! 

I considered a bunch of different looks, but in the end went with the simplest design. My friend Jenny shared a bunch of great options for dressing up the ends of cabinets here

First I had to remove all of the trim along the side -- the quarter round, baseboard on the wall and the trim along the back of the cabinet. I used a pry bar and my hammer to pull those off. 

Because the cabinets have a small "lip" on the front, I needed to make everything even so I could add the trim on top. 

Most cabinets will have that face part that will make things uneven on the side. 

I had a piece of luan cut to the size I needed and then I nailed it on to the cabinet with my nail gun: 

How to upgrade the ends of builder grade cabinets

When I redid our kitchen island, I kept the old trim I removed to use on this project. 

I had to buy a couple new 1x3 pieces of lattice (I find this size at Menard's), but most of them were from the old island design: 
Board and batten look at the end of kitchen cabinets

I created a very simple board and batten look on the ends:
  • Two on the sides first (so there was a clean look along the front) straight to the floor. 
  • Then the two pieces on top and bottom, and then the middle one. 
You could do anything here! Beadboard would be lovely. 

I could have gone with a planked look like the island, but didn't want to repeat that design too much. 

I started painting it with white paint and then I realized our white cabinets are not bright white -- so I took a cabinet door to the paint store to have it color matched. 

This might be my new favorite white!:
Upgrading the ends of builder grade cabinets with a custom design

It's such a lovely, creamy white. I love it! 

I sanded lightly after each coat and did three coats total. 

I'm only showing you this angle because I am finishing up another project I'll be sharing soon. ;) 

(Edited: Check out the DIY cabinet feet project!)
Adding a custom touch to the ends of kitchen cabinets

I LOVE how this simple trim makes the cabinets look more custom! 

It's a pretty detail that's subtle -- again, not in your face. 

I don't know that anyone would even notice the change if they came in the house, but overall it adds a little something

I love those projects -- when you tweak something for the better and it's subtle enough the space feels different, but a visitor wouldn't be able to put their finger on it: 
Projects that add character to kitchen

Here's the only pic I could find of this view (before I did much to the kitchen): 
White kitchen cabinets gray island

And here it is now with the "new" island and DIY detail on the end of the cabinets: 
Light gray island, black stools, white kitchen

And here's a before of the other side of our kitchen: 
Long kitchen with white cabinets

And with the new end added to the cabinet here (and that beautiful wallpaper!): 
Adding character to builder grade kitchen

Yes, I covered most of this one up with the IKEA bracket and my cute kitchen stuff, but the end of the cabinet is still a beauty!

I did both exposed ends for about $30. The 4x8 luan is plenty for this small project, and I have a bunch leftover. I had some of the 1x3 trim and bought a couple more. 

I don't count the paint because I'm using that for other projects in here. ;) More to come soon! 

Have you tried a simple project like this in your home? 

I plan to do the same to the ends of our bathroom cabinets too. I can't wait to show you what's next! 

Check out all of the small projects I tackled in our kitchen that made a big difference!

These little updates, like extending the island and adding built in storage next to the fridge, made the whole kitchen feel more custom:  
easy custom updates in the kitchen

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  1. I am a longtime follower and LOVE your posts both on your blog and IG. Could you please share the details of what paint you used and the methods you used to apply it? It looks beautiful!!! I worry about doing mine because the cabinets were sprayed and I can’t imagne I will get such a nice finish using a brush or roller. I would love to hear about the products you used and how you apply them. Thank you!! ❤️❤️

  2. Beautifully done, as always! Looks as good as new and I love how you added the functional rod at the end for hanging things too.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  3. Love the simple but elegant look. I was so worried when you got a new home what would you do. I am thrilled at the small changes that make it so you. Love this blog.

  4. So pretty and simple, but just the right touch! Question: When you do board and batten or plank, do you not put quarter round or baseshoe back on? Thanks for all your great projects over the years.

    1. You can! I prefer it without, it just depends on what you like!

  5. I love this! Could you please share how you were able to get the vertical piece on the left-hand side to so beautifully match the shape of the baseboard at the bottom? Did you have to make a template somehow of the baseboard silhouette? I'm having trouble figuring out how to do this well and it's stopped me from adding similar wall detailing in my home.

    1. I removed the baseboards so everything went right up against the wall. :)

  6. Looks great, now you need to finish the uppers as well!

  7. Hi! Can you share where that wallpaper in the last pic is from? I love it!

    1. Yes I share the full name in this post! You can search it online to find a source:

  8. I just found your site and love your island lights! Could you share where to get them? Thanks

    1. Thanks! You can click on any pic with them here and get a direct link:

  9. Hey there!!! Awesome job!!!!! Question: did you pit any fill in between the boards when you used your staple gun or did the pain just fill in the cracks between the 5 pieces of wood that you added on? Thank you

  10. This looks great! We just installed cabinets exactly like this and I'm going to steal your idea for the end panels, so they look nice and finished like yours. My question is, how did you attach the luan- glue, nails or both? And did you caulk the 5 peices or was that not needed? Thank you!

  11. We copied this idea step by step and LOVE our new cabinets. Thanks for your thorough descriptions and for holding this stranger’s hand through the reno process! Next up is a slight modification on your fireplace. �� Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there’s going to be a copy of your home in the Blue Ridge mountains pretty soon.

  12. How do I cover up pin head size nails on the sides of my upper cabinets

    1. If the nail head is poking through, you'll need to use a nail punch to set them in further, then you can use wood filler to cover the holes.

  13. Hi! I just found your site, and I love your style! I have a question about the rod above your stove top. You said it is from Ikea...can you tell me the name? And can you tell me how it is attached to the tile? Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you! I believe it's called Hultarp -- I put the screws into the grout so I didn't have to drill into our tile. :)

  14. You refer to the wood pieces you attached to the side of the base cabinet as "lattice" but when I search for that I get lattice sheets that you would install under a deck. Can you help with a better description? Thanks!

    1. You can look up pine lattice molding -- that may work better. If you're in the store the staff should know what you're talking about.


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!