Tips for making builder cabinets look custom

March 30, 2021

I'm nearing the end of my latest room makeover and I'm SO happy with how it looks! Just one more big project and a few small ones to complete before the final reveal! You can read about all of the big changes to our mud/laundry room storage situation here

Here's a reminder of what we started with on this wall: 
folding table with fabric curtain

We hid the kitty litter underneath and the top was supposed to be a folding table. Haha! There was rarely room to fold anything. As much as I have decluttered and organized in our home, we still needed a spot for many items around the house. A lot of them ended up on this counter! 

Then we had some upper cabinets moved from over the washer and dryer to this spot, and I installed four inexpensive drawer units on the bottom: 
unfinished drawer cabinets

They are the basic unfinished cabinets you can find at any large hardware store. 

I later added this gorgeous wood countertop I had been drooling over for years!: 
Ikea herringbone butcher block

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After that it was time to change up those basic cabinets into something more custom. I had a plan to transform the drawer fronts to match the simple Shaker design of our uppers. 

Online it looked like the drawer fronts were completely flat. But when I picked them up I realized they had a slight bevel to them: 

unfinished cabinet drawer fronts

With that bevel my plan wasn't going to work. I sat on it for a couple weeks to figure out what I wanted to do. I finally decided I would build new drawer fronts out of mdf and add the thin trim on the front. 

But as I was looking at the drawers one day, I had an idea. I wondered if I could just turn them around and have the flat side facing out. I took one off, flipped it around...and really liked it! The bevel looked fine turned back against the cabinets, and the back side gave me a nice flat surface to work with. YES! This was going to be way less work and money. 

Once I had that figured out, it was time to start painting. I took off each drawer front (there are screws inside the cabinet drawers) and laid them in order on the counter. Before I started painting, I used a drill bit to drill through the holes where the screws went so I could attach them back on in the exact same spots.  

Just like my warning when installing cabinet hardware, be sure to drill straight through from the top of the drawer, not at an angle. If it's at an angle they won't attach the exactly the same and be level. 

Then I filled the holes on the new "fronts" and started painting: 
how to paint cabinets by hand

You may recognize this color! I've used this Cyberspace paint color in our dining area and family room. I LOVE it! It's a beautiful navy/gray color. 

After the drawers had two coats each (and a light sanding between), I started on my trim pieces. I wanted them to be as smooth as possible, so instead of the lattice I usually use for projects like this, I picked up some four foot poplar strips that had very little grain: 
poplar trim for cabinet fronts

They are a quarter inch thick by two inches wide. At first, I made the mistake of starting to add these to the drawer fronts while they were off the cabinets. It was easier to work that way, but I found it was better to do install the trim while drawers were in place. 

It's much easier to make sure the sides of each cabinet are exactly the same if you add them while they're installed. Otherwise even the slightest change in height or width from one drawer front to the other will be noticeable. 

I glued and nailed each strip onto the drawer fronts: 
how to add custom trim to cabinet fronts

I had already painted the frame of the cabinets with the drawer fronts gone -- that part goes very quickly. 

It was as I was installing the fronts that I realized the paint sheen I had used (that was leftover) was satin. I wanted semi gloss -- so I gave everything one more coat in the semi-gloss instead. (I told you this room has giving me many fits!): 
DIY shaker drawer fronts

I found these awesome acrylic and brass handles online and really loved them: 
acrylic brass cabinet hardware

But I kept hesitating on installing them, and finally decided they felt a little too modern for this room (or our house really). 

I ended up ordering the brass hardware I used in the basement instead and I'm SO glad I did: 
dark blue cabinets with brass hardware

They are more substantial and look SO good against the dark, dusty blue!

I also repeated a couple of other projects from our kitchen -- I added the custom trim to the end of the cabinet and then installed the cabinet "feet." They both add custom touches to the cabinets!: 
adding custom trim to end of basic cabinets

I was careful with my photo angles because I'll be showing you the tile next, and it is SO pretty! :) 

Here's where we started with this wall a few weeks ago:
folding table laundry room

Here it was with the upper and lower cabinets installed:  
cabinets in laundry mud room

And here they are painted, trimmed out and with a little brass bling!: 
cyberspace cabinets with brass hardware

dark wood counters blue cabinets

I just adore that dark wood, moody blue and brass combo. It looks like a piece of furniture, and I love that! Even though the DIY projects in here have given me problems, they've all been worth it! This has become the prettiest room in our home by far. 😍

I'll be back this week to share the tile and install! 

Here are links to products and DIY projects pictured in this post: 

See more of our home here. 
To shop items in our home, click here! 
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  1. Looks fantastic! The cabinets almost look like nice furniture (a dresser) rather than cabinets.

  2. Always love the built ins you do with stock cabinets. So clever. Look forward to the reveal. And love the pets in photos.

  3. Definitely not the same! Love your projects!

  4. I'm trimming out some cabinets, too, but just gluing the strips. How did you deal with the nail holes from the nail gun?

  5. L-O-V-E!! I have a long space in the laundry room and will use this as inspiration! Your projects always turn out lovely!


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THANKS so much for reading!