This interior designer has the easiest ways to refresh dated, '90s wooden kitchen cabinets – without actually changing them

Give dated cabinets a new lease of life with these decor ideas

kitchens with wooden cabinets
(Image credit: Jared Kuzia, Blessed Little Bungalow/Marc Mauldin Photography, Katie Merkle)

Upgrading a kitchen can be a very costly exercise. While doing a full remodel may be the end goal, that may not always be possible, leaving you to make the most of dated kitchen cabinets.

But fear not, if you do happen to have tired-looking kitchen cabinets that date back to the nineties, there are many ways you can decorate to create a more modern, balanced room.

Interior designer Jordan Samson proves just that, sharing different decor ideas to give your outdated kitchen cabinets a new lease of life. Below, we've rounded up four of them which are simple to adopt.

1. Update the backsplash

kitchen with dark wood units and blue island

(Image credit: Katie Merkle)

Changing your kitchen backsplash can be an effective way of modernizing your kitchen. Opt for something sleek and minimal if you have dated cabinets to create balance, and use lighter colors to uplift the space. Referring specifically to honey oak cabinets from the nineties, Jordan explains: 'These cabinets are often visually heavy so refreshing your backsplash to something that has a bit of a sheen to it can help reflect more light.'

2. Refresh the hardware

Traditional wood kitchen with stainless steel appliances

(Image credit: Greg Premru)

'Updating your hardware can be a really cost-effective upgrade,' says Jordan. While hardware can be considered more of a detail in the overall design of a kitchen, it can actually have a significant impact on the way the whole space feels. 'Aged brass is my favorite pairing with this wood tone, but any metal finish will work. I would just keep it more traditional in style.'

3. Modernize countertops and floor tiles

green contemporary kitchen in boston home with grey marble and shelves

(Image credit: JARED KUZIA)

If you're looking to make more of a change without changing the cabinets altogether, consider upgrading the countertops and floor tiles. 'New countertops and floor tiles are what’s going to bring it all together and make it feel like an entirely new kitchen,' says Jordan. 'The wood grain often has a lot of movement already so I would just avoid any overly busy stones.' Keeping this in mind, opt for simple kitchen flooring ideas and countertops in modern finishes to offset the saturated wood. 

4. Add a splash of color

kitchen with wooden cabinets and pink patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: Blessed Little Bungalow / Marc Mauldin Photography)

Lastly, adding a new kitchen color, either by paint ideas or decorating with wallpaper, can go a long way in creating a whole new look. 'Neutrals are not the only options,' says Jordan. 'Some other color palettes that work really well with the orange undertones would be terracotta and cream which creates a really nice calming effect.'

'Blue also looks really great when paired with orange. They’re opposite on the color wheel so depending on the level of saturation can feel more energizing. And green is another one that will always look good with this wood tone.'

Whether you're looking to make smaller changes by updating the hardware, or want to elevate the whole room with new countertops, these ideas will ensure your dated cabinets end up looking stylish and modernized. 

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.