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How to Make a Kitchen with Cherry Cabinets Look Amazing Without Painting Them

Who says a kitchen with cherry cabinets can’t look modern? We’ve got ideas to update your kitchen with wood cabinets without painting them!

Last year I shared my plan to give my kitchen with cherry cabinets an update to make it lighter, brighter, and more up-to-date.

The big catch?

I didn’t want to paint the cabinets.

They may not be as popular right now, but I love the look of warm wood cabinets in a kitchen!

And Better Homes and Gardens is saying wood cabinets are coming back in style

Also, my husband is horrified by the thought of painting over “such good wood.”

Small canvas tote filled with faux fall stems hanging on an iron scroll hook on a kitchen wall.

It’s taken this whole year to get all the big projects done, and there are a few small details I still need to do.

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The struggle with the supply chain really caused a lot of delays, but the results have been worth the wait!

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Updating a Kitchen with Wood Cabinets

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and white quartz counters, white island, and white backsplash.

Cherry cabinets have presented several challenges that I needed to work with in my plan.

I love the look of cabinets that extend to the ceiling, but the company that made our cabinets is no longer in business.

I was (am) skeptical that we’d be able to match the finish if we added upper cabinets from another manufacturer.

Our budget for this project was $10,000 so refinishing the cabinets wasn’t in the cards.

We also couldn’t make an apron-front sink work for the same reason.

The cabinet would need to be cut down and the doors replaced with smaller doors.

If we were painting the cabinets, then sure, we could do it, but I had to compromise and stick with an under-mount sink.

However, the changes we did make went a long way towards making this space so much brighter!

I’m so in love with how it’s coming together.

Let’s take a look at the projects we’ve completed so far to give these cherry cabinets a modern look.

Kitchen Island Makeover

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and white quartz counters, white island, and white backsplash decorated for fall.

Okay. There’s an elephant in this room.

A white elephant.

It’s that kitchen island that I painted…

But I had to!

Because the old island didn’t have any character.

The front that faced the house was covered in a sheet of laminate.

So we updated the island by adding raised panels on the front to mimic the ones we had on the sides.

Kitchen island painted light gray with legs attached to the overhang and rattan counter stools.

And we replaced the chintzy support brackets with table legs.

So I did end up painting one small section of the cabinets.

It helps to break up all the wood and turned the island into a real show stopper.

I replaced the iron counter stools with these rattan stools to add some texture.

The builder installed pendant lights over the island with “lovely” cream-colored glass shades…

They were small and ugly, and I kind of hated them.

I tried replacing the shades with larger clear glass globes, but the globes didn’t really make a statement.

We updated the light that hangs over the kitchen table with a drum-style pendant.

So I decided to try to find pendant lanterns that would complement that new light.

Two black iron round pendant lanterns hanging over a kitchen island. Kitchen has wood cabinets and white counters.

I found these cylinder pendant lanterns and loved their shape and overall look.

But I wasn’t loving the glass cylinders.

Turns out the glass panels don’t have to be installed!


I love the pretty pattern they reflect on the ceiling when they’re turned on.

Replacing Busy Granite with White Quartz Counters

My kitchen had Baltic Brown granite counters.

It made the kitchen so dark!

And dated.

We decided this was where we would spend the largest part of our budget.

Extra large flat vintage wood bowl on a white kitchen counter with a container of fall stems and copper candle.

We got a great deal on Cambria Dovestone quartz during the Labor Day sale at Home Depot.

It was almost $7,000, installed, including removing the granite.

This is where the delays began…

We waited over four months for the counters to come in, but they were worth the wait.

White counters went a long way towards giving this kitchen a much brighter appearance.

Not to mention making it look more modern.

There were other quartz options that were a little less expensive, but Cambria quartz has such an amazing warranty that we decided to splurge.

Farmhouse Apron Sink vs. Undermount Sink

I’ve loved the look of apron sinks from the first moment I saw them.

They have such a classic feel, and I envisioned how it would help to break up the wood cabinets.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

White fireclay undermount sink and brushed nickel faucet with a large window.

So I compromised and chose a white fireclay sink but we went with an under mount version.

This single bowl sink is truly a pleasure to do dishes at!

And if you’ve been around Simply2Moms then you know I don’t like doing dishes.

We have hard water so we opted for a single-hole faucet since it’s easier to keep dry and clean.

Choosing Updated Cabinet Hardware

Kitchen desk and coffee station area. Kitchen has cherry cabinets and white counters.

New hardware is an easy way to update a kitchen!

I actually installed it all by myself.

I chose these Amerock handles for the cabinets, and these coordinating cup pulls for the drawers.

A little bling helped give the cherry cabinets a little sparkle to brighten them up.

Replacing Mosaic Tile Backsplash With White Tile

One of the biggest design mistakes I’ve ever made was a glass mosaic backsplash.

Removing the backsplash was a chore, but the kitchen looked better even though we lived with a cement board backsplash for almost three months!

White lantern tile backsplash with white grout in a kitchen with cherry cabinets and Dovestone white quartz counters.

Once the new counters were installed, it was time to brighten things up even more with matte white lantern tiles.

I opted for white grout to avoid the backsplash looking too busy.

Busy backsplashes are a mistake I won’t ever make again!

The curves of the tile break up some of the straight lines of the space, and the matte sheen adds a soft glow.

How to Add Warm Fall Decor to Complement Cherry Cabinets

Small and wispy fall floral wreath hanging on a window.

I love changing up my decor for the seasons but generally keep the changes minimal.

This little wreath adds a pop of color to the window.

The colors really compliment the cherry cabinets.

Small round basket with a copper candle, amber bottle, and a painted white decorative orb.

I like to add texture and warmth on the counters when fall rolls around.

A copper candle and vintage amber bottle are corraled in a small round basket.

AnnMarie got me started with using round baskets on my counters because of her coffee station.

I totally copied her and used a large round basket for my coffee station too!

Two vintage amber glass bottles on a windowsill. One has autumn leaves and wheat sprigs.

I love the glow of the amber bottles when the light shines through them.

It’s so fun to find uniquely shaped amber bottles when we visit antique stores.

In fact, amber bottles are one of our favorite ways to decorate for fall in both our homes.

Wood cutting board and custom narrow charcuterie board on a kitchen counter with a small basket holding a faux plant.

Obviously, I love the look of wood, so cutting boards are a natural choice to decorate in the kitchen.

They’re perfect for hiding electric outlets.

And this cute cheese board from PNW Farmhouse Design Co. can be customized with any phrase you want.

A Cherry Cabinet Kitchen Before & After

There are still a few projects left on my list before I consider this kitchen project done, but take a look at how far it’s come.

Side by side comparison of a kitchen before and after a makeover project

One project I didn’t mention was refinishing our floors because that was something we did in the entire house.

Eventually, the range will be replaced with a low-profile stainless one, but we won’t be doing that until this one stops working.

Or a brand offers to give us one…

We may remove the cabinet above the range and build a custom hood that will be painted the same color as the island.

I’m still searching for a rug to go under the kitchen table and a runner to go in front of the range.

And at some point, I’ll finally hang the valance I’ve had for a few months now over the kitchen sink’s window.

Be sure to subscribe so you can see how this project ends up!

More Inspiration for Kitchen Updates

Our amazing friend Pasha from the blog Pasha is Home has recently updated her kitchen and has coordinated a group of other bloggers to share our kitchen updates.

How to Update a Kitchen with Cherry Cabinets // Simply 2 Moms

7 Custom Kitchen Island Ideas to Consider // Robyn’s French Nest

Updated Coffee Bar For Cozy Mornings in the Kitchen // White Arrows Home

Kitchen Updates that Make a Huge Difference // Pasha is Home

Small Kitchen Updates to our New Construction Home // Truemans Treasures

A Beautiful Cottage Style Kitchen Makeover // Peacock Ridge Farm

How To Wallpaper A Backsplash // White Lilac Farmhouse

Designing a Tiny Cottage Kitchen // A Life Unfolding

A Tale of Two Kitchens // Dabbling and Decorating

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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