Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Are you looking for ways to save money on your home renovations? Are you searching for a simpler solution to the cabinets that you use every day? Luckily, there are many options if you don’t want to go with the traditional, expensive kitchen cabinets.
Cheap alternatives to kitchen cabinets are floating shelves: they are stylish and provide easy access to your dishes. Wall racks are also an affordable, trendy option that allows you to hang your mugs or cookware on display. You can also save money by choosing open cupboards without any doors.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to replace your upper or lower cabinets or just your cabinet doors, read on to explore more than 17 affordable options.
Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinet Doors
A cheap way to revamp your kitchen without replacing the cabinets altogether is to alter just the doors. Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives to kitchen cabinet doors.
No Doors at All
A current trend in home decor is minimalism. This style of decorating pares back all of the things in your home to the essentials. You get to decide what is essential for you and your family. Maybe the rooster-shaped oven mitts and the matching chicken salt and pepper shakers are essential to you.
There are no hard rules to the number of things that can be put in a space, though “less is more” is the general attitude. If the rooster/chicken knick-knack set is imperative to your lifestyle, then perhaps the fake grapes atop your cupboards can go. The idea is to determine what truly adds value to your life and get rid of everything else.
So, how does this relate to cupboards? Well, minimalism is very much about making space for the things you love, which tends to lend itself to open-concept, airy spaces. You don’t need to knock down a wall in your kitchen, though that will let in more light. You can make your kitchen seem larger by removing the cabinet doors altogether.
Doing this will not only get rid of the physical barriers in your kitchen, but it will also allow you to appreciate the glasses and dishware that you have collected in your life– things that should also add value or meaning according to the thoughts of minimalism.
If you’re looking for the cheapest alternative to kitchen cabinet doors– no doors at all is your answer.
Sliding Barn Doors
If your kitchen cabinet doors are in disrepair, you can replace them with sliding barn doors. These are farmhouse style wooden planks mounted on rollers that easily slide back and forth along a track.
For a better visual of these doors, watch the youtube video below:
Cabinet doors in this style are perfect for a double-doored cabinet, as you can keep one half of the shelves covered and one half on display. When you need to access the hidden shelves, simply slide the door over temporarily for easy access.
Keep your more aesthetically attractive dishes on display and hide your mismatched plates behind the barn door. Sliding barn doors are also ideal for those prone to bumping their heads on cupboard doors, as they never open outwards.
People often used sink skirts in the first half of the 20th century to hide the plumbing underneath a pedestal sink. They also created a sort of soft-walled storage space to place cleaning products and cloths. You can use this same vintage practice underneath your kitchen sink or on any cupboards in your kitchen that you like!
You can find used curtains for next to nothing at your local second-hand store. Floral-patterned linens on a cheap curtain rod will add a rustic cottage touch to your home and provide quick access to your dishes and glasses. Vertically striped curtains will make your kitchen seem taller, and red and orange patterns always add a retro flair.
If you have a few kitchen cabinet doors that are damaged but salvageable, you have the option of transforming those existing doors into a different style. By removing the insert piece of wood in your cabinet doors, you create the opportunity for a facelift. You can replace this flat piece of wood with any sort of wire screen to create a homey, peek-a-boo style cabinet door for your kitchen cupboards.
All thin metals from chicken wire to garden screens can work for this, and you can simply spray paint the surface of the material to your preferred color if you don’t like the silver finish.
Another cheap replacement for kitchen cabinet doors is reclaimed wood shutters. If you have any old wooden shutters or bi-fold closet doors lying around, you can add some hinges to make a new cupboard door in a few minutes.
If you don’t have any shutters lying around, they can often be found at antique furniture warehouses for cheap or on public sites like craigslist for free. All they need is a quick sanding and a fresh coat of paint, and you’ll have custom cabinet doors in no time!
Like with chicken wire, you can replace the back panel of your cupboard doors with a pane of glass from an old window. Use a stained piece of glass to add a traditional flair to your kitchen, or keep it modern with a crystal clear piece of glass. You can find these panes of glass at thrift stores or vintage furniture stores.
Alternatives To Lower Kitchen Cabinets
There are so many different options to lower kitchen cabinets that it seems boring to stick to the basic swinging open door. Let’s take a look at a few of these creative solutions.
Have you ever done your spring cleaning and discovered a forgotten box of cereal at the back of a bottom cupboard? It was hiding under the lowest shelf in an area where you can never seem to see properly.
You can get rid of these hidden corners altogether by opting for drawers instead of shelves in your lower cupboards. Pull-out drawers provide large storage space while also getting rid of those sneaky hidden corners where tomato cans gather to expire.
A simple solution to expensive lower kitchen cabinets is to stack repurposed crates below the countertops. These stacked crates create an open storage space throughout the lower level of the kitchen, so you can keep all of your cast iron pans on display. The crates are also often wider than your average kitchen cupboard, and you aren’t restricted by the vertical wooden slats that run between closed cabinet doors.
This type of open storage also allows you to reorder your stored kitchen items creatively. You can color-coordinate your cans, transfer baking ingredients to mason jars, or simply gaze at your favorite snacks every time you enter the kitchen.
A Wooden Hutch
For the ultimate in repurposing, you can replace your lower kitchen cabinets and your countertops altogether with a wooden hutch. These furniture pieces offer a large amount of storage for pots, pans, dry goods, or whatever you need. You can repaint a vintage sideboard to match a more modern design, or you can sand and stain a wooden hutch to match any transitional or industrial decor.
The great thing about using a credenza as a replacement for lower cupboards in your kitchen is that you are also installing a cooking surface in your kitchen. While many storage solutions require existing countertops to work under, a wooden hutch includes a countertop in its installation. If the sideboard you have is taller than a standard counter height, you can use it as a coffee and tea station instead of a mixing and chopping board.
Open Shelves With Baskets
A very affordable way to replace the lower cupboards in your kitchen is to install open or floating shelving. As noted with the repurposed crates, open shelves put all of your cookware and dry goods on display. Not everyone is organized enough to have their pots and pans in viewable order, so there are other options.
Floating shelves are a great base for many designs throughout the home. They are so versatile as their minimalistic style can be altered to fit any design and need. Like with lower storage in your kitchen, you can use baskets to create an organization on the open shelves.
Wicker baskets are light and slide out quickly from floating shelves to transport your stored items to the countertop for easy access. You can keep all of your dried herbs and spices in one basket and place it on the counter when you start to cook. Another basket can hold your baking ingredients, so all items are in one place when you decide on an impromptu pancake breakfast.
Use baskets to hide some of your messier items, and leave open spots on the shelves to display any bowls or vases you are proud of!
Floating Shelves With Sliding Barn Doors
Another solution for lower shelving is sliding barn doors. We’ve touched on a few of the benefits of the barn-door-style cupboard above, but they are even more effective on lower cabinets. A cabinet door that slides side to side instead of swinging outward will save many bruised knees and stubbed toes throughout the lifetime of your kitchen.
By combining the sliding barn door with floating shelves, you also keep some of your stored items on display. Unlike the upper cabinets, which are often interrupted by windows and stove ventilation, you can install one continuous rack for the barn doors all along with the lower cupboards and hang one, two, or three doors as you wish.
The continuous rod allows a seamless track for the doors to slide all the way left, right, or separately as you seem fit. Keep two doors below your kitchen sink regularly for the appearance of a standard cupboard finish, and only slide them out of the way when you need to grab the rubber gloves or a fresh sponge.
It seems as though we have an excess of bookcases in the world, as someone you know is always trying to give one away. Next time your friend asks if you want their heavy oak shelving unit, tell them you’ll take it off of your hands.
Smaller bookcases up to three feet tall will fit perfectly under your kitchen countertop. Deep bookcases are best, as they allow for the most storage. Heavier wood pieces may be a headache to move, but once they are in place in your kitchen, they will last much longer and hold up better to the weight of your cookware.
You can also combine a bookshelf with many different items on this list. Place a vintage curtain in front of the half of the shelf that holds the sweets or spread a few baskets around to implement easy storage solutions.
Alternatives to Upper Kitchen Cabinets
You can easily replace lower cabinets with prefabricated storage like bookcases and hutches. But what options do you have to replace your upper kitchen cabinets that have to be mounted to the wall? Let’s discuss six cheap ways you can install head-height storage in your kitchen.
These airy illusionists create the appearance of hovering next to the wall by using hidden and internal brackets. While they may look delicate, these solid anchors allow the shelves to store even heavy items.
Using floating shelves instead of upper cupboards is the perfect way to display the new dishware from your wedding registry or to provide quick access to your wine glasses after a long day of work.
Floating shelves suit design styles such as modern, transitional, eclectic, minimalistic, contemporary, Scandinavian, and industrial. You can make floating shelves work for almost any home decor type by repainting or finishing them.
While these hovering shelves are useful for lower kitchen cupboards, they are even better for upper kitchen cupboards as they allow you to see anything that may be hiding at the back of the highest shelf. You can also find these shelves in any length and depth that you require, so you can customize your kitchen storage.
Wall Racks With Hooks
Every person who loves to cook has dreamed of having a suspended rack for their copper pots and pans at one point or another. If you are decorating your kitchen and want to forgo upper cupboards, now is your chance to make your dreams come true.
A wall rack is a simple yet elegant storage solution for your kitchen. You can store long cooking utensils like ladles and tongs on a wall rack with hooks above your stovetop. You can also keep your collection of curious mugs on display if you hang them by their handle on a wall rack with hooks.
A wall rack will encourage you to spend more time in your kitchen, either by cooking a meal with your spatulas or brewing a fresh pot of coffee to fill your favorite mug. Keep in mind that all of the items will be on hooks, so the rack should be low enough that you can hook and unhook the items with ease.
A unique way to replace your upper kitchen cabinets for cheap is to install suspended shelving. Unlike floating shelves that seem to stick out impossibly from the wall, suspended shelves are all hung at different levels on the same ropes. These ropes are then mounted securely to the ceiling– a stage that is crucial to their success.
Suspended shelves like this are often made of reclaimed wood or pieces of natural wood with live edges. Holes are drilled through each piece, and a thick rope is threaded through to the next shelf. Under each plank, a large knot is tied to prevent the shelf from slipping down the rope. This method continues for three or four shelves and gives you a completely one-of-a-kind open shelving system instead of your standard upper cupboard.
It’s important to note that depending on what type of suspended shelf you get, there may be a small amount of sway if you bump into the shelf. It is a good idea to hang the shelves so that the wood’s back is touching the wall, creating a sturdier surface.
For the ultimate in cottage-style storage, hanging baskets can replace upper kitchen cupboards. If you have enough lower storage in your kitchen, you could replace all of your upper cabinets with hanging baskets mounted at different levels.
Double-layered baskets can keep less-often used items in the higher bucket, while your fruits and veggies can move from your countertop to the hanging lower basket. If you can’t find a version of a hanging basket that you’d like in stores, you can easily make one for cheap by finding these items in a local thrift store and fashioning your hanging baskets.
Reclaimed Apple Crates
A few items seem to have endless options for repurposing: Barnwood doors, pallets, and apple crates. You can mount apple crates in ways to create stable storage, even for upper shelving in your kitchen. By attaching the bottom of the crate to the wall, the sides of the box become surfaces to store your mugs and dishes on.
Apple crates can easily be repainted to match your kitchen colors or leave them in their original state for a rustic effect. These boxes are popular with DIYers, so you may have to visit an orchard to find them for cheap.
Stainless Steel Shelves
Stainless steel shelves are the storage solution that used to be banished to the garage and basement, only to be filled with broken tools and Tupperware containers. These shelves are now in style for eclectic decor, and any kitchens proud to display function alongside form.
You can purchase floor-standing stainless steel shelves six feet tall, which provide ample storage without taking up a lot of physical and visual space. You can also find wall-mounted steel shelves with sleek racks that can hold all of your dishes and glassware. Both of these options are affordable solutions to upper kitchen cabinets.
Cheap Ways To Revamp Your Kitchen Cabinets
Instead of replacing all of your cabinets altogether, there are many ways you can update them on your own. Let’s take a look at a few simple fixes that will update your kitchen affordably.
Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. If you want to revamp your kitchen cabinets, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to do so is to repaint them. You can change the entire appearance of your kitchen just by painting your cabinets a different color.
Some of the most striking transformations happen when dark wood cabinets are painted a bright white or another light color. These lighter shades will immediately make the room seem larger, newer, and more open.
You also don’t need to change the cabinets’ color if you like them the way they are. By applying a fresh coat of paint in the same shade as the cupboards, you’ll give them a completely refreshed appearance.
Add Wallpaper to the Back Wall
A chic way to add a little pizzazz to your kitchen is to mount wallpaper inside your cabinets. Choose whichever pattern you like the most, and don’t be afraid of color. This wallpaper will only be on the back of your cabinets, so you’ll only see it when you open the doors– unless, of course, you elect to get rid of the doors altogether.
Remove the Doors
Have we mentioned that removing the doors of your cupboards will completely change the look of your kitchen? Well, it bears repeating. If you need a quick, completely free way to update the look of your cooking area, removing all of your cupboard doors is the simplest way to do so.
By taking the doors off the cabinets, you remove many visual blockages in the room. Cupboards with doors act to bring the kitchen walls in closer, making the entire room seem smaller, so the space opens up, and you add depth and drama to the kitchen by putting all of your shelves on display.
Just remember – all of your shelves will be on display, so you’ll have to keep organized.
Change the Handles
The handles on your kitchen cupboards may not be the first thing you notice, but they will be once you update them. Not only is this a quick fix, but it’s also an easy one that requires no knowledge of complicated carpentry.
Uniform, matte black hardware looks expensive, while silver handles are sleek. If you want to keep costs down, try finding old crystal knobs from dressers at a pawn shop. If they are mismatched, even better! You’ll love the unique look the handles lend to your kitchen.
Add Chalkboard Paint
If repainting all of the cabinets seems like too much of a chore, you can always paint part of them instead. Chalkboard paint turns any surface into a chalkboard or simply gives an attractively soft finish to an item.
Chalkboard paint is perfect for the cupboards in your kitchen, as you can use the flat surface to jot down your to-do list, groceries that need to be picked up soon, or leave little notes for your family throughout the week.
Replace the Wood With Latticework
Taking the doors off of the cabinets altogether can be a bit intimidating. If you prefer to leave some things to the imagination, you can also modify the cupboard doors and remount them afterward.
Most cabinet doors have beveled accents on the surface, a layer or layers of decorative trim around the door’s edge. In some cases, the centermost piece of the door is easy to remove. You can also use a band saw or other cutting tool to remove this part of the door.
Replace this main part of the door with painted wooden latticework that you might find in a garden. The lattice will give an extra level of detail to the cabinets while also creating a semi-veiled cupboard. Guests will glimpse the items on your shelves through the doors, but you’ll still have enough secrecy that a little mess will go unnoticed.
If latticework is not your style, you can spray paint chicken wire, simple mesh, or even a uniquely patterned metal grate. For a professional touch, spray paint the wire to match any other metal accents in your kitchen. Your guests will be impressed by your attention to detail.
There are many ways to improve your kitchen cupboards’ appearance or replace them altogether, for cheap.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the lower cabinets in your kitchen, think about installing deep drawers, using a 3-foot-tall bookcase, or converting a hutch to a kitchen cabinet.
If you want to substitute your upper kitchen cabinets, floating shelves, wall racks with hooks, and wall-mounted apple crates are great contenders.
If you simply want to give your cabinets a facelift, repainting them and changing the handles will go a long way.
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