I really disliked our 1950s flat-panel kitchen cabinets when we bought the Brooklyn House. A lot. For one, the two sets of cabinets didn't match (the sink base cabinet was newer and had a completely different door/drawer style), and they were the flattest, most boring cabinets in the history of kitchen cabinets. Okay, I am being a bit dramatic, but they had to go.
I think a lot of people would have ripped them out. To each their own, but I wanted to save them. The cabinets are well-made, solid wood, and fit the layout well. Plus, we needed a budget friendly cabinet update as new cabinets were not an option. So they stay and get a DIY cabinet makeover instead. The great thing about the cabinets being flat is that it makes adding trim a lot easier.
We purchased 2" x .25" trim from HomeDepot for the doors. It is not listed online, but check out the trim in the decorative trim aisle. On the drawers, we used a 1.5" trim to accommodate the satin nickel cup pulls. Make sure to measure the needed length of trim at least twice before purchasing. I think we made about three trips to the store. :)
Brian cut the trim to size at a 90 degree angle. In retrospect, we should have just cut a straight line. That is how most Shaker cabinets seem to look, and it is a lot easier to measure that way. Oh well, learned for next time. To attach, we used nails. At first we tried glue, but it was messy and we didn't have enough clamps to make this an efficient way to attach the trims. The nails seemed to be adequate. When we removed the existing hardware, it left these ugly holes, so we filled those with wood filler. We also filled the corner seams for a more polished look.
We did the same treatment on all of the drawers. Same process here, except we didn't fill the holes since we were putting in the same size drawer pulls. One thing we did not do (but should have) is caulk the gap between the original drawer front and new trim. Duh.
After drying for a day or two, we moved on to paint! To be honest, this was more time-consuming than putting on the trim. We used the oil based paint that the cabinets were already painted in, but we had to do two thick coats on all of the new trim to get the old and new wood to match.
I think it makes a world of difference! So much cheaper than replacing all of those cabinets. Also, a little hardware goes a long way. I splurged a little on these pretty glass knobs, but I have no regrets. Here is the before and after side by side.
And here is the kitchen all done when we moved out. :)
**UPDATE 8/12/2016 - Curious to see how these have held up? Check out this new blog post after nearly five years of use! Thank you for all of your comments and questions on this post. I am so happy this had been helpful!**