Brown wooden accent cabinet with photo frames on top of it

Has your accent cabinet lost its luster over the years? Refinishing tired furniture can seem daunting to DIYers. With the right techniques and materials though, you can give faded cabinets a fresh new look. Here's our recommendation for how to refinish an accent cabinet.

How to Refinish an Accent Cabinet

The charm of DIY cabinet makeovers lies in their cost-effectiveness and personal touch. Good preparation is essential for excellent cabinet transformations.

Geometric Accent Cabinet

Gathering of Tools and Materials Needed

This project has different levels of difficulty. With the right tools, materials, and patience, we can make a personal and stylish cabinet:

  • Multiple Screwdrivers: Ensure you have flat, Phillips, and square tips for versatility.
  • Set of wood bits: This is ideal for precision drilling. Spiral bits are significant for avoiding wood splitting.
  • Level: This is a must-have for ensuring everything is perfectly aligned.
  • Hammer: A carpenter's hammer is usually enough for most tasks.
  • Set of flat bits: It's handy for drilling bigger holes, especially for fitting hinges.
  • Builder's Clamp: This is useful for holding pieces in place temporarily.
  • Finishing Nailer: This is a time-saver for attaching parts efficiently.
  • Electric Jigsaw: The tool is essential for detailed cuts in our cabinet projects.
  • Framing Square: We use this for precise right-angle cuts and measurements.
  • Electric Planer: It helps smooth out rough wood surfaces.
  • Miter Saw: This helps make precise angle cuts.
  • Portable Saw Bench: It offers flexibility and precision for various cutting tasks.
  • Stud Detector: It helps find the right spot to hang our cabinets.
  • Wood-treating products: We always have finishing oils or varnishes ready to protect my final product.

Preparing the Cabinet Before Painting

Below, we're sharing my experience with preparing and removing kitchen cabinet parts for refinishing. This is a process we've found both rewarding and intricate:

  1. Remove all hardware with care, like knobs and handles.
  2. Store the hardware safely in small bags or containers and label them if needed.
  3. Number each door and drawer front for easy reinstallation.
  4. Wrap the removed doors and drawer fronts to prevent damage, especially for transport.

Handling Glass Panels and Wooden Elements

It's important to take your time and be patient when dealing with glass and wood. Most are delicate, so follow these steps for better results:

3-Drawer Accent Cabinet - Natural And Antique Brass
  1. Handle glass panels with care. Use appropriate tools to remove them from the frame gently.
  2. Store the removed glass panels in a safe, padded place to prevent breakage.
  3. Clean wooden elements using a mild soap and warm water to remove grease and dirt.
  4. Sand each clean wooden piece separately to remove residues and make it smooth.
  5. Ensure sanding is thorough for better paint or stain adherence on the wood.

Getting the Cabinet's Surface Tidy and Ready

Proper surface preparation significantly impacts painting results. It might seem like a lot of effort. However, it's worth it for a professional-looking, long-lasting finish.

  • Choosing the proper degreaser: Krud Kutter works well on tough grease and grime. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is for heavy-duty cleaning. However, it needs careful handling with gloves and eye protection.
  • Natural alternatives: We can use white vinegar and lemon juice as natural degreasers. Another option is a mixture of baking soda, water, and lemon, which also works effectively.
  • Application method: Apply the degreaser using a spray bottle or soft cloth. Use a soft brush for tight spots, wipe with a damp cloth, and let the cabinets dry.
  • Sanding techniques: Use fine-grit sandpaper, preferably between 150 and 220 grit. Focus on even sanding, paying particular attention to edges and corners. 
  • Post-sanding cleanup: Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove dust. Then, use a tack cloth to ensure a dust-free surface for painting.

Painting Time: Choosing and Applying the Right Type

Picking the right paint is key to a strong, attractive cabinet finish. Here's our take on this:

White Distressed Accent Cabinet
  • Types of paint: For clear-coated surfaces, consider stripping down to the wood for improved paint adhesion. When stripping isn't workable, clean and lightly sand the surface instead.
  • Paint finishes: Consider faux finishes for styles from shabby chic to modern. We can also use crackling glaze for a weathered look or high gloss for a sleek appearance.
  • Application techniques: Start painting the back of the doors, then the edges and front. Use a mini roller for uniform coverage and a quality brush for details. Gently sand between coats to achieve a smooth finish.

Achieving a Modern Look Using Innovative Painting Techniques

Trying various painting techniques can significantly improve the appearance of our kitchen cabinets. Here are a few ideas:

  • Layering colors: Apply a base coat, then a second color with a dry brush for a subtle, layered effect.
  • Stenciling: Use stencils for unique patterns or motifs, especially effective on flat-front cabinets.
  • Two-Tone Painting: Paint upper and lower cabinets in contrasting colors for a modern, dynamic look.
  • Textured finishes: Add texture with sponging or rag rolling for an artistic or rustic appearance.

Adding Creative Touches for a Unique Style

Cane webbing is a fantastic way to add a unique and sophisticated touch to furniture. This technique is ideal for bringing a touch of elegance and lightness to various items. We can use it on side tables, armoires, headboards, and even cabinet doors.

Custom striping and distressing techniques are another way to add character to high quality furniture. These techniques can make a standard piece truly unique. We can tailor it to match our personal style and chosen interior design aesthetic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Cheapest Way to Refinish Cabinets?

The cheapest way to refinish cabinets is through DIY. We remove, clean, strip, fill, sand, seal, stain, and protect them. This way, the cost is more affordable than hiring professionals.

How Do Refinishing and Resurfacing Cabinets Differ From Each Other?

Refinishing means sanding and repainting or staining to refresh the cabinets. Resurfacing, or refacing, involves replacing doors, fronts, and hardware. This often leads to a more significant change in style and color.

How Long Do Refinished Cabinets Last?

Refinished cabinets last longer when high-quality materials and meticulous preparation are used. Also, we can maintain them through regular cleaning and touch-ups. It ensures they stay in pristine condition for years to come.


Mastering how to refinish accent cabinets involves a systematic process. It might seem a little challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, we think the process is actually pretty fun! Plus, you end up with a cabinet that feels and looks brand new!