Dated wallpaper borders and sponge-painted walls have been banished from most kitchens. However, honey oak cabinets from the 1980s and 1990s are still going strong in many homes. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If your cabinets are beaten up beyond hope, think about replacing them with options like RTA cabinets. But, if your cabinets are still in good shape, you don’t have to rip them out when you can make minor changes to bring them into this century.

1. Replace Hardware

Updating kitchen-cabinet hardware is a small way to give cabinets a big boost. The options are practically endless for handles, knobs and pulls. When it comes to today’s trends, the Art Deco aesthetic is showing up in every room of the house, including the kitchen.

This style is known for bold shapes and colors and repeating patterns. Adding some Art-Deco-inspired hardware can do a lot to modernize your 1990s oak cabinets. Also, finishes like gold, brass and matte black add a contemporary touch to your kitchen, and so does hardware in bright, whimsical colors. If your cabinets are in great shape, refreshed hardware might be all they need for a new lease on life.

2. Switch Up Your Flooring

Updating the kitchen floor can bring out the best in your oak cabinets. There’s flooring to meet most budgets with options like laminate, tile, bamboo and hardwood. Vinyl plank flooring is an excellent, durable selection for the kitchen floor because it closely resembles wood but is waterproof and more affordable.

When choosing a new floor covering, consider that interior designers are moving away from farmhouse-style plank floors with coarse grain in favor of fine-grained types. This style pairs great with the finer grain of oak cabinets. If your oak cabinets have a warm honey hue, look for floors with a cooler color to help tone down the warmth of the room.

3. Refresh the Backsplash

You can create a striking look by pairing traditional oak cabinets with an unconventional backsplash. Skip the white subway tile and go for tile in a bold color, perhaps with metallic accents for extra dimension. You could also create a contemporary look with color blocking.v

Home design experts predict that one-piece backsplashes are the next big thing. Instead of tiles, a single slab of granite, quartz or marble covers the wall between the counter and upper cabinets. These create a focal point when they contrast with the countertop color, but a slab backsplash that matches the countertop is another modern option. This type of backsplash looks fresh and is very functional since there are no grout lines to keep clean.

4. Take the Doors Off

Open cabinetry creates an airy, modern look. You can give your cabinets a mini-makeover by removing a few doors from the upper cabinets. This works exceptionally well for cabinets filled with sparkling glassware and neat stacks of dishware.

Give the open cabinets a little extra punch by lining the backs of the cabinets with wallpaper in a bold print or painting them a contrasting color. You don’t necessarily have to toss the old doors — you can find many ideas online to repurpose them.

5. Paint With a Fresh Color

Painting oak cabinets is a sure way to breathe new life into your kitchen. If you choose white, keep in mind that today’s trending whites lean toward warm ivory and cream. Rich colors and unexpected hues are also very much on-trend. Blues, greens, pinks and yellows have been choices of top interior designers for recent kitchen updates.

Painting lower cabinets a darker color than the upper cabinets is another popular look that helps ground the space. Also, darkly stained cabinets are coming back into style. So, applying a darker stain might be the way to go if you want to keep the wood look but don’t like your medium-stained cabinets.

6. Play With Lighting

LED strip lighting can instantly transform the look of your oak kitchen cabinets. LED lights are also energy-efficient and cost-effective. Try installing LED strips underneath your cabinets for a subtle yet effective update. Light strips can make drawers and countertops brighter and easier to navigate at night. They can also bring out the beauty of your cabinets’ natural wood grain. However, you can take the focus away from the cabinets with strategic use of color, placement and intensity. Use strip lights or any other lighting to highlight the features of the kitchen you want to show off.

7. Add Light or Bright Accents

Oak cabinets can make a space feel dark and heavy, particularly if the kitchen is small. If you don’t want to paint the cabinets, you can lighten up the area around them for a modern look. One of the easiest ways to do that is by painting or wallpapering the walls. Choose colors lighter and brighter than the cabinets, preferably in cool tones.

Bold design choices are very much in fashion now. Consider introducing a bright accent wall or choosing bright appliances and colorful accent pieces, like a vase or painting. Hanging a mirror in the kitchen is another way to lighten up the space for a fresh feel. Mirrors reflect light into the room and create a sense of depth. Adding reflective accents of any kind can help make oak cabinets look more modern.

Simple Updates Can Make a Difference

With a few simple updates, you can take your oak cabinets from 1990s relics to present-day marvels in no time. By painting them, updating the hardware, adding a bright backsplash or trying other tips, you can modernize your kitchen and give your oak cabinets a fresh new look.