I am taking on more and more cabinet refresh projects (for hire), and still never tire of the transformations. My latest project is an oak, galley style kitchen, and I’m digging deeper into ideas to make these older kitchens look more modern. Paint is obviously a big hitter in terms of updating a kitchen, but let’s talk about something else that is equally powerful – cabinet hinges.
You’re probably already yawning at the thought of a discussion on hinges, but stick with me here. It makes a bigger difference than what you’d think!
Many older kitchens out there have exposed hinges, where you can see the hinge mounted to the cabinet frame. By swapping out that hinge for an updated, hidden hinge, the transformation can really take a space from dated to modern, just like that.
Look at this amazing kitchen reveal at Everyday Enchanting. Now, they did more than just paint the cabinets – they added a new backsplash, island, hardware, sink, appliances and lighting. HOWEVER, they did swap out their exposed cabinet hinges for hidden ones. Take a look at her before and after photos – these are the same cabinets people.
Fantastic, right? Now, think about how much busier the cabinets would look if they still had the exposed hinges. Granted, with polished chrome hardware, it would minimize the hinge effect, but suppose you like oil rubbed bronze hardware? Exposed hinges of that variety would really stand out against the clean white cabinets. Having hidden hinges gives you the freedom to change hardware on a whim.
Here is an example of a kitchen that was painted, but the hinges were left exposed. I still think it’s a dramatic improvement, and in some cases, the exposed hinges can be part of the original charm of the style and era of the home. But, it demonstrates my point that it gives the eye more to look at here.
In some homes it does serve as a character feature, adding to the original charm and period of the home.
I can totally appreciate that. You’ll notice that these cabinets are also flush with the cabinet frames, which makes the hinges a little less noticeable. But sometimes, the hinge effect just isn’t quite as charming, and can be more distracting than anything. A lot depends on what kind of cabinet overlay you’re dealing with and the aesthetic that you’re looking for in this sort of project.
Here are the three different kinds of kitchen cabinet doors that demonstrate the different overlays and hinge options. The first is similar to what I’m working on now – a framed cabinet with an overlay on the cabinet frame. The second is a framed cabinet where the doors are inset, flush with the cabinet frame. And the third is a frameless cabinet where hidden hinges are utilized.
In dealing with oak cabinets, the trend seems to be towards modernizing vs. retaining vintage charm.
Here is a peek at the kitchen I’m currently working on:
The homeowner has already installed a new tile backsplash, and will also be replacing the floors with new tile and painting the walls once I’m finished with the cabinets. But the homeowner was concerned about the hinges standing out against a light cabinet color. A cabinet refresh is going to help tie the updates together, and when we got to talking about the hinges, I did some research, and found a great local woodworker to help change the hinges from exposed to concealed.
At face value, hinges seem pretty straight forward, but they can be tricky, depending upon the kind of cabinets you have and the “overlay” that I mentioned above. So I’m leaving this task to the pros (although I’m sure I will learn something in the process). But, I think the end result is going to be amazing!
In the meantime, I’m sticking with what I know. Painting cabinets:
And starting to play with my new HVLP turbine spray system. (Whenever I say HVLP turbine, I think of the movie “A Christmas Story” and how Ralphie describes his Red Ryder BB gun – “an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” I think I’m equally enamored with my new gun, even if it doesn’t have a compass and a stock. 😉
What are your thoughts on hinges? Or have you not given a whole lot of thought to them until now? Do you prefer the hidden or exposed version? Have you ever changed them out yourself?
Lisa @ Shine Your LightApril 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Wow Jenny, you are big time now with that sprayer!!!!! How exciting!!!
How costly is it to have the hinges retrofitted inside the cabinets? I wondered about that when I replaced the hinges in my kitchen, they are outside mounted. My new hinges are brushed nickel on white cabs, so not very noticeable, but I kinda feel like exposed black hinges on white make for a very busy look.
JennyApril 28, 2014 at 8:22 pm
It's something you could DIY if you wanted to invest the time and energy into it, but I know my strengths and weaknesses. ;-). This sweet, retired woodworker, is charging $300-$400 to drill the holes in the cabinets, provide the hinges, and rehang them (all 23 of them), so I'm feeling like it's a pretty good deal, and the homeowner agrees! I'm really excited to see the finished look!
KimApril 29, 2014 at 4:05 am
Definitely worth it to hide the hinges. If they are a gorgeous piece of hardware, then it would make sense to showcase them. But in most cases, the hinges are plain and utilitarian. I hope you will show us an "after" of your client's kitchen! Sounds like it will be beautiful!
Chris DancyApril 30, 2014 at 9:11 am
Beautiful your bespoke kitchen is looking after the complete renovation. White is my fav too but I affraid if my children make them dirty by writing on white furniture with their pencils and pens 😛
OSr GroupJune 2, 2014 at 5:51 am
Your blog is wonderful. I love your creativity. It's really inspiring.
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Esther OakleyMarch 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm
White cabinets really help bring out the light and area available in a room. My kitchen is currently really dark and doesn't let much light in. I feel if I were to add windows and make the room a lighter color it would appear a lot happier and feel like I have more room. Thanks for the inspiration I am going to start looking for pieces to make my kitchen lighter like yours!
Casey JonesApril 2, 2015 at 4:13 am
Wow, those cabinets looks great afterwords. Hopefully our kitchen cabinets will look that good when we replace them. Thanks for sharing your pictures of the before and after.
Mike FlowerApril 24, 2015 at 10:15 pm
Thanks for sharing about Requirement for Kitchen Remodeling In addition Remodelling……..
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MalitaMarch 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm
Hi Jenny. My question is: Is it possible to change from exposed to hidden hinges if you are not redoing your cabinets? If so, is it very expensive?
JennyMarch 25, 2016 at 11:37 am
It’s definitely possible to change out the hinges without redoing the cabinets – you would just have to make sure that the holes on the frames where the old hinges were, are able to be filled and touched up so that they’re not obvious. I’m not sure of the cost, but hinges aren’t cheap, and I definitely recommend using a carpenter to do the work. Hinges can be maddening!
MikeNovember 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm
Hello there. Do you know of a way to use hidden hinges on old cabinet doors with a reverse beveled edge?
JennyNovember 27, 2016 at 8:10 pm
It can be done, but with the help of a carpenter/woodworker who knows what he’s doing. It takes some finesse – much more than I even realized or appreciated!
JodiJuly 28, 2017 at 9:23 am
We have the first type of hinge, and are having trouble finding the hidden soft close hinges that will fit on the cabinets appropriately. Any guide to help us figure this out? We have already bought 2 different European style ones from Amazon.
JennyAugust 3, 2017 at 11:45 am
When in doubt, contact a carpenter. I worked with one to update the hinges for a client, as it was out of my scope of expertise.
CatherineSeptember 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm
My kitchen cabinets and doors look exactly like the ones in your first before and after shot on this post. I have had some cabinet reface reps assure me that it is impossible to put a hidden hinge on these doors. Could you please tell me what hinges were used on the doors in your first before and after shot?
Thanks so much!
JennySeptember 13, 2017 at 7:34 pm
It’s been awhile since I worked on that job, and I left the work to a carpenter, as it definitely requires that level of expertise!
KathyJanuary 5, 2018 at 4:41 pm
Changed my old hinges to new style ones you cannot see. Been working on painting cabinets since August. Installed the new hinges on the doors and maxing out the adjusting screws cannot align doors back on to cabinet bases without having a gap on the side of the door opposite the hinge side. At my witts end for absolution. My poor kitchen!
JennyJanuary 5, 2018 at 7:01 pm
I feel for you Kathy – I’m convinced that hinges are the devil’s handiwork! Worst case, I would call a carpenter and have an expert take a look. That’s what I did when I was working on changing out hinges for a client – there is way more to it than I even realized!