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Turn Raised Panel Cabinet Doors Into Recessed Panel Doors

Good morning, and happy Monday to you!! I must confess, I did absolutely no work on my tiny little condo this weekend. None. Zilch. Nada. And it was actually quite nice.

So I thought this would be a perfect time to start plowing through some of those DIY project instructions that I’ve been intending to post for…well…quite some time now. Today I’ll start with this…

How to turn raised panel cabinet doors into shaker style doors.

When we first moved into our condo, this is what the kitchen cabinets looked like…

Horrible, right?  Not only were they orange, but those double-raised panels were just way too much for such a small space.  Almost immediately, I broke out the gel stain and refinished them with a really dark stain, but that did little to calm the space.  So I decided it was time for a complete overhaul.  I wanted a calmer look, with no raised panels.  So here are the steps I took:

I removed all of the doors from the cabinets, and make a workspace outside on two 5-gallon buckets.
Using the largest drill bit that I had (at the time), I drilled a hole in the door right next to the outside
frame that I wanted to keep.  I was very careful not to drill into the frame.
Because my drill bit wasn’t very big, I actually had to drill two holes right next to each
other to have a large enough space for….
…my jigsaw.  I used this to cut out the inside panel, right up against the frame that I wanted to keep.  I took my time on this step just to be sure I was cutting straight lines.
I didn’t worry about the corners on the first pass with the jigsaw.
I came back and did the corners separately, so that I could be sure to get them perfectly square.
When I had them all cut, I was left with a bunch of frames.
The next step was to sand them using my orbital sander.  This was very helpful in
smoothing away any areas that weren’t cut perfectly straight.  It also helped a great
deal on the areas where the two panels met and there was a little joint.
The next step was to cut the new inserts.  I used very thin wood with a stainable/paintable
veneer that I found at Home Depot.  They came in 2′ X 4′ pieces.
I measured the opening of each frame, allowing for an overlap of about 1/4″ on each side.
I didn’t want to make the overlap too large, or it would have interfered with the placement
of the hinges.  Then I used my jigsaw to cut the panels to the right size.
I tested each one for fit before moving on.
Once I had all of the panels cut, I used construction adhesive to secure the panels to the backs of the frames.
And then flipped the frame over to be sure the fit was correct before putting it aside to allow it to dry.
In some areas, the construction adhesive squeezed out the front.  I wiped away all that I could with
my finger, but it wasn’t necessary to get every single bit off, because it would later be hidden by caulk.
When I had all of the panels glued on, I stacked the doors and left them overnight to dry.
Next I used latex caulk to smooth the areas where the panel and the frame met.  I also used caulk to fill in any imperfections left from where the raised panels had been removed.
I started with a nice bead of caulk, working on two sides at a time, and then quickly wiped away
the excess with my finger and a moist rag.
When it was caulked, and the excess caulk was removed, it looked like this.
When all of the caulk was dry, I followed with two coats of primer, and then they were ready to paint!

They’re not perfect by any means, and they also don’t match the new cabinet doors perfectly, but I really don’t think that anyone would notice if I’d stop pointing it out.  🙂

The “new” shaker-style cabinet doors–previously double-raised panel doors.
These are actually new cabinets.  You can see that the doors
don’t match perfectly with the ones in the kitchen, but they’re pretty close!

I’m probably going to just keep on plowing through these DIY project instructions this week so that I can finally get them finished, so that means that posts won’t be the “regularly scheduled” topics this week.  Hope you don’t mind!

Oh, and if there are DIY instructions that you’ve been waiting patiently for, please let me know so that I can be sure to get to it this week!!

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  1. Can you tell me the paint color you used? I LOVE them! I think I talked my hubs into letting me paint ours that color! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hi Julie~~The paint color is Hallowed Hush (500F-6) by Behr, from Home Depot. HOWEVER…I had it color matched in Kelly Moore interior oil-based paint in a satin finish. I always, always paint cabinets and trim with oil-based paint (and I will until they take it off the market…grrrrr!!!!). 🙂

  3. These cabinets turned out great and the process looks fairly easy! Amazing Inspiration to Re-Do instead of buying New!

  4. Wow, I never would have guess that you did that. What an amazing re-purpose for cabinet doors! Truly inspirational.

  5. Can you do a DIY for the bench seat you built for the breakfast area and or the boxes for your underbed storage. LOVE how your kitchen turned out. I just found your blog and have literally spent the last 3 days reading it. You are so talented!


  6. Hi Heather~~So glad you found my blog!! I'll definitely put those on the list of DIYs to get done this week. Hmmmm…now to find those pictures.

  7. Now that is a professional DIY! I would of never known they were"t custom. I do the same thing and point out my flaws in my work. Nobody ever notices until I show them. Great tutorial, this is going to be an inspiration to many homeowners.

  8. Very cool,,, when I redid my cabinet faces I did the shaker style too. LOVE it…. I would have so done what you did, but mine were laminated plastic mdf doors,,, don't think this would have worked,,, lol

    LOVE the color you painted, and the pretty mural on your wall. Is that vinyl?

    Bella 🙂

  9. I've been redoing my cabinet doors as well, and this is where I'm at so far:

    My question is, how did you get a smooth coat of paint on your doors? I've been using a brush and sanding it back down, but that seems less than optimal, and I often end up sanding down to the wood around the edges (oops). When it comes time to paint the doors, I'd love it if were a little less labor intensive post-production. Any hints?

    Thanks so much for your awesome blog!


  10. Anne, looks great so far!!

    Interestingly, I tried TWICE this week to do a video tutorial on painting cabinets. Both times, I had technical difficulties. Matt thinks my SD card is bad. I'm going to get a new one and try again next week, so stay tuned!! 🙂

  11. Holy Cow!!! I just found your blog! You have the guts to do what I have been think!! I have a camper (made in the 90's) the kitchen is very functional but dated aka ugly! Thanks for the all the great ideas.

  12. You did an absolutely brilliant job, so pretty too! We have laminate cabinets from the 70s. Can laminated cabinets achieve the same look painted, like what you achieved here? If so, what kind of paint would you recommend?

    A couple of the laminate doors are slightly peeling in places from water damage. Sadly we don’t have the money to redo the kitchen. Suggestions on how to deal with it would be greatly welcomed!

  13. I absolutely love your cabinets. I love the color, too, but they are nearly the same color as my front room, so I’ll go with a glossy red instead. I also was thinking that I could do a thin bead board panel instead of the flat wood panels.

    I would be so appreciative if you could tell me what depth your panels are. I have found bead board in 1/4″ and 1/8″. You said you used thin wood, which I’d like to do, but I’m worried that it won’t be sturdy enough with the 1/8th”..

    Also, could you please share the measurement of the strip of wood (the frame width, not the thickness) you salvaged. My panels are flat, so I can’t use the inset as a guide and yours just look perfect.

    Thank you so much!

  14. You are SO brave to tackle removing those raised panels ! Wow ! I never would have thought of that . . . and even if I HAD thought of it, I’d be totally intimidated ! LOL ! You rock !

    Like Meredith above, I have been down in this rabbit hole for 3 days now . . . My eyes are getting tired . . . but I am totally inspired ! Oh, won’t my manfriend be totally overjoyed to learn THAT ? hahahah !

  15. Wow! I am so doing this. I have the exact same kitchen. Was about to paint the cabinets white this month. You are right. I didn’t realize how busy the raised panels made the kitchen look. Thank you for the inspiration.

  16. Oh my heavens! I love your website! I got so excited to see the cabinets project because I want to paint mine, and am afraid f making a mess of them. Mine are in a trailer, and are kind of orange looking-supposed to have been light oak.

  17. You mentioned you had first gel stained the cabinets a darker stain. I liked that look for my kitchen. Any tips on getting it right? Type of gel stain? Prep advice. Thanks, just love your blog so inspiring.

  18. I love the finished expanse of basket “cubbies” from your previous condo! Was that pre-made or did you build that too? I’m asking Santa for power tools this year! You rock!

  19. Woman you are amazing. I am totally with you on the shaker style cabinet – yuck on anything raised or curvy. You got out your jig saw and all. You are an inspiration!

  20. You are so brave to just start hacking away! It’s inspiring as I research ways to update my BLAH raised panel cabinet doors!