Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Customize Your Dream Kitchen with Unfinished Upper Cabinets

5 minute read

Remodeling or renovating your kitchen is one of the most exciting home improvement projects. With so many options for cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and appliances, you can truly create your ideal kitchen design. When it comes to cabinets, choosing unfinished upper cabinets provides maximum flexibility and customization to achieve your dream kitchen.

Unfinished cabinets allow you to apply your own finishes like stain, paint and glaze to match your personal style. You can opt for a traditional dark wood stain or a crisp white paint for a more modern look. The ability to customize unfinished cabinets sets them apart from pre-finished options and helps coordinate your new uppers with existing cabinetry.

Benefits of Unfinished Upper Cabinets

From a cost and customization perspective, unfinished upper kitchen cabinets offer several advantages over their pre-finished counterparts.

unfinished upper kitchen cabinets

Cost Savings

Unfinished cabinets are generally less expensive than pre-finished options since the staining and finishing labor costs are removed. Rather than paying a premium for someone else to apply finishes, you can do it yourself and save.

You can also choose less expensive wood species or quality grades knowing that finishes will mask any aesthetic imperfections. Opting for unfinished cabinets provides an immediate upfront cost savings in your kitchen remodel budget.

Customization Options

The ability to hand pick your own stain, paint or glaze color to match your precise taste is a major perk of unfinished cabinets. You can match existing cabinet finishes or change the look entirely with painted cabinets.

Beyond colors, unfinished cabinets allow you to select the exact wood species, door style, and hardware you want to achieve your dream kitchen. Specialty inserts like glass cabinet doors, pull-out shelves and built-in spice racks can also be incorporated.

Easier Coordination

For kitchen remodels, unfinished upper cabinets simplify coordination with existing cabinet finishes and new selections like countertops and backsplash tile.

Rather than trying to match new pre-finished cabinetry, you can apply stains, glazes or paint on site for a seamless look. Unfinished cabinets also give you time to coordinate with new countertop and backsplash selections.

Most Popular Upper Cabinet Options

When designing your new upper cabinets, there are several popular options to consider for door styles, wood species and storage solutions.

Door Styles

Door style plays a big role in the overall aesthetic of your kitchen. Three of today’s most popular options for upper cabinets include:

Consider the pros and cons of each door style as you choose your perfect upper cabinet look.

Wood Species

For unfinished cabinets, you’ll also want to decide on a wood species. Here are characteristics of some top options:

Consider the look you envision for your new uppers as you select a wood species suited for your kitchen design.

Storage Solutions

Beyond their exterior look, upper cabinets also need to function well by providing accessible storage. Some options to consider include:

Take time planning the interiors and storage accessories to maximize the functionality of your new upper cabinets.

Installation Tips for New Upper Cabinets

To ensure your new unfinished upper cabinets function and look their best, proper installation is key. Follow these tips:


Before installing new upper cabinets, thoroughly measure your space and identify wall stud locations. Have all tools, fasteners and building materials ready to go beforehand.

Remove existing cabinets if necessary and prepare the installation area by cleaning walls and masking off outlets. Taking time to prep helps the installation go smoothly.

Hanging Cabinets

With preparations complete, you’re ready to hang cabinets. Start by securing ledger boards to provide support. Then lift cabinets into place, shim as needed and fasten securely to wall studs through the back panel.

Take care to level and plumb cabinets for proper alignment. Also take time joining cabinet box fronts for a seamless look using clamps, glue blocks and screws.

Finishing Touches

Once cabinets are hung, shift focus to the finishing details. Install trim pieces like crown molding to seamlessly join cabinets and ceiling. Adjust shelves as needed for storage.

Don’t forget functional hardware like self closing hinges, pulls and knobs. Under-cabinet lighting can also showcase your new uppers while providing task lighting.

Customizing and Finishing Cabinets

One of the biggest perks of unfinished upper cabinets is the ability to apply your own custom finishes.


Use stains to accentuate the natural wood grain patterns. For painted cabinets, properly prep and prime the unfinished wood before applying durable paint finishes.

You can also distress and age new uppers for a vintage, rustic charm. Take time testing samples before finishing to ensure your upper cabinets coordinate perfectly.


Cabinet hardware pulls, knobs and hinges impact the overall look. Satin nickel and oil rubbed bronze are popular choices that work in a variety of kitchen styles.

Don’t forget functional hardware like self-closing hinges and soft-close drawer glides for smoothly operating cabinets.

Glass Inserts

For a touch of style, consider including glass insert panels in select upper cabinet doors. Privacy options like frosted, seeded or textured glass help conceal contents.

Be sure to coordinate the trim, hinges and pulls to match the rest of your hardware selection and design style.

With proper planning and installation, unfinished upper cabinets allow you to fully customize your kitchen remodel. Take time considering the door styles, wood species and storage solutions for your ideal finished look.

Apply your own signature finishes to create a cohesive, on-trend kitchen design. With the right unfinished upper cabinets, you can finally achieve the kitchen of your dreams!