How To Achieve Rustic-Looking Cabinets


The first kitchen cabinet ever built was the Hossier, released in the market in the 1900’s. It used to be the most favored kitchen item next to the kitchen table and is characterized by four main elements that made it stand out from the rest. These elements include: a) a base with door and drawers on the bottom that serve as storage, b) a porcelain work surface that slides out, c) a top that contains a tambour door, and d) a top that includes a sifter, flour bin, and other kitchen accessories. Undoubtedly, the Hoosier started a lineage of kitchen cabinets that we have learned to value and love since then. Centuries after, the brand is still a top-seller among collectors. This specific Hoosier cabinet is proof of how the brand is still well received to this day, auctioned and sold for $600 plus a 17% buyer’s premium. Not bad, right?

With this long history, it’s no wonder that people want the rustic look on their kitchen cabinets. There seems to be an ongoing craze now where people deliberately pay a premium to make their new things look old. From tattered jeans, vintage automobiles, and now, rustic kitchen cabinets, the choices are becoming more numerous and diverse – indication of the growing number of people who prefer character and organic beauty over fresh, new furniture.

There are ready-made versions of vintage-looking kitchen cabinets by today’s manufacturers, however, their costs are quite of a concern especially to those whose budgets are limited. So does this mean you have to forget about wanting a rustic-looking kitchen cupboard? Absolutely not! If you are on shoestring budget, these are DIY tips to make your cabinets look “distressed” for less.


The first inexpensive way to “distress” old cabinets is to strip the existing paint off your kitchen cabinets. Sand your cabinets to bare wood. You can do this by hand or by using an orbital sander which makes the process of sanding faster. Either way, you can produce great results since you don’t need to be precise or even. Remember, rustic furniture are characterized by uneven textures and color so the more imperfections you produce, the more perfect your project gets.

Simply varnish the wood for a natural, bare look or glaze the surface with your preferred paint color. This technique of mixing the glazing liquid with paint provides a translucent color to your cabinet. Using a paintbrush, apply the glaze and set aside to dry. Smoothly wipe or dab the parts off with a rag afterwards to give the surface the uneven appearance which is what you’re going for. Once the glaze had air-dried, apply with a coat of polyurethane to seal the cabinet.


Repaint using a mixture of contrasting colors and uneven shades to produce a layered texture. Remember that uneven shades of color is one characteristic of old wood. If you have plain wood cabinets, I would recommend that you sand the surface first before applying the first coat of paint to ensure that the paint sticks to the surface. Look for a paint design you really like on magazines and in the Internet. Then practice on a scrap piece of wood before actually applying them onto your kitchen cabinets.

Apply Just The Right Amount of Force

Old furniture has more texture because of natural wear and tear incurred through years of use. You can imitate this texture by applying soft force or creating indentations on the wood. One way to do that is by hitting your kitchen cabinets with a chain, however, make sure not to exert too much force when you hit the wood so as not to incur massive, irreparable damage. If you have a toddler, you can ask him to run the cabinet door over with his Radio Flyer wagon or stroller. If you are unsure about doing this, try creating texture by applying several coats of paint, allow them to dry, and then sand or peel off some of the layers.

Replace or Add Rustic Frames, Doors and Knobs

Aside from refinishing and creating texture, you can scour antique shops for genuine antique or reclaimed wood, knobs, pulls, and handles. Old barn woods are perfect materials that represent the rustic look and they are less costly too. If you have carpentry knowledge, you can try making kitchen cabinet doors out of old barn wood. You can also glue strips of old barn wood over your kitchen cabinet frames or doors if you don’t prefer replacing them altogether.

Add Fabrics

The rustic look is about creating a feeling of warmth and history to your home and adding fabrics can actually do the trick in completing the rustic kitchen ensemble. Using curtains made our of layers of different fabrics as well as crocheted kitchen towels or mitts hanging on kitchen cabinet knobs and handles complete that cozy, comfortable feeling in the kitchen which is tied up with the rustic look.

3 Responses

  1. I am refinishing a Hoosier Cabinet. The porcelain counter top has a few good chips and a few stains. It is white w/ black edge. Any suggestions on what to do to repair and repaint top would be greatly appreciated.Thanks.

  2. Might want to try an arts & crafts store for supplies that could fix your countertop. A paint solution would be epoxy paint.

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