Oak cabinets give you the best of two worlds: They're sturdy and made of durable wood that will last for an extremely long time, and they have a naturally golden hue that gives a kitchen a warm glow. But if your cabinets were installed in 1999, they're probably looking dated by now. Fortunately, oak cabinets are like a blank canvas and can easily take on new colors and a whole new look.
Pour 1/4 cup trisodium phosphate and 1 gallon water into a bucket. Put on a pair of rubber gloves, and dip a sponge in the mixture. Wring out the sponge, and wipe down the cupboards, removing built-up grease and dirt. Rinse well, and allow the cabinets to air dry.
Lay a drop cloth on your counters and floor or flat work space. Unscrew the hinges from the cabinet doors, and unscrew the drawer fronts from their frames. Lay the cabinet doors and drawer fronts on a drop cloth in your designated work space.
Go over the wood with 150-grit sandpaper, rubbing it evenly across the surface of the doors, cabinet frames and drawer fronts. Repeat with 180-grit sandpaper. Run a vacuum across the wood to suck up the sanding dust.
Apply an oil-based primer with a 3-inch nylon brush to the cabinet doors, frames and drawer fronts. Allow it to dry for two hours. Alternatively, apply a dark cherry or chocolate-colored stain to the oak with your brush, covering the cabinets generously. Allow it to soak into the pores of the wood for 20 minutes.
Apply a coat of oil-based paint to the primed cabinet doors, frames and drawer fronts with your brush. Allow it to dry for 24 hours, and apply another coat, allowing it to dry for the same amount of time. Alternatively, wipe excess stain off the wood with a soft cloth. Allow the stained cabinet parts to dry for 24 hours, and apply a second coat of stain, allowing it to dry for a full day.
Tape a stencil to each cabinet door or drawer front with painter's tape. Spray the design onto the wood with oil-based spray paint. Remove the stencil, and let the paint dry for 12 hours.
Apply an even coat of polyurethane to the cabinet doors and drawer fronts and frame with a brush, if you would like to protect the topcoat or give the wood a shinier finish. Let this final coat dry for 24 hours, and then screw in new, modern looking cabinet pulls.