20 Distressed Kitchen Cabinets You Have to See

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While we love all things modern, not everything has to be bright and shiny to earn a place on our Pinterest board. In fact, our latest obsession isn't new at all — or at least it doesn't appear that way. We're talking about distressed kitchen cabinets. And when it comes to this design idea, the name of the game is all about embracing the beauty of the imperfect.

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There are a couple of ways to go about achieving this look — you can invest in new custom distressed cabinets, hire someone to apply the weathered finish to you your existing cabinets, or you can tackle the paint job yourself. If you choose to save your hard-earned cash and go the DIY route, all you really need to give your cabinets that well-loved appearance are paint and sandpaper. For a distressed effect, you can sand down the existing surface (leaving patches here and there) and finish it off with paint or lacquer. But more on that later.

Looking for inspiration? The 20 kitchens ideas ahead are guaranteed to satisfy your craving.

1. Repurpose materials.

The recipe for success in this farmhouse-style kitchen designed by Oz Architects? Well-loved cabinetry, local stone, and open shelving to show off heirloom ceramics. Exposed ceiling beams (made from reclaimed wood, of course) are also a must.

2. Consider a greenish tint.

The idea of preparing hearty ribollita in a setting that evokes visions of a Tuscan villa is pretty darn tempting. So pull inspiration from this cozy kitchen design captured by photographer Paul Massey, with distressed kitchen cabinets flaunting a green tint. White subway tile, open shelving, and a gourmet stove offset the more rustic elements.

3. Go black.

There's something about this space, designed by Zachary Leung, that feels vaguely bucolic yet simultaneously sort of industrial. Perhaps it's the combination of black distressed kitchen cabinets and a waterfall countertop island. And let's not forget the classic barn-style pendant.

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4. Try a two-tone effect.

Opt for a two-tone installation that can fit right in with a contemporary interior design scheme. Distressed gray cabinets on the bottom and freshly painted white built-ins up top give this light-filled kitchen designed by Lindsay Chambers tons of character. Gourmet appliances and a herringbone mosaic tile backsplash balance the rustic counter stools and dark hardwood flooring.

5. Opt for a blue hue.

This gorgeous kitchen designed by Heidi Piron is bursting with color and flavor. Medium-tone wood balances the richness of the blue-green cabinets. And the functional layout is sublime for whipping up tasty treats.

6. Embrace rustic flaws.

Designed by Smith Hanes Studio, a blackened steel door frame, white subway tile-clad walls, and dark hardwood flooring set the perfect industrial stage for the real star of this culinary show. A gnarled medium-tone wood cabinet serves as the ideal complement for a modern kitchen pantry.

7. Keep it light.

If you're going for a modern twist on distressed cabinets, stick to a light stain that can show off the grains of the wood without overly emphasizing its imperfections à la this bright and airy design from Savvy Interiors. Offset that with white countertops and upper cabinets.

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8. Upcycle flea market finds.

If you're curious about distressed kitchen cabinets but can't quite commit to the full deal, dip your toes into the look by experimenting with smaller-scale pieces like the cabinet-turned-island seen in this small cook space by Amber Interiors. Flea markets and vintage shops are great places to score freestanding cabinets that come with an antiqued finish.

9. Pair with pink walls.

Switch it all up with unexpected color play to give your distressed cabinets a contemporary revamp. Look to the color wheel for guidance on complementary hues and allow that to guide your decision. This pink kitchen with green cabinets hits all the right notes.

10. Channel the countryside.

Distressed cabinets are a hallmark of French country style and this dreamy scheme shows how effortlessly cool the finish can be. This matching cabinet and table combo spotted on Annie Sloan is the result of a simple DIY that involved white chalk paint and a little sanding along the edges for the desired distressed detailing.

11. Embrace shades of gray.

The distressed detailing on the gray cabinets in this traditional kitchen from Heidi Piron offers just the right touch of visual texture in an otherwise polished space. Coupled with darker gray walls and countertops, the finish really stands out and exudes pure elegance.

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12. Incorporate beadboard paneling for effect.

Instead of a standard flat-panel cabinet, turn to a beadboard option with vertical panels to visually extend the height of the room. In this English country kitchen from deVOL, the distressed surface is beautifully elevated by the moody olive green stain.

13. Mind the island.

Kate Marker of Kate Marker Interiors knows how to make a statement and this lakeside cottage kitchen is all the proof we need. The designer went with retro appliances in bright white and orange that play surprisingly well with weathered wood cabinets and an old, industrial island.

14. Invest in built-in storage.

Play to your elements and go for a storage solution that feels like a seamless extension of your kitchen — look to the floors, wall colors, and countertop materials for guidance. The distressed look of this shelving unit is serving us with all sorts of inspiration, courtesy of the creatives behind Jersey Ice Cream Co.

15. Go for contrast.

Designer Emily Henderson schools us on the art of turning a kitchen island into a veritable focal point. A matte black distressed finish gives the structure a leg to stand on while the lighter surrounding cabinetry frames the room with a grounding effect.

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16. Complement with brick flooring.

Go full steam ahead with a rustic or modern farmhouse look by pairing distressed cabinetry with brick flooring. As proven by this lofty scullery from Dakota Kitchen, the saturated elements of the material will instantly warm up your culinary design while softening the intensity of an otherwise industrial-esque finish.

17. Keep it cool.

If you're looking to take a modern approach to distressed cabinetry, try working with colors like blue, gray, and green. Shades with cooler undertones will tend to feel more sleek and refined. Seal the deal by complementing the palette with high-contrast splashes of white and black. Mark Lewis Interior Design shows us how it's done.

18. Go for the understated.

The island can be a great spot for a distressed detail, especially if you're not looking to do a whole kitchen remodel. Draw inspiration for a simple makeover from this charming setup belonging to Home Made Lovely. Simply sand down the surface and then go over it with chalk paint to achieve the desired rustic effect.

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19. Make it match.

A monochrome design scheme doesn't have to feel snoozy. The key to keeping it fresh is to employ an abundance of texture, be that through distressed cabinetry, ceramic tiles, or brushed blackened-steel hardware. This kitchen nook from Leanne Ford offers a good starting point, showcasing a no-paint approach to distressed cabinets below the sink that almost blends in with the rest of the cabinetry.

20. Embrace industrialism.

Industrial design champions reclaimed materials and patinaed finishes, so naturally, distressed cabinetry goes without saying. Complete the look with wrought iron accents (think barstools or lighting) and allow the imperfections of the materials to shine through.

How Do You Paint Cabinets to Look Antique?

Ready to DIY your own set of distressed cabinets? The basic idea is to make the finish look old, and this can be done by sanding down surfaces or with paint. For the latter, apply a coat of paint and let it dry and then go over it with another shade, occasionally wiping and smudging it off — the goal here is to make the cabinet look worn. If you're looking for a colorful refresh, paint your existing cabinets and then lightly go over them with sandpaper to remove a little bit of the stain for effect.

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Anna is a New York-based writer and editor with a penchant for travel, design, and interiors.

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