How to Transform Your Kitchen Cabinets with Wallpaper

 If you live in a rental, or perhaps just don’t have the budget or time to engage in a full-on remodel, you can still transform the look of your kitchen with the help of adhesive paper!

When I moved into my current apartment in Brooklyn, the kitchen felt a little dark for my taste due to the dark brown cabinets. I was thrilled when my dear friend Dani, a space transformation and DIY expert, came over and offered me the idea to change up the look of our kitchen with contact paper.

DIY Kitchen Makeover - Before & After

I find that my environment has a huge impact on how I feel every day, and especially in the kitchen, I feel so much more inspired to create in a space I love. This cabinet refresh is a little change that makes a big difference. I decided to have fun with my look with a purple shibori print. I got this on Spoonflower, which has tons of different prints for both contact paper and fabrics. You can even upload your own design! I like that if I get sick of it, we can easily change it out. I do think I want to cover the upper trim in white contact paper now, but that’s a project for another day.

We have another full how-to up on how we transformed my counters to look like faux marble, and you can find that here.

Check out our video below for more visuals on this, and read Dani’s how-to guide below for all the details. If you have questions, comment below and Dani will get back to you!

How to Transform Your Kitchen Cabinets with Adhesive Paper


Sponge or small foam roller
White (non-dyed) Cloth
Screw Driver and/or Drill
Removable Wallpaper (we used water activated temporary wallpaper for this project)
Cutting Mat with Gridlines (aka Self-Healing Quilting Mat)
A Straight Edge Rulers (recommend a non-slip Quilter’s Ruler)
Tape Measure
Exacto Knife
Smoothing Tool (confirm if its included in your adhesive paper purchase or if you’ll need to order one separately)

Before I dive into the details, I want to let you know that we originally intended to use peel-and-stick contact paper for this project like we used for the kitchen countertops. We ran into a few order delays and delivery issues, so we ended up with water-activated wallpaper instead. I found the water-activated paper to be easier to handle – cleaner cuts, more forgiveness if a tear occurred and easier to line up on the cabinet doors. However, the water-activated paper isn’t as durable as the contact paper material, so it will likely require more touchups in the long-run. If you chose to use the water-activated paper, make sure you only use a dry cloth or magic eraser to clean it. If you do use peel-and-stick paper, follow the same instructions from our countertops project for the application of the material but pre-cut the sections leaving an inch of excess paper and trim it after the product is attached and any air bubbles have been smoothed out.

Step 1: Measure the surface area of your cabinets and calculate the amount of paper you’ll need to order. I like to create a labeled diagram like this.

DIY Kitchen Cabinets - Wallpaper

Step 2: Remove the cabinet doors at the hinge using a screwdriver or drill. If your cabinets already have hardware (handles, pulls, knobs, etc) make sure to remove them at this time as well.

Step 3: If ordering your paper in bulk or larger stock rolls, as we’ve done in this project, I recommend laying the paper face down on the quilting mat/cutting surface and laying each cabinet door face down as if you were going to trace the doors into the paper. Position the doors so that you have at least an inch on each side. Then use a non-slip ruler and gridlines as a guide to cut the wallpaper. Repeat this step for all doors and/or application areas.

Step 4: Now that we have all of our sections cut, we are ready to begin activating the adhesive. These instructions are provided by Spoonflower if you do order from them, and were included with the wallpaper we purchased:

Using a clean paint roller or sponge, thoroughly wet the back of the paper, making sure not to leave any dry spots. Once it’s wet, gently fold the pasted side in on itself by folding the top and bottom of each piece to meet in the middle, taking care not to crease the paper – this is called ‘booking’. Set the paper aside for 3-5 minutes to rest and activate the adhesive.

Step 5: Once the adhesive has been activated, it’s time to apply the paper:

Make sure you have fully cleaned off your cabinet doors prior to applying the paper. If you have any major dents or damage, this will need to be filled or repaired prior to applying the paper.

Place your cabinet door face up on your quilting mat to ensure it’s aligned straight.

Pick up your first strip and unfold the paper. Lay the paper, adhesive side down, on the door – use your gridlines to ensure your pattern will be straight across.
Painter’s tape can be used to secure the paper if it begins to slip.

Once the paper is in position, smooth downward with a damp sponge (if applying to drywall) or with a felt smoothing tool (if applying to any other material).

Carefully smooth out large air bubbles as you go; smaller bubbles will dissipate as the wallpaper dries.

Step 6: Let the wallpaper dry for at least three hours. You can use this time to organize the contents of your cabinets before re-installing the doors.

Step 7: Once the wallpaper is dry, you’ll need to trim the access paper so you have straight edges.

Flip the door face down (wallpaper side down) on your quilting mat again and use a sharp knife to follow or trace the door edges.

You may notice that some corners weren’t fully secure after trimming. Just add a little smear of water under any unsealed edges and press it down with the smoothing tool. Let it dry for another hour.

Step 8: Now we are ready to re-install the newly updated doors.

If you have hardware to attach, I recommend doing this first. Use the tip of your sharp knife tool to make a small X in the wallpaper that now covers the screw holes. Gently glide your screw through the scored X, pressing the wallpaper down around it, to prevent any tears.

Screw or drill your door hinges back on the doors or cabinets. This will be most efficient if using a power drill or electric screwdriver.

If you fear power tools please hire a handyman to help with the heavy lifting here.

Step 9: Clean up and admire your newly transformed kitchen. Don’t forget to host friends in your upgraded digs.


Dani MARIE Glickson

Dani is the founder of LVD SPACES, a design consulting firm for interior spaces focused on space optimization for residential and commercial property owners and renters. LVD’s mission is to create the most functional, productive and efficient interior environments. LVD serves its clients by creating a proposed room layout with the ideal positioning, dimensions and materials of all necessary furniture and fixtures, and then further by purchasing, coordinating delivery and staging each room. LVD also offers room staging, organization and renovation consulting services.



How to Transform Your Kitchen Cabinets with Wallpaper

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  1. Chelsey Blair says:

    So question, I live in a rental apartment complex. Would the wallpaper or contact paper come off as easily as it was placed on?

    • Sarah Schiear says:

      Hi Chelsey! Yes, I actually recently removed the paper from both the cabinets and counters and there was no residue or damage at all. If you use the same type of paper on the cabinets, it comes right off with water.