When I bought the house, I contemplated painting the kitchen cabinetry white to brighten the space up, but the interest of trying to retain the natural wood as best as I could for resale purposes I left them in their original state (not sure why people like oak so much, but they do, so be it).
Alternatively, since I knew I could get by with fewer top cabinets (at least 3 of them were completely empty), I began taking them down. Easy as that. You’d be surprised how few screws actually hold a heavy wooden cabinet to a wall, if you haven’t had the pleasure of installing or uninstalling before. I took down one, and then got a little addicted to demo, and ended up lugging 7 (yes 7) cabinets to the attic for safe, dry storage (future homeowner can re-install them easily – I marked them all clearly and taped hardware right to the shelves!)
There were a few issues we uncovered once the cabinets were gone, but nothing major – the walls beneath the cabinetry were never primed or painted, two sections of ceiling were damaged, and there was a hole hiding behind the fridge. We took care of those problems with some spackle, drywall tape, and a few coats of paint, and while the walls were being refinished, I bought and painted some unfinished brackets from IKEA (priced at $4 and $7 each). Check out the photos of the kitchen before and in-progress:
The new shelves went up with relative ease – I bought some super-extra-strength toggle bolts to ensure that each shelf could really hold a lot of plates and cups. Success – they still need to be painted (white) but I’m thrilled with the openness in the kitchen, and happy that I have the opportunity to display fun things (thinking plants, mugs, colorful plates). Here are some afters – the shelves are admittedly a little cluttered at first, because I was experimenting with how much they could hold. Since the photos were taken, about half of the cups and dishes have been stored away.