In my house, there's a small wooden cabinet, somewhat scratched-up, which was given to us by a relative a few years ago. It has strange knobs in the form of faceted acrylic balls; they looked good in my aunt's antique-loaded home, but aren't so great in mine. The plastic parts look cheap to me, and overall, they don't quite suit the style of the cabinet.
So, last night, I took on a fifteen-minute project that I'd prepared for a few weeks ago: I changed the knobs.
The last time I was at The Home Depot, I bought four replacement knobs on a whim. The knobs I found, by Liberty Hardware, cost less than a dollar each; they have a nice design, reminiscent of stylized Japanese cherry (sakura) or plum blossoms (ume). If you don't like my selection, Liberty makes a number of low-cost brass decorative knobs. Some of their designs have a vintage feel.
The photo above is a "before" (taken from a slightly odd angle; this cabinet faces the end of a sofa with about an 18" gap between the two); click through to the break for an "after" and some instructions!
Check for new knobs or drawer pulls in home improvement centers like The Home Depot and Lowe's, but also in smaller hardware stores, and even in places like the Anthropologie chain of boutiques. There's a wide selection out there that will allow you to change and customize the look of just about any drawer or cabinet.
It only takes a minute to get inside the drawers and the door and unscrew the old knobs; all that is usually required to put on the new ones is a screwdriver. Most knobs come packaged with appropriate bolts (the knob acts as a "nut"). The head of the bolt will usually be inside the drawer or door, almost flush against the front, so it may help to clean the drawers out first.
Unscrew it, pop off the knob, then push the new bolt in from the interior of the drawer and screw the knob back onto the front. The procedure is basically the same with drawer pulls, except that there will be two screws instead of one and you'll want to try to tighten them evenly.
When I was done, I found that the cabinet had originally been varnished with the knobs in place. The old knobs had a wider base than the new ones, so there's a little varnish-ring spot, with an unfinished center, around each new base. This is mostly in the shadow of the new knobs, but it definitely shows if you look closely. (This picture shows it much more readily than the naked eye, because of the flash.)
I'm not worried about the look of the unfinished spots: the piece is never well-lit, and I eventually plan to refinish it in either red or black lacquer, or a dark green stain. At that point, I may also paint the knobs themselves with enamel. But that's a while in the future, and in the meantime, I think the look of the cabinet has been pleasantly improved. I really hated those acrylic knobs!
(This post has been edited since publication to correct a link.)