What is the best color to paint kitchen cabinets? Interiors designers vote for these shades

Choosing a color for your kitchen cabinets can be an exciting yet daunting task. With so many options to consider, it’s hard to know where to start. Should you go for a bold, dramatic hue or stick to a more neutral palette? Do bright colors make the space feel more lively or just cluttered? And which shades will stand the test of time without going out of style?

Interior designers agree that the cabinet color you choose can make or break the look and feel of your kitchen. It impacts the entire aesthetic, from the mood it creates to how warm and inviting it feels. The right color has the power to make a kitchen look larger, brighter and more high-end.

So what are the best cabinet colors according to designers? Here is an overview of the top shades they recommend and why each one works so well.

Classic White

Crisp, clean white may seem like an obvious choice, but designers love it for good reason. An all-white kitchen never goes out of style and always looks fresh and bright. White cabinets have a timeless, minimalist appeal that pairs well with any color accents or hardware finishes you choose.

The color makes spaces feel larger and reflect light well, which is perfect for small kitchens. It also provides a blank canvas look if you ever want to change up the decor or introduce pops of color down the road. Just think about how elegant white kitchens look in those Instagram-worthy home accounts.

To prevent an all-white kitchen from feeling sterile, add visual interest with contrasting textures. For example, combine white shaker cabinets with a marble countertop and modern metal hardware. Then layer in other materials like wood cutting boards, rattan baskets and linen towels.

Light & Airy Grays

For a slightly warmer alternative to bright white, consider pale grays with a subtle undertone. Light gray cabinets have gained major popularity in recent years, and the appeal is easy to see.

The soft, neutral color works well in both modern and traditional kitchens. It creates an airy, open look with a touch more depth than stark white. Light grays also serve as a serene backdrop that works with any style from industrial to coastal.

Greige, which mixes gray and beige undertones, is one of the most popular cabinet colors right now. It has a very subtle contrast from white but still reads as a crisp neutral. Other great options include Farrow & Ball’s ‘Pointing’ and Benjamin Moore’s ‘Gray Owl.’

To keep light gray cabinets looking fresh, opt for matte finishes rather than high-gloss. Also mix in contrasting elements like black hardware, wood countertops or patterned tile backsplashes. Metallic accents and leathered granite countertops also pair nicely for a more modern, industrial vibe.

Classic Brown

For a traditional kitchen with timeless appeal, rich wood tones are a designer favorite. The warm, natural color instantly creates a welcoming atmosphere. It also pairs perfectly with other traditional materials like granite countertops, nickel hardware and ceramic tile backsplashes.

The most popular wood cabinet shades range from milk chocolate browns like Benjamin Moore’s ‘Chelsea Gray’ to deeper espresso tones. Unmodified wood stains in oak, maple and cherry also look stunning with straight wood-grain patterns.

The natural patterns and depth of wood cabinets add stylistic interest to balance out the rich color. Small details like exposed hinges and textured finishes play up the organic look. Just balance the brown cabinets with plenty of light in the space to avoid looking too dark or rustic.

Buttery paint colors like Sherman-Williams ‘Natural Choice’ also create a nice bridge between gray and brown. They offer a slightly warmer alternative for light wood looks without the yellow undertones of beige.

Classic Black

For a super chic, modern look that makes a statement, black cabinets can’t be beat. The dramatic color instantly makes kitchens look sleek, upscale and current. It creates a moody, sophisticated vibe that works well in contemporary spaces.

Deep charcoal and black stained wood both look striking. Opt for a wood with an interesting grain pattern, like oak or hickory, to add natural texture. Matte and leathered finishes help reduce the severity of solid black. Adding contrasting metals and marble accents will also keep the look refined.

While black cabinets make a bold style choice, the color does have some practical considerations. Dust and fingerprints can show up more. And the dark color tends to make kitchens feel smaller and darker. Be sure to incorporate ample lighting and lighter wall colors to balance out the depth.

Vibrant Blues & Greens

While neutral cabinets play it safe, bold color lovers turn to shades of blue and green. These lively hues instantly inject personality and modern whimsy into kitchens. They create a vibrant, playful look in cottage, rustic and modern spaces alike.

Soft blue-greens work nicely in transitional kitchens that straddle both traditional and contemporary styles. The colors pair well with marble, brass accents and warm wood tones. Think of the appeal of aqua glass bottles and Ball canning jars – it’s a nostalgic “cabin kitchen” palette.

Bolder ocean blues and emeralds make the biggest splash in ultra-modern designs. Especially when paired with sleek cabinetry, gold/black hardware and marble. The colors pop against stark white walls. They also contrast beautifully with wood cutting boards and greenery.

For a more eclectic and whimsical kitchen, consider mixing multiple cabinet colors. Try using a bold blue or green just on the island while keeping the main cabinets crisp white. This creates a fun, bespoke look.

Warm & Muted: Tans, Terracottas and Yellows

Contrary to popular belief, not all colors have to be super saturated to make an impact. Designers also love muted tones like brick reds, mustard yellows and terracottas for adding warmth to a space. The earthy colors blend well with natural materials while still making a statement.

Terracotta is one of the hottest options right now. The reddish-orange hue looks surprisingly versatile, pairing nicely with warm wood, marble, brass accents and greenery. It provides a nice bridge between neutrals and primary colors.

Mustard yellow is another unexpected choice that instantly modernizes a kitchen. Especially when mixed with light woods and modern styling. The golden tone looks sunny and sophisticated instead of primary-colored.

Brick reds offer a nice alternative to classic cherry cabinetry. The color is bold while still feeling grounded. Go for a modern lipstick red or experiment with burnt orange undertones. Use metal accents and leathered textures to keep it from feeling too country kitchen.

Contrasting Colors for Eclectic Style

For the most eclectic and personalized look, consider combining two contrasting cabinet colors. This mismatched style has become popular among designers for creating a one-of-a-kind kitchen.

A common approach is pairing a bold island color with neutral perimeter cabinets. Or vice versa, depending on your style. Blue, green and yellow islands pop against white or gray bases. You can also do a darker island for contrast against light cabinets.

Two-toned cabinets, like white uppers and navy lowers, also create visual interest. Contrasting finishes, like glossy and matte, enhance the effect. Just be sure to maintain a cohesive thread with the same hardware and countertops tying each section together.

The beauty of this approach lies in the ability to reflect your personal taste. You can incorporate your favorite bold color in the island without it overwhelming the whole kitchen. Contrasting cabinet colors allow you to think outside the box.

Which Color is Best for Small Kitchens?

When dealing with a small, cramped kitchen, the choice of cabinet color can have a big visual impact. The wrong shade can make a space feel dark and closed-off, while others create the illusion of a larger, brighter room. Here are the best options for opening up tiny kitchens:


An expansive white palette keeps things airy and light. White reflects the most light and makes rooms appear larger. For a clean, uncluttered look, coat the cabinets, walls and trim in the same crisp white. Add visual interest through lighting fixtures, hardware and textured surfaces.

Light Grays

For a slightly warmer alternative to bright white, pale grays work beautifully. Especially greiges with beige/brown undertones. The colors open up the space while still providing a neutral backdrop. Keep other elements light as well.

Glossy Finishes

High-gloss and glass-front cabinetry magnify light to make kitchens feel brighter and more spacious. The reflective surface bounces light around the room and gives the illusion of more square footage. Just stick to lighter color gloss paints and glass.

Open Shelving

Removing upper cabinet doors creates an airier, less boxed-in look. Floating shelves keep things lightweight and give an illusion of more space. Make sure your dishes and glassware coordinate so the open shelves don’t look too cluttered.

Cool Undertones

Cool grays, blues and greens recede more than warm wood tones and reds. So they give the perception of depth in a small space. Just stick to soft pastel versions instead of super saturated shades.

Best Cabinet Color Combos

While the cabinet color steals the show, the entire kitchen palette impacts the overall look. The countertops, backsplash, hardware and decor all interact with the cabinet tone. Here are some of the best color combinations interior designers recommend:

White Cabinets

  • White + Marble countertops + Gold/Brass hardware
  • White + Butcherblock + Black hardware
  • White + Brick or patterned tile + Dark wood open shelving
  • White + Quartz countertops + Nickel or matte black hardware
  • White + White quartz/marble + Rattan or wood accents

Light Gray Cabinets

  • Gray + White marble + Matte black hardware
  • Gray + Wood countertops + Black hardware
  • Gray + Bold patterned tile + Brass fixtures
  • Gray + Concrete countertops + Oxidized bronze hardware
  • Gray + Butcher block + Stainless steel appliances

Brown Cabinets

  • Brown + White marble countertops + Matte black hardware
  • Brown + Granite countertops + Brass fixtures
  • Brown + Travertine tile + Stainless steel appliances
  • Brown + Butcher block + Pendant lights
  • Brown + Concrete countertops + Nickel hardware

Black Cabinets

  • Black + White marble + Brass hardware
  • Black + Wood countertops + Stainless appliances
  • Black + Boldly patterned tile + White grout
  • Black + Concrete countertops + Oxidized bronze
  • Black + Butcher block + Woven pendulum lights

Blue & Green Cabinets

  • Blue + White marble + Gold hardware
  • Blue + Butcherblock + Wrought iron hardware
  • Blue + Subway tile + Black window frames
  • Green + Wood countertops + Exposed brick backsplash
  • Green + Concrete + Industrial pendants

8 Pros of Choosing Painted Cabinets

Beyond just the color itself, deciding on painted versus stained cabinets makes a significant style impact. Here are reasons professional designers often select painted kitchen cabinets:

1. Seamless Match Throughout

Painted cabinet collections achieve a beautifully uniform look. While wood stains vary from piece to piece, the painted color matches precisely in every nook and cranny. This cohesiveness provides a sleek, tailored appearance.

2. Virtually Unlimited Color Options

Paint opens up an endless spectrum of colors to make your kitchen unique. Custom stains offer far less flexibility. You can select any trending hue or go for a personal favorite that reflects your style.

3. Easier to Update Down the Road

A fresh coat of paint provides an easy, inexpensive way to change the color scheme. No need to purchase all new cabinets to get a new look! Simply cleaning and painting existing cabinets saves substantial cost.

4. Durable and Easy to Clean

Modern cabinet paints hold up well to moisture, grease and frequent cleaning. Their hard, protective finish resists yellowing and staining better than bare wood. Popular options like satin and matte provide subtle sheen without requiring polish.

5. More Budget Friendly

Pre-finished cabinets cost significantly less than real wood counterparts. Opting for stock colors instead of custom stains provides even more savings. The end result looks cohesive and stylish.

6. Ability to Hide Imperfections

Minor chips and dents become nearly unnoticeable after painting. Painted finishes provide a seamless, flawless look compared to wood grain. An immaculate paint job transforms old cabinets.

7. Sleek, Contemporary Aesthetic

For modern designs, painted cabinets simply look more current and upscale. The flawless finish provides a more uniform, built-in appearance. Stains often scan as more traditional or rustic.

8. Easier to Soften Woodgrain

Painting lets you conceal or tone down wood grains for a more consistent look. Conversely, stains accentuate the grain and markings. Paint evens out the finish.

FAQs About the Best Kitchen Cabinet Colors

What is the most popular kitchen cabinet color?

Currently, white remains the most popular choice among homeowners and designers for its clean, timeless appeal. But pale neutrals like light gray have risen in popularity over stark white for a slightly warmer, relaxed look. Medium wood tones are also still sought-after for traditional kitchens.

Should you match kitchen cabinets to flooring?

Matching flooring and cabinetry creates a seamless, monochromatic look that makes a kitchen appear more spacious. However, too much matching color can feel monotonous. Many designers recommend a contrasting floor for visual interest. Similar tones work well, like light wood flooring with medium wood cabinets.

Should I choose a warm or cool cabinet color?

Cool grays and blues tend to recede and feel more calming and airy. Warm reds, browns and yellows stand out more and create an inviting, cozy ambiance. Neutral whites and beiges work well in either tone. Complement your cabinet color with countertops in the same tone family.

How do I choose kitchen cabinet colors?

Consider the look you want (modern, traditional, rustic, etc), architectural style, existing elements you want to incorporate and overall comfort level with color. Neutrals suit those wary of color commitment, while pastels or bold hues make exciting statements. Always select finishes that disguise wear and tear.

What color cabinets are in style for 2023?

Trending cabinet colors include light, airy grays like greige. Earthy terracottas and mustards are also hot this year. Black remains a sophisticated option. For traditional spaces, mid-tone woods satisfy. And painted Shaker cabinets in hip blues and greens offer affordable panache.

What color cabinets make a small kitchen look bigger?

White, light gray, pastel blues and cool tones will make a small kitchen feel more open and expansive. Glossy finishes also give the illusion of more space with light reflection. Dark colors, on the other hand, tend to make small kitchens feel more closed in and crowded.

How do you update old kitchen cabinets on a budget?

Painting offers the most dramatic and budget-friendly makeover for outdated cabinets. Sand and clean surfaces thoroughly before applying new paint. Update cabinet hardware like knobs and pulls for another easy upgrade. Add new lining to open shelves for a refreshed look.

Should I get two colored kitchen cabinets?

Pairing two complimentary cabinet colors creates stylish contrast. Try different hues on upper and lower cabinets or paint an island a different shade. Just be sure to coordinate the finishes and hardware so the kitchen still feels cohesive.

Can you mix cabinet colors in the same kitchen?

Yes, using two colors together adds character. Stick to cabinets in the same tone family, like a soft blue-gray lower cabinet with pale blue uppers. Or go bold with contrast, like white perimeter cabinets and a deep green island. Limiting the second color prevents a disjointed look.


Choosing the perfect kitchen cabinet color involves both personal style and practical considerations. Interior designers agree that a cohesive color palette makes or breaks the aesthetic.

Crisp whites and light grays create nearly foolproof backdrops in both modern and traditional kitchens. Wood cabinet stains offer flexible warmth from airy natural to deep espresso. Black makes a bold, sophisticated statement for dramatic contrast.

And colorful cabinets in shades of blue, green and even yellow provide lively pops of self-expression. Combining painted cabinets together adds an on-trend, bespoke look. Just keep finishes and hardware coordinated.

Be sure to tailor color choices to your kitchen’s size and overall design, and you’re sure to end up with a beautiful, functional heart of the home.