With their timeless appeal and ability to brighten even the gloomiest of spaces, white kitchen cabinets are ubiquitous in modern and traditional spaces alike. But don’t think for a second that a stark paint color is your only option. Softer antique white kitchen cabinets (a cousin to cream) are another strong contender—they warm up stainless steel and stone without appearing like the backdrop for an art gallery. Check out some of our favorite homes featuring ivory cupboards to learn how to make the most of the hue.

Double Up on Colors

Photography by Nick Johnson

Rather than tear out the cabinets in this remodel, designer Young Huh opted to transform the originals with a bright shade of white and pair it with an eggshell wall color, complementing both the gray counters and the dark wood floors. The fresh coats have a bonus effect: making the room feel larger.

Hide an Everyday Surprise

Photography by Nathan Kirkman and Anna Knott

For this home in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, owners Graham Kostic and Fran Taglia brought some contrast to their all-cream cupboards by adding a flash of green anytime someone goes to grab something: When the cabinet doors open, lime-tinted interiors are revealed. “Chicago can be a miserable city in the wintertime,” explains Taglia. “We use color to brighten up unexpected areas.” 

Make a Bunch of Materials Uniform

Photography by Adrian Gaut

To expand the storage capability of the existing kitchen cabinetry in their upstate New York farmhouse, the founders of Hawkins New York turned old floorboards into shelves to go on either side of the lowers, then painted them to match. Before driving to the forest to source your own tree, though, check local lumber providers for a reclaimed selection.

Think Small

Photography by Nicole Franzen; Styling by Kate Berry

Not all homes come already outfitted with gorgeous antique white kitchen cabinets. (Crazy, right?) So follow this setup from the British Standard showroom—add a single one to the countertop that can hold mugs, espresso cups, and your coffee and tea supplies. Vintage options can be found on the cheap, like this one for $300. Plus, because antique white is so subtle, it will go with whatever cabinet hue is underneath—even a rich burgundy.

Add a Dose of Unexpected Color

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

The jolt of ROYGBIV from this magnetic knife strip makes these soft white cabinets and a natural wood countertop and backsplash look surprisingly contemporary. When you get sick of the current scheme, just swap the tools with a few waiting in the wings—er, your drawers. 

Create (a Tiny Bit of) Contrast

Photography by Plain English

Antique white can stand out just as much as its true-white counterpart. In this kitchen by Plain English, black iron handles pop—and draw attention to the craftsmanship of the Shaker-style doors.

Or Go for Big Impact

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

If your creamy white fronts are reading a little dull, wake things up with an unexpected juxtaposition, like this sleek slate-hued subway tile. With the lowers painted in a slightly cooler dove gray shade, the transition from light to dark to light again doesn’t feel jarring.

Have Fun With Fixtures

Photography by Laure Joliet

A neon orange sink basin isn’t off the table when the rest of the room is a blank canvas, like in Linda and John Meyers’ Portland, Maine, kitchen. The splash of color is used as punctuation here, and a single tangerine knob is the tiny nod that ties it all together.

Up the Vintage Factor With Paneling

Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson

Designers Dan Fink and Thomas O’Brien added new shiplap fronts to the cabinets in their Bellport, New York, cottage to cover up plumbing, but you’d never know. In a soft white, the grooved doors feel right at home with the farmhouse sink and vaulted ceiling’s exposed beams, painted a similar shade.