Gray might not have the same appeal of millennial pink or Gen-Z yellow, but it’s one hue on the spectrum that’s hard to live without, especially when it comes to painting. Look around and you’ll start to notice it everywhere: living room walls, bathroom vanities, and—our new favorite spot to use it—kitchen cabinets. Gray is about as uncomplicated as it gets. The tricky part is nailing down the right shade.
Go too dark with this timeless color and it’ll skew charcoal; too light and your space will read as a lackluster white. In an effort to get to the bottom of which brands, finishes, and undertones are the best for cabinets, we decided to work our way backward, pinpointing our favorite kitchens and figuring out the essential swatches from there. These five options were the obvious winners:
Beatriz Rose, principal at Los Angeles firm Byrdesign, loves this bright shade for an exposed pantry. “It has a milky quality that makes a glass cabinet look gorgeous,” she says. The soft hue also easily blurs into the background, helping other parts of a room shine. In this modern Venice Beach, California, kitchen, she chose it so it wouldn’t compete with the Moroccan floor tiles.
The Brits have the whole cupboard thing down. Exhibit A: This Manhattan townhouse by London-based kitchen design firm Plain English. The entire home is swathed in a gray that has the just-right undertones of blue and red, or as Little Greene calls it, the perfect “middle tint.”
When Josh Lekwa, a senior associate at Elizabeth Roberts Architects, used the same color for a client in New York, he opted for an oil eggshell finish, which is typically only used in the U.K. and is known for its durability. “It’s very livable,” he says. No scuffs here.
Daniel King and Meghan Lavery, the founders of Home Union, discovered the ultimate budget saver when designing their Brooklyn rental: Rustoleum’s transformation kit, which includes a paint specifically formulated to hide the grain of worn-down cabinets. The couple opted for this grayish white, which lends itself to their Technicolor decor—and masked what King calls “a terrible orange-tinted wood” that was there previously.
Carmel Greer of District Design brought the drama in this narrow chef’s kitchen by covering the formerly warm wood cabinets in this fabulously sullen hue and swapping the granite countertops for a honed black marble.
You can’t get any more neutral than a color called stone. To keep it looking high-end in this space, designer Shea McGee added shimmer with brass hardware and extended the cabinets all the way up to the ceiling.
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