Natural wood cupboards are back in the zeitgeist these days, but brown kitchen cabinets? It seems like it’s the single hue in the paint chip deck people don’t consider. However, while the examples of coffee-colored kitchens are few and far between, the ones that do exist are a reminder that going out of your comfort zone pays off. The darker you go, the more dramatic—but even at its moodiest, brown never reads cold. A more subdued, fawn-like shade, on the other hand, is the ideal canvas for true timber accents to really shine. Here are five brown kitchen cabinets inspiring us lately.

Go With a Glossy Finish

Photography by British Standard

Especially if your kitchen gets a lot of sun, like this British Standard–designed one, you can afford to go dark on the cabinets—especially when you add a glossy top coat. These shiny deep chestnut fronts reflect light around the room, making it feel even brighter. 

Pair Light and Dark

Photography by Thayer Gowdy

Just because you’ve decided on brown kitchen cabinets doesn’t mean you can’t also use the hue in its natural form (aka wood!). When the tones are on opposite ends of the spectrum, like the tawny island and reddish stools in Minted CEO and founder Mariam Naficy’s kitchen, they complement each other rather than clash.

Play (Hardware) Matchmaker

Photography by Mariko Reed

For the kitchen and nearby bar cabinet in their 1907 San Francisco home, owners Luke and Joanne Bartels and their designer friend Timothy Balon mixed a custom gray-brown Benjamin Moore color, then painted wood knobs to match. “Once we realized we were working with these large swaths of color, the pulls just seemed too distracting,” says Luke of the brass style they first considered. 

Bring the Palette Down to Earth

Photography by Plain English

What colors work best with brown kitchen cabinets? Look no further than this Plain English kitchen. The nutty purple-tinged lowers, coated in Summerset Mauve by U.K. paint brand Pure & Original, play nice with the peachy walls (Farrow & Ball’s Setting Plaster) and slate blue prep table thanks to the fact that they’re all earth tones.

Pay Attention to Undertones

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Is it brown or is it red? For the mahogany cabinetry in the New York City British Standard showroom, it’s in the eye of the beholder. The nuance of the hue allows it to mingle easily with both cool gray counters and a warm white dish hutch.

More stories like this: 

7 Ways to Give Wood Kitchen Cabinets Personality Without Paint

If “Less Is More” Is Your Motto, These 9 Shaker-Style Cabinets Are for You

Black Kitchen Cabinets Instantly Make Dated Features Cooler