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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 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, fawnlike shade, on the other hand, is the ideal canvas for true timber accents to really shine. Here are eight brown kitchen cabinets inspiring us lately.

Double Up on Your Finishes

Selecting the sheen for your kitchen cabinets is a daunting task, but the pantry at Plain English’s London showroom is proof you don’t have to select just one level of shininess for your space. On the lower half of these extra-tall cupboards, the fabricator went with a high-gloss finish, while the upper portion features a matte version of the same chocolaty tone.

Add a Touch of the Outdoors

Take this as your sign to customize your paint color. For this space, DeVol formulated a unique mix of brown and green and swathed its Classic English kitchen line in the shade, including the Fisher & Paykel fridge-freezer that’s concealed by coordinating panels. 

Channel the Desert

Another genius combo: Fernando Aciar and Anna Polonsky combined Benjamin Moore’s Salmon Stream and Baked Terra Cotta for this toasty, brownish hue that skews almost orange when the sun is at its brightest.

Go With Just a Glossy Finish

Photography by British Standard

If your kitchen gets a lot of natural light, 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 founder and CEO 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 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.

This story was originally published in April 2021. It has since been updated.

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