Cream-colored kitchen cabinets often find themselves on the former end of before-and-after transformations—chalk it up to suspicion of the hue left over from the aughts beige era. While it’s easy for off-white paint to look dated, it can equally set the scene for a cozy, sunny space. All it takes is hiring a painter you can trust (HomeAdvisor has your back) and being judicious with your shade selection. That’s where these pros come in.
We tapped seven designers to share their go-to creamy colors for revamping cupboards. What we learned: Undertones matter, and when it comes to sheen, a little gloss will be worth it in the long run (the only downside to lighter tones is their proclivity to show wear and tear faster). If you’re ready for a refresh, start with these picks.
Farrow & Ball School House White
Why they love it: “As if the name weren’t charming enough, it’s a hue that complements surrounding wood tones,” explains White. Use it to take the sterile sharpness out of glaring white kitchens—it’s neutral without the doctor’s office vibe. “Anytime you’re working with off-whites, it’s important to be cognizant of any blue, green, or even yellow undertones that they pull. Finding the perfect balance of those is key, and School House White is that,” adds Parkinson.
The pro tips: “Always, always make sure to get samples, or better yet, if you’re going the custom cabinetry route, have your cabinetmaker create samples for you,” says Parkinson. What you see on a chip is going to look different when applied on wood or laminate. White’s go-to trick once all the coats are dry? Adorning empty surfaces with earthy, worn-in vases. “Pieces with cracks and character are great for adding warmth to otherwise monotone palettes,” she points out.
Fine Paints of Europe RAL Collection 9016
Recommended by: Delia Kenza
Why she loves it: “RAL Collection 9016 is not a very sexy name, but the shade is a soft, creamy white with some oomph,” says Kenza. The strange moniker relates to Europe’s RAL color-matching system, which provides the exact pigmentation of more than 200 hues.
The pro tip: Don’t be afraid to mix metals.“What I love about this color is that it is neutral enough that it will pair well with natural brass or stainless steel accessories,” says Kenza.
Recommended by: Anita Yokota
Why she loves it: The slight gray undertone makes this pick perfect for mixing with chrome or silver finishes. “I try to stay away from overly yellow creams, because they can look dingy on walls over time,” explains Yokota. “But this one gives a depth that a cool white can’t offer.”
The pro tip: A matte finish might look chic on walls, but for a high-traffic area like the kitchen, it’s not realistic. Yokota suggests using at least a semigloss sheen on your cabinetry, so you can brighten the room (the finish also reflects light nicely) and simultaneously wipe up messes. “Sometimes for scuffs and nicks, I use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser; just don’t exert a lot of pressure or you’ll rub off the paint,” she adds.
Benjamin Moore Halo
Recommended by: Crystal Sinclair
Why she loves it: This lighter greige is the ideal crisp neutral. “It’s pure creamy goodness!” says the designer. “It works well with just about any accent color you may use in the tile, countertop, or paint.”
The pro tip: Go high-contrast with black cabinets and matching hardware. “Another fun styling idea is to mix a bold color or rich wood tone in the base cupboards with cream uppers,” she says.
Benjamin Moore Seapearl
Recommended by: Young Huh
Why she loves it: “It has the tiniest hint of blue and green, which adds sophistication,” says Huh. She typically steers clear of all-white kitchens, but when the situation calls for it—for example, a patterned floor and/or veiny stone counters that need a simple foil—she’ll whip out a cream hue to tone it down.
Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin
Recommended by: Kevin Greenberg of Space Exploration Design
Why he loves it: It’s all about the lighting—in projects that get a lot of afternoon shadow or are typically flooded with light, this buttery shade is great for adding depth. “It’s nice if you want to nod toward traditionalism in the millwork but also want things to still mostly read as white,” he says.
The pro tip: “I think cream-colored cabinets beg for a more traditional construction style—like drawers and doors with a shallow recessed panel,” says Greenberg. He also suggests mixing in different white hues for an unexpected touch. Who says neutrals can’t be nuanced?
More ideas for your kitchen cabinets:
These Two-Tone Kitchen Cabinets Give You the Best of Both Worlds
The 5 White Wall Paints That Go Best With White Cabinets
8 Kitchens With Light Gray Cabinets That Soothe the Soul