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 knowing how to style it and being judicious with your shade selection. That’s where the pros come in.
We tapped five 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
Recommended by: Eneia White
Why she loves it: “As if the name weren’t charming enough, it’s a hue that compliments surrounding wood tones,” explains White. Use it to take the sterile sharpness out of glaring white kitchens—neutral without the doctor’s office vibe.
The pro tip: White’s go-to trick is 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.
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 that 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 the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser; just don’t exert a lot of pressure or you’ll rub the paint off,” 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 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 a 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?
See more ideas for your kitchen cabinets:
Who Said White Shaker Cabinets Had to Be Traditional?
Which Kitchen Cabinet Door Style Is Right for You?
6 Brown Kitchen Cabinets That Channel Vintage Cool