Some renovators have a mood board drilled into their brain—they know exactly what hardware finish and style of outlet cover they want, and you don’t have to ask them twice. Then there are those who are a little less sure; the ones who haven’t taken a look at all their options. One of the hardest decisions you can make during a remodel is what color to paint your kitchen cabinets. But before we dive into samples, you need to know the families first.
One place to start is with what’s most popular. According to the latest Google data, the top searches are white, black, blue, green, and gray (in that order). But that’s just a slice of the spectrum. Ahead, we rounded up 11 of our favorite shades for the indecisive and beyond.
If you want lived-in charm without veering into cottagecore territory, consider this non–stark white. When it comes to sheen, a little gloss will do you good (the only downside to lighter tones is their tendency to show wear and tear faster). Sherwin-Williams’s Snowbound, Benjamin Moore’s Seapearl, and Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin are a few places to begin. As far as other features in the space go, lean into brass pulls and break up the monotony of the clay hue with oak shelves.
We know: White oakwood is having a big moment. But don’t underestimate the power of smooth mahogany and rich walnut. Left unpainted, they keep things feeling natural and down-to-earth, even if you only use them in the pantry.
Softer antique white (think of it as a cousin to cream) is another strong neutral. The ivory-gray undertones play nicely with stainless steel and stone without appearing like the backdrop for an art gallery.
Black cupboards make everything around them instantly cooler, including dated details like laminate floor tiles and granite countertops. Once you’ve nailed the right paint swatch (add Blackest by Clare and Story Teller by Portola to your must-try list), it’s a matter of fine-tuning the details, like mixing in old-school latches with your knobs.
Psst: You can easily achieve the espresso color with wood stain, meaning you don’t have to gut your existing cupboards; just resurface them. Rubio Monocoat is a designer-approved source for finishes. When paired with modern lighting and surrounded by funky prints, they give off seriously cool vintage vibes.
Want to introduce new life to your kitchen? A verdant shade of emerald or a restful moss will bring zen vibes to the bustling room. A calming olive tone like Rosemary by Sherwin-Williams reads contemporary when paired with pops of red and cherrywood, while a 1960s-inspired swatch such as Fig Tree by Behr provides an opportunity to get playful with graphic Moroccan tile.
Choosing light gray kitchen cabinets doesn’t mean you’re playing it safe. There’s no one way to make these cupboards stand out (a metallic backsplash can elevate the flat color, but so can traditional glass door fronts). Our top picks: Ammonite by Farrow & Ball, Frost by Rustoleum, and Stone by Portola Paints.
While it gets a nautical rap, when paired with butcher block counters and modern black appliances (not anchors and oars), navy can visually awaken a mundane space. Stick to just painting the kitchen island cabinets, as Studio McGee often does, or all of the lower cupboards, leaving the uppers white, to create the illusion of high ceilings.
Tinged with hints of gray or yellow, off-white gets a shabby-chic reputation, but don’t let its patina fool you: The shade can look contemporary when paired with the perfect backsplash, countertop, and lighting. Copper and super-blond woods are a step in the right direction.
Once just thought of as a favorite for farmhouses, the hue is slowly making its way into cool, contemporary spaces. Some tips: Resist hardware if you can, opting for cutouts instead, and dunk everything including open shelving in the same paint color as your cabinets.
Finally, meet the kitchen cabinet color that’s easily 2021’s favorite pick. An equal blend of citron and slate, this gray-green shines when surrounded by creamy white zellige backsplash tile, plaster pink walls, and a matte black range hood. So go ahead, give Farrow & Ball’s Breakfast Room Green or Benjamin Moore’s Quiet Moments a whirl. You’re one step closer to making the big decision.
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