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Choosing light gray kitchen cabinets is a decision you make when you want to play it safe, right? Not necessarily. While its not-too-dark, not-too-white quality allows it to fade into the background, don’t mistake this shade for boring. In the perfect setting, the laid-back hue can sing. There’s no one way to make light gray cupboards stand out (a metallic backsplash can elevate the flat color, but so can traditional glass door fronts). Once you’ve nailed the right paint color, fill in the gaps with these ideas.

Make Your Space Appear Extra-Tall

Interior designer Alison Lewis’s Melbourne kitchen is a testament to the art of illusion. The breezy cabinets, crafted by Project Cabinets, rise all the way to the ceiling, and the Shaker-style cupboards feature lean 1-inch borders instead of the standard 2, making the room look taller than it really is. Another genius trick with the same effect: orienting the Academy tile vertically on the backsplash and island.  

Bring on the Sunshine

In his 1827 upstate New York home, Dale Saylor took what could easily read as a traditional kitchen, with its custom cabinets painted in Farrow & Ball’s Old White and quartzite countertops, in an almost tropical direction with woven pendant shades and bespoke yellow stools by Global Industrial. 

Bounce Light Onto Its Surface With Zellige Tile

Textured zellige tile is the perfect companion for a cabinet color like Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon, seen here in a project by New Jersey–based Salt Design Co. The handmade squares have a shimmer to them that throws light around a room—something a flat paint finish can’t do. 

Extend Brass Beyond the Hardware

The gray cabinets in this studio kitchen, designed by French Israeli architect Emmanuelle Simon, aren’t the result of a lick of paint. The cupboards are made of a waxed limestone cement, giving them a monolithic appearance. The luminous brass backsplash and counters add a contemporary spin to the Stone Age vibe.   

Use It as a Base for Color-Blocking

The rainbow isn’t off the table once you decide on gray cabinets. Designer Rhonda Drakeford used the color in conjunction with pink and yellow in this chef’s kitchen, and she didn’t stop at the edges of the doors. Drakeford completed the “zones” by swathing the concrete-tiled countertops in the same hues.

Add Visual Interest to the Doors

After making the decision to maximize sunlight in this small space with a skylight and window cutout above the backsplash, Lori Gilder chose glass fronts to reflect the rays streaming in. The beaded detailing and built-in open shelves lend further dimension to the room, allowing shadows to move around more freely. 

Pick Brighter Woods and Stones

This Plain English–designed kitchen is all about airy, natural textures. The oak countertops play nicely with the milky undertones of the cupboards, and the grainy speckles in the Carrara marble look almost like sand. 

Partner Up With Pink

Photography by Mariko Reed

Joanne and Luke Bartels’s kitchen cabinets are nothing particularly fancy (Luke used FSC-certified plywood), but the monochromatic pulls and glistening blush zellige backsplash make the basic material look expensive. 

Go Moody With Green Undertones

Melissa Colgan’s surface-level kitchen facelift called for covering her simple Shaker-style cabinets in a soothing green-gray and refinishing the backsplash in a glossy subway tile. Rather than fight the humble galley layout, the Washington, D.C.–based designer made it feel cozy and quaint with the earthy shade. 

Show Off Your Favorite Dishes

This farmhouse kitchen by Sabbe Interior Design takes full advantage of the tall ceilings with soaring built-ins. The white china shines through thanks to the tall glass fronts.

Ground the Room With White Uppers

Studio McGee created the illusion of height by using gray on the lower cabinets to ground the space and a bright white up top for that coveted airy feeling. 

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