White sometimes feels too stark. Black can be too bold. To quote the philosopher Goldilocks, light gray kitchen cabinets are just right—an ideal middle-ground neutral that, when done correctly, manages to be both statement making and soothing. Part of this comes down to picking the best paint shade, but a lot of it is also in the cupboard design itself: Switch up plain flat fronts to keep the palette from looking too pared back, for instance.
The Beaded Cabinets
Essentially shiplap cupboards, this style works with light gray paint because there’s already a lot going on texture-wise—it’s okay to keep the color on the subdued side. Tracy Pumilia paired hers with sleek matte black hardware for a high-contrast moment that matches the clean lines of the doors.
Or take a page from Studio McGee’s book and make the shade your statement color. Slick marble counters (try contact paper if you’re in a rental) and subway tile brighten up this warmer-toned base.
The Glass Cabinets
For an unexpected take on two-tone, ditch the color-blocking and go with raw-wood lower cabinets. In this room by Naked Kitchens, the hardwood extends to the backing in the glass uppers—here the paint works as a highlighter.
The Shaker Cabinets
For Max Humphrey, bringing visual interest to light gray kitchen cabinets comes down to choosing the right undertone: He picked an icy blue-gray and continued it onto the nearby open shelving.
Elsewhere, Naked Kitchens revamped the classic design with a mixed bag of Shakers, glass doors, and a ribbed island. With aged brass hardware and natural wood peeking out from the corners, the grayscale palette reads so much cozier than clean white.
Only a traditional British kitchen (Plain English, to be exact) would do for this London-based family’s Westhampton, New York, home, designed by Jessica Gething. The Shaker cabinets, a barely there light gray, are the opposite of drab thanks to the pop of a baby blue island, reflective zellige tile, and a sunny picture window that takes the place of a backsplash behind the sink.
High Street Homes founders Brett and Kara Phillips completely revamped the kitchen in their Fort Worth, Texas, cabin, which is now fit with lower cupboards painted in Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray, a hue that plays well with the equally cool tone of the navy island.
The Flat Cabinets
There is a way to make this style pop, and it’s all about the details. Feeling punchy? This Plykea kitchen’s select few vibrant yellow fronts break up the neutrals (a hint of the citron even comes through in the round cutout “handles”), as does the geometric backsplash.
But the color is also a great supporting star. “We were able to save a lot of money by sticking with the existing cupboards,” says designer Natalie Myers of her Venice Beach, California, kitchen makeover. She had these flat fronts sprayed the subtlest gray shade at the paint shop, then swapped in a new tone-on-tone countertop to help them blend in even more. This way all eyes are on the dotted tile backsplash.
This muted Naked Kitchens creation is similarly layered, with minimal wood hardware and the slightest recessed detailing behind the base units. They instantly elevate the space.