Published on May 25, 2021

Bright white kitchen cabinets have become so ubiquitous that they’re on par with subway tile. But if warmth is what you crave, the stark shade might not be your best option. Instead may we suggest its less cool (undertone-wise!) relative? 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. Funky metals like copper and super-blond woods are a step in the right direction when it comes to putting an edgy spin on off-white kitchen cabinets, as you’ll see in these spaces.

Incorporate (Subtle) Texture

cream kitchen with rounded plaster shelfPin It
Photography and Design by Thayer Gowdy

Fluted cabinetry, like in photographer Thayer Gowdy’s Ojai, California, kitchen, isn’t just chic—it gives an off-white hue some depth for light and shadow to interact with. The look doesn’t have to bust your budget either—designer Hubert Zandberg got the effect with inexpensive MDF and some spray paint.

Coat Every Surface

cream kitchenette with wood floating shelfPin It
Photography by Chris Snook

Faced with designing a windowless basement utility space, London pro Sarah Brown knew she needed to bring in some warmth. The hue Paper 1 by Paint & Paper Library, a creamy off-white, did the trick. “We used it everywhere—on the mixed-width paneling, the lower cabinets, and the taller cupboards—to make the space feel bigger,” she says.

Pare Down to Natural Materials 

white kitchen with wood countersPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet

Wood has a way of making this color look organic. Take Rachel Craven’s kitchen, where the off-white cabinets plays nicely with light butcher block counters. To keep it from feeling too yellow, the open shelves are stocked with a collection of dark wood, woven, and terracotta bowls.

Make Brass the Focal Point 

farmhouse kitchen with large brass pendantsPin It
Photography by Aaron Leitz; Design by Jessica Helgerson

Brass picks up on off-white’s ecru undertones, so embrace it beyond the hardware. In this Jessica Helgerson–designed space, a pendulum-like light over the island instantly modernizes the traditional cupboards and milky subway backsplash. 

Lay Down a Graphic Rug 

cream white kitchen with black and white rugPin It
Photography by Dana Gallagher; Styling by Lili Abir Regen

Ornate decor can make off-white feel dated fast, especially if your home has old bones. The Peruvian frazada rug from Intiearth that At Land owner Melissa Lauprete laid down in her space boasts a straightforward yet eye-catching pattern.

Put the “Fun” in “Functional”

blue stove in a white kitchenPin It
Courtesy of Studio McGee

There’s nothing bland about Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee when you’ve got a dose of color nearby. Studio McGee opted for a light gray–blue Lacanche range for this remodel. While a splurge, the appliance provides a focal point for the room.

Cool It Off With Copper

cooper backsplahs in a white and wood kitchenPin It
Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson; Design by Commune

Drawing inspiration from Le Corbusier’s Villa La Roche in Paris, Commune Design channeled the outdoors in this Santa Monica home with a color palette made up of cooler tones. In the kitchen that comes in the form of a reflective sheet of copper, which runs up the backsplash and onto the range hood—a handsome addition to the creamy cabinet fronts.

Pepper in Touches of Cobalt 

whtie gray kitchen wiht small islandPin It
Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Skewing toward a dusty gray, Sunny Shokrae’s kitchen cabinets could easily read as faded and boring, but the photographer played off its cooler ways by bringing in pops of blue (peep the vases, cookware, and dishes). These small moments give it personality, she says: “The kitchen can be a chaotic place, so feeling zen in it is necessary.”

More stories like this: 
8 Kitchens With Light Gray Cabinets That Soothe the Soul
Cream-Colored Cabinets Are the Dose of Warmth Your Kitchen Needs
Navy Blue Kitchen Cabinets Are Classic, But They Can Also Be Cool