8 Next-Level Takes on the Two-Tone Kitchen Cabinet Trend

You’re not limited to navy and white.

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green lower cabinets
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SEAN LITCHFIELD

We’ve all seen it before: white upper cupboards mixed with lower ones in shades of gray, muted green, or navy. At face value, the rise in popularity of two-tone kitchen cabinets makes a lot of sense. Uppers are most often hung against white walls, so a neutral shade makes the look more seamless (and the space feel larger). On the other hand, inky lower storage anchors the room.

But there is more to two-tone kitchen cabinets than this popular light-dark formula. We rounded up eight next-level ideas to flex your design muscles even further. If you’re planning on renovating, this is a good place to start.

The Modern Retro One

plywood kitchen
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CODY JAMES; STYLING BY MERISA LIBBEY

Way down low is the place most people look to add a splash of color, but artist Bethany Brill did just the opposite in her circa-1980 Costa Mesa, California, home. To break up the wood-on-wood look in the space, she sourced a section of bright yellow uppers from Danish kitchen design brand Reform. By situating the cabinets close to the ceiling, Brill also ensured they don’t cast shadows on the countertops.

The Farmhouse One

farmhouse kitchen
Courtesy of DeVol

Shaker-style cabinets would have been the obvious choice for Alastair Coomer and David Breen’s Suffolk, England, kitchen, which is set in a refurbished 17th-century barn. But the couple decided to avoid fussy, ornate details and gravitate toward DeVol’s Sebastian Cox collection. The fronts are stained with the company’s Natural and Inky Blue Black finishes and made out of straight beech planks of varying widths with a sawed, beaded texture. 

The Narrow Galley One

green lower cabinets
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARA LIGORRIA-TRAMP; DESIGN BY EMILY BOWSER

Switching to a different color of cabinets in a long galley kitchen like Emily Bowser’s is a great way to visually divide a space and its various functions. Where Bowser’s putty-colored cabinets end, dark green IKEA Ivar cabinets (which she painted and topped with reclaimed wood) begin. This section of cupboards houses all her cookbooks and pantry staples. Overhead, it’s a makeshift bar.

The One With the Classic Combo

cabin kitchen
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GIEVES ANDERSON

Zosia Mamet’s upstate New York cabin kitchen appears to be a traditional take on the two-tone trend—with the exception of one very important detail: The navy of the island carries over to the window trim, giving the view a punchy frame.

The Modern Rustic One

Emily Henderson put her spin on the trend by playing with different materials. In her kitchen, she mixed natural blond wood (on the lower cupboards and floor-to-ceiling pantry) with blackened planks (for the island), giving her home a minimalist-made-rustic feel.

The Memphis-Inspired One

Blue and red two-tone kitchen
Courtesy of Dries Otten

Kitchen expert Dries Otten gave this space an unapologetically playful ’80s vibe with sky blue lower cabinets and a jet black pantry. But the color story didn’t stop there: He also added a fire-truck red backsplash with an integrated vent hood.

The One With a Touch of Gold

kitchen with wood ceiling
Photography by Matthew Williams

In her Grand Rapids, Michigan, home, Sarah Sherman Samuel kept her IKEA kitchen cabinet fronts a timeless white but hid a showstopping surprise on the backside of the island: antique brass panels.

The Horizontal One

Blue and green kitchen
Photography by Hanna Polczynska for Kroniki Studio

This Poland kitchen by design firm In Architekci makes use of different shades vertically instead of horizontally. Lavender-hued cabinets flank a floor-to-ceiling pantry cupboard in a fresh minty shade, with hints of wood and pale pink popping up down the way. No matter how you choose to interpret the trend, it goes to show that rules are meant to be broken.

Gabrielle Savoie

Writer/Editor

Gabrielle is most often found digging through 1stdibs in search of Tobia Scarpa sofas, hunting down the newest cool hotels, or singing the praises of Art Nouveau. She spends an inordinate amount of time looking at real estate floor plans and listening to podcasts. In her free time, you’ll likely find her bouncing on a trampoline at Fithouse, snacking on a crudo at the latest cocktail bar, antiquing for French silverware, or dogsitting for anyone who will ask—yes, even you.

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