Everyone loves the classics, but when it comes to white Shaker kitchen cabinets, sometimes that traditional element is a little too on the nose. Maybe it’s an equally sparse backdrop or unremarkable hardware that hasn’t been updated since the ’80s—whatever the case, if you’re looking to refresh yours, it simply requires rejiggering the surroundings a little. No need to rip out the cupboards.
We pulled seven spaces that put the versatile style at the forefront. Whether it’s through shiny pendant lights or two-tone backsplashes, we can all learn a few lessons from how these designers revamped a timeless design.
Make Your Storage a Variety Act
Ben Pentreath’s soothing sage kitchen is a lesson in ditching uniformity. Not only did he pick two different countertops, but he deftly blended Shakers with flat-fronts to break up the cozy room.
The trick: While a little mix-and-match is always a good thing, bring continuity to your drawers by keeping the hardware (in this case, aged brass knobs) the same.
Modernize Your Backsplash
We dare anyone to accuse Starrett Zenko Ringbom’s funky blue tile of being boring. Pitted against cream cabinetry with a thin white border, the hand-painted squares feel especially fun.
The trick: If you’re wary of clashing, opt for tiling that includes a hint of white to tie everything together.
Go All the Way Up
You know that pesky awkward space above your uppers? Fill it out with more Shaker doors à la this Bridgehampton kitchen. Not only will you be adding valuable hiding space for those tools you only trot out once a year (turkey roasting pan, we’re looking at you), but doing so draws the eye up, heightening the ceiling.
The trick: To personalize it, build out a ledge underneath the top units and use it to display your favorite vintage market finds—from antique pitchers to kitschy sculptures.
Splash Out on Paint
Retiling a backsplash is one thing, but spending an afternoon coating the walls in a fresh hue is significantly lower-lift—and, we’d wager, makes an even bigger difference. In another project, Pentreath chose a bold pumpkin orange to instantly liven up all-white details.
The trick: Opposites attract: If all your main pieces (cupboards, counters, and even appliances) are in a lighter shade, go with something dark to balance it out. While Pentreath’s pick isn’t for everyone, rich tones like emerald green and navy blue are surefire hits.
Modernize Your Metals
Kate Martinez mastered the art of melding old and new in this bright space. Her white Shaker kitchen cabinets are mixed in among a shiny stainless steel range and copper pendant lamps, for a uniquely classic-industrial vibe.
The trick: Try a mélange of finishes to break up the room; silver, copper, and steel have never looked better together.
Incorporate Some Antiques
When cupboards are one-of-a-kind vintage scores, there’s no chance of them looking cookie-cutter; take, for example, this cabinet from Bespoke Only. With its painted hardware and weathered look, it brings in a touch of old-school charm without turning cliché.
The trick: Style it out with a mishmash of collected trinkets, like the espresso cups you smuggled home in your suitcase from a trip last summer or your thriving pothos for a hint of greenery.
Mix With Open Shelving
In this kitchen (also by Martinez), front-less storage steals the show. The designer used it as an opportunity to display a range of dinnerware, but it also opens up the corner unit—a whole wall of closed doors can easily look overwhelming.
The trick: Take the fronts off cabinets for a renter-friendly upgrade, then make the most of that space by turning it into a focal point for colorful and textured accents.