{Shades of Neutral} Gray & White Kitchens — Choosing Cabinet Colors

gray and white sarah richardson kitchen

 HGTV Sarah Richardson

Thank you all for your kind words about my painted kitchen cabinets! I was a little scared to admit I didn’t paint them all white, after professing my love of white cabinets all these years! Yet I’m very happy with how things are coming together. I’m also very excited to show you the rest of the kitchen because then you can get the FULL picture, as there are definitely more elements and colors than what you’ve seen so far.

I’ve received quite a few questions on kitchen cabinet colors and several of you are still deciding what to do with your own cabinets. So, I thought I’d give a little more detail on how I chose my cabinet colors and a few tips to consider when designing a kitchen color scheme. I went through this same process with the other kitchen makeovers I’ve done, so hopefully it will help you too.

While going “all white” is a popular choice for kitchen cabinets, there are so many color options for cabinets that can also provide beautiful results. And some might even be better for your home than all white! Of course, I’ve always been a white kitchen lover (my last kitchen was a soft antique white) but I definitely think you can branch out from white cabinets if you want to and still have a gorgeous kitchen that will feel every bit as “white kitchen dreamy” but perhaps with your homes unique personality or existing elements mixed in!.

Traditional Kitchen design by Charlotte Interior Designer Carolina Design Associates, LLC

Personally, I can love just about any kitchen that has a beautiful blend of a few key foundational items. Just like I can love so many styles of homes and decor. It is more about the mix of elements in a space than any one style or color.

Here is what I like in a kitchen — a good mix of :

  • white to reflect light
  • contrasting neutrals for interest
  • balanced use of color, particularly in accessories and fabrics
  • variations and layers of textures and metals
  • architectural details

How you mix those elements in your own kitchen will depend on your taste and home. 

Thirty years ago my mom had our lake house painted in shades of gray and white, including the kitchen. I loved that combination then, and love it now. Neutrals are always up to date and classy and well suited to many kitchens. Variations of white or gray kitchens don’t go “in or out” like some people fear, it is how you mix elements together with your chosen color scheme that will end up giving your kitchen the timeless but still current look most of us probably want.

Plus, neutrals (like any shade of gray, tan, black and white) are so easy to update with your favorite colors, fabric patterns or trends so they make great choices for cabinets. Honestly, I have not found any color that DOESN’T work with my new cabinets, which really has me excited about seasonal decorating too! I can add aqua, red, green, yellow….so many options for accessories!

Of course, some kitchens look fantastic with colored cabinets.  Each kitchen is unique.


When you are planning your kitchen, it’s helpful to think of the room as more complex than just a paint color scheme you like or a single element. While white cabinets are lovely, they are not the only way to achieve a pretty kitchen. In fact, you can actually have a boring white kitchen, so it isn’t the white alone that magically transforms a space.  It’s those layers and combination of elements that make a room come to life!

Your cabinets or kitchen walls might need more vibrant color to bring personality or interest, or your architecture might be beautiful on its own, so white or neutrals are the best compliment. You might really love white kitchens, but decide like I did to go with white walls or counters to achieve the white kitchen look, rather than white cabinets.

There are just so many ways to design a pretty kitchen and still get the overall look you love.



So how did I decide what color to paint my cabinets?

If you want more detail on how I made my decision, this section is for you! I know this is a long post, but you can skip over this if you just want to look at the pictures! Or if you need to refresh your memory on what my cabinets look like, you can revisit that kitchen cabinet post.

I wanted a more custom feeling for our kitchen since everything previously in our kitchen was pretty much the standard builder choices for a house like ours. We weren’t remodeling the entire space, but for the things that were changing, I had options.

I especially wanted simple white counters and white subway tile. White subway tile was affordable (and I wanted a lot of it), timeless and would add just the right amount of texture and light and wouldn’t compete with our floors. The white counters would feel clean, uncluttered, reflect light and be a very pretty backdrop for accessories.

I had gorgeous wood counters in my old house that I loved, but now we have beautiful wood floors that fulfill that need for wood texture. I didn’t think wood counters or all wood cabinets would be as effective in this kitchen (although we are still using some wood furniture).

If you have a strong feeling about one or more elements (other than the cabinets), or if you have elements that you are not changing (such as flooring!) you can use those as your starting point for design. 

So, after considering the elements that mattered to me, WHITE counters and subway tile were my first choices in the kitchen. After those choices were made, I could think about cabinet colors.

Traditional Kitchen design by Austin Architect

Gray green cabinets are lovely, and I painted cabinets in one of my houses with a grayish shade of green, but in this house I felt like green would be too “cabin-y” with my rustic wood floors. So green was a no.

Yellow cabinets would have not contrasted well with my floors.

Red would have been too much for my eyes.

Teal or pale gray or soft blue cabinets would have felt too wimpy or “cute cottage” for my Craftsman style house, we needed a little more depth of color.

Black was too harsh in big doses with the floors, and brown would be kind of “meh” with the floors.

I like my walls in the kitchen family room to be a soft gray so I wanted the cabinets to be darker than the walls.

PHEW! So many thoughts went through my head! But that is how I narrowed it down!

Once the counters and tile were decided and other cabinet colors ruled out, it was also pretty clear that white cabinets would have been a little overkill with the white subway tile and counters. I didn’t want a clinical feeling kitchen. I definitely wanted more contrast and interest to please my eye when I walked in the room. The white subway tile wall would bring a lot of light, so I wanted the contrast of dark to balance and calm the room a bit.

Lastly, I wanted to have a slightly modern vibe to my kitchen (it is a newer house), even though we were giving it some old world character by using some classic elements such subway tile, a goose neck faucet and an apron front sink. A deeper gray just seemed timeless, like the best of both old and new world style and the perfect combination to balance out the rustic floors.

Creating a Meaningful Home- The Inspired Room Kitchen

And to appease my white kitchen love, and to give a little more variety and interest to the cabinets, we painted the few upper cabinets we have white. So with the white upper cabinets, white plank walls and white subway tile, essentially our kitchen work area feels quite light and white, even with the gray cabinets and some soft gray walls. The floors add so much warmth. I find it to be a very light, clean, soothing and calm feeling space.

Of course, there are more elements in our kitchen you have not seen yet! You’ll see what we chose for a couple of SUPER CUTE ceiling fixtures, my DIY makeover of our island (YEP, I’m DIY’ing), a rug and seating area in the kitchen, as well as other ways we are bringing color and pattern to the room! I’m happy with the mix!

gray and white kitchenBHG

martha stewart gray kitchenMartha Stewart 

choosing cabinet colors gray and white

Every kitchen is unique. There are many elements to consider but once you get the right mix, your kitchen can be gorgeous no matter what color cabinets you end up choosing!

Gather: Valentine’s Day



1. Wooden Heart Spoon 2. Salt & Pepper Card 3. Chevron Striped Throw Blanket 4. I Love You Card 5. Happy Stripe Pillow Cover 6. Floral Sketch Chalkboard Tags

Gather is a regular column featuring inspiring items from around the web, 
gathered by Courtney Michaels, a interior design intern at Maison Luxe in Seattle.

My Kitchen Cabinet Colors {Before & After Cabinets!}

charcoal painted kitchen cabinet colors

Kitchen Cabinet Colors: Gray and White

Are you ready for a kitchen update? I am, FINALLY!! I’m so excited to finally show how my cabinets turned out after they were painted! You all have been SO patient! I know I’ve offered some sneak peeks (do you have the brand new Vine app on your phone? I even did a short video there!) but I’m finally ready to officially reveal more pics showing the cabinet paint colors … and in the process you’ll get to see a preview of the room!

{UPDATE>>> The whole kitchen has now been revealed so click here!}

before & after kitchen makeover

The full reveal of the kitchen is still coming. I’m working on my kitchen island makeover (and thinking I’m going to LOVE IT!) so that is my current hold up with showing the rest of the kitchen! HA! I’m really happy with the rest of the kitchen as well!

Update: See the big kitchen reveal post here!

In case you are wondering where this all started and why, here is the first kitchen remodel post. I will share more about how the actual remodel has improved our kitchen and family room, once I do the final reveal posts. But it has made a huge difference in how the room feels! And yes, we removed some upper cabinets but we also ADDED cabinets to the right of the sink (you’ll see that part in an upcoming post!).

WHY do these projects take so long? I’m sorry, it is just how it is! But for now, this should give you a REALLY good peek at my kitchen! And we’ll just have more to look forward to!

kitchen cabinet colors paint and finishes

As you might remember from my original kitchen inspiration collage, we decided to go with darker charcoal lower cabinets (Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore, satin finish) and a soft white upper cabinet (Dove White Benjamin Moore). I know this surprised some of you who know how much I love a white kitchen! But, there were many reasons for going with darker lower cabinets, and I have to say I’m SO happy we went with the choices we did! And we still have white cabinets, they are just all upper cabinets!

dove white upper cabinet colors

We knew that a good portion of our kitchen was already going to be quite “white” with our remaining upper cabinets that are painted white, plank walls, white subway tile, white farm house sink, window trim and white quartz counters. I love some contrast, personality and charm in my kitchen, so going with this beautiful dark gray on the lower cabinets makes all the white pop out and be even more stunning in contrast! It is a nice neutral that seems to work well with almost any accent color!

The darker painted cabinets also show off our Mohawk natural hickory floors, and allows them to add a ton of warmth and personality.  We selected a slightly more modern shaped brushed nickel bin style pull from Restoration Hardware and some pretty gold patterned knobs and mercury glass knobs from Anthropologie, to bring a warm metal mix and fun personality to the cabinets. We adore them all!

the inspired room kitchen remodel

We also love our new sconces from Restoration Hardware, with the antique brass, metal and mirrored elements. And the Edison lightbulbs are AMAZING, so happy with them! They add such a beautiful glow to the room!

I think the mix of elements and colors (including some you’ll see in the full kitchen reveal) give our kitchen an interesting mix of modern, vintage, traditional and rustic, which I absolutely love. And of course, loving that look is important since we live here!

two toned kitchen cabinets

kitchen cabinet hardware and paint colors

kitchen cabinet makeover

Do you even remember how this upper cabinet used to look? It’s come a long way, baby. Remember when we filled in the awkward top portion of the cabinets? It is fun to see how it looks now, all painted!

before and after makeover kitchen cabinets

I originally took the doors off just to give my kitchen A LITTLE more personality, but FINALLY I think my true vision and its FULL PERSONALITY is coming together, both in this corner and in the rest of the kitchen!

Can’t wait to show you more, this has been SO exciting for me! {UPDATE: The kitchen remodel is finished, come see!}
I love waking up every day and getting my coffee in this kitchen!

Feeling BLESSED, for sure.

Want to see more kitchen ideas?

Check out my ***My Kitchen Reveal post!****

Wondering about the colors or accessories or floors or other details in my kitchen? Check out my Kitchen Remodeling Sources

The Inspired Room is one of the top decorating blogs on the web. I’m glad you are here! For more inspiration, visit my inspiration galleries, the popular How to Decorate series and my own House Tour!

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