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

by | Jan 31, 2013 | Color, Decorating Inspiration, Details, Kitchens

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

 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.

{Shades of Neutral} Gray & White Kitchens -- Choosing Cabinet Colors
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!.

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

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.

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


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.


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


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.

{Shades of Neutral} Gray & White Kitchens -- Choosing 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.

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

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!

{Shades of Neutral} Gray & White Kitchens -- Choosing Cabinet ColorsBHG

{Shades of Neutral} Gray & White Kitchens -- Choosing Cabinet ColorsMartha Stewart 

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

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!


  1. kristin

    Such gorgeous kitchens, all of them! Perfect timing our kitchen might be a total loss. Love the grey and white combo!

  2. Robin

    Love it! You’ve given me something to think about! We just moved and remodeled the kitchen in the new house. We went bright and airy – I”ve lived with it for 6 months now I’m adding color slowly …thank you for this post! Wonderful!!!
    All Things Heart and Home

  3. Melanie

    I LOVE your new kitchen. It is absolutely gorgeous and elegant. The gray cabinets were such a great choice. I’m wondering what people think of a good wall color in a small kitchen (that is in same room as living room- apartment living!) I have maple wood cabinets and black granite countertops. Backsplash and tile floor is an oatmeal beige color. Every day I stare at my kitchen and wonder how I can make it look better! I’d appreciate any advice :)

    • Melissa

      Thank you Melanie!

      So for your kitchen, without seeing it of course, I’m thinking a pretty shade of blue! :-)

      • Melanie

        Thank you, Melissa– I’m loving the idea of blue….:)

      • Lonnie Hester

        I painted my top cabinets white and the bottom are eggplant.. Everyone loves them !!

  4. Grace

    I painted my kitchen almost the exact same colours. I painted the cabinets over two years ago and I still love them. Not only does the gray hide some of the lower cabinet dirt, it also provides a nice contrast with the upper cabinets so it looks a little more interesting than all white (much as I love all white kitchens). Your kitchen is looking gorgeous with the wood floors and the backsplash.

    • Melissa

      Thanks Grace!!!

  5. Krystin

    These kitchens are amazing!

  6. Diane

    I think the magic comes from layering…as you said….and you do it so well. I love your baking center. Hmmm. Pie or cookies?

  7. Lindsay Redd

    Wow wow wow! Thank you for this post! This post was amazing!

  8. Carla Aston

    Thank you for including one of my projects in your gallery here. I love how you used the process of elimination when thinking about the design of your kitchen. I use that process with many design projects.

    I’m a new follower. Thanks again for using my work on your beautiful blog!

  9. Lynn Kellan

    We ended up buying kitchen maple cabinets with a warm honey stain so the kitchen “matched” the living room. Turned out quite nice, especially with the quartz counters.

    • Melissa

      That sounds beautiful!! Have you shared pics yet?

  10. carol yetter

    I’m debating whether to tackle painting the kitchen cabinets myself, or hire a professional. Brush/roller vs. spray.
    Did you have a pro paint your cabinets? Cost?
    Thanks so much.

  11. Lexie

    Gorgeous dream kitchens. It hard to imagine people actually live that type of life. They seem so fake to me. Imagine waking up to one of those every day

  12. Rebecca

    Thanks for more details. Great food for thought.

  13. Lori

    I used to want white cabinets with soapstone counters, but I worried about finger smudges on the white doors and that every crumb would show on the dark counters. I think your use of dark gray cabinets with light counters fixes both of those issues and keeps the high contrast I prefer. Brilliant!

  14. Carol Karl

    Wow, you’re kitchen is beautiful! I have always wondered about a 2 color scheme but have wondered what you do with full height cupboards like pantries. Do you paint them the color of the lower or upper cabinetry? Any thoughts?

  15. Marne

    Love the conversation about cabinet color choices. I’m discussing the same thing in my head, as well! I think these dull days of winter make me crave a change! My husband disagrees with my need for ‘change’ (shocking). As they stand now, our maple cabinets are stained a dark cherry. I’d like to brighten them up…but may need a new husband first! Lol

    Thanks for the great photos and info~

  16. Cindy

    Great info Melissa! Your kitchen turned out beautifully!!!
    Have a GREAT Saturday,

  17. Julia

    We moved into a 28 yo home three years ago with great bones and lots of acreage for all our kids and the dog, and have pretty much completely renovated. The kitchen was last because it took me FOREVER to find what I was looking for… but when I saw it I was all over it. Our cabinets are a heather glazed (think linen that can look tan or gray as the light changes in the day) with a marble counter and stainless steel appliances. I’ve gotten rave reviews and I am sososo happy with our choices. Timeless, elegant without being too formal, and welcoming. I’m sure you will be just as happy with your beautiful space as well!

  18. Jay

    I’m also a newly converted fan of grey cabinets in the kitchen. We’ve just finished renovating a kitchen in an apartment rental, and we did a mix of new and old cabinets. The new cabinets are from Ikea (Applad white), but we had all of the doors and panels from Ikea, as well as all of the existing cabinets, sprayed grey (Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray). We painted most of the walls a very light grey (SW Repose Grey), except for two gable walls and the connecting bulkhead in a darker grey (SW Gauntlet Grey). All of the cabinets have stainless hardware, and we did a stainless toe kick (from Ikea), and finished off with white countertops (also from Ikea). Finally, we created the backsplash using back-painted acrylic. The whole reno was less than $2000, and the new tenants love it. They didn’t even notice that the cabinets were a mix of old and new.

    What I particularly love about grey kitchens is that you can pick an accent colour and use it on curtains, linens, artwork – whatever – and it brings the whole room to life.


    I love the color that you choose for your kitchen! Well, I like your new kitchen, finally!

  20. Rene

    My husband are I were just discussing painting our kitchen cabinets grey. I am working on a paint color scheme for the walls right now….will keep the grey cabinets in mind. thanks

  21. Claire

    Congrats on your new kitchen. As someone who has gone through a remodel like yours, I know how much work is involved. Your kitchen turned out beautifully.
    We are now ready to redo one of our bathrooms and I was wondering about your white subways. We used a glazed, crackled subway in our kitchen, but I wanted a more simple look for this bathroom. Can you tell me where your subways came from.

    • Melissa

      Thanks! The tile is fram Dal Tile!

  22. robyn

    I LOVE your kitchen! So beautiful! I’ve looked through all the archives but I can’t seem to find which kind of quartz you used. It looks lovely. Would you mind sharing?

    • Melissa

      Sure it is Caesarstone Organic white! :-) Thanks!!

  23. Natalie

    We are just starting to do our basement kitchen and the gray paint is the exact color that I have picked out so I am so glad to see how pretty it looks when all complete. What type of surface are your counters?

  24. Christine Crowley Welby

    Hi Melissa! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I like the kitchen, especially how you mixed the colors. The subway tiles are the perfect choice. I always suggest my clients to choose subway tiles for the kitchen because they’re timeless. Looking forward for your next DIY home projects!

  25. Hollie

    I have a mostly white kitchen, with Carrera perimeter counters, walnut counters on our island, and medium wood floors. While I love my kitchen, I’ve also been swooning over kitchens like yours, with white on top and gray or blue or black on the bottom. It’s still a classic look, but with some extra oomph. You made some great choices!

  26. Helen Williams

    I am so in love with this cabinet color. You did such an amazing job Melissa. Would you mind sharing what gray you used on the cabinet? We are going to be painting our cabinets in the next few months so hopefully they turn out as pretty as yours.
    Thanks, Helen

  27. Kay

    I love the two-tone cabinet colors, the gray and white are beautiful together.

  28. lisa

    Can you tell me where I can buy the light in the picture that has the wine ftidge? In the middle of a gray and white kitchen remodel and would love to but that light. Thanks so much love your kitchen!

  29. Joan

    I love how gray set the right mood in the kitchen. It works on cabinets, walls and tables. I like you having gray and white because the mood in the kitchen is perfect.

  30. Holli

    This is exactly what I had invisioned in our kitchen! Beautiful! We are thinking of revere pewter bottoms and white (very few) uppers with lots of windows in the kitchen. What do you think about a pop color on the island (like, guilford green)?

  31. SarahE

    I love the grey and white color schemes!
    My husband and I are wanting to redo our kitchen colors. Our walls are a dark grey with slight blue undertones and our floors are a medium oak. We need to paint the cabinets and get new counter tops and backsplash. We were thinking white cabinets and black counters, but reading and looking through these beautiful kitchens, I’m not sure that would help make our small kitchen look bigger and brighter. I would love your advise!

  32. Karen

    Just found your site; lovely kitchen choices. Are you willing to share the name of the grey and brand you used
    It looks like the color I need, but as you know there are lots of choices. Thanks for any help you can share.

  33. Sandie

    please tell me what is the shade of gray for bottom cabinets with white on top cabinets


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