When it comes to channeling your inner Ina Garten, there's nothing more inspiring than cooking in the kitchen of your dreams. Whether you're exercising your culinary chops in the most efficient small kitchen or you've got endless storage and counter space (lucky!), creating the ideal environment is much like perfecting your favorite recipe: Just as every ingredient in a dish serves a purpose, all your design elements should play well together and create a cohesive look. With that being said, designing a kitchen often goes beyond having the latest high-end appliances (although that certainly helps)—and that's where choosing the right kitchen cabinet paint colors comes in.
If you consider yourself a design aficionado, then you know that selecting a color scheme involves much more than staring at dozens of paint chips at your local hardware store. You'll have to consider the rest of your kitchen's features—from the lighting and the backsplash to the flooring and the hardware—to ensure that your cabinetry's colors tie the rest of the elements together. But who really wants to spend hours examining seemingly identical white swatches, especially when there are more pressing matters (like stocking your pantry or shopping for kitchen accessories)?
That's why we've tapped a handful of interior design experts to share their favorite cabinet colors, along with the décor styles and hardware that pairs best with each hue. Don't head to the paint shop just yet—keep reading for the best colors for kitchen cabinets, along with hardware pairing tips straight from the pros.
For a Bold Yet Timeless Look
Going gray on kitchen cabinets is the key to making a statement that won't look dated in a few years, says Thea Home interior designer Dorianne Passman. "We love using shades of grays in our kitchens. The neutrality of gray really keeps a kitchen feeling clean but still giving it a sense of boldness," she explains. A hue like Farrow & Ball's Plummett #272, which she recently used in a Beverly Hills home, tends to be more "forgiving and adapts differently in different times of day" and types of spaces.
Passman also points out that the style of the cabinet doors—rather than the space's interior design—is what dictates the paint color. And when it comes to the order of selecting kitchen design elements, she says that hardware is last on the list. Once there's a final decision on the paint color and countertops, the hardware is chosen "so that it all corresponds. We like hardware to be unique but not too bold so that it blends in with the whole story of the kitchen and no one will get sick of it."
For Pairing With Light Countertops and Flooring
Nashville-based interior designer Lauren Bradshaw suggests using Farrow & Ball's Pavilion Gray if you're seeking a neutral paint color that "feels warm and soft and pairs well with a white stone like Calacatta marble."
Bradshaw says she's partial to dark cabinets and "can't wait to use Farrow & Ball's Studio Green [which] pairs nicely with white oak, either on flooring or on open shelving" and adds a natural vibe to kitchen spaces.
"These [two] colors are great for kitchens because they're pretty timeless, and you can change the feel based on the hardware and lighting," Bradshaw tells us. She recommends pairing black hardware with modern light fixtures for an edgy look or using brass bin pulls and knobs if you're seeking a classic feel. The two kitchen cabinet paint colors are versatile enough to mix and match classic and modern design elements, she adds.
For a Completely Customized Feel
For Haus Interior designer Nina Freudenberger, Farrow & Ball's Studio Green is also a top choice. "I think dark colors are very on trend at the moment because people like that it feels more like custom furniture as opposed to that standard white kitchen. I also think that adding a color within the dark range is a way to make it special" and add a splash of personality, she says. "I am just redoing my kitchen in Los Angeles, and I actually find it so versatile. It goes from a warm black to dark green and really changes throughout the day," she tells us.
For Maximum Versatility
"Most clients have resale in mind," says Portland-based interior designer Max Humphrey, which is why he sticks with versatile hues like white, gray, or olive gray. These kitchen cabinet paint colors translate well into nearly any décor style, while brighter hues are best saved for the walls, "which are way easier to paint over if anyone gets sick of the color."
For white kitchens, he tells us that he counts on Dunn Edwards' Swiss Coffee, an off-white hue that helps soften a space while keeping the room bright.
If you're not into the stark-white look, then using dark gray or green can add visual interest while still being adaptable to other styles. "Right now I'm designing a kitchen in California, and the cabinets are going to be Benjamin Moore's Cheating Heart, a cool, dark charcoal gray," he says, while Benjamin Moore's Avocado was his top pick for a winery tasting room that he's currently designing. "I picked [it] out mostly so I could just use the avocado emoji when specifying the color to the painter," he jokes.
(We get you, Max.)
If you've got a small kitchen, Humphrey says breaking the rules regarding darker hues is totally acceptable in his book. "I don't buy into the rule about not painting small spaces dark colors—A tiny galley kitchen can look super cool if it's painted dark," he says. "I like a darker paint to keep things looking 'now' and not 'then,'" says Humphrey.
Dark hues help modernize vintage kitchens.
For Busy Kitchens
"Dark cabinets work well for those who cook a lot and are okay with spills and stains. They can hide disasters," explains interior stylist Kirsten Grove. Moody colors also "translate beautifully in transitional kitchens" that seamlessly blend modern and classic design elements, creating an opportunity for cabinets to make a statement in the space. For her own kitchen, she uses Benjamin Moore's Raccoon Fur: "A deep blue/gray is still a win for me."
In regards to hardware, Grove says that dark and light cabinets both work well with brass accents. "Schoolhouse Electric offers a classic midcentury brass collection that can be paired with modern or traditional cabinets. I also love Rejuvenation's black leather and brass pulls."
For Pairing With Wood and Brass
Taupe cabinets are "so timeless paired with wood and brass accents [and] Pratt & Lambert's Pebble is a really pretty option," says Grove.
For Pairing with Stainless Steel
"White and light cabinets are perfect for someone who wants a classic and timeless look in their kitchen," explains Grove. A color like Simply White by Benjamin Moore blends well with stainless-steel hardware, she says.
For Highlighting Modern Interiors
Contrary to what many might assume, Freudenberger attests to the ability of dark shades for bringing warmth to a space: "My kitchen is currently going in an English Tudor house, but I don't think dark colors are exclusive to historic houses. In fact, I think that dark colors add so much warmth to a modern kitchen and should really be considered as an alternative to whites and grays," she says. She suggests choosing dark blues, dark greens, and black shades, which look striking when combined with brass hardware like Commune's Liz Hardware collection, depending on the cabinetry style.
This post was originally published on December 27, 2017, and has since been updated.