Looking for a quick way to transform your kitchen? Invest in a fresh coat of paint—and remember that your walls aren’t the only thing worth repainting. Since cabinets are the most visible element in any kitchen, they probably deserve a tune-up more than your walls do.
“Nothing is more impactful than a fresh coat of paint,” Mary Maloney, owner and principal designer at Bee's Knees Interior Design, says. “Paint can revive, refresh, and add new life to a tired and dated kitchen.”
When it comes to repainting your kitchen cabinets, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. For starters, what does the rest of your space look like? “Plan and coordinate carefully,” Maloney says. “Think about how the colors will relate to all the other elements and connecting spaces.”
Meet the Expert
- Mary Maloney is the owner of and principal designer at Bee's Knees Interior Design.
- Olga Hanono is the principal designer at Olga Hanono.
Then, consider other factors—like your home’s architectural style, and how long you plan to live in your home before reselling it. (Spoiler alert: If you plan to sell soon, Maloney recommends keeping your space as classic and versatile as possible.)
Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, you’ll still have plenty of great paint colors to choose from. So to help you pick the perfect shade for your space, we’ve rounded up some strikingly painted kitchen cabinets, and we asked designers to share their go-to kitchen cabinet painting advice.
Consider the Style of Your Space
If you're having trouble picking a paint color, use your space as a starting point.
“We love a pop of color, but you really need to map out a game plan that is going to make sense for the long haul,” Maloney says. “What colors will work best with the architecture and style of your home?”
Paint Your Cabinets Two Different Colors
Can't settle on a single cabinet color? Paint your cabinets two different colors. Two-toned cabinets have become a popular pick for kitchens. And while you can choose any two colors you like, you’ll probably want to ground your base cabinets with a dark color and pick a lighter shade for your wall cabinets.
Commit to One Focal Point
Kitchens are filled with decorative accents. And if harmony is your goal, you probably don’t want all of them to be bold.
“Pick a focal point,” Maloney says. “Who is going to be the star of the show—the colorful cabinets, the exotic marble countertops, the statement backsplash?” Decide whether your cabinets are the statement-maker, and if they're not, keep them subdued.
Use Color to Spruce Up a Traditional Kitchen
When choosing a paint color, consider how you can add contrast to your space. Olga Hanono, the principal designer at Olga Hanono, says she loves to pair a classic kitchen with a surprisingly bold cabinet color.
“If your kitchen is very traditional, I recommend that you choose a strident color to give it a touch of creativity,” she says.
Make Sure Your Undertones Match
When choosing a paint color, don't just take a shade at face value. Pay attention to the color's undertones and consider how they'll pair with the other undertones in your space.
“Mistakes are common, and often occur due to a conflict of undertones,” Maloney says. Undertones are typically either warm (yellow) or cool (blue), and you’ll want to stick to one or the other.
Keep It Classic With Warm White Cabinets
There's nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Warm white cabinets are a favorite for a reason—they reliably look good.
“We love color, and we get excited when a client lets us ‘play’ with color, but you can’t go wrong with a classic white cabinet,” Maloney says. “A warm white is a favorite ‘go-to’ for cabinetry.”
Match Your Cabinets to Your Backsplash
Your cabinets should pair well with the rest of your kitchen, so turn to your backsplash for color inspiration. Match your cabinets directly to your backsplash, or use your cabinets as an opportunity for contrast: If your backsplash is bold, could you mellow out your kitchen with a neutral cabinet color?
Treat Different Cabinet Styles Differently
If you're painting your cabinets more than one color, consider divvying up your shades by cabinet style. Paint your base cabinets one color and your wall cabinets another. Or make your floor-to-ceiling cabinets a different color than the other cabinet styles in your space.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Dark
Black may seem like an odd color for kitchen cabinets, but the bold neutral can look great in classic and contemporary kitchens, alike. If you find yourself drawn to a dark color, go for it.
If things go awry, you can always repaint!
Use the Same Color From Ceiling to Floor
Keep your kitchen sleek by matching your cabinets to your walls—and matching your walls to your ceiling. This top-to-bottom approach will create one continuous wall of color, which is sure to make a statement, even if the color you choose is white.
Play With Color and Texture
Color isn't the only thing you can play with when it comes to cabinetry. Texture can make your space more dynamic, too. “I like not only using paint for the cabinets,” Hanono says.
She notes that by layering paint over a textured material—like a mesh cabinet door or a deep-grained wood—you can “give a special touch” to your kitchen.
Consider What Your Cabinets Will Be Holding
If you have any glass door cabinets, consider the items you store inside them. Since glass is transparent, these items will shine through—affecting the way your paint color looks. Treat these items like you’d treat the other accents in your kitchen: Choose a cabinet color capable of complementing them.
Bring Out the Best in Your Countertops
Since your kitchen counters probably touch your kitchen cabinets, you want the two to pair well. “The cabinet colors you select must play nicely with your solid surfaces,” Maloney says.
Keep your colors complementary, and balance out your space. If your countertops are particularly bold, keep your cabinets subtle—and vice versa.
Complement Your Cabinet Style
Cabinets come in different styles, and you want to make sure the paint color you choose suits the kind of cabinets you have. If your kitchen is lined with modern slab cabinets, complement them with a contemporary color, or add contrast by pairing versatile shaker cabinets with a surprisingly bold shade.
Think About Every Color You Can See From Your Kitchen
When choosing a paint color, you need to consider every color that's in your kitchen—and every color you can see from your kitchen. (This is particularly important if you have an open floor plan.)
“Are there open site lines visually connecting your kitchen to other living areas?” Maloney says. “If so, you must think about how all the colors relate to each other—do they play nicely together?”
Use Neutrals to Balance Out a Bolder Space
If you went all out with your kitchen—pairing bold countertops with textured light fixtures and a statement ceiling—your cabinets may be a good place to take a breather. Choose a neutral that will lend your space the cohesion it needs. And if that sounds boring, remember that neutrals abound. (Your options aren't limited to cool white or warm white.)
Let Your Range Hood in on the Fun
A range hood is an eye-catching element in any kitchen, so consider painting it the same color as your cabinets. This is an easy way to bring your space together, and it can look particularly statement-making if your range hood is situated between matching cabinets or shelves.
Paint Every Inch of Your Cabinets
Cabinet exteriors get all the attention. (And rightfully so—they're the first thing someone will see when they step into your kitchen.) But cabinet interiors deserve some love, too. For a striking effect, paint your cabinet interiors the same color as your cabinet exteriors. Then they're sure to look great, whether they're open or shut.
Pair Your Cabinets With Your Floors
Your floors may not be the first place you turn for kitchen cabinet inspiration. But since they're a major part of your space, they're worth keeping in mind.
“You need to factor in your flooring, backsplash, and countertop materials,” Maloney says. So keep your undertones consistent. And if your floors are particularly striking, balance them out with subtler cabinets.
Go a Shade Darker Than Your Walls
If you want your cabinets to blend into your space without matching your walls exactly, choose a color that's a shade or two darker than your walls. Since the shade will be in the same color family, it should naturally suit your space—while adding a subtle dose of contrast to your kitchen.
Let Your Island Become the Pop of Color
Craving a kitchen that feels classic but not conventional? Paint your cabinets a subtle shade, and save the pop of color for your island. “You can play it safe by introducing a pop of color for the island area,” Maloney says.
Leave Some of Your Cabinets Unpainted
Remember that you don't have to paint all your cabinets. In fact, by painting most of your cabinets—and leaving some unpainted—you can create a pop of un-color that’s just as bold as a pop of color.
Stay Away From Trendy Colors
On-trend colors can be incredibly tempting, but Maloney cautions against them. “Stay away from anything too trendy, and think about what you are going to love for the long haul,” she says.
Focus on what will look good in your space for years to come—not what you’re seeing everywhere right now.
Add Contrast With Your Cabinet Interiors
One sneaky place to add an accent color? Your cabinet interiors. If your cabinets are open, this can be a great way to add contrast. And if your cabinets are closed, this detail can serve as a fun finishing touch—one that’s only visible when your cabinet doors are open.
Layer Three Different Neutrals
Picking three different cabinet colors may seem like overkill. But if all three shades are neutrals, they should play surprisingly well together.
Designate Some Statement Cabinets
If you can’t commit to wall-to-wall color, designate a few statement cabinets to paint a vibrant shade. Look around your space for worthy candidates: could the tiny cabinets above your oven become the pop of color you’re looking for?
Push Yourself to Take a Risk
Anxious about adding color to your space? Push yourself to take a risk. “I encourage people to dismiss their fear of colors and experiment,” Hanono says. “You can add a lot of freshness to your kitchen with a bit of color.”
Have Fun With Your Hardware
No kitchen cabinet is complete without a little hardware. So factor accents—like hinges, doorknobs, and drawer pulls—into your painting plan. “If you wish to update or replace hardware, make that decision before the painting begins,” Maloney says.
After all, your new hardware might affect your cabinet color choice. And if it’s a different size than your old hardware, you might have some holes to fill in before painting.
Test Your Favorite Shades
Colors can look different at different times of day, so spend time with the colors you’re eyeing before committing to them. “Do color tests,” Hanono says. “Colors don't always match.” And they don’t always look the way you thought they would, either.