Why Two-Toned Kitchen Cabinets Are the Trend You'll Be Seeing Everywhere

Updated 10/29/18

Say goodbye to the stark white kitchens of the past and hello to the mix of colors that define the kitchen trends of the present. According to Yelp's home expert, interior designer Lauren Makk, "a two-toned kitchen is a really easy way to create instant interest." While the look has been around for a few years, it's clear that this dynamic trend is here to stay. It involves playing with different color variations, usually when it comes to the upper and lower cabinets in your kitchen.

A frequent iteration of the look includes a darker color for the lower cabinets and a lighter shade for shelves that sit higher up. Think white cabinets above the sink paired with shades of blue, black, or brown below. However, there are no set rules for which color combinations or design elements work best. If you're feeling experimental, you can try color-blocking one wall of cabinets from another instead of contrasting upper and lower cabinetry or even play with varying shades of the same color.

Trade in restrained color schemes like white on white for bold contrasts of black and gray, variations of green and blue, and combinations of tan and white. "Whether your home is a chic cottage or a modern mansion, this trend can easily be implemented into any good design or style," Makk says. Grab some paint swatches, a few brushes, and an old T-shirt and start designing. Here are 16 two-toned kitchen cabinets to inspire your next showstopping interior design project.

Green Kitchen Cabinets
Sarah Sherman Samuel

"Variables like tile and appliances may change in the future, but your cabinetry tends to stick around a bit longer, so pick combos you can live with for years to come," advises Makk. Here, gold handles connect white cabinets to complementary light green cabinetry beneath a white marble counter. The subtle green of the lower cabinets is a choice that could easily adapt to other changing design features.

Black and White Kitchen Cabinets
Kate Osborne Photography DESIGN: Studio McGee

A crisp way to test out two-toned kitchen cabinets in your home is to contrast white overhead cabinets with black cabinets beneath the countertop. With white subway tile backsplash and a statement-making patterned tile, this kitchen appears refined and highly designed. 

Two-Toned Kitchen Cabinets
Black Lacquer

"Whether your space is big or small, a two-toned effect adds instant drama to any well-designed space," says Makk. When mixing colors, don't be afraid to opt for unconventional materials and textures to bring the drama. This contemporary kitchen features slick black cabinetry paired with lighter ones made of an entirely different material. These disparate elements play with the contrast of the brown wooden door and table to give the kitchen a variation of colors and textures.

Mint Green Kitchen Cabinets
Sharyn Cairns DESIGN: Fiona Lynch

For something with a touch more edge, experiment with a unique hue like this pastel mint green. The burst of color completely shifts the tone of this otherwise minimal gray-and-white kitchen. The muted palette of the rest of the space draws the eye upward and really allows the cabinets to pop against the marble wall.

Modern Kitchen
Alexandra Rowley DESIGN: Studio DB

"Most kitchen designers have shaken it up by mixing traditional wood cabinets with a colorful kitchen island," says Makk. This two-toned kitchen seamlessly incorporates white cabinets with wooden elements. Cabinets above the sink match the waterfall kitchen countertop, while wooden features from the floor, under the island, and on the lower cabinets unite the space. The subtle black from the hanging pendant lighting also matches the black barstools to really tie the kitchen together.

Black and Gray Kitchen
Ragnar Ómarsson DESIGN: Pella Hedeby

Using multiple colors doesn't mean you have to opt for bright, loud hues. This black-and-gray kitchen is subdued and sophisticated. The primary colors match the minimalistic décor of the space, making the kitchen look clean and streamlined. 

Contemporary Kitchen
Thomas Dalhoff DESIGN: Brett Mickan Interior Design

Instead of contrasting upper and lower kitchen cabinets, try color-blocking and leaving one wall of cabinets a single shade while switching things up on another wall. Here, all-white cabinets, counters, and subway tile backsplash stand apart from a wall of charcoal colored cabinets. This gives the space a whole new dynamic.

Blue and White Kitchen
Jessica White Photography DESIGN: Studio McGee

For a subtle distinction in color, pair white cabinets with a cool blue hue. According to Makk, "your color combinations are always reliant on a variety of things, and should complement your finishes." This kitchen features bright white and understated blue shades that flow nicely with each other, as well as the marble subway tile backsplash. This brings out the gray tint in the lower cabinets.

Blue and White Kitchen Cabinets
Sarah Sherman Samuel

A surefire way to ensure that two-toned kitchen cabinets remain cohesive is to simply use the same material throughout the room and only vary the design in color. This industrious kitchen keeps white cabinets from looking disconnected to blue ones by uniting the elements with the same material featuring vertical lines and gold hardware.

Black and White Kitchen Cabinets
Amber Interiors

"One common mistake is to choose colors that are too trendy and won't withstand the design test of time," Makk explains. In order to avoid this pitfall, stick with color combinations that you know work well together. This space utilizes a black island to add dimension and flair to the rest of the white kitchen. This look still features pops of color found in the pink runner rug and brown textured barstool chairs.

Blue and White Kitchen Cabinets
Becky Kimball Photography; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Take the flooring into consideration when selecting colors for the rest of your kitchen. In this space, navy and white kitchen cabinets stand out against dark wood flooring, making the colors pop even more. The kitchen island also matches the blue and white of the rest of the space, keeping the various elements connected.

Two-Tone Kitchen
Alexander Design

A simple variation in color and texture between a kitchen island and kitchen cabinets adds so much interest and dimension to a space. This welcoming kitchen features a wooden island with deep brown cabinets that stand out against the black countertop and darker cabinetry above. Along with the cabinets, a colorful rug adds another element of design to the room.

White Kitchen with Brown Cabinets
BHDM Design

This Upper East Side kitchen may be small, but it's brimming with stunning décor and sleek design elements. Shiny white cabinets sit above the countertops and glean off of the textured tile backsplash. Then, opposite a neatly organized gallery wall sit darker cabinetry on the lower half of the kitchen. With lighter elements on top and dark pieces below, the kitchen feels much more spacious.

Blue and White Kitchen
Elizabeth Roberts

This blue and white two-toned kitchen proves that the dynamic design can look and feel traditional. Located in a Carroll Gardens Townhouse in Brooklyn, the white subway tile backsplash, navy blue lower cabinets, and white upper shelving create a timeless look. Try using gold hardware like this to tie the varied elements together.

Marble Kitchen
Elizabeth Roberts

Not only is this kitchen two-toned, but it also features beautiful marble countertops, shelves, and backsplash. Sleek, seamless white drawers and appliances on one wall contrast with black lower cabinets beneath the sink. Combined with the bold marle, this loft kitchen is a site to be seen. Add a bold countertop into the mix to get the look for yourself.

Victorian Kitchen
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

The bones of this kitchen may have been built in 1885, but the two-toned cabinets and gold light pendants make this space entirely modern. A glamorous white ceiling, walls, and cabinets contrast with the dark wood of the kitchen island. In addition to the varying shades between the island and the cabinets, the white drawers also stand out again the black stove. If you have the space, try incorporating a large square wood island in the center of an all-white kitchen to achieve a similar look.

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