How to Choose Colors for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Chantilly Lace white kitchen

Are you longing for a new color for your kitchen cabinets but feel stuck?  You go on Pinterest and see endless possibilities, get really excited, and then…the letdown.  You’re overwhelmed and don’t know how to pull it all together.  You admire the latest trends but you’re afraid to be stuck in a trend.  You love white…in other people’s kitchens.  You just know yours will never stay white.  The kids, the dogs, the husband…sound familiar?

What to Consider When Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Colors 

There are many things to consider when choosing colors for your kitchen.  What is the style of your house?  How big is your kitchen?  How long do you plan to be in your home? What other colors do you have in your home?  What color are your walls?  Floor?  Tile?  Are you upgrading?  Building?  Freshening up?  Is it a total gut job?

Kitchen’s of Monica’s Past

Since we’ve had several homes, I feel like I’ve done just about everything with color and style.  

House #1

Our very first house had..are you ready…pink beige pickled cabinets.  Very stylish at the time, believe it or not, but by today’s standards, not good.  I would call that a trend.  

House #2

House number two had the late 1990’s-early 2000’s typical golden oak that many of you probably had or may still have.  Don’t fret.  If you’re tired of those cabinets but don’t have a large budget, you can always paint them. 

House #3

House number three had natural hickory wood cabinets with a khaki green painted island in maple.  Actually that was a very pretty and fairly timeless combination if you don’t mind the graining of hickory.  That kitchen was in my “country” phase.  Fortunately we didn’t have anything else that competed with those cabinets; hickory was the only “pattern” in the room.  We had cream colored solid surface countertops which went well with the colors.  

House #4

House four had glazed maple cabinets in an ivory color with venetian gold granite countertops.  We had a built-in black hutch with a stained smooth wooden countertop.  Very, very pretty, but I made a paint mistake that I’ll discuss later.  

House #5

The making of the kitchen in house five was such a disaster that it deserves it’s own heading, so more on that below in the section titled “My White Kitchen Disaster”. The final outcome was stunning, but it took a great deal of time and money to get there. 

House #6

And finally, HartLand–completely timeless and classic.  My dream kitchen with no mistakes.

Chantilly Lace white kitchen

Tips for Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Colors

As I mentioned, a lot of factors have to be considered when choosing cabinets.  If your house is traditional, cream, white, or light-toned wood cabinets will always look good.  If your style is modern or contemporary, clean white, bright colors, or black can work, but be careful not to overdo it.  Too much black can be overwhelming, and too much bright or intense color can make you feel a little anxious.  It’s true!  There are tons of articles and even full books devoted to color psychology.  Cottages can pull off a variety of colors if done well.  The key is balance and restraint.  Most people want their kitchens to feel homey and comfortable.   To keep things simple, however, I’ll focus on the basics to ensure that your cabinets never go out of style.  And, no white doesn’t have to feel cold!

Kitchen Cabinet Colors You Won't Regret

Kitchen Cabinet Colors You Won’t Regret

In the next section, I’m going to talk about white kitchen cabinets simply because a shade of white, off-white, or cream is the most timeless, in my opinion.  Before I get there though, below is a quick reference list of the best Benjamin Moore kitchen cabinet colors you won’t regret.  Remember, these aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather suggestions. 

  • OC-65 Moore Chantilly Lace (bright clean white for cottages, farmhouses, and contemporary spaces)
  • OC-117 Simply White (a soft warm white that still reads white)
  • OC-17 White Dove (a soft off-white with a touch of gray)
  • OC- 96 Navajo White (a soft light cream)
  • OC-45 Swiss Coffee (soft neutral cream; very versatile)
  • OC-9 Ballet White (soft neutral cream)
  • OC -20 Pale Oak (soft neutral that blends)
  • OC-28 Collingwood (a very warm gray that isn’t taupe, but isn’t just gray)
  • OC- 27 Balboa Mist (an off-white that pairs well with brighter whites)
  • HC-173 Edgecomb Gray (a soft greige that has a little more depth))
  • HC-117 Hancock Green (a slightly brighter, yet still soft green)
  • HC-141 Hollingsworth Green (a soft light green)
  • HC-116 Guilford Green (a soft green that’s slightly deeper than Hollingsworth)
  • 1564 Beach Glass (pale blue-green)
  • AF-490 Tranquility (lovely pale blue)
  • 1626 Gentle Gray (super soft pale blue)

White, Off-White, and Cream Kitchen Cabinets

It’s no secret that we love white.  There is something so fresh about a white kitchen!  What’s the secret?  The trick is to make your white or off-white kitchen welcoming rather than stark and commercial-looking.  You can have a mostly white kitchen that isn’t boring by layering complementary shades of white.  White kitchens go wrong when the shades and undertones are off, when all of the whites “match” each other, and when the matching whites have no other colors to play with.  A white kitchen can look fresh or warm depending on the shades you choose.  If you have earth tones in the rest of your home, you should choose a very warm off-white or cream.  The mistake I made in house number four was having warm creamy glazed cabinets with bright white trim.  While not horrible, my house was fresh.  I should have left my cabinets unglazed.  The venetian gold granite was also too warm for my fresh colors, but by combining and repeating my clean and dirty colors, I think I managed to pull it off.  Combining clean and dirty colors isn’t easy, but can be done successfully with a keen eye and repetition.

If you can avoid it, don’t try matching paint colors!

My White Kitchen Disaster

Ugh.  Thinking about this nightmare pains me.  I made not one, but two expensive and awful mistakes in house number five.  While the final result was just beautiful, it took a lot of misery and money to make it right.  This is why we recommend really doing your homework or hiring a designer, or both.  One hard lesson I learned that I had not encountered before is don’t try matching paint colors.  I’ll say it again.  

If you can avoid it, don’t try matching paint colors!  

Sometimes you have to try to match paint colors for one reason or another, but that is another post for another day.  I had a local cabinet company supply my custom cabinets.  Yes, they were custom-made, BUT their color options were not custom.  We essentially had three white choices.  That should have been the first red flag.  It  gets worse.  I chose the whitest of the whites for the cabinets, and then took the sample the cabinet company sent and had paint matched to it for the trim (see the next section for details on why to match your cabinets and trim).  Needless to say the whites did NOT match.  Not even close.  Once the cabinets and white trim were installed, I could immediately see that my “white” cabinets were actually…PINK.  My heart sank and I felt physically sick because I didn’t know what to do.  To make matters worse, the trim paint wasn’t even close, nor was it the fresh white I had envisioned.  

Long story short, I ended up finding a company that specialized in custom woodworking, cabinetry, and finishes, and I had my cabinets repainted on-site for a cool 10K.  Yes, you read that right.  Ten thousand dollars.  I might as well have just flushed it right down the toilet.  The cabinets were not just hand painted.  They were sprayed with a catalyzed varnish, which makes matching whites even more difficult because the finish is much smoother and is different from regular latex paint.  My house looked like a hazmat zone with all the tents and equipment set up.  The second horrible mistake I made, which I discussed in a previous post entitled “Can You Live With Marble Countertops” , was choosing real marble.  I absolutely should have chosen quartz in the first place.  In addition to having my cabinets refinished, I also had my countertops replaced at the same time.  The end result was nothing less than gorgeous, but what a hard and expensive lesson I learned!

Why Should You Try to Match Your Trim to Your Cabinets

Why Should You Try to Match Your Trim to Your Cabinets?

If you have white or cream colored cabinets, your trim absolutely must match your cabinets or it will look off.  Trust me on this one!  If you’re having your cabinets sprayed rather than hand-painted with latex paint, a good rule of thumb is to have your cabinet maker or painter make you a sample that is a little lighter than cabinets.  As I just mentioned, the finish will be different so it may not be exact, but it is definitely possible to get the paint colors very close.  The reason I advise you to go a little lighter on the cabinet is because the overall effect will be one that blends due to the changing light at different times of the day.  Make sure you check your samples in natural daylight and from a variety of angles.  Check at different times during the day as well.  

Is a White Kitchen for You?

White is not as difficult to live with as most people imagine, provided you clean up after cooking or eating.  Catalyzed varnish is a hard finish that wipes easily.  Be aware, however, that it is not as easy to touch up as regular latex paint, but it wears well.

Chosing a color for your kitchen island is a great way to add a pop of color

Adding Color to Your Kitchen with Your Island

Assuming you selected a white, off-white, cream, or very pale natural wood, a terrific place to add a pop of color is on your kitchen island.  Our cabinets here at HartLand are all catalyzed varnish which was matched to Chantilly Lace (perfectly, I may add, by following the go-a-little-lighter-than-your-trim rule).  We used Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue (HC-144), which is a pale blue with a touch of green and a hint of gray for softness.  Take a cue from the colors in adjacent rooms if you’re not sure what color to choose for your island.  If your whites are true white, choose a fresh color.  You can go soft or bright depending on your palette and style.  You may also wish to consider a natural light wood finish for your island.

What are Your Favorite Kitchen Cabinet Colors?  

Do you prefer a natural wood finish or a painted finish?  Do you like soft airy colors, brights, or dark colors?  Do you agree that a white kitchen is the most timeless option of all?  We would love to hear what you think.

Until next time…

From the HartLand with Love,

Monica, Brittany & Cheyenne

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