Choosing The Perfect Kitchen Cabinet Color

choosing-the-perfect-kitchen-cabinet-colorKitchen cabinets comprise the largest area of visual square footage in your kitchen. The right design style and color choices have a huge impact on your completed kitchen design. The wrong choice – well, it’s enough to make you wish you could start the design process all over again.

Tips for Choosing the Right Kitchen Cabinet Finish the First Time Around

Here are tips for selecting a cabinet finish that you’ll be happy with for longer than typical design trends hang around.

Think about your future kitchen

A handful of years back, kitchen design magazines and websites, like, were all about “pops” of color. Vibrant colors were very trendy then, so we saw lots of green and tangerine – even on kitchen cabinets. Beware attaching color trends to cabinets. The minute the trend has evaporated, you’re stuck with dozens of square feet of outdated cabinets that cost a chunk of change to repaint, reface or replace.

Instead, think about installing more timeless door styles and neutral colors that will weather changes in the trends a bit better. Save more transient kitchen accents to get those “pops” when you want them.

Choose a color that complements your open floor plan

If you have a galley kitchen, this is less relevant. However, most homeowners have some version of an open floor plan these days. In that case, it’s important to choose a cabinet door finish that works with other, visible living spaces. A prime example is this Suburban Oasis in San Francisco. See how the cabinetry is white, forming a nice but subtle contrast between the living and kitchen area? Smartly, the owners selected a gray finish for the kitchen island base, which echoes the effect of the gray walls in the family room- check and check!

Look around and see what colors or wood finishes make the most sense for uniting or complimenting visually adjacent living spaces. For example, if you have a built-in entertainment center or library in one room, it might make sense to have a block of kitchen cabinets in a similar finish to tie it together. Take a peek into this Palo Alto Family Home to see what I mean. Notice how the natural wood finish on the kitchen island plays homage to the wood accents in the living room.

On the flip side, if your living room or family room accents are more colorful, you may simply choose to go with white or very pale, neutral cabinet colors so the kitchen cabinets blend in, rather than stand out.

Work with existing countertop colors

Which comes first? The cabinet or the countertops? Good question. The answer is whichever one is most important to you. Where countertops were once primarily functional, they now serve as showpieces too. If you have your heart set on a particular countertop surface, I recommend choosing the countertops first.

From there, if the countertop is natural stone – or a surface such as quartz or Corian that mimics natural stone – we can begin to look at the accent colors inherent in the countertop and pull potential cabinet colors from there. Then, you can choose to design a backsplash that provides contrast or one that forms a harmonious transition between both surfaces, depending on the effect you want.

Remember you can choose more than one

Perhaps the biggest mistake homeowners make is settling on one cabinet color when they’re stuck between two, or waffling between the idea of subtle or more dramatic effects. Your kitchen can always boast more than one cabinet finish – as long as it does it well. And, I’ll be honest, the idea that “you can have both!” has helped save more partnerships than I care to count!

The most common way to go about multiple cabinet colors in the same space is to choose a separate color for upper and lower cabinets or to choose a color for one and a wood finish for the other. You can choose one color for one side of a kitchen and another color for the opposite side. For those of you who understand the reason behind avoiding bold colors – but who are dying to add that “pop” – I recommend using your bold color for the kitchen island cabinets. It will look great while you love it and is cheaper to paint when you’re ready for a change.

Not sure what the best move is for your kitchen cabinets? Enlist the help of an experienced interior designer. While working with an interior designer for the duration of the project will help it move more smoothly, a single consultation or two can be integral to making the right choices when it comes to the biggest budget – and most important – selections.

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Kristina Wolf Design creates memorable interiors in harmony with your personal vision, with minimal stress. Whether it’s a new home interior or the perfect color palette for a paint project, we'll deepen the connection between you and your home while honoring your objectives, schedule and budget.

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Kristina Wolf Design, Inc., Interior Decorators & Designers, Berkeley, CA