How To Choose The Perfect Colour For Your Kitchen Cabinets
[Cover images by deVOL]
Choosing the right colour for your kitchen cabinets can transform the entire look and feel of the space.
Whether you’re hoping to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere or a modern and sleek look, the right colour can make all the difference.
With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which colour will work best for your space.
In this post, I’ll explain the factors to consider when selecting the perfect colour for your kitchen cabinets and provide you with tips, ideas and inspiration.
Let’s get into it!
Why your kitchen cabinet colour is important
Selecting the perfect colour for your kitchen cabinets is more than just a fleeting design decision. It’s an integral part of creating your kitchen’s personality and style.
Cabinets take up a significant amount of visual space, so their colour can define the room’s ambience.
This choice influences not only the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen but also its atmosphere, potentially affecting your daily mood and the overall feeling of your home.
Colour can manipulate space in remarkable ways.
Lighter colours tend to make a room feel more expansive and airy, an excellent trick for smaller kitchens. On the other hand, dark or moody colours can add depth and richness, giving large spaces a more intimate feel.
Things to Think About
- What style and mood do you want in your kitchen?
- Are you aiming for a traditional or a contemporary vibe?
- How does natural and artificial light affect your kitchen?
- Do you prefer a cosy and warm atmosphere or a cool and sleek one?
- What is the size and layout of your kitchen space?
- How likely are you to change your mind about the decor?
Before we get into all of this I want to stress, that when it comes to your kitchen cabinet colour (or any design element really) there’s truly no right or wrong choice.
The most important factor is that you love the colour!
What To Consider When Choosing a Colour for Your Kitchen Cabinets
Selecting the right colour for your kitchen is an important decision that can impact the overall look and feel of your space. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Kitchen Size and Layout
The size and layout of your kitchen are the foundational elements that will influence your cabinet colour choice. Smaller kitchens benefit from lighter colours that reflect light, making the space feel larger and more open.
Conversely, larger kitchens have the luxury to experiment with darker or more saturated colours without feeling cramped.
The layout, whether it’s a galley kitchen or an open concept, also dictates the visual flow and how continuous or segmented the colour should be.
Existing Colour Scheme and Elements
Your cabinets don’t exist in a vacuum. They need to harmonize with the existing colour scheme and elements within your kitchen. The hues of your countertops, backsplash, fixtures, walls and flooring are all part of the conversation.
A cohesive colour scheme creates a seamless look, while a contrasting colour choice for cabinets can add depth and interest. It’s about finding the right balance that complements existing features while allowing your cabinets to shine.
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The Role of Natural and Artificial Lighting
Lighting plays a pivotal role in how a colour is perceived. Natural light can reveal the truest form of the colour, changing its intensity and hue at different times of the day.
Artificial lighting, whether it’s the warm glow of incandescent bulbs or the cool beam of LEDs, can shift the colour’s appearance.
It’s important to observe how various lighting conditions in your kitchen interact with potential cabinet colours at all hours. More tips on testing colours a little later. 👍
Finishes – Matte, Glossy, Satin
Matte finishes are non-reflective and can give your cabinets a modern and sophisticated look. This finish absorbs light, which can help hide imperfections on the surface of the cabinetry.
However, matte can be more challenging to clean and may show fingerprints and smudges more readily.
Glossy finishes, by contrast, reflect a lot of light, making the colour pop and the space feel more vibrant and dynamic. They are a popular choice for contemporary kitchens and can help make a small kitchen feel larger.
Cleaning is generally easier with glossy surfaces, but they can also highlight imperfections and require more frequent cleaning to maintain their shine.
Satin finishes (usually painted kitchens) strike a balance between matte and glossy, offering a medium level of sheen. They’re less reflective than glossy finishes but easier to clean than matte finishes.
Satin is a versatile choice that works well with most kitchen styles and provides a classic look that is neither too flat nor too shiny.
Style of Your Home and Kitchen
The architectural style of your home, as well as your personal style, can also be a guiding factor when selecting kitchen cabinet colours.
Contemporary homes often feature clean lines and a monochromatic colour palette, making white, light grey, or other neutral-toned cabinets a fitting choice. These shades can complement the minimalist aesthetic, providing a sleek and timeless appeal.
In contrast, homes with a more traditional design can accommodate richer tones and textures. Dark wood cabinets can evoke a sense of warmth and classic elegance, suitable for a traditional kitchen.
If your space leans towards an eclectic style, it opens the possibility for more adventurous colour choices, such as navy, deep green, or even vibrant red, to add personality and charm.
Two-tone kitchens (or even three-tone) are very popular and can create a unique and dynamic look. However, it’s important to approach this thoughtfully to maintain a cohesive feel.
Select colours that naturally work well together. You can use my tool below to find complementary, analogous or tonal colour schemes. It can help to have one colour more neutral to allow the other to stand out.
Decide which areas will be your primary colour and which will be your accent colour. Commonly, the upper cabinets or wall units are lighter to create an airy feel, while the lower cabinets are in a darker colour to ground the space.
You could also use colour to create a focal point in your kitchen. For instance, vibrant colours on an island or a section of cabinetry can draw the eye and serve as the centrepiece of the room.
Although, feel free to break these ‘rules’ 😀
Timeless vs. Trendy Colours
While trends come and go, certain colours stand the test of time.
White, for example, has been a perennial favourite for its clean look and versatility. In fact, most light and neutral shades provide a contemporary backdrop that can adapt to various design changes over the years.
Balancing trendy colours with these timeless shades can create a kitchen that feels both current and enduring.
To achieve a harmonious blend of trendy and classic, consider the 60-30-10 rule used in interior design.
Allocate 60% of the room to a dominant, classic colour, 30% to a secondary shade, and use a trendy colour for the remaining 10% as an accent.
This could mean classic white cabinets with a trendy coloured island or backsplash.
Alternatively, incorporate trendy colours through easily changeable elements like cabinet hardware or decorative accessories.
This approach allows for flexibility, enabling you to update the look as trends evolve without a complete overhaul. Great if you’re worried you might not love that trendy colour in a few years’ time! 👍
Ultimately, your colour choice should reflect your personality and how you want to feel in your kitchen. Whether you prefer a serene retreat or a vibrant gathering spot, your colour selection is an opportunity to make a statement about your style.
Remember, the best choice will always be the one that makes you happy every time you step into your kitchen.
It’s YOUR kitchen, do what YOU love!
Tips for testing colours
Choosing the right colour for your kitchen cabinets isn’t a decision to be made on how it looks on a computer screen. I cannot stress this enough;
Testing colours in your actual space is crucial!
Here’s what I always tell clients to do:
- Samples: Invest in sample pots of your chosen colours or sample cabinet doors from your kitchen supplier. Paint large swatches on a piece of card or hold sample doors up to see the colour in situ.
- Observe at Different Times: Look at your samples in the morning, midday, and evening. Natural and artificial lighting will change throughout the day, affecting how the colour looks.
- Live with It: Leave the swatches up for a few days. Notice how your mood interacts with the colour during different kitchen activities.
- Contextualize: Place the samples next to countertops, wall tile materials, flooring samples, wall colours and hardware to see how the colours work together. This is where creating a sample board works wonders!
- Neighbouring Spaces: Consider how the cabinet colours will flow into adjacent rooms to ensure a cohesive colour scheme throughout your home.
Remember, colour can be transformative, so taking the time to test thoroughly ensures you’ll be happy with your kitchen’s new look for years to come.
Understanding Colour Theory in Kitchen Design
Colour theory can be a helpful tool in designing a kitchen that feels cohesive and pleasing to the eye.
I think there are a few fundamentals that are worth discussing to help give some context and better understand how to create a cohesive colour palette.
Keep in mind, for every interior design guideline or ‘rule’, there’s always an exception, don’t be afraid to bend the rules to create a stunning, unique space.
Warm Colours: These include reds, oranges, and yellows. Think of the warmth of the sun or the glow of a firelight. In the kitchen, these hues can create a welcoming and stimulating environment, often invigorating the space with a sense of cosiness and comfort.
Cool Colours: On the other side of the spectrum are the cool colours like blues, greens, and purples, reminiscent of water and nature. They’re known for their calming effect, offering a sense of tranquillity and serenity.
In a kitchen setting, cool colours can give the space a clean, refreshed, and soothing atmosphere.
Tonal, Analogous & Complementary
Tonal Schemes: Utilizing variations in the lightness and saturation of a single colour, tonal schemes provide a sophisticated and layered look. This approach is perfect for creating a nuanced and elegant kitchen environment, where the focus is on texture and depth rather than contrast.
With this approach, I’m not saying to use all these as direct colours in the kitchen but rather as other elements or textures such as flooring, countertops, walls, shelving etc…
Analogous Colours: These are colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel, such as blue and green or orange and yellow. Employing an analogous colour scheme in your kitchen creates a serene and comfortable space, with each hue enhancing the others.
For instance, if you have sage green cabinets, you might choose a soft mint green for the walls and richer emerald accents in kitchen textiles or dishware to create a cohesive look.
Complementary Colours: This colour theory involves pairing hues opposite on the colour wheel, like blue and orange. Incorporating a complementary colour can bring a lively pop to your kitchen.
This technique works well within the framework of the 60-30-10 rule: 60% of your kitchen in a dominant, tonal colour, 30% in a secondary analogous hue, and 10% in a bold, complementary colour for that unexpected spark of interest.
Have a play around with my interactive colour theory tool below 👇
(Don’t forget to use the eye dropper to test a colour you already love)
Colour Theory Tool
Kitchen Cabinet Colour Inspiration and Ideas
If you're looking for some inspiration, here are a few popular kitchen cabinet colours to think about and try.
Neutral Kitchen Colours
Neutral colours are a classic and timeless option for any kitchen. They create a clean and bright look that can make a small kitchen feel larger and more spacious. Neutral colours are also versatile and can work well with any style, from traditional to modern.
When selecting a neutral colour for your kitchen, consider the lighting in your space. If your kitchen receives a lot of natural light, you can opt for a brighter white or cooler grey tone.
If your kitchen has less natural light, you may want to choose a warmer beige tone to create a cosy and inviting feel.
Bold Kitchen Colours
If you're looking to add a pop of colour to your kitchen, bold paint colours can create a dramatic and eye-catching effect. Bold colours can work well with any kitchen style and can be used as an accent or as the main colour scheme.
When selecting a bold colour for your kitchen, consider the overall style and colour scheme of your home.
It's also important to balance the bold colour with neutral tones, perhaps in your countertop and flooring, to prevent the space from feeling overwhelming or chaotic.
Earthy Kitchen Colours
Earthy tones can create a warm and inviting atmosphere in your kitchen, making it a popular choice for those who love a cosy and natural feel. They are versatile and can work well with both modern and rustic decor styles.
When selecting an earthy colour for your kitchen it's important to balance the colour with neutral tones to prevent the space from feeling too dark or heavy.
You can also incorporate earthy tones through natural wood accents, such as flooring or countertops, to create a cohesive and organic feel in your kitchen.
Pastel Kitchen Colours
Pastel colours can add a soft and serene feel to your kitchen, creating a calming and peaceful atmosphere. They are versatile and can work well with both traditional and modern decor styles.
When selecting a pastel colour for your kitchen, consider the natural light in your space. Pastel colours can look washed out in spaces with low natural light, so it's important to choose a colour that complements the lighting conditions in your kitchen.
You can also balance pastel colours with darker tonal accents to add contrast and depth to the space.
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There you have it! How to choose the perfect colour for your kitchen cabinets.
It's important to consider the overall style and feel you want to create in your space as well as the light in your space and the other colours and materials in the room.
And don't forget to test the colour in YOUR room. Different lighting, at different times of the day, can make a big impact on the perceived colour.
Test, test test!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.