Tips for Choosing the Best White Paint Colours for Cabinets
It can be DAMN tricky to pick the right white for your kitchen cabinets because it’s not just about what YOU want, it’s about what your KITCHEN wants – and kitchens can be pretty finicky.
I’ve had MANY clients who were desperate for a white kitchen, either a brand-new one or via painting their existing cabinets. However, they didn’t always have the finishes to SUPPORT a white kitchen. Maybe they had brown tile flooring or black appliances*. Maybe the rest of their home had wood trim/doors or other finishes that just wouldn’t suit a fresher look in the kitchen. Whatever it was, I had to break it to them that white would not be their kitchen’s best friend. And nothing breaks bad news better than a glass of wine and a slightly manic Ginger, right?
Really though, it’s important to take a close look at a) if your kitchen and home can visually support a white kitchen and if it CAN b) choosing the white that suits the rest of your finishes and furnishings and not just choosing the white that suits your fancy.
So, to help save at least a BIT of your sanity, I’ve got some great tips to help you decide not just if white is right for your home, but which type of white you should be looking for!
Tip #1 Countertop and Flooring
Take a good look at your countertop and flooring – and let’s make the assumption that they are well-coordinated (if you have wood, don’t worry about the flooring as much).
Does your countertop/flooring contain a clean crisp white or a warm white/off-white/cream?
If you have a clean white in your products, then you’ll want to look at clean white paint colours, in other words, ones that have little to no colour in them. You’ll want the whites to flow so that they are the same TYPE of white. Bring paint samples home. Do they seem a bit more yellow/blue/pink than the white in your countertop or do they really blend in with the existing white? (sampling tips below)
This project is ‘coming soon’ to a blog post!
Warm White, Off-White or Cream
If you have an off-white or warm white in your products, then you’ll want to look at warm white paint colours for your cabinets. It’s important that the undertones are suited to each other, so if your countertop’s white has a warm white that is a touch of pink (red) – your cabinet white should do the same. If your countertop’s warm white leans a bit yellow – so should your cabinets….and so on.
(We’ll get into some specific whites shortly)
See more of this project HERE
If neither your countertops or flooring have white or off-white in them, then what colour family are they in? Are they warm tones or cool tones? Gray, brown, colour? These are all things you need to consider before choosing YOUR best white.
Grays tend to suit clean, slightly cool whites. And of course, here is where anal Kylie comes out and says that you also need to consider whether you have WARM grays or COOL grays, but really, I could go on and on…and on. Generally, gray prefers white, with the exception of warmer grays which can sometimes humour a warmer white depending on which other colours they are mixed with (are you exhausted yet?).
See more of this beauty HERE
See more of this project HERE
Greige tones tend to suit a slightly softer white, not TERRIBLY warm, but definitely not a stark white or a cold one. And of course, as with EVERYTHING, there are exceptions based on personal style/specific colour, I’m just trying to get you on the right path!
See more of this project HERE
Browns/neutrals/earth tones: If your countertop and flooring are in the warmer, more earth-toned end of things, then you will want to pick that up with your whites and choose soft, warm-whites.
See more of this makeover HERE!
Colours: If you have a cool colour that is dominant in your countertop/flooring (ie: blue/purple/cool green) then you’ll want to choose a clean or slightly cool white that suits that particular colour/undertone. If you have a WARM colour that is dominant (ie: yellow/orange/red), then you’ll want to pick a warm white that picks up on that particular colour/undertone.
Soooo, I know you’d love if it ended there, but the FUN HAS JUST STARTED! And don’t be overwhelmed, these are ALL things that I consider when I do my E-design consultations, so if you are struggling, you know who to holler at (well, you know who to email – I never answer my phone).
Tip #2 Matching the Trim Colour
I find that a lot of my clients are hoping to keep their current trim colour when painting their cabinets (the less painting the better). However, it can be a HOT mess once you start mixing whites and I am a HUGE believer (understatement) in having whites consistent in a room which means it’s BEST if your trim matches the cabinets. So, take a look at your trim colour. Is it REALLY the right white for your room? Is it warm enough, cool enough, white enough? If not, before you go to the MASSIVE expense and the HUGE labour of painting those cabinets, I want you to think about adding on the trim, it will be worth it.
Why? Well, one white can EASILY make another white look dingy/yellow/green/cool/etc…in comparison. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you’re even REMOTELY sensitive to these things, it’s a biggee.
Tip #3 Does Your Home WANT a White Kitchen?
This is a big one (that’s what she said…). Can your home SUPPORT a white kitchen?
Not every home suits a white kitchen. We just sold our home (that’s right, the one we just bought) and have bought a new AH-FREAKIN’-MAZING home…that needs some love. And while I love a well-done white kitchen, I have to say that it is not a house that SUITS a white kitchen. There’s a whole list of reasons why, and I’m going to include them in this list for you of reasons why not every home can pull off white cabinets.
A whole lotta wood. If you have a home with a lot of wood trim/doors/built-ins, white cabinets can be tricky. You DON’T want the kitchen to be the only white thing in the area, it needs something else (other than the ceiling) to visually support it…such as trim. It is SLIGHTLY easier to pull off an off-white/cream kitchen with wood trim, but a ‘white’ kitchen might not make any sense.
Beige windows. If you don’t have windows in the kitchen, then this isn’t a problem. If you DO, then white cabinets are probably a no-go.
Black appliances. This one is picking up on that little * that you might’ve noticed above. Some people don’t mind the look of white cabinets/black appliances. Personally (and decoratively), I find it WAY too high contrast, unless PARTICULAR things are in place (which I’ve covered in this blog post), but I can say that generally speaking, I don’t do black appliances with a white kitchen.
A two-tone kitchen is a GREAT example of a happy medium with black appliances
Beige appliances. If you thought that BLACK appliances made me twitch, you ain’t seen NOTHIN’! Beige appliances are a SUPER tough sell with white cabinets and it’s basically a hard-no. I would rather you spend your money on new white/black/stainless appliances so that down the road, you can paint the cabinets whatever colour you (and your home) want.
Interior flow: If you stand in the rooms that are ATTACHED to your kitchen, would it all flow if your cabinets were white? Do you have enough white in your other rooms (ie: trim/built-ins/decor) to support a white kitchen?
Exterior flow: If you stand outside and then walk in, would a white kitchen feel WEIRD compared to your exterior. Maybe you can consider a WARM white, but maybe not a cool/crisp white? This is often the case with exteriors that have earth-tones/warmer colours on them vs grays and cool tones. And again, window colour can play a BIG part.
THIS is the exterior of our new home. Does it look like a ‘white kitchen’ kinda house to you?
And don’t worry (I know you were…) that exterior will look DRASTICALLY different come Springtime when we can get some fresh paint on it! And btw, we get it in 2 weeks and I’m so FRIGGIN’ EXCITED!
Tip #4 Does Your Backsplash Suit White?
So. In the ideal world, the backsplash would coordinate with the countertop which would coordinate with the floor – but that’s not always the case. Backsplashes are a TRICKY one and it’s so easy to just miss the colour connection.
I recently did an E-design with a client who had a GORGEOUS home and wanted a white kitchen and it was DARNED hard to get give it to her. What her COUNTERTOP wanted was a warm off-white on those cabinets. What her crisp clean white subway tile backsplash wanted was a crisp clean white paint colour on the cabinets. AND…because she wanted to keep the backsplash AND it’s on the vertical, we had to go with it the backsplash NOT the countertop. Why?
Well, because the countertop is flat and the backsplash is vertical, the backsplash is the MAIN visual connection with the cabinets. If we humoured the countertop and went to a warm white, the backsplash would make the cabinets look yellow/dingy in comparison. And while the countertop didn’t necessarily WANT a clean white, it made for the best connection with the backsplash.
So, while I threw at her the best white for the situation, I also gave her a few other solutions that could maybe ‘bridge the gap’ a bit more. In her case, it made more sense to choose a medium toned warm gray that suited her countertop AND her backsplash. And while it might not be the white kitchen she had in mind, it would look better in the long-run. BUT. It’s not my home, and I left her with 3 great options to choose from.
And this is NOT an anomaly – I see this ALL the time. White subway tile is SUPER popular and just like choosing the best white for cabinets, you also have to choose the best white SUBWAY TILE for your countertop and so often, the default ‘white subway tile’ is used when something else might be a bit better.
Now, let’s look at a few white groupings to finish things off…
Relatively ‘White’ Whites
BM White, BM Super White, SW High Reflective White, BM Chantilly Lace (slightly cool), BM Extra White (slightly cool)
Similar to BM White (see more of this project HERE)
And while I could go into morbid detail about these colours, you could also read these…
- The 8 Best Benjamin Moore White Paint Colours (the details)
- Sherwin Williams 4 Best White Paint Colours
Warm Whites and Off-Whites (creams)
BM Simply White, BM Cloud White, BM White Down, SW Alabaster, BM White Dove, SW Dover White
BM White Down (see more of this project HERE)
See the before and afters HERE
Paint Sampling Tips for Cabinets
Once you’ve narrowed it down (get it down to 2-3 ideally) get sample pots made up in the SAME finish that you will be painting your cabinets in (usually satin/pearl). The finish of the paint will absolutely affect how the colour looks on the larger scale. NEVER pick a paint colour based on the wee little paper sample that you bring home.
f you have a soft white or off-white, you’ll want to consider the same for your cabinets. So, bring those wee little chips home and place them on your countertop. Do they seem more white than your countertop’s white? Do they have a similar ‘colour’ to them, a certain warmth that is consistent? This is good. If not, then keep in trying!
Hang the samples up on the vertical, move them around, get a good feel for them and see how they connect with your other products such as your countertop and backsplash.
Not sure which white is best for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets?
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