The Best White Paint Colours for Kitchen Cabinets…and More.
It can be DARN 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, then 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. Take a close look at your 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).
Do your countertop and flooring contain a clean crisp white or a warm white/off-white/cream?
If you have a clean white in your products, you’ll want to look at clean white paint colours for your cabinets, in other words, ones that have little to no colour/tint 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 also important that the undertones suit each other. So, if the white in your countertop is warm with a touch of yellow – your cabinet’s white should follow suit. If the white in your countertop is warm with a touch of orange or red – so should the white for your cabinets.
(Don’t worry, we’ll get into some specific whites shortly)
See more of this project HERE
Neither my countertops or flooring have white in them, what now?
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 the other colours that are present in that surface (are you exhausted yet? Wine helps).
See more of this beauty HERE
See more of this project HERE
Greige tones tend to suit a slightly softer white, not TERRIBLY warm or creamy, 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, earth-toned end of things, then you’ll want to pick that up with your whites and choose soft, warm-whites.
See more of this makeover HERE!
If you have a cool colour that is dominant in your countertop or flooring (ie: blue/purple/cool green), 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’re 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’ve found that a lot of my clients hope 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. 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.
And if you’re LUCKY, the white that is on your trim will be the PERFECT white for your cabinets – better cross your fingers. And if it’s not, then is your trim colour really the right one for your room? MIKE DROP!
The reason why this matters is that 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 monstrous.
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages
Tip 3. Does your home even SUIT a white kitchen? Maybe not…
This is a big one (that’s what she said…). Can your home SUPPORT a white kitchen? Can your KITCHEN support a white kitchen? (QUIZ HERE)
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 (here). And while I love a well-done white kitchen, I have to say, our new house doesn’t SUIT 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 – trim, floor and more
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 sense on the large-scale.
If you don’t have windows in the kitchen, this isn’t as much of a problem. If you DO, then white cabinets are probably a no-go, but it CAN depend on the countertop/backsplash you choose.
This one is picking up on that little * that you might’ve noticed way 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
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.
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?
If you stand outside and then walk in, would a white kitchen feel WEIRD compared to your exterior? Maybe you could 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? HECK no.
And don’t worry (I know you were…), our exterior will look DRASTICALLY different come Springtime when we can get some fresh paint on it!
Tip 4. Will your backsplash look good with white cabinets?
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 (meaning it connects quicker with the cabinets than the horizontal countertops), we had to go with it the backsplash NOT the countertop.
So, while I suggested the best white for the situation, I also offered 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 three great options to choose from.
On the other hand, this client was also hoping for white cabinets, but as far as that backsplash/counter/flooring combo was concerned – it was a HARD no.
Instead, I suggested saving her money by keeping the cabinets as-is. Once she was ready to remodel the kitchen (in a few years), she could then create a nicely balanced palette from scratch. In the meantime, a more suitable paint colour on the walls and updated light fixtures would make a HUGE difference to this space, giving it a fresher face.
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, before we get into those beautiful white paint colours you’ve been waiting for, let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needing for traditional paint sampling
- If you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
The Best Relatively ‘White’ Whites for Cabinets
BM White, BM Super White, SW High Reflective White, BM Chantilly Lace, BM Extra White (links below)
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
The Best Warm Whites and Off-Whites (creams) for Cabinets
BM White Down (see more of this project HERE)
See the before and afters HERE
Paint Sampling Tips for Cabinets
You’ve got two options for sampling paint colours for cabinets.
Sampling Method #1 – Samplize
I mentioned this earlier. Samplize is BY FAR the easiest and most affordable way. However, they come in an eggshell finish. It’s important to note that cabinets are almost ALWAYS painted in a satin finish. This slightly enhanced sheen can slightly lift and brighten colours. If you choose Samplize, keep this in mind.
Sampling Method #2 – Sample pots
If you decide on the traditional method of sampling paint, be sure to get your sample pots made up in the SAME finish that you will be painting your cabinets in (usually satin/pearl). NEVER pick a paint colour based on the wee little paper sample that you bring home.
Once you have your Samplize samples or painted sample boards (two coats, cheap hard canvases are better than poster board, paint up to the edge leaving on three sides, leaving just one white edge*), take a close look at them. You’ll want to do this by hanging them PERFECTLY vertical. Light reflects differently on horizontal surfaces. It’s okay to lay things down and see how they connect but PICK your white based on how it looks vertical. Do any of your samples seem more white than your countertop’s white? Do they have pick up on what your countertop or backsplash are putting down? This is good. If not, then keep on sampling my friend!
*Why the white edge? The clean white of the canvas will help you see the undertones of your white a bit more, whereas without it, white often just looks ‘white’. With the Samplize samples, be sure to put them up against white paper for a minute, just to see the shift from plain white to ‘your white’. HOWEVER, keep in mind, that the white of the paper/canvas WILL over-exaggerate the undertones in your white and those undertones can seem considerably more passive once the plain white is out of the equation and the paint is up on the cabinets.
Not sure which white is best for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets?
Check out my E-Design services – I’d love to help!
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