SHOULD You Paint Your Island / Lower Cabinets a Different Colour?
I’ve talked a lot about oak cabinets, white cabinets, appliances, and wine – all in the same sentence, but I’ve YET to touch down on the best paint colours for a kitchen island or lower cabinets. And while this idea isn’t for EVERYONE, there are some brave souls out there who want to add some personality to their kitchen, but don’t necessarily want it on a LARGE-scale (ie: ALL of their cabinets).
Now, if you go onto Pinterest or Houzz, you’ll find no shortage of ideas for what colour to paint your island or cabinets, and we’ll touch on a few of my faves below, but…
just because you CAN paint your island a different colour, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Which is why today, we’re not just chatting about some of the best paint colours for your island/cabinets, we’re also going to look at some pros and cons.
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The Pros to Painting Your Kitchen Island or Lower Cabinets a Different Colour
A PAINTED ISLAND CAN CREATE A FOCAL POINT AND A FOUNDATION FOR A ROOM
Painting your island a different colour from the main cabinets can be a great way to ground your space and create a striking focal point, especially if you have light coloured tile/vinyl and white cabinets.
A PAINTED ISLAND OR LOWER CABINETS CAN BREAK UP A WOOD-ON-WOOD LOOK
While some kitchens can pull off the wood-on-wood look, it can be a bit much if the floor and cabinets are EXACTLY the same OR have different undertones. Breaking things up with a coloured island/lower cabinets can add a nice shift while giving the countertop/backsplash an opportunity to be pulled into the palette.
In the above kitchen, there was a HECK of a lot of wood grain going on. Painting the HUGE island a dark, grounding colour (Sherwin Williams Cyberspace) was a great way to slow things down and give the space a solid foundation for the remaining wood to really dance (and you all know how I love to make wood dance)!
YOU CAN NOD TOWARD THE CURRENT TREND WITHOUT HAVING TO PAINT ALL OF THE CABINETS
Painting ALL of your kitchen cabinets a trendy paint colour can be a risky choice. However, nodding towards the trend by painting ONLY the island is a great happy-medium without a 100% commitment to colour on a large-scale.
This is also an important consideration if you want to sell in the next 5-10 years. Chances are, whatever trend you commit to will be gone, or on its way out and could affect your resale value.
IT’S MORE AFFORDABLE TO CHANGE IF YOU GET BORED OR TRENDS CHANGE
Painting kitchen cabinets is an expensive project and not every budget can accommodate this kind of investment. Painting the ISLAND is not only more affordable to do NOW, but it’s also affordable to change down the road if you get bored (or on a monthly basis like me).
It’s not just about paint colours either! Painting the MAIN cabinets white (for example) and partnering them up with an island or lower cabinets in a wood stain is a popular idea, as shown in these next photos. Both of these kitchens were created from scratch, so doing the island a different colour/stain was easier to incorporate vs doing a remodel using existing products.
The Cons to Painting Your Kitchen Island or Lower Cabinets a Different Colour
A PAINTED ISLAND/LOWER CABINETS CAN MAKE A KITCHEN LOOK TOO BUSY
If you have two different countertops, painting your island a different colour from the main cabinets can add to the busy-ness, unless things are very carefully coordinated. It’s a bit easier to do if your island has a butcher-block countertop and wood flooring, as that would eliminate a few products that need to be cross-coordinated, but if you have tile/vinyl flooring and two different countertops, things can look really cluttered really fast.
Even though the above kitchen had some great bones in place, painting the island a different colour wouldn’t have ADDED to the look, it would’ve cluttered it up.
IT CAN OVERWHELM A KITCHEN THAT ALREADY HAS ENOUGH GOING ON
Wait, didn’t I just cover this, just in different words? Anyway, it’s a good point to make…again.
Multiple cabinet colours can be too much of a good thing if you already have some interesting features happening in your kitchen. In this photo below, painting the island a different colour would have cluttered things up and taken away from what is already a gorgeous space!
IF YOU DON’T PICK THE RIGHT PAINT COLOUR, IT WILL BE A HOT MESS
Picking the best paint colour for your kitchen island isn’t just about picking the colour you WANT to paint your island, it’s about picking a colour that ties into your existing finishes – including the floor, countertop, backsplash and main kitchen cabinets.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT BLEND AND BALANCE OF DEPTHS, YOU COULD SET THE ROOM OFF-BALANCE
Not every kitchen was designed to have an island in a different colour. Some spaces need the consistency of ONE cabinet colour due to the depth of the walls, backsplash, countertop and main cabinets.
For example, in this next space, while a darker island would’ve looked ‘okay’, the balance down the center of the room, considering the stately stone fireplace and dark sectional, would’ve been pretty strong, whereas the white island added balance.
It’s as simple as that. Right now, painted islands are popular…but so are crop tops and shorts that show off your bum cheeks (hey, I would if I could). Like any trend, it’s only a matter of time before painted islands or lower cabinets aren’t as popular and when it comes time to sell, your choice could devalue your home.
And now, let’s get this party started…
Colours are just example blobs, not direct references to actual colours
The Best Navy Blue Paint Colours for a Kitchen Island or Lower Cabinets)
- Sherwin Williams Cyberspace (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Benjamin Moore Hale Navy (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Benjamin Moore Ocean Floor
When it comes to my Online Colour Consulting, navy blue is definitely the top choice when it comes to painted islands and lower cabinets. However, there are MANY kitchens that can’t visually support ANY type of blue, so make sure it makes sense for YOUR space and its finishes!
See more of this project HERE
Shown above, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace
While there are ALWAYS exceptions, in order to paint your island or cabinets blue, your kitchen would ideally have:
- White or wood cabinets
- A countertop that has blue in it or is white/gray
- It’s flexible towards many tiles/linoleum products, it DOES love wood floor too!
The Best Gray Or Charcoal Paint Colours for a Kitchen Island
- Sherwin Williams Gauntlet Gray (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Sherwin Williams Dovetail (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray (COLOUR REVIEW HERE)
- Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal
Coming in a hot second to navy blue would be gray. Choosing a neutral is almost ALWAYS a better choice than a colour if you’re worried about resale value, as you’re more likely to appeal to a wider range of buyers. And gray is HANDS-DOWN the most popular neutral choice for a kitchen island/lower cabinets, but that’s not to say it’s the easiest…
BTW, because I rely 100% on my Online Paint Colour Consulting photos, I don’t always have a good shot of the colour suggested, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great contender!
Every gray has undertones. It’s important to make sure the undertones in your countertop, flooring and backsplash (if they have gray in them) jibe with the undertones of the gray of your cabinets. Some of the more POPULAR quartz and marble countertops lean towards a soft purple or blue-purple undertone, so you’d want to pick a gray with those same undertones. If you choose the wrong undertones, you’ll have a HOT mess on your hands that can only be fixed by repainting.
Shown above, Sherwin Williams Dovetail
When it comes to painting your island or lower cabinets gray, there is a LOT of room to move, but there are a few limitations…
- If you have warm-toned countertops, there aren’t many gray paint colours that are going to look good
- If you have beige tiled flooring, again, there are few grays that will work
- Gray cabinets look good with MANY of the most popular white paint colours, but NOT always as good with overly warm or creamy ones
The Best Green-Inspired, Teal or Blue-Green Paint Colours for a Kitchen Island
- Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue
- Sherwin Williams Gulfstream
- Sherwin Williams Riverway (mad love)
- Sherwin Williams Peacock Plume
- Sherwin Williams Grizzle Gray (FULL REVIEW HERE)
I LOVE TEAL or blue-green kitchen islands…but there sure aren’t many kitchens that can visually support these colours, unless you’re starting things from scratch and can include them from the get-go (and I’m eagerly awaiting some of my client’s after photos to show you how pretty they can be!).
And while a LEGIT GREEN isn’t popular for kitchen cabinets, neutrals with green-inspired undertones sure are!
Let’s look at this cutie-patootie little before and after…
By pulling into the colours in the backsplash tile and the flooring, we were able to give this lovely little home some great personality for a FRACTION of the cost of a new kitchen.
This next kitchen had the standard granite and backsplash tile from the early 2000s and a fresh coat of paint gave the kitchen a whole new lease on life!
Shown above, Sherwin Williams Grizzle Gray
While there are ALWAYS exceptions, in order to paint your island or cabinets green or teal, your kitchen would ideally have:
- White or wood main cabinets
- White, black or gray countertops OR butcher block countertops, although there are a few exceptions
- There are also a few granites from the ’90s and early 2000s that can work well (update ideas for that era HERE)
- White subway tile or a tile with green/teal in it that is the same type of green/teal as your island colour
Read more: The Best Blue-Green Blend Paint Colours
In this next example, the yellow stain of the maple cabinets clashed with the orange-red tone of the wood flooring, but after, it’s a whole new kitchen!
The Best Black Paint Colours for a Kitchen Island
- Benjamin Moore Black 2132-10
- Benjamin Moore Jet Black
- Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black
- Sherwin Williams Iron Ore
- Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron (which is more of a navy-black blend)
Ooooo, I do love a black island and it can be a great way to tie in black appliances if you aren’t ready to shift to white or stainless steel.
Here’s another gorgeous kitchen with painted cabinets and a striking darker island…
And one more, just because it’s so fun…
Shown above, Sherwin Williams Iron Ore
While there are ALWAYS exceptions, in order to paint your island or cabinets black, your kitchen would ideally have:
- Black or gray in it
- A butcher block countertop
- White or wood cabinets
- Wood flooring or tile/lino that can easily accommodate a sharp colour like black
See the whole space HERE
Not sure what the best paint colour for your island or cabinets is?
Check out my Online Paint Color Consulting packages, I’d love to help!
KYLIE M INTERIORS E-DESIGN, ONLINE OR VIRTUAL PAINT COLOUR CONSULTING EXPERT AND DIY DECORATING AND DESIGN ADVICE SPECIALIZING IN BENJAMIN MOORE AND SHERWIN WILLIAMS PAINT COLORS