Is OFF-WHITE the best color depth for your kitchen cabinets? Let’s find out…
When choosing the best paint color for your kitchen cabinets, it can be a tough call between what we love NOW and what will be timeless for the long term.
RIGHT NOW, off-white and light depth cabinets are trending. And I’m not talking about the cream cabinet colors of the early 2000s (which were also trending at one point). I’m talking about warm gray, greige, taupe and even TAN kitchen cabinets. And holy cannoli, are they beautiful. But just because something is trendy and beautiful, doesn’t make it a smart choice for every home.
And just so you know…
90% of my clients who chose creamy off-white cabinets back in the early 2000s (or have moved into a home that has them) WISH they’d chosen white instead.
Now let’s take a look at some pros and cons so you can see whether NON-white cabinets are a good choice for you…
WHY IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO PAINT YOUR CABINETS A LIGHT PAINT COLOR
Many of my E-Design clients are looking for the PERFECT off-white or light depth cabinet color, and I have NOOOO problem with this. It’s important to love the home you live in and if you want light cabinets, I’m going to give you the most GORGEOUS light paint color possible.
KYLIE M E-DESIGN / RICK PHARAOH PHOTOGRAPHY
Here are a few great reasons why you might choose an off-white or light depth paint color for your cabinets…
- you’ve always loved light-depth (non-white) cabinets; they’re your jam
- you’re not a fan of white cabinets (I mean, who likes versatility anyway – wink wink)
- you play on staying in your home and aren’t concerned about resale or MASS APPEAL
- your budget can accommodate a change of cabinet color for when trends change and you want to SELL your home
- you have the budget/energy to change your cabinet color should your PERSONAL TASTES change and you want to mix things up
- they’re the best choice considering your existing finishes (often the case when updating a home but keeping some finishes)
Let’s take a moment to focus on a few of the above points…
If you’re planning on staying in your home and DON’T plan on changing your style, you do you, boo. HOWEVER, it’s important to keep resale in mind, and when it comes to resale, MASS APPEAL matters. This doesn’t mean your home needs to be boring, but it DOES mean that your KEY FINISHES NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE. Light depth paint colors on cabinets (whether they’re cream, gray, taupe or tan) aren’t very flexible. In fact, they’re challenging at best (coming from someone who HAS light depth cabinets).
Colors in the medium range have MUCH more flexibility compared to their lighter cousins
I know there are many of you who will disagree with the above – and that’s okay. I’m not telling you NOT to paint your cabinets a light color; I’m just giving you some things to consider. Remember, I’m preaching to the choir – I have light-depth cabinets!
SOMETIMES, OFF-WHITE IS THE BEST or ONLY CHOICE
Based on existing finishes, some kitchens don’t suit white cabinets and better suit a wood stain or a non-white. In these situations, a light color (usually cream, greige or beige) can come in darn handy; often saving the DAY.
MANY of the kitchens and bathrooms that show up in my inbox have granite from the early 2000s. These types of granites often better suit NON-WHITE cabinets. And while white would be more timeless and flexible, because off-white SUITS the space and its existing finishes, it’s the best choice for the existing conditions.
This kitchen doesn’t WANT white cabinets – it needs a good off-white
Now that we’ve covered some of the pros, let’s dive into the CONS of non-white or wood cabinets.
WHY YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO PAINT YOUR CABINETS A LIGHT PAINT COLOR
Whether you’re considering cream, warm gray, greige, taupe or tan, off-white cabinets are a TREND. This means that no matter how much you love them, they will have a shelf-life (pun intended).
- They’re trendy NOW, which means at some point they WON’T be trendy. At some point, these non-white cabinets could be as unpopular as the glazed cream cabinets from the early 2000s are now.
- They’re TRICKY to coordinate with, which we’ll be talking about in detail shortly (insert wine here)
- It’s ALL in the undertones and it can be tricky to coordinate off-white undertones with countertops and backsplashes for a WELL-DESIGNED look. The undertones of your cabinet color will LIMIT your choices as it relates to future paint colors, countertops, tiles, decor, etc… (whereas a well-chosen white or wood stain has fewer limitations).
And while there are WAY more reasons why you SHOULD paint your cabinets off-white, I want to focus on the MOST IMPORTANT consideration…
WHY OFF-WHITE/LIGHT PAINTED CABINETS ARE TRICKY
When it comes to creating a COLOR PALETTE, it’s about contrast, undertones and purposeful layering. I have MANY Online Paint Color Consulting clients who say they want ‘off-white or light depth cabinets AND off-white or light depth walls‘ – no can do, Sue…or Stu.
As it relates to walls & cabinets, a room can only handle ONE painted surface in the off-white/light range – cabinets OR walls.
When it comes to painted cabinets and walls in THIS RANGE, your cabinets have already taken up that ‘color slot’ as it relates to depth – the position has been FILLED. If you want another color on your walls (a non-white) you need approx. 20+ LRV points between them. This, along with the shift in sheen/gloss between walls and cabinets, will offer more balance.
In the above photo, while the sample on the right is LIGHTER than the other two, by the time you have the cabinets and walls painted, it will all look more or less the same – there isn’t enough of a shift in DEPTH/LRV. If this is REALLY the look you’re going for, you may as well stick with the same color and have it lightened/darkened for a minor shift.
They’re competing for the same color slot.
As you can see, they’re competing for the same position – a position only ONE of them can fill. And because they’re a similar depth (similar LRVs), but different TYPES of grays, they don’t work well together – their undertones clash. For this approach, they’re best off painting the walls the same color as the cabinets (which I don’t suggest) or choosing something with a more noticeable shift in depth.
If you have white cabinets, you can paint your walls ANY depth – even wood cabinets are reasonably flexible. And depending on which white you choose, you can choose almost any COLOR for your walls. And while I’ve got some great solutions below, off-white cabinets will limit you in the long term should you EVER want walls that are similar in depth to your cabinets and hold you to SPECIFIC undertones/types of colors.
SO WHAT ARE THE BEST PAINT COLORS TO GO WITH OFF-WHITE CABINETS?
Ahhhh, this is a blog post unto itself, which is linked below!
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING!