A White Kitchen: 3 Different Ways
Do you have white cabinets and don’t know how to make them look good? It’s no wonder. If you visit Pinterest or Houzz you’ll be smacked UPside the head with inspiring white kitchens, yet given no guidance as to how to actually CREATE one.
Thank GOD you have me. Just joking (kind of).
Now there are MANY ways to do white kitchens, including glazing, 2-tone, and other wild and wonderful ideas. But today, we’re going to focus on the 3 foundation palettes that white kitchens revolve around…
Creating a Low Contrast Look With White Cabinets
A low contrast kitchen is simple and relatively seamless as there isn’t a huge shift between the colour/depth of the cabinets, countertop and backsplash.
In the above kitchen, even though the backsplash and cabinets are both white, the bevelled edge of the tile adds a bit of visual interest.
The above kitchen is another low contrast combo. Notice the subtle shift between the soft gray tones of the countertop and backsplash with the white cabinets, with the veining in the backsplash and countertop adding a bit of interest.
Built by Kustom Homes
While the backsplash in the above kitchen stands slightly off of the countertops, it’s still a passive, lower contrast combination.
The perfect example of a low contrast palette with soft, off-white cabinets. The above bathroom is soft and subtle right from top to bottom!
Key elements of a low contrast white kitchen/bathroom
- Cabinets: White or off-white
- Countertops: White or light coloured. The countertop can have some visual interest in it, but nothing that is overbearing
- Backsplash: White, off-white or a subtle shift off of the countertop and cabinets
- Flooring: In a kitchen, the flooring is usually medium toned. In a bathroom, you’ll often find light or medium-toned flooring
Ways to add interest to a low contrast palette
- Slightly darker grout on the backsplash – this will show off the pattern of the tile layout
- A unique tile layout on the floor or backsplash (ie: herringbone pattern)
- Medium to dark-toned flooring
- A backsplash or countertop with some visual interest (ie: veining in the countertop/textured or mosaic tile backsplash)
- Shiny cabinet hardware and plumbing fixtures (polished nickel or chrome)
Creating a Medium Contrast Look With White Cabinets
This is usually my happy place. The medium contrast kitchen offers some shifts between products so that there is a combination of either:
a) One product that is white or off-white and two products that are medium toned (ie: white cabinets with medium-toned countertop and backsplash )
b) Two products that are white off-white and one product that is medium toned (ie: white cabinets, white backsplash and medium-toned countertop)
See before and afters of this kitchen: Maple No More!
A few things to note with the kitchen above (which happens to be my old one, I even cleaned off the empty wine bottles and KD boxes for you – yay me)
- The contrast between the white cabinets and countertops is medium. The countertops definitely sit off of the white of the cabinets, but they don’t POP
- The backsplash is more in line with the colour of the cabinets, while still pulling a few of the creamy tones out of the countertop
- The paint colour adds some interest and contrast without going over the top
- I used my bar stools and island base to add some real contrast and depth to the palette, without committing to contrast on a long-term basis
- BTW – I also saved major bucks by doing an affordable, but AWEsome laminate on the perimeter countertops and quartz on the island
The above bathroom is on the border of medium and high contrast. While the accent tile and countertop aren’t particularly DARK, they do make quite an impact when paired with clean white cabinets, particularly because both the countertop and tile have a lot of variation and action in them.
Read more: Sherwin Williams 4 Best White Paint Colours
The medium contrast kitchen above shows you how you can still create a striking, strong look without having to go super dark. There is a really nice balance between the softer, slightly more medium-toned contrast of the backsplash and countertop with the stronger island colour.
Key elements of a medium-contrast white kitchen or bathroom
- Cabinets: White or off-white
- Countertops: More medium-toned in comparison to the white of the cabinets
- Backsplash: Either the same colour as the cabinets or closer to the depth of the countertops
- Flooring: Usually a medium to dark colour (light/white super sucks to keep clean in a kitchen)
- Paint Colour: Usually light or medium-toned, but can be slightly darker
Ways to add interest to a medium-contrast palette
Medium contrast palettes tend to have some visual interest already, so you don’t need to go too far to finish things off!
- Backsplash or countertop with some detail in it, rather than a solid colour
- Backsplash with texture (ie: a stone like travertine or slate)
- A medium toned paint colour on the walls or island
- Black or shiny nickel hardware
Click on the above image to see my available packages – fun AND affordable!
Creating a High Contrast Look with White Cabinets
The high contrast white kitchen is the most striking of the bunch. Again, there are usually two products that blend together somewhat (cabinet/backsplash usually) and one product that hits it HARD with a high contrast jolt of dark gray, black or brown.
This is the PERFECT example of a high contrast kitchen. The wicked quartz countertop pops off of the white cabinets.
Read more: The 3 Best Whites for Cabinets
With the gray island (which you can just see a wee willy wink of above) the palette is toned down a bit and considerably lower contrast, offering some relief to the palette.
Kylie M E-Design
The kitchen above is another great example of a HIGH contrast palette. The white cabinets (that are also glazed) are in striking contrast to the black granite countertops and slate toned flooring. Notice that the backsplash is a mix of both light, medium and dark tones, which is a great way to transition a high contrast look.
Key features of a high contrast white kitchen
- Cabinets: White or off-white
- Countertop: Dark
- Backsplash: Can be light, medium, dark, or a blend of light/med/dark
- Flooring: Any depth of flooring (light, med or dark). Usually medium or dark in a kitchen, but any depth in the bathroom
- Paint Colour: Any depth of paint colour on the walls
Ways to tone down a high contrast palette
- Keep any tile pattern more simple (backsplash or flooring)
- Keep the countertop pattern simple (compared to a busy granite or quartz with a lot of veining)
- Do not do black cabinet hardware as it is high contrast on white cabinets
- Limit the amount of shiny/reflective finishes
Now, of course, there are many other things that go into creating a beautiful room, but hopefully, these tips and ideas will get you off on the right foot!
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