10 Ways to Color Your Kitchen Cabinets

Find ways to spice up your kitchen with sassy hues, trendy techniques and fresh color combos.

By: Lisa Frederick

Photo By: Behr

Photo By: Behr

Photo By: Linda Adams

Photo By: Plain and Fancy

Photo By: KraftMaid

©W. David Seidel

Photo By: Insidesign

Photo By: O Interior Design


©Dennis Vert

Sizzling Neon

You probably remember them best from the 1980s, but neon brights are making their way back into home interiors. The trick with these brilliant tones is to use enough to make an impact, yet not so much that they overwhelm your space. Painting just a small segment of kitchen cabinetry — perhaps a wine cubby, the frame of an open shelf or a bank of upper cabinets like this one — strikes an ideal balance.

A Touch of Darkness

In the exact opposite vein, sometimes adding just a few notes of a darker shade helps to ground a kitchen color scheme and add gravitas to the room. Here, a deep gray upper cabinet unit anchors the space and draws in the color from the adjacent accent wall.

Bands of Color

Can't decide between two cabinet colors? Use both. Paint upper cabinets in one shade, lower cabinets in a different one for a pleasing contrast. To pull them together, choose a backsplash material that incorporates both hues, as the tile in this kitchen does.

Boost Color With Texture

Bold color and rich texture create a one-two visual punch that's hard to resist. Here, a vivid turquoise island is dressed in beaded board that calls attention to its color and gives the kitchen another layer of depth.

Blend Natural Woods With Painted Surfaces

Torn between the beauty of wood grain and the power of paint? Use both. As in this kitchen, try staining or varnishing your wall cabinets and choosing a complementary paint color to make the island stand out. Or, if your cabinets have furniture-style details, try painting just one section to create the look of a freestanding piece of furniture.

Unexpected Combos

These days, we have more freedom than ever to break design rules, and that includes conventional notions about colors that do and don't work together. A slice of shocking pink shakes up the retro red-and-yellow palette in this kitchen. It's the last color many people might think to add, yet its energy spins the more muted tones in a different, wholly appealing direction.

A New Take on Neutrals

There's a reason neutral hues are perennial favorites: Not only do they work with all design styles, they're the ultimate in versatility. But think beyond classic white and ivory for kitchen cabinets. Stronger neutrals such as this steely gray shade offer the advantages of their color cousins, they yet have a more pronounced presence.

Twists on Classic Styles

Think of a cottage kitchen and you probably picture white cabinets above all else. This one turns tradition on its ear with an island in vibrant emerald green, which pulls out the subtle greens in the wallpaper. It's no less appropriate to the style, but it represents an entirely fresh interpretation.

Black With Brights

Black cabinetry is hot in a big way, and it infuses a kitchen with a hard-to-duplicate sense of mystery and glamour. But for some, all that darkness can feel heavy and oppressive. Buoy it with a shot of brilliant color, such as the red on this kitchen island. If you have open or glass-front cabinets, you can also use the same brilliant hue to brighten their insides, as seen here.

Subtle Two-Tone Effects

When combining different hues in a kitchen, you don't always have to go for high drama. In this kitchen, the upper shelves wear an ever-so-slightly paler version of the citron yellow hue that cloaks the base cabinets. The lighter color on top helps to open up the space and prevent the shelves from feeling too weighty, and the overall look is cohesive and gentle.

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