Painting cabinets?

There is so much good discussion out there on various blogs about this topic so I won’t try to link it all but trust me, you won’t have to look far to find an abundance of photos and information! So I am going to just scratch the surface and use my new client’s kitchen to illustrate how simple paint can change the look of basic builder cabinets. Oh and by the way, the only thing that might upset your husband more than smocking and peter pan collars on his little boy, mention painting the wood cabinets! Luckily, the husband in this house is on board. We just need to choose the right color!

{My client’s current kitchen with oak cabinets and green walls}

My client loves white, cottage kitchens BUT she also has WHITE corian counters that are not going to be switched out. I should mention she also has white chairs, white breakfast table, white barstools BUT the appliances are black (for now) and the island could be black or another color. 

Add in the fact that the kitchen is an open floor plan and it can be a complicated puzzle.  Thank goodness for technology! What do you think of painting the cabinets white??  Too sterile?  It actually looks okay in this photo because the counters appear darker here than they are in real life..they are actually very white! So we can’t TOTALLY rely on technology, still have to paint the test boards y’all! But I am feeling the neutral walls. (Don’t you love how I was too lazy to remove the old color behind her accessories, that is the green cast in the photo)….I do love her quirky old chair on top of the cabinet! 

So perhaps this too white, but how about black cabinets (SW Caviar to be exact)? By the way, they are installling white beadboard backsplash (there will be beadboard in the breakfast room, around island and around bar) and glass knobs to “cottage” it up. And floors, she is getting warm tone wood floors that lucky girl! The island is SW Aquasphere.

Or how about SW Classic French Gray on the cabinets, with SW Kilim Beige on the walls??  I think I liked Toasted Pine Nut better on the walls. Again, please ignore the green color “remants” above the cabinets.

The cabinet color is SW Classic French Gray. Notice how the island appears more gray and the cabinets more blue. The photo below is SW Library Pewter. Warning! Must. be. careful. not to cross the 1980s blue country kitchen line.  I think we are okay here with all of our options. But I think I prefer the more gray??!

So what do you think??  Do you prefer wood cabinets, black, white, or a color?? Have you painted your basic builder cabinets?  I would love to hear any tips or suggestions for this client and others.  I personally think this is the biggest thing you can do to change the look of a suburban home and make it more unique and custom!

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  1. I’m planning to paint my cabinets as a stopgap until we can rip them out (and, you know, the back wall of our house, too. This is not happening yet!) I love grey cabinets, but I also love the look of light uppers and dark lowers– with a fun pop on the island. Show after pictures when you decide!

  2. I’ve been wanting to do our kitchen cabinets a dark, charcoal gray. And, I’ve painted our last three houses Kilim beige in almost every room. I love that color. Neutral with a nice warmth, works in sunny and non-sunny rooms.

  3. We currently have white cabinets and are planning to paint the lower cabinets black and leave the top ones white. I love all the options you provided but if I had to choose, I would choose black.

  4. I am also planning a paint job on my kitchen cabinets. I am with Melissa; I know the different colors on the uppers, lowers, and island may soon scream DATED but I think it gives the most bang for the buck if done carefully and tastefully.

  5. Camille says:

    I must confess, I am a paintaholic. And the great news is if they don’t like it, they can paint it again! Loving the Library Pewter (looks gorgeous and appeals to the english major nerd in me. It is amazing what a little paint can do to completely change a space! Great work! (maybe a black island w the library pewter cabinets?)

  6. im all about painting cabinets. it cracked me up when you mentioned hubby’s would flip out. so true. i like the grey color and the black too!

  7. Sarah Henke says:

    I love painted cabinets. I think that of the options you gave the library pewter is my favorite. The other gray looks too blue to me. Maybe it is better in real life. I know that you will make a great decision. I really emjoy your style!

  8. Oh such fun. I was actually going to recommend a color like option number #4! So it was nice to see it as an option.

    I recently re-painted my mom’s kitchen cabinets a similar color.

    We did light on the uppers and dark on the bottoms. It was done in a week start to finish and was an easy fix for a very dated kitchen.

    You can see it here if you like:

    I actually think all the options you picked would look great I just prefer a little color!

    Can’t wait to see what direction you go in.

  9. I going to surprise my white-cabinet-loving-self and say that I like the black ones the best. I think with the appliances, it just ties in well. And, actually, it is no surprise that I do like black.

  10. My vote is for Library pewter-

  11. I like the white cabinets, even with white counters. The beadboard could always be painted a different color to break up all the white. The grey is very pretty too.

  12. What about a few open cabinets or glass in a couple of doors? And those decorative pieces underneath whose names escape me now- the scroll like pieces of wood.

  13. I just did this in my bathroom, where I have a white countertop. And I chose black. It makes the white really pop and she could still keep everything else white and the contrast would be ahhhhhh-mazing. I used a min-wax polystain in Classic Black. The result is gorgeous and the finish is flawless. I love the concept for a kitchen.

  14. Just a thought: black/charcoal island and lowers with library pewter on top and possibly a glaze over the library pewter. Or all cabinets library pewter with a glaze and island in black, but with a slightly distressed/rubbed finish. How fun! YOU are fun, Holly! xo…Linsey

  15. I’m liking the black!

  16. hi holly!

    love keeping up with you on your site! i would paint the uppers white, the lowers the blue/gray and the island black OR a light green. if you do the island black (distressed, of course), i would do the walls in a light, fresh green but not minty. that would give it the cottage-y look. or paint everything white and do the walls in a turquoise or light lime green. can’t wait to see what is picked!

  17. ooh. this is a hard one. maybe white wash the cabinets???? less harsh looking??? the last gray one looks nice. she needs stainless refrigerator – and she needs to build out that cabinet OVER to the end of her refrigerator and add trim between the refrigerator and counter – it would disappear and look built in afterwards. good luck!!!

  18. Wow – they all look great, and really make the kitchen look special. To me, I would use black on either the island or the cabinets if the black frig is going to be around for awhile since I think it makes the frig blend in instead of stand out.

    Nice work, Holly!

  19. The Husband says:

    The Husband likes the French Grey…

  20. I am sooooo very glad you wrote a post about this! My husband and I are looking for a house in Mansfield currently and he thinks I’m crazy to want painted cabinets! I can’t wait to show him this post once we finally find the house of our dreams.

    Of the selections—I think I like the black option best. I think it’ll look great with the beadboard and the glass handles as well! I bought some at Canton the last time I was there for a century old typing table I have.

  21. No to white or black. I like the Pewter. But I would like to see the flooring color first.
    I have cabinets with beadboard doors that are painted a heavy cream color and are distressed. Love them. My walls are grey-green and countertops are grey. All of my appliances are black. I totally love it all! Good luck!

  22. okay…i actually have an opinion on this one:)

    i love the green (library pewter?? is the fancy word).

    now here is where my opinion gets tricky:).

    i would paint the island black also. love me some black islands. they anchor the room. and then i would paint the inserts of the upper cabinets on the right hand side with chalkboard paint. maybe grocery list on one and to do or scripture on the other:)

    can ceramic tile be painted??? i would throw that into the mix too. or do a wash over them. i know we’ve put gel stain on some of aunt deb’s and they looked great!

    well, there you have it.

  23. I liked the black with the island a different color. The grey was nice also.

  24. I can tell you which one I prefer, but as a professional interior designer you are certainly limiting yourself by just exploring four choices. I would try at least five more. However, your instincts serve you right, your last picture is your best option at this point. Having the grey island with the black cabinets (picture 3) looks awkward because the weight of the black is heavy while the grey is light…but heavy colors against a lighter color should always sit on the ground. The grey doesn’t work against the black cabinets. Instead how about a color that has the same weight….say a deep cranberry or the same color as the small spice drawer that is sitting on the countertop. It could even be a more trendy color but it must be opaque and it must be able to convey weight other wise it will look awkward. Hope that helps!

    • Thanks Thai Chef! Of course the client and I have discussed many colors and various other factors..just wanted to share a peek of the process with readers!

  25. Jennifer says:

    Surprisingly, I like the Caviar (Black) cabinets the best. I would have never thought so without seeing the photos.

  26. I’m drawn to the gray options. Just my $.02 … ;o) Can’t wait to see the AFTERS!

  27. I love the black cabinets – but I am biased! When my husband went out of town, I got a bunch of girls over and we painted my cabinets SW Black Fox and the walls are SW Khaki Pants now my kitchen is a showstopper…even though the cabinets are original to the 1950’s house!
    Can’t wait to see what you decide.

    Here’s a peak at before and afters of my house – as we are getting ready to move so we gave everything in the house a fresh coat of paint:

  28. I recently purchased a home with a large! kitchen and white corian counters. We painted the cabinets white with a glaze added crown which she should do for very cheap and huge change!! Then darkened the island with a dark glaze.. I LOVE it VERY clean!!

  29. Huge fan of painting cabinets. Until we found out will be moving cross country we were planning to have our 2001 oak cabinets repainted buy a professional company who uses sprayers–almost like painting a car. They were even able to do samples where they were able to almost totally cover the natural grain of the oak…which is what I hate most about my cabinets.

    Cannot wait to see what you and your client decide. I am sure it will look great!

  30. You know I’m all for the jon jons and peter pan collars, but I’m not yet brave enough to paint cabinets! Maybe after you help me in my new house. Maybe after I’ve lived there a while. =)

    I like mixing in 2 colors on the cabinets! If the kitchen doesn’t work with different colored upper/lower, I love the different island color!

  31. nice interior design…
    inspired.. 😀

  32. My husband and I are trying to decide about painting our oak cabinets…he of course is against it. I would love to show him what it would look like. How were you able to do that with the different colors? Is it a software program? Thanks for the ideas!

  33. I was in a similar situation with oak cabinets. I used Google to find pictures of gray kitchen cabinets and yellow walls. Then, I went ahead and painted the cabinets Benjamin Moore’s Kendall Charcoal. I painted the walls white because I put in black tiles on the counters. The kitchen looks like it came out of an HGTV show!

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