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Should Kitchen Cabinets Be Lighter or Darker Than Walls?

A lot of homeowners want to know whether kitchen cabinets should be lighter or darker than walls. Some people are adamant one way or the other, but fact is there aren’t any rules in this designing area. It’s really up to the individual and the look they are trying to achieve.

With this being said, color ideas you choose and how you combine them can alter the aesthetics of the room. So, whether your cabinets are darker or lighter than kitchen walls come with good points and bad. Now, let’s hear what some of the experts are saying:

Louisa Eggleston, who is creative director of Humphrey Munson says, 'You can go either way - the most important thing to consider is the light and architecture of the room. Think about how you want the room to feel when you walk in and let that guide your choice – it’s important to choose what you love and stay true to your original vision for the space. Friends will always have an opinion but this is your kitchen so choose what you love!'

Adrian Bergman, manager of design at British Standard agrees with Eggleston. He also says there are no rules. He does, however, stress that, “the most important thing is that they complement each other."

Because kitchen makeovers are such a big investment, and you’re worried about color combinations and how design trends evolve, you may want to consider wood cabinets that can easily be painted by one of your local kitchen cabinet painters as design trends and your personal taste changes.

1. Light tones give the appearance of a bigger space

Perhaps you have a small kitchen. If a kitchen cabinet painter paints a somewhat darker neutral shade to the walls, you will bring out softness and depth. This transformation makes your kitchen seem bigger.

2. Contrasting tones for a bold looK

A daring choice that can look extremely stylish is choosing dark kitchen cabinets with light walls. If your space is big, this idea can help bring the walls in and create a dramatic feel.

'Bold color contrasts take confidence but can deliver a high end look. A great way of achieving this is using one color for cabinetry that’s situated along the floor and another for the walls and units above. This works especially well with dark greys, blues or greens paired with white or off white tones,' says Ben Burbidge, managing director of Kitchen Makers.

'Don’t be afraid to use color in a small kitchen, rather than just opting for white. Darker rooms, no matter what the size, can add wow factor to your home and the kitchen is no exception to this,' Burbridge adds.

3. A Dark island focal point

Not only are kitchen islands great for providing extra workspace and storage, islands are also a great way to experiment with colors in your kitchen. If you really love darker shades but are a bit hesitant to paint your cabinets or walls darker, you may want to try limiting the darker shade to your island. This is a great idea to get a feel for how you like the new look.

Light, neutral kitchen cabinets can also provide a adaptable backdrop for a bolder kitchen islands, which is an approach that the designer

Dark walls and cabinets are bold

If you’d like to be very bold and try something that will transform your kitchen, you may want to try painting your walls and cabinets the same color. Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL believes this look will grant you an impressive, cohesive combination.

'The all-encompassing color creates an atmosphere of calm where nothing is fighting for dominance. Limited color palettes make styling a room easier too, you can be much more selective, not necessarily keeping to that same color but being a little more restrained with your choices. A rich muted color on the walls and cupboards with flashes of crystal and copper is enough to create drama. Similarly, in a light-colored kitchen, the constraints of using only natural earthy colors helps to instantly create a soft and mellow feel.'

5. Simiilar tones create harmony

Even though bold cabinet and wall combinations make a statement, if you want a lasting appeal, go with subtle neutral tones.

Burbridge of Kitchen Makers believes, 'Longevity is a priority for a new kitchen so you need to ensure your chosen design and colors are styles that you will love to live with for many years.”

Therefore, choosing a tonal design that combines light and dark shades of the same color looks very sophisticated. A great idea is to use one color for cabinets and another color for you trim, island, or backsplash.


We often think about painting walls and cabinets in separate colors. But blurring the boundaries and painting just part of the wall in the same color as the wall cabinets can be a clever visual device explains Adrian Bergman, design manager at British Standard by Plain English.

'At British Standard by Plain English we often use a Tide Line paint effect, whereby the color of the cabinets extends above the worktop to eye level, creating one continuous line around the room. This technique works particularly well in rooms with high ceilings, as it lowers the focus and grounds the joinery, with the added benefit of adding color and personality to a space.'


Kitchens are fun rooms to experiment with color. Very often, people only stick to one color, but try different combinations that complement one another. You can find great ideas here at Better Homes and Gardens.

If you’re in Upstate South Carolina, give the pros at Greenville Refinishing a call. They can help you transform your kitchen cabinets, in turn, transforming your entire kitchen.

This article was originally posted in a different form on Better Homes and Gardens. You can find that article here.


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