3 Simple Ways to Liven Up your White Kitchen Cabinets

So you’re considering a white kitchen, but you’re worried it will be too bland. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to soothe those white kitchen fears.

There’s no need for your white kitchen to feel washed out and boring. You can keep this classic design and still add a touch of style. In fact, we find a lot of clients come to us just for this look: They’re yearning for something that’s more relaxing to contrast with their busy, hectic lives.

Project Southcrest is a great example of how we stuck with the home’s accent colors — blues and grays. We painted the kitchen island a light blue-gray and left all the perimeter cabinets white and didn’t add any really bold elements that would have taken the focus away from the island. Instead we added accents that complemented it, such as the gray runner in front of the main set of cabinets. You can also see design trick play out in Project Tulip, where we painted the island a bright navy blue, one of the colors used throughout the home. The blue really pops against the otherwise white-on-white kitchen.

We mostly use paint to add contrast when it comes to white kitchens, often by adding color to the island. This keeps the costs down while also adding interest to the space.

Here are some of our favorite design tips:

Make the island the accent to your white kitchen

One of the simplest ways to add visual interest to your white kitchen is to paint the island. This livens up the space, adds a layer of contrast and makes the center of the kitchen the focal point. It really changes the entire vibe of the room.

Painting the island has this almost magical transformative power: The island no longer looks like it’s more cabinetry, but instead it becomes its own individual piece of furniture.

Our clients’ go-to colors tend to be on the more traditional side: Blues, gray-blues, blacks and taupes. These shades really stand the test of time since they’re more neutral, and you can also easily change the color in the future by repainting.

Choosing the right accent color starts with thinking about the design in the rest of your home. We’ve already talked plenty about pulling accent color throughout your house, and this is one more example of why that’s so important.

Project Southcrest is a great example of how we stuck with the home’s accent colors — blues and grays. We painted the kitchen island a light blue-gray and left all the perimeter cabinets white and didn’t add any really bold elements that would have taken the focus away from the island. Instead we added accents that complemented it, such as the gray runner in front of the main set of cabinets.

You can also see design trick play out in Project Tulip, where we painted the island a bright navy blue, one of the colors used throughout the home. The blue really pops against the otherwise white-on-white kitchen. But you’ll note the backsplash adds some interest, as well. Even though it’s white, we used Carrara marble in a herringbone pattern to add a bit more interest to the room, and contrast with the countertops.

Project Buckingham Drive also focused on tying in a specific accent color into the double kitchen island design: This time gray, which not coincidentally ties in with the nearby coffee bar and fireplace. But you can’t see the painted cabinetry in the island from every angle — that’s because we added a waterfall island countertop. The waterfall effect adds another layer of interest and since we have two kitchen islands and the rest of the space is mostly white, we can still add a bold hood and open wood shelving.

 

Contrast your white kitchen cabinets with paint

If you don’t have space for an island in your kitchen, tuxedo cabinets may be right up your alley. This is when you paint the bottom half of your perimeter cabinets a darker color and the top half a lighter color.

You can see this in Project Caulfield. With no room for an island, we still wanted to add some interest. So we painted the bottom cabinets a soft taupe-y color. The Quartz countertop and backsplash are white, and we added a little texture and interest with wood shelves.

Before, Caulfield featured dark blue lower cabinets and a busy mosaic backsplash. It was just overwhelming and chaotic, and no one wants to come home to cook in that environment after a long day at work.

When it comes to a smaller space, the lighter colors are much more soothing and relaxing. So if your kitchen is smaller, you might want to go a little more neutral. Bonus: It also makes the space feel larger and not as crowded.

Don’t forget that there are trade-offs to choosing cabinet colors. Lighter colors will show drips and drops, while darker colors will more easily show imperfections in the wood, plus dings and scratches.

Know when to keep it neutral

You can definitely go overboard in your kitchen design if you’re not careful, and this is when neutral colors really come into play.

We like to design using the rule of three. If one accent or feature is bold, then the other two should not be, meaning you don’t want to have a busy backsplash accent wall, tuxedo cabinets and then paint your kitchen island a bold color — it would just be too overbearing. Choose one main feature to stand out and keep the rest neutral.

That may mean not adding any color to your kitchen cabinets or island. When you look at Project Pasadena Ave, you’ll see we kept the cabinets, countertop, backsplash and island all neutral. It would have simply been too much to add color or bold backsplash in this room, where there’s already a ton of texture and visual interest from the lighting, large hood and wood beams on the ceiling.

With Project Mockingbird lane, we had a big, bold hood in the kitchen, which opened up into the living room. We still added contrast to the island, but we kept it simple by using gray, which also just happens to tie in with the couches in the living room. If we’d put in a bold backsplash in here, it would have overwhelmed the space.

And even if you love color, like our clients at Miller Ave did, that doesn’t mean you need to add it everywhere in the kitchen. For that project, we kept the main features of the kitchen traditional and toned down, focusing on adding bolder accents in the kitchen island chairs, hood and teal dining table. We also used a Carrara marble backsplash. It’s a little busy because of the pattern, but it’s still neutral.

 

Unique countertops for your white kitchen

Not feeling the painted cabinets? You can still add contrast to a white kitchen in other ways, such as using a different countertop on the island than the perimeter. For example, you could use gray quartz on the perimeter, and Carrara quartz on the island.

Another trick is to add a wood island, while keeping the white cabinetry on the perimeter. Just remember to make sure if you have wood floors that the tone of the wood on your island coordinates.

These tips still apply even if you don’t want white — at all — in the space. For Project Stampede Lane, we used contrasting countertops to add interest to the kitchen while keeping the cabinets a nice medium-dark wooden finish. The solid, neutral taupe quartz along the perimeter of the kitchen coordinates with the backsplash, which has a ton of texture. And the island adds interest by using a gorgeous granite countertop.

Not sure if a white kitchen works for your design style? Check out our new quiz, “What’s Your Design Style?” to help you find the interior design style that works for you.