Are Light or Dark Cabinets Right for My Space?

BY Wolf Home Products |

Are Light or Dark Cabinets Right for My Space

No element transforms a kitchen quite like the color of its cabinets. It affects a wide variety of things — including the mood, the resale value of your house, and even how often you'll have to clean — so it's worth taking ample time to choose what is perhaps the single most important color in your home.

Key Considerations

Key considerations when choosing kitchen cabinetsStart off by weighing the following: 

  • Consider the design. Your kitchen's design should help you narrow down your options. If your kitchen is more traditional, classic cabinet colors like creams and whites make good choices — and if your design is more modern, bright colors often work best. 
  • Think about the size. If your kitchen is on the small side or is not well-lit, darker colored cabinets could make the area feel cramped. A lighter cabinet color, on the other hand, will help a small kitchen feel more open and spacious.
  • Think about the mood you want to create. Cabinets occupy most of the visual space and largely affect the mood of your kitchen, so it's important for the cabinet color to represent your personality. Once you have decided your cabinet color, you can start choosing colors for other areas of the kitchen. 
  • Get some ideas. Browsing online galleries and interior design publications can inspire you when picking out a kitchen cabinet color. These resources can show you various color combinations and how to add pops of color. Time spent researching will make sure you see all the options that are available.
  • Keep future buyers in mind. You might end up selling your house someday, so it's important to think about colors that will appeal to potential buyers. 

How Colors Affect Mood

How colors affect mood

Here's a guide to some of the moods popular cabinet colors evoke:

White Cabinets

White kitchen cabinets have become the most popular paint color - and are loved for the bright, welcoming atmosphere they create. They also produce a calming effect, which is perfect for the room where you begin your day. Additionally, white cabinets are effective at making smaller kitchens feel bigger.

If you are planning to select white cabinets, it will give you the opportunity to add flourishes of color to other parts of your kitchen. You can add personality with colorful appliances and elegance with glass cabinets featuring fancy tableware.

Grey Cabinets

In addition to white, grey cabinets are another popular cabinetry color. Grey is a unique color in that it is neutral but can also bring warmth to a room - which is the perfect combination in a kitchen.

Grey stains and paints are beloved by homeowners since the neutral color allows for creative license in other areas of the kitchen.

Black Cabinets

As the majority of kitchens feature mostly lighter colors, black can help you achieve a striking contrast.

Keep in mind "black" doesn't necessarily mean pitch black — for example, our Wolf Designer cabinetry line offers a variety of black finishes. The colors of the rest of your kitchen — and how much you want your cabinets to stand out — will largely determine which shade of black will work best for your cabinets.

Black works particularly well with angular cabinet designs. A lighter black can suit more traditional cabinets as well, especially if your walls and countertops use lighter tones.

Blue Cabinets

Blue cabinetry is an emerging trend in the kitchen and bath industry. Designers and homeowners alike are opting to add fun, unique colors to transform kitchens.

Darker blues will add a touch of elegance to a room, but in some cases, these stronger colors will need to be used sparingly to prevent the space from seeming too busy or crowded. Lighter blues, on the other hand, are a great way to add warmth, especially in a smaller kitchen.

Choosing a shade with bright undertones can work in a room that has lots of natural sunlight. Stick to cooler colors if you rely heavily on artificial lighting.

The Color Possibilities Are Unlimited

At the end of the day, there are really no rules to follow when selecting a cabinetry color - you can even choose to paint your cabinets the color of your favorite t-shirt! For example, Wolf Designer cabinets offer a custom paint option that allows homeowners to select any color to reflect their individual style. From a bright and sunny color yellow to light lime, which is simultaneously bright and soothing, even intense red cabinets common in modern or "modern retro" kitchens, colors can be used as a unique and fun design element.

When choosing a bright color, remember there are a lot of shades to choose from. Don't shy away from picking a bolder shade. Brilliantly bright colors are becoming more common in kitchens these days.

Two-Toned Kitchen Cabinets

If you're having a lot of trouble deciding on a color, remember you don't have to choose just one.

Two-toned cabinets are a great option for homeowners who want to make their kitchens more visually interesting. These cabinets allow you to work with more colors and bring out certain strengths in your kitchen.

Two-toned cabinets are popular ways to create a focal point in your kitchen. A common example is when homeowners choose island cabinets in a complementary or contrasting color from the rest of the cabinets.

Another popular use of this idea is selecting different top and bottom cabinet finishes. You can ground the lower cabinets by selecting a darker shade, or you can create a cozier environment by giving the upper cabinets a darker tone, which "pulls the ceiling down."

Two-toned kitchen cabinets

Painted or Stained Cabinets?

While you're searching for a color for your cabinets, you should also give some thought to whether you want painted or stained cabinetry. We'll cover the advantages of each option.

Advantages of Painted Cabinets

One benefit paint provides is a sense of crispness. Stained wood has a lot of character marks so if you prefer a smoother, more flawless look, painted cabinets are probably the better choice for your kitchen.

Paints stick to the surface of the wood and don't get lost in the grains and knots like stains do, so they're better at displaying the exact hue you have chosen. If you plan on using really customized colors — like a bright blue — paint will do a better job of showcasing these hues.

Advantages of Painted Cabinets

Advantages of Stained Cabinets

One charming feature of stained cabinets is that they highlight the natural character of your wood. Wood grains provide an interesting texture that adds visual interest to your space. Because the stain seeps into the wood, it enhances its natural beauty.

Many homeowners enjoy stained cabinets because staining allows knots, grains, color inconsistencies, and other features of the wood to show, which adds character to your kitchen.

Light or Dark Kitchen Cabinets?

While you can select any color you want, it's also important to be thinking about whether light or dark kitchen cabinets make sense in your home. Here are benefits of each side to consider.

light or dark cabinets

Benefits of Lighter Cabinets

Some benefits of going with lighter shades include:

  • They make rooms look largerLighter colors make kitchens feel more spacious and inviting. If you have a smaller kitchen, a lighter shade is better.
  • They're timeless. White cabinets are everywhere. This is not because they're the latest fashion, but their crisp, clean design has a timeless appeal. 
  • There's a lot of in-stock variety. Because of their popularity, manufacturers like Wolf produce a wide variety of light cabinets. So if you settle on a lighter shade, you'll have a lot of styles to choose from - and they can ship in weeks instead of months.
  • They complement kitchen accessories. One of the biggest challenges when remodeling your kitchen is making sure your cabinets don't overwhelm your appliances and other kitchen accessories — especially if you're mixing and matching accessories. With light cabinets, this is not a concern.
  • They work with many other colorsLighter cabinets complement a large range of colors and will give you lots of flexibility with the color of your walls, backsplashes, and countertops. They also generally make surrounding colors appear more vibrant, so they're a good option if you want to bring attention to your favorite accessories, artwork, or furniture.
  • They enhance natural light. Lighter cabinets do a better job of reflecting natural light during the day, keeping your kitchen adequately bright without the help of artificial lighting. Even at night, lighter cabinets reflect the lights from your overhead lamps, giving your kitchen a more vibrant, spacious feel. 
  • They increase resale value. Due to many of the benefits listed above, lighter kitchen cabinet colors can boost the resale value of your home.

Benefits of Darker Cabinets

Benefits of darker cabinets

Darker cabinets also have their share of advantages:

  • They create a feeling of luxury. Dark finishes add a sense of richness, depth, and formality to a room — so if that's the atmosphere you're looking for, go with darker cabinets. 
  • They're edgy. Dark cabinets can make an otherwise bland kitchen space look more interesting. They have a bold appearance and can even add a vibrant and playful feeling to the room. 
  • They're cozier. If you want a sense of coziness and comfort in your kitchen, consider darker cabinets. Blacks and dark grays can help create a more inviting atmosphere. 
  • They allow you a wide variety of design possibilities. While lighter cabinets are more understated and bring attention to your accessories, darker cabinets take center stage, allowing you to mix and match your accessories. In other words, you can explore a greater variety of designs with dark cabinets.
  • They're good for large kitchens. In large kitchens, lighter cabinets can sometimes make the room feel a bit sterile. Dark cabinets can be great for warming up your space — especially in contrast with lighter walls and flooring.
  • They show food and scratches less easily. If you have an active lifestyle with kids or pets, darker cabinets may be a good choice as they tend to stand up better to wear and tear than lighter cabinets. (However, Wolf Signature with SmartShield Technology is a great option if you're looking for light cabinetry that can withstand all of life's challenges!)

Tips for Working with Dark Colors

As working with darker cabinet colors is notoriously tricky, here are some tips to guide you through the process.

Tips for working with dark colors

Choosing a Dark Color

With unlimited paint and stain options, there are literally hundreds of dark shades to choose from. Although black and gray are the first dark colors that come to most people's minds, you can find dark hues of practically any color.

If you want your kitchen to feel luxurious, black and gray are the best options. If you have brown flooring, dark brown and red cabinets work particularly well. Less common colors like dark green can give your kitchen a unique look. Dark yellow gives you both the excitement of bright colors and the calming effect of darker colors.

The most important thing to figure out is which color will work with the rest of your kitchen and help achieve the overall look you're going for. While all dark colors have a calming effect, each dark shade has a unique impact and feel of a kitchen.

Mixing Dark Colors

When choosing a dark color for your kitchen cabinets, it is crucial to know how to put them together with other colors and textures. That will ultimately determine how good your kitchen looks. Here are some helpful tips for mixing and matching with dark cabinet colors.

  • Balance darker shades with lighter colors. Too much dark can be gloomy and depressing. If you go with dark cabinets, choose some light hues for other things. Black and white is a popular combination, especially for more luxurious kitchens. White is a go-to color that complements most darker shades, but other lighter colors, such as yellow for a backsplash or red for an accent wall, can work as well.
  • Make sure there's enough natural light. Darker shades can make a room feel smaller, which you can counter by letting in lots of natural light. You should also have plenty of lighting to keep your kitchen looking bright at night.
  • Match with some other dark colors. While you do want lighter colors to balance the darker cabinets, you don't want to make the cabinets look like the odd one out in the room. To prevent this, you can choose a darker hue for your flooring or countertops.

Mixing Dark Colored Cabinets

Ultimately, It Comes Down to You

Our last and perhaps most important tip to choosing a kitchen cabinet color is to select colors you love and can live with. Regardless of what's trending or traditionally popular, you are the one who will be looking at your cabinets every day. For that reason, it's best to go with colors that represent you and make you feel at home.

Searching for your favorite colors, however, can be a daunting task. If you're having trouble settling on the perfect hues, count on an experienced Wolf Home Products independent dealer to lend a helping hand.

tip for choosing a kitchen cabinet color