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If you’re in the middle of a renovation, you may be staring at your paint colour and wondering if you made the right choice. Here’s a reader question about her kitchen cabinet colours. And right now, I can totally relate.

This week I received this question from a reader:

Ask Maria Colour Advice

Help, are there too many whites?

I have been reading ALL your paint color advice for months. You must certainly be the world’s best when it comes to this topic! I came across your name and website again when I asked Google why my off white cabinets look like they’re several different shades (and only one is pretty).

I’m so sick over this,  as it’s a beautiful and huge new kitchen in a brand new house.  I don’t want to seem ungrateful,  but I’m so disappointed I could cry! Can you please help me? Is it the light? How can I fix this? More lights in the ceiling perhaps,  pointed at the cabinets? Re-paint wall color to match cabinets exactly?

My husband is trying so hard and I don’t want to push him over the edge. If I knew the solution,  it would certainly help in moving forward.  I’ll gladly pay you whatever you would want for advice.  Photos attached.  Thank you so much!

Kitchen renovation woes

I’m so glad she asked this question because I have the same problem with my new kitchen (the colour is existing and I’m keeping it the way it is).

Ok so here’s my kitchen right after we took possession the walls are taupe and the cabinets are green beige.

Walls SW Alabaster or BM Cloud White | Cabinets General Paint Duck Down

Then I had the walls painted white just because there is very little wall space and I chose an off-white because it matches the off-white in my timeless Calacatta marble backsplash (which I love).

However, notice the cabinets looked cream when the walls were a darker taupe but now that the walls are off-white you can clearly see the green undertone (because the cabinets are now darker than the wall colour)

That’s fine, the neutral undertones in my new house are green beige, orange beige and yellow beige.

And now I’ve noticed something else. 

This photo below is unedited. And if you look closely, you’ll notice the the actual cabinets look slightly greener than the crown moulding and even the side panels.

Yet the paint colour is identical.

By the way my perimeter countertops are a violet grey and they will be replaced but that’s not happening before I move in.

Now why am I even noticing all these shifts in the light?

Because I’m in the middle of a renovation and  HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO LOOK AT BUT THE PAINT COLOUR.

Did you get that?

Let it sink in.

Calm down people, calm down.

This phenomenon is even worse in the middle of an installation when everything is a mess and the only thing you’re staring it IS THE PAINT COLOUR.

There is nothing wrong.

Kiss your husband, tell him, “Thank you for working so hard to make me happy!” Because that’s what it sounds like he’s doing 🙂

Here’s when you should get worried that the paint colour is wrong.

When the countertops get installed. That’s when you’ll immediately know if you made the right choice or the wrong choice. 

Back to my cabinets for a minute. Maybe the doors were sprayed and the rest of it painted by hand? If that was the case then they would by default look different even though the paint colour is identical simply because they are different paint brands. 

There is NOTHING to do but decorate.

Style your kitchen so you have something pretty to look at other than the way the light shifts the paint colour.

Read More: Ask Maria: Help! My White Kitchen Cabinets Seem to Change Colour

See the rest of this kitchen here

My Sister Elizabeth’s Kitchen

My sister Elizabeth still has pink beige glazed cabinets from the Tuscan trend but she doesn’t even notice them because of the expert styling we’ve done with her kitchen (above).

Upper Shelves in holiday kitchen

Holiday tour of my house in 2016

We’ve all been there

Years ago I arrived at a clients home who had painted one wall in her kitchen 11 times. Her painters had been at her house for two months.

Because trying to fix an elusive and ever-changing  paint colour is not only expensive, but a recipe for crazy.

You-welcome GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Move on from this obsession already, to a much more interesting problem, which is:

How you’re going to decorate your kitchen?

Use the money you would have spent changing paint colours for a decorator to help you make it pretty!

I love you! And it fills me with joy to hear that my content helped make your home happier!

Thanks for following me and asking this question! I think (and let me know in the comments if I’m right) this helped a lot of you!

If you’d like your colours to fill you with joy when you walk in the room, see my eDesign packages here.

Become a True Colour Expert in 2023, register here.

If you have a question for my Ask Maria Column, clean up your room, take photos and email them here. Please note, questions without photos cannot be considered.

Related posts:

5 Things Everyone Should Know about Light and Paint Colour

5 Reasons Your Paint Colour Looks Wrong; It’s NOT the Lighting

4 Reasons Your Paint Colour Looks Bad (FYI White Paint is NOT Sunlight)

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49 Comments

  • Diane says:

    I have the same phenomena occurring in my white kitchen. While I agree with your overall assessment, I do think her top corner cabinet appears to match neither adjacent cabinets, and if she would possibly change the doors on that corner cabinet, it might help to make everything match better.

    10
    • JaneO says:

      I agree. Looks like the cabinets came prefinished, not painted on site.

      1
    • celestial says:

      It could be that the upper corner cabinet is set on a diagonal, instead of the right angles of the other cabinets, and the light hits and refracts differently at this angle. You cannot change the angle of refraction unless you change the cabinet, which would be pointless.

      9
      • Lorri says:

        That’s exactly my thought. It looks like the light might be hitting the corner cabinet more.

        I’d get a bright light and inspect the cabinets to see if the factory paint job is mismatched. If they are the same up close, I’d forget about it and accessorize like Maria said.

        8
      • Sandra says:

        If it is the angle and (even after decorating) still bothersome because of the direction of the light, perhaps glass doors for the offenders?

        3
    • Maria Killam says:

      But change them to what? I’d love to know 🙂 Maria

      4
  • Marla says:

    I think the various whites, off-whites and creams, etc give a space visual depth, which is a successful result!

    6
    • Lorri says:

      Was thinking the same. With all white, you do need some variations or it will get flat looking.

      3
      • Jeanne says:

        I am really an obsessive remodeler–just did a bathroom and changed kitchen ceiling lighting–ALL of which I made myself crazy. But, the one thing I have no issue with is the varying tones of my off white cabinets. The light changes them throughout the day. It is a nice thing IMO. In any event, I don’t stare at it, and moreover I don’t think it is a problem or mistake. I also have a cabinet that is darker due to the gas stove. ugh But even that is not a huge concern for me. My advice is to chill and wait until it is all done and reassess. Decorating is also very helpful.

        I need to paint them after 22 yrs. It will be hard to get that factory finish.

  • Kristin says:

    What a freeing post!! I’m going to stop scrutinizing the crown moulding above my cabinets and just buy more decor. Thank you, Maria!

    7
  • Cate says:

    My home is sided in a dark barn red, and it’s definitely not in the budget to be changed just now. At certain times of the day, light bounces shadows from the red siding along a bumped out room, through a glass door and across the dining room to a China cabinet I painted and sanded down like a gabillion times before my husband helped me figure out why the paint color never transferred accurately. I was ready to pull my hair out, give up, and fasten a drool cup around my neck.

    As Maria says, you can decorate over and around such things and let it go. Not one visitor has ever gasped, expressed offense, or stormed away from our beautiful, love-filled home because of red-tinged shadows passing through. We’ve all survived and been spared my appearance as a crazed, bald, drooling hostess.

    20
  • Kristin says:

    Maria, are you planning to change your island color?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes it will match the kitchen cabinets, there’s enough colour all around this kitchen so I don’t need to add more on the island. Maria

      3
  • Dana says:

    Absolutely correct! Wish I had found Maria before I painted my living room 5 times. Although, I now have a thorough understanding of undertones! Thank you!

    1
  • Holly says:

    The only one that bothers me is the small corner cabinet. I’d follow your advice: wait, decorate then get new doors for the upper and lower corner cabinet if I wasn’t satisfied.

    3
  • Gloria says:

    I had a professional cabinet painter paint my cabinets white. He sprayed the boxes then took the doors to his shop to spray. He used some sort of “to the trade” paint that he could add color from SW or BM. One thing he told me is to install the countertops FIRST before picking the color using large boards. I’d worried about paint getting all over my tops but this guy spent more time carefully covering everything than he did spraying the boxes – he made a big deal about prep. I had a lot of countertop space so this helped us see how the light would reflect on them as well.

    3
  • Jill says:

    It’s definitely the corner cabinet that looks the worst although there are a couple others that look “off” also. Maybe a glass insert for the corner if decorating doesn’t work?

    11
  • Patty says:

    My husband and I have a construction company and I can’t count how many times things like this happen. I am so grateful for Maria’s advice for people!!! When you have followed her advice, you have the undertones right there is nothing more you can do – and honestly it will not be an issue once everything is together and decorating done. Many times people have panicked over a color choice (especially white or off white) and I reassure that we need to wait until EVERYTHING is complete before a judgement call is made and 99% of the time there is no issue once it’s all done. Looking at a home or cabinets when the home is not complete is like looking at a haircut half way through. My guess is that the corner cabinet door everyone is commenting on from the pics is the same as all the rest, but once everything is in I would bet that you won’t notice. I too have been guilty of overthinking but sometimes we need to just leave it.

    11
  • Bette says:

    I agree with another reviewer — these cabinets do not appear to have been painted on site, but perhaps purchased as being the same color. Another coat of paint may fix the problem. But there’s another issue, IMO, that is causing visual clutter, and that’s the mix of horizontal drawers. It’s probably too late to change, but if possible, I’d line the drawers up to have unbroken front lines. The shadows and lines would be far more harmonious. Finally, one of the cabinets does not appear to be level — maybe an optical illusion? That also detracts from the overall appearance.

  • celestial says:

    I think another way to look at this kitchen is that in its current state, it is naked. We see it raw and unpolished and so pick up every not-quite-perfect nuance. It is like meeting people. Imagine if you went to a party and everyone was naked. No jewelry, no clothes, no makeup, nothing but skin. When Maria says you need to decorate, that is like the clothing that people need to meet one another gracefully and without apology. The decorating/clothing makes everything more approachable and cohesive. Once you “know” your kitchen you can love it in any state (just like a person) but humans need a little distraction upon first meeting.

    If you are a nudist, this is probably completely opposite to your thinking but I know that it applies to many many people and how they approach new builds or people.

    Thank you, Maria, for continuing to educate those of us who haven’t a clue as to how to approach the whole house thing, and those who do.

    16
  • Mandy says:

    Maria,

    What great advice, and I think it could be applied to many situations when the only thing in the room is paint! I have been guilty of feeling this way, panicking, and (maybe recently due to a paint/couch undertone perceived issue) spending a couple of hundred $$$ on new paint that luckily did not get used because it would have been a big mistake! Once the furniture, decor, styling, etc., happened, the problem disappeared!

    Thanks for sending this post. I think a lot of people and wallets just breathed a sigh of relief!

    5
  • Lauren says:

    Maria, this is such wise and comforting advice! I’m in the middle of a new build and it’s very easy to second-guess every decision I’ve made, especially when I’m so focused on the one thing being installed at that moment in an
    empty house. It was so easy to see everything is fine with this woman’s kitchen, but it’s harder to have that perspective in our own spaces, I think. Thank you so much for this great example and for not turning this post into a dissection of color theory and angst-provoking ideas on how she could “correct” this (non)problem so you could show your expertise. This is why we love and trust you so much!

    4
  • Lisa says:

    I completely understand how she is feeling! I recently had a problem with a custom cabinet in my family room. Thanks to you and your True Color Expert course, I was 100% sure the color was a bad match. The factory AND designer both said it was a close match but it was significantly off. Your training gave me the confidence to persist and get it fixed. I’m so glad I did! Regarding the kitchen in this post, for peace of mind, I would move those lighter cabinet doors around to see if it really is the lighting or if the color is off.

    3
    • Maria Killam says:

      But my cabinets are identical yet on the West side they always look more green. . .I’m not going to paint them again. And even if I did, what colour should they be? Maria

  • Carol Todd says:

    Maybe the texture or the grain is different on some of the doors? That would make the light bounce
    off the surface differnt.

  • Jo says:

    If the upper cab on the diagonal is the same color as the rest of the cabs and is just reflecting the light differently because it’s on an angle and, after decorating, it still bothers the owner, replace the solid door with a glass door.

    1
  • MJ Allison says:

    Paint SHEEN is a very important but often forgotten aspect of this conversation. An eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss sheen is going to look VERY different from a flat paint. Most cabinets are painted in a gloss/eggshell and most walls are painted in flat. Your paint color will match but still look like it could be a different color from the walls to the cabinets to the baseboards. Even if it’s all in one color! I have satin baseboards and flat wall paint that is the same color but it looks different! Don’t forget that when you’re frustrated as to why things don’t look exactly the same. The glossier the paint, the darker it will look. Just my 2 cents. We’ve been building custom homes for over 20 years and have to explain this to our clients beforehand so there are no misunderstandings.

    5
    • MJ Allison says:

      That comment was not directed at YOU, Maria! lol Just a general comment to anyone that might not realize that. Your new home is gorgeous!

      1
  • Julie S says:

    Great comments today, and a much needed reminder in this blog post! Thanks for starting these conversations, Maria.

  • Anna Gacevich says:

    I renovated my kitchen a year ago and the crown molding above the upper cabinets just vexed me. I finally realized that you can never truly match sprayed lacquer cabinets with brushed latex paint on the crown. Ideally the crown should be sprayed at the cabinet shop and then installed. After a year of focusing on decorating my kitchen – well i hardly notice that the color of the crown is slightly off. Totally agree with Maria that sometimes you just need to move on and live your life and enjoy decorating the space.

    1
  • ML says:

    I have the exact same issue, the corner cabinet directly faces the sun blasting through the sliding door, such that the corner cabinet looks bright white while the other cabinets look a gray white or an off white.
    See what happens when you cover the windows and doors to the outside and see if there is still a difference in the colors.

  • Sarah says:

    Great post!!! Decorating is the answer!!! I have read and reread your blog and learned so much! It helped me so much on our remodel last year and now I am using your color wheel and knowledge to help my friends. It’s my new hobby. I even helped a random stranger in a Sherwin Williams paint store the other week… they were agonizing and guessing and I pulled out the color wheel and showed them what undertones of grey they were looking at. They had pulled Eider White which isn’t white at all…its violet grey! [which they didn’t want!] So empowering to have knowledge.

    4
  • Lena says:

    Maria’s advice is bang-on. Your kitchen is gorgeous! The stage you’re at, with it almost done but not really is always when you start nitpicking. Wait until your counters and backsplash go in and decorate. It will be stunning!

  • Cynthia says:

    Maria…once again you rock!!!! You continually give sound advice!! What a blessing to hear your common sense words!
    Many of the comments were so good, I love analogies.. I may use the nudist one😀, the haircut one was right on too and the red barn lady.. so funny.
    But Thank God these are such first world problems.
    How wonderful to be advised, by the best, to spend the money on decorating!!!!! How fun!!! A can of paint can be great but lamps, pillows, decor items…. Priceless.
    Both of you have absolutely beautiful kitchens!!!!! Enjoy them… slight variation in paint/ light reflection be darned🥰

    2
  • Sue says:

    The corner door is a completely different shade. These doors look pre-finished and are probably from a different batch. Get them to send 3 sets of doors from different batches and pick one that matches more.

    “Decorating” the kitchen around this travesty is ridiculous.

    2
  • Barbara says:

    Check the light bulbs. They probably all came from the same batch but if one was a different kind or a different color it could be causing the problem. Does the situation look worse or better at night with no daylight coming in?

  • Lorena says:

    Exactly! People obsess for just about anything and everything. It will drive you nuts to do so. Instead learn to appreciate more and turn off the fixation with perfection. Many things are solved with just the correct styling of things which won’t require that much effort or mental energy. There are far worse things in the world that need attention than just a changing color.

  • Carol says:

    What about taking the doors off and making that corner unit a shelf unit?

    1
  • Jeanne says:

    Maria, I have a question related to this post. . . when re-painting cabinets and walls, should the chosen wall paint determine the cabinet color (it will be a complex cream; they were cream when installed). Or should the cabinet color be chosen first and the wall color would follow?

    Is spray painting the best way to paint cabinets?

    Thank you!

  • Elaine Chick says:

    In a recent kitchen remodel which I did I noticed that a bank of cabinets from the “old” kitchen were off. They were painted the same specified brand and color (SW) as the factory painted new cabinets. My initial thought was that there needed to be an oil blocking primer used to prevent bleeding under the new paint. However, the contractor figured out the problem. It seems that in my case the paint mix for a quart of my specific paint color was actually not the same shade as the mix in a gallon of the same color. Getting another gallon and repainting did solve the problem. I was so relieved,

    1
  • gina says:

    Another great post, Maria! I’m now forwarding it to a current client BEFORE her new cabinets are installed. I love watching you remodel your new home! And kudos for all of the videos. You’ve really stepped up your game! XOXO

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