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Vancouver Interior Designer: Can You Have White Kitchen Cabinets in a Dark Room?

By 09/13/2011January 28th, 201724 Comments

I have been asked this question a few times. Whenever someone has read “A Light Colour will Never come to Life in a Dark Room.”

Can you have white cabinets in a dark kitchen? Yes. Here’s where I totally break that rule. Your cabinets are like furniture and I would put white furniture anywhere regardless of how dark or light the room was.

It’s also the reason why I would not paint the walls the same colour as the cabinets.


Also the lights in a kitchen are usually brighter. You might have puck lighting underneath the cabinets to illuminate the countertops and track lighting or recessed lighting overhead. Just make sure you add some colour to the walls in the kitchen and soft window coverings wherever possible since there is so little softness in a kitchen unlike a living room or bedroom.

Have you figured out that there are few exceptions for ever having a kitchen other than white?

That’s right. White reigns for a timeless kitchen. Period.

Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. If you have a computer, you can download my book!

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

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Related posts:

Five Steps to a Kitchen You’ll Love!

Gray Kitchen Cabinets: Four Ways to Know if You Should Follow the Trend

Happiness is. . . A Happy Wife

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  • shell says:

    I found your blog through the cote de texas blog. Love your ideas and I am learning so much from you.
    I was so relieved to read that you said it takes building 3 houses to finally get the house you want!

    We built a 4000 sq ft custom home – finished 2 years ago. It took 16 months to build and there were so many decisions. I was overwhelmed. But now I know so much and I want to do it again! Your ideas are such an inspiration. Thank-you. I read all your prior posts on kitchens and I agree white kitchens have a timeless niche.

    My kitchen has maple cabinetry – no stain just sealed-and soapstone countertops. Now I wish I had white or cream painted cabinetry
    and marble countertops !!

    As we were building, a friend- whose color scheme I admired- gave me the gift of an hour's consultation with her color consultant –who is named Jen. I paid for an additional hour to be sure we had plenty of time. The color consultation far exceeded our expectations. We wanted to use more color in our new home but also wanted to avoid costly mistakes. Jen took all the fear out of choosing color and made it FUN.

    Everyone who comes in admires our colors! I tell everyone hire a professional color consultant – you'll be so glad you did!

    Keep up the great work – you are fabulous. Thank-you-!
    -Shelley in San Diego

  • Luciane at says:

    Maria, you're so right about white cabinets. Unless you love contemporary and you're into all that colorful "metal" kind of kitchen, white is always the best option, w/out a doubt!

    Great and very well written post! Love when you're direct like that! 🙂

    Btw, missing your videos.

    Have a great Tuesday!


    Luciane at

  • Gloria @ A Little Paint says:

    I have white cabinets and dark brown paint on the walls, I love the contrast.

  • Anonymous says:

    The best way to lighten up a dark room is to add more lighting! Then you are free to use the correct shade of any color you want.

  • Marla says:

    Oh my goodness! Maria, you tout white kitchens like they are the next best thing to sliced bread. News flash: they DON'T work for everyone. My 70 year old house where there is virtually no white – because we want it that way – would look silly with a white kitchen. Further, it would be interesting to see if white kitchens are "timeless" as you state. I've seen many old/older homes through the years with original cabinetry that wasn't white. I have seen many absolutely beautiful white kitchens. It is, in fact, a look that done correctly, can be gorgeous. What I take issue with is that you speak of white kitchens as some kind of gospel. Well, perhaps for you it is. But as the owner of what my husband and I think is a stunning kitchen with dark cabinets, it's not gospel. I've been sitting on these thoughts for a long time and just had to get them out there. I will probably be considered "rude" by the blogosphere now. But I guess if you put a point of vew out there, you should expect at least one person who reads it will not share your sentiments.

    Thanks for letting me comment.

  • Squeak says:

    There's no chance of me ever having a "timeless" kitchen, then!

    My living room, kitchen, dining room and library are more or less one big room (i.e. there are no doorways, just a slight hallway between the living room and kitchen). All of the rooms downstairs are visible from all the other rooms downstairs.

    My living room is going to be either sage or olive green and my kitchen, dining room and library are going to be a shade I call "dijon mustard cream sauce". I'll be painting the kitchen and its cabinets "dijon mustard cream sauce". If I painted it white, it would be too much of a contrast with the other rooms. And the kitchen is way too small to paint the walls and the cabinets different colours.

    In my case, the traditional styling of the cabinets, along with the marble countertops, will have to be "timeless" enough.

  • Jil Sonia McDonald - Reflections Interior Designs says:

    I've specified off white cabinetry for a home built in 1912. I had the cabinets antiqued and they look beautiful and original. Older homes usually had off white cabinets as often they didn't have good quality wood and needed to paint to cover up the knot holes, etc. White paint was much cheaper back then, as coloured paint just wasn't available then. Just another point of view.

  • Toni says:

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  • Paula Doelling-Lynn says:

    Enjoyed this succinct blog post. You owned your professional opinion and in a short & sweet way.

    God speed on Word Press. EEEEKKKKS is right!!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Marla,
    Haha, loved your comment, perhaps it was a little extreme to say that there are no exceptions! Also keep in mind a lot of my advice goes to a lot of people with average homes that don't have a ton of character, etc. Of course there are always exceptions and obviously your house is one of them.
    Thanks for voicing your opinion!

  • mustang says:

    I would love to paint my cabinets white, but unfortunately my appliances are white. They were there when I bought the house. Unless I try to match the whites, better for me to choose a color.

    I think that's color advice 101 from Maria. Right?

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria..I love those white cabinets in the dark kitchen. I'm looking forward to a white kitchen room at a time though.

    By the way, I've been puzzling over something and you mentioned the topic today. What is the proper way to 'dress' a window..especially small ones like in the bathroom and kitchen?

    I've been fretting over this little minor issue. Can't wait to see your new website!

    Donna :o)

  • Mary says:

    Hi Maria,
    Our wood floors have been installed & look great. Next up…painting our golden oak cabinets white. I'm waiting for our white appliances to die so they can be replaced with stainless. And since our kitchen has no windows, I can't soften the room with fabric. I guess my dish towels will have to carry that burden.

  • Rosie1925 says:

    After a grease fire, I painted my cabinets an off white, and did the walls in a dull purple. And I love it! All professionally painted. But now, the cabinets keep chipping! I hate it! At least with wood, there was no noticeable marring.

    What to do?!

  • Beth says:

    I love white cabinets in many kitchens, just not all. White walls? Not so much. If you really look at white walls, see them without thinking the word "white," they can look dingy or grayed. And if they look really white, the LRV is too high. (And that's rare – even bright rooms have dark areas and shadows.)

    One white space can also look unfinished, an orphan, if all other rooms have color. It doesn't have to be a strong contrast; something fresh and light can show off white cabinets beautifully. I wish I could have white cabinets in my kitchen, but the contemp/slightly Asian style and rest of the materials just say no. Just my take – YMMV.

  • Lauren says:

    Love it when the pros agree with what I've done — music to my ears!!

  • han smith says:

    There are a few good reasons to use granite as a kitchen countertops. These benefits are basically more about durability and aesthetic value.

  • debra says:

    Yikes! Very lively responses indeed. Might as well throw my observations into the mix as well. I think a reason that white cabinetry work against this dark backdrop is that the cabinets become the dominant feature, causing walls to recede. The room essentially becomes a high contrast, white room. Beautiful. I’d also like to add that there is no question that a white kitchen is timeless and lovely and will probably always be my favourite but truly, just about anything can be beautiful if done well. There is no end to wonderful options in design. That’s it. Bye.

  • Adrienne says:

    I have planned my new kitchen over and over again but havent bought a thing. What I am vacillating over is the style. I guess I have a normal cookie cutter home. I think it is a traditional home. I want a wow kitchen but everytime I come up with an idea I get shot down by every designer and real estate agent their mantra being ‘resale value’. The only thing that I have consistently wanted is painted cabinets: off white is my choice because I want wooden floors with more warm coloring. So I keep looking at ideas. the other issue is cost. Changing the foot print of the kitchen = big bucks. I think one of the reasons I hate my kitchen so much is the basic layout is so wrong. Anyways I love your ‘becauses’ they help support my choices so a big Thanks..

  • pauline lyons says:

    I have just painted most of my town house differant shades of beig. put in a mocka bard brown birch wood floor living area. My kichen has mid gray ceramic flooring white coupboards green plants. I just dont know what colour paint to do the walls. The kitchen is open to the living room. I have cliants at the house so Im needing a profesional look.
    thank you
    any idears. as I need help

  • I have a question: dark window-less bathroom. Can I use a mostly white paper? I will match the white trim to it and have Carrera marble counters. Sanded-oak finish on the cabinetry that matches the modern outline geometric pattern on the paper.

  • having antique cabnets installed walls are call Japanico a pinkish beige and flooring also a light beige on the pinkish side what color knobs should I use Installer suggested brushed nickle but I think too silvery leaning to a brushed bronze or something little more golden tone to it Can you give hint what should look at tyvvm oh I am in a basement with no windows so depending on lighting

    • Maria Killam says:

      What colour your hardware should be has nothing to do with how light or dark the space is. What does it relate to? Are you repeating it again in the kitchen? That’s the place to look. Hope this helps, Maria

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