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Before you choose a cabinet colour for your kitchen, you can’t ignore this first colour decision or the rest of your choices will be very limited. Once you know this kitchen design tip, you can choose the perfect kitchen cabinet colour.

Interior Design by Maria Killam |  Kitchen Design by Jan Romanuk

Do this before you choose a kitchen cabinet colour.

The best colour for your kitchen cabinets is the one that coordinates with the countertop you’ve chosen.

This happens constantly in my eDesign department. A client will buy the Kitchen eDesign package and in the questionnaire, you’re asked to note which countertop you’ve chosen.

Then they respond with, “I just need the cabinet colour now, I’m choosing the countertop later.”

Here’s the thing, it makes no sense to choose the cabinet colour BEFORE the countertop. 

Always Choose Your Countertop First

If you choose your cabinet colour first, your countertop choices are instantly narrowed down for you. In other words, your options have just been abbreviated to ONLY the FEW that work with the cabinet colour you’ve already chosen (if there even are any options left that are perfect).

But the cabinet maker is likely harassing you for the paint colour right?

Your countertop is installed last, so that decision can technically be delayed.

How Kitchen Finish Selections Most Often Go Sideways

This post was prompted by a lovely visit I had with a local couple in Maple Ridge.

My clients had chosen Taupe LVP flooring to be installed in their kitchen. Then she had purchased true white subway tile for her backsplash and was considering BM Collingwood for the cabinets because she had seen it in the kitchen of a celebrity designer.

The countertop decision was still pending.

So first, when I arrived, she had all her samples laid out flat on her brown dining room table:

Can you tell by looking at the backsplash tile that one is off white and one is, in fact a true white?


What about the countertop samples?

The Right Way to Test Kitchen Finishes

This is why, samples that are about to be installed in your home must always be laid out in the same position that they will be ONCE they are installed. And, always with plain white paper or poster board behind or underneath them. Like this:

The right way to test kitchen and bathroom finishes

This is why my live colour workshops are so powerful. You do all of this in person, so you learn how to ‘see’ colour properly.

Back to the cabinet colour.

Don’t Start with a Paint Colour. Just. Stop. It.

It doesn’t matter how many times I advise against it on the blog, most people gravitate to choosing paint colours first.

I guess it’s because paint seems non-threatening and non-committal all at the same time.

To make this all easier to understand, I taped a video to personally walk you through how to do this yourself.

You’ll notice, if I’m showing you a colour, I always have white poster board behind it. Even in the photo below, where I’m showing you white, off-white and cream subway tile, I’m holding the samples IN FRONT of a white board so that you can see the subtle differences of the subway tiles I’m talking about.

Pattern and Scale Matter when Choosing Colour

In this video, I’ve mentioned Calcutta Nuvo because it happened to be the countertop my client was considering, not because I think it’s the best choice. It is a very popular (but expensive) style.  Be aware that the veining is quite large and you’ll have to work with your installer to make sure that your countertop templates are in the right place so you end up with a look you are happy with. And for smaller kitchens, veining this big is typically not a great idea. Because the pattern is SO big, if you start seaming and turning the slabs to fit a small L or U shaped kitchen, you could end up with a very awkward placement of the pattern.

I have also seen this countertop installed on a very small vanity with a large sink cut out of it with very little veining left to be seen and, since this style is more expensive, more of it was left on the cutting room floor than on the countertop.

Just some things to consider if this is the countertop choice you have made.

But Maria, I Need my Cabinet Colour ASAP

If all else fails and you DO NEED to choose your white cabinet BEFORE your countertop choice has been finalized, go with an off-white because (as I mentioned in my White is Complicated eBook) the natural resin that quartz is made from is already off-white which is why this is a more versatile white to choose.

Dura Supreme

However, remember that any colour or even any greige or beige option that might have been better choices have now  possibly become unavailable to you because you chose your cabinet colour first.

If you would like help with your kitchen design or remodel, my popular Create a Classic Kitchen package will get you my suggestions for your countertop, coordination countertop, backsplash, decorative lighting and hardware. It is full of helpful tips for your kitchen design and covers flooring, trim, ceiling and main neutral wall colour suggestions that can be carried throughout the house for a comprehensive refresh.

After all, the reason you haven’t FINALIZED your countertop decision yet, is because you DON’T KNOW which one is right for YOUR home. You need to know the WHY. That’s what you are buying.

WHY (Why is THIS colour the right choice for my kitchen/bathroom) equals PEACE OF MIND. And we all need more of that right now.

With everyone being cooped up at home, thinking about improvements they would like to make, our eDesign department is busier than ever!

The other day I saw an Instagram post that said: “Can we all stop saying ‘Be safe’ and change that to ‘Be Well’?!”

I liked that. It sounded so much more positive!

I love you all, be well!

Related posts:

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Kitchen Mistakes

Here’s How to Embrace your Cream Kitchen; Before & After

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

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  • Lara says:

    Wish I’d read this article after choosing my cabinets and sink. You live and you learn I suppose! And since I live in the Kootenays I tried ordering from the IKEA website instead of travelling down to Vancouver to see it in person. When my kitchen sink arrived I realized that it was a cooler white: whereas my cabinets are an off-white: I’m still learning and determining the undertones, but this combo probably leaves me with few ideal countertops.

  • Joanne says:

    As I remodeled my kitchen, I heard your voice in my head ALL the time. I was having the cabinets refaced and so I had fewer choices than if I were to paint. They offered several whites/off whites but I still knew I needed to choose my countertops first. It drove the sales rep crazy – but I stood firm. I chose Calcutta Nuvo (It looks really good on my counters, but I have a lot of counter), and then chose off white cabinets. I also insisted that the cabinet company provide a sample door. They balked at that – but I sweetly prevailed. Once again, your training came into play. I saw the benefit of having large paint samples, so I knew I wanted a large cabinet color sample! 😊

    • Christina Brode says:

      it’s crazy that they think people will – and I guess some do – plunk down that kind of money without seeing an actual cabinet door.

  • June says:

    I’m, so bad with whites (and I want a white kitchen). I’m so scared of making a mistake that I think I’ll have black countertops. They go with everything….right????

  • M Miller says:

    I ended up with the standard white the cabinet company offered as it would have been an additional 30% cost to have a specific BM colour. I think it worked out well as I chose soapstone countertops. It’s been over a year and I still don’t have a backsplash. Finding tile has been a struggle and still searching.

    I did purchase a couple of Maria’s packages which helped immensly with choosing items for my kitchen remodel. I chose a medium brown wood floor, white inset cabinets, soapstone countertops, schoolhouse pendants over an island and polished nickel hardware/faucet.

  • Marina says:

    Hi Maria,

    Well, that seams to be a great advice to choose the countertop first.. and I think it’s not so difficult considering the 21 century materials .. 💙💚💛🧡❤️ Its also a good opportunity to make accents .. I would put dark countertop to add colors to the bright kitchen .. ☯️
    I like Dura Supreme exquisite colors very much 🤩 and also Maria’s idea to put curtain above 3D photo wallpaper 😄🌿

  • Barbara says:

    Your posts are so informative!
    Not sure if you’re adding new flooring in the solarium but a heating element isn’t that pricey and would add extra warmth in those colder months! Looking forward to seeing the finished product. You’re so fortunate to have your Mom nearby.

  • Alex says:

    Where were you when I remodeled my kitchen? 🙂 It ended up looking pretty well, but I’d rather not think about the struggle to get there …

  • Kathi Steele says:

    June, find a picture of a kitchen that you love. Let that help you. I have white cabinets, white floors, and Cambria Bellingham countertops…not just white, but has white, beige, grey and black. I love my kitchen because I can make it any color I choose with accessories. And, the accessories can change with my mood. It is awesome!!!

  • Elizma Cowle says:

    Such a timely post for me, but also has me shivering in my boots. I’ve been following along both here and on Instagram for a while and trying to put into practice what I’ve learnt over time. I was also planning on doing your workshop when it came back to Dallas this year. 🙁 We are moving into a home in the next month and we’d like to do ‘some’ painting before we move in as it’s just easier with four kids and all our stuff. It’s a Tuscan era home that needs some updating, but the flooring must stay. Down the road, we’re planning to paint the kitchen cabinets and replace the granite, but that is not in the budget for now. For now, I want to focus on the trim and ceilings and possible paint the walls in the main areas. But this post now makes me think I should wait and just take the pain of painting while living there when we can do everything (countertops and cabinets painting) at the same time… Or I might have to do it again! What to do? What to do?

    • Christina Brode says:

      I think having to possibly paint again is worth it. paint is the least expensive component, and updated paint can help you live with the other elements while you wait to make more substantive changes.

  • rlmansfir says:

    What if you are freshening up your kitchen walls first. Then years later decide to change your countertop? What are the steps then?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Great question, I would paint around your current hard finishes. You wouldn’t want a wall colour up for years that didn’t match with what you have right now! Paint is easier to change than anything else in the end. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Vicki Williams says:

    Maria, you had a question on a recent post that I responded to and now I can’t find it but I wanted to help if I could. The problem with someone emailing you, was a stain around the faucets on her granite top. You showed a picture of her granite counter that was stained. I replied that we had had the same problem. It was determined finally that the incorrect product was used by the installer and/or the plumber. This is what we used to pull the stain. (And you might have already given her this help).
    It took us almost a week to clear it up but it did work. The sink and the faucet had to be pulled. Then this product was applied 3 or 4 times. It has to set for a couple days, scraped off and reapplied. Then the granite was sealed heavily at least 3 times . That was part of the problem, counter guys said they sealed counter but had not.
    The plumber then used a silicon based caulking to reinstall sink and faucet. He used Dap brand painter’s white caulk that had silicon in it. Here is the product we used to pull the stain out.
    StoneTech Oil Stain Remover, Cleaner for Natural Stone, Grout, & Masonry, 1-Pint (.473L)
    Hope this helps, Vicki Williams

  • Lisa says:

    We are considering black cabinets for our kitchen. I’d love it if you could point out what pitfalls we might have trying to match with black. Thanks!

  • Kelly Kay says:

    I’d love to get that help, but most of your packages are sold out. I had a pipe burst due to the Texas storm and part of my kitchen is already demo’d so we could fix it, so I don’t really have the option to wait.

    I love how you explain and pull everything together, it’s what I need, but I’m “small potatoes” so finding a good designer to help me and get the job done without choosing the wrong thing is proving almost impossible.

    I am trying to do the countertop first, but as I want either the backsplash or countertop to be “the star” one affects the other, and then the cabinets match them and I’m having one heck of a time.

  • Pauline says:

    Good advice! Except in my situation where I want to a new countertop to go with existing auburn-stained (think cherrywood with an orange overtone, rich, warm, inviting, homey) Shaker cabinets. I love these cabinets + island. I also love white quartz countertops but am thinking I’ll have to go with some type of black. Maybe a matte slate-look?

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m getting my kitchen cabinets redone by a cabinet painter in a few weeks,and have had trouble deciding what color of paint to use. After reading your advice, I definitely need to sit down with some swatches and samples of my countertops and backsplash to help me choose a color.

  • Liza says:

    Hi Maria,
    Love your information! What sherwin williams white is closest to silestone eternal statuario counters? We picked our counters but am now getting pressed for a decision on a paint color for the cabinets? We want a white for sure but I’m having a hard time finding one that works with the statuario. do you have a package for just a quick question or two?

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