Color your Cabinets, Color Your World

White cabinetry creates a kitchen that’s fresh, clean, and happy. Design by Taylor Lombardo Architects in San Francisco. Photo by Adrian Gregorutti

Whether your clients choose to go with a subdued neutral kitchen cabinet finish or a color that’s more dramatic, the shade of cabinetry they pick can influence more than just a kitchen’s overall style. In fact, the colors selected for this most-used room in the home can have an affect on the mood and emotions of the whole family.

Research shows that the colors around us can have a profound influence on our feelings. Certain colors can make us happy, sad, angry, or melancholic. And the most intriguing thing is that we likely don’t even notice it! We even often speak of color when we talk about emotions and even personality traits. For example, a sad person feels “blue.” A jealous person might turn “green” with envy, and one who lacks bravery might be called a “yellow” coward. Today, color is also a strong component of visual communication. For example, the color green is often used to describe things that are healthy. And in branding, when we see red, we might think of Coca-Cola or Target.

In the home, color is a very powerful design tool. Since we spend most of our time in the kitchen, the colors we use here are of great importance. Are your clients looking to set a tone that’s welcoming, calm, and cheerful or are they going for dramatic and opulent? No matter what the emotion might be, there is a cabinet color believed to spark that emotion. When selecting a cabinet finish, understanding which emotions a particular color will evoke gives you and your client an advantage and the opportunity to change an environment for the better.

Here is a look some of today’s top trending cabinet finishes along with the emotions these colors create:


Its no wonder white is currently the top kitchen cabinet finish. Not only does white pair well with absolutely any other color you can think of, it’s also delightful in its own right. White is refreshing and clean. Because light bounces off of the color white, it creates a space that’s happy and bright. White symbolizes purity, innocence, and integrity. In the kitchen, white feels neat and clean. It also has a way of making a space feel larger than it is—an advantage in smaller spaces. Plus, white can be anything from traditional to very contemporary (think white lacquered finishes for a more modern flair.) White beautifully complements metals, including trending shades of gold and brass.  Although some might think white is a “cold” color that feels sterile, white can actually be very friendly and welcoming, especially when various shades of white are layered together.


Throughout history, black has been given a negative connotation. It’s associated with very serious things like death and mourning, or with the high-class sophistication of a black tie event or Town Car. Black also connotes a sense of mystery and the unknown—think black hole and black magic. However, when it comes to kitchen cabinets, black is considered to be a new “neutral.” It can be dressed up in an elegant fashion or dressed down and weathered for a casual look. Much like white, black pairs well with just about any other color of the rainbow, but it’s also beautiful on its own. Black can make open plan kitchens feel more intimate and defined. And again, much the same as with white cabinets, highly polished finishes have an exceptionally modern vibe. Timeless and elegant, black is also a very popular finish when it comes to creating the two-toned or “tuxedo” look with kitchen cabinetry.


Brown is the color of wood, so in interiors it represents nature and natural materials. A stable color that feels warm and inviting, brown is familiar. Less harsh than black, brown can range from modern and elegant to cozy and safe. If there is already a lot of color in a space, a brown finish can help tone it down or balance it out. Today’s light, natural wood shades are very crisp and modern. Medium-toned brown finishes are inviting. And rich chocolate brown finishes give a sophisticated feel. Most of all, brown signals to the occupants of a room that it’s time to slow down and maybe even relax.


A relatively new color on the finishing leaderboard, grey has taken interiors by storm. Designers love to use grey because it can express just about any feeling their clients wish to evoke. From simple to glamorous, grey is a dependable anchor color. Since grey has the ability to project both calmness and sophistication, it is a formal color yet it can be subtle and serene. The effects of grey very much depend on the shade that’s used. Solid grey symbolizes strength while softer grays offer a more delicate feel. Too much gray can be boring and some shades of grey can be murky and depressing. However, using it as a backdrop for cabinetry and furniture can really make other colors stand out and sing.


Blue is a popular color for indoor décor, probably because blue is considered to be calm and relaxing. The color blue suggests peace. It’s the color of the calm sea and the clear sky, both of which are linked to our inner serenity and clarity. In studies, blue has been shown to slow heart rate and breathing, so it’s a great color for those looking to add a sense of Zen to their lifestyle. Blue is also associated with intelligence. Some say certain shades of blue can improve concentration, stimulate thinking, provide mental clarity, and improve productivity. A blue kitchen island would make a great place for kids to do homework and study.

Though you may see less of these bold colors, yellow cabinetry creates a kitchen that’s fresh, energetic, cheerful, mellow, and happy. Green is another fresh shade that energizes, but it also offers a touch of zest.

When it comes to using kitchen cabinetry finishes to create an emotion, don’t be afraid to experiment with lighter or darker shades. It’s also interesting to see how a small change in color/door style pairing can have a huge impact when expressing one’s personal style. When working with your client to determine the best color for their cabinetry, ask them which colors they like and why. Suggest that they think about how these colors make them feel and how they fit into the kind of environment they’re looking to create.