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The best neutral paint colors for kitchens

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Paul Raeside

Neutral paint colors are always a win in kitchens, where function and practicality are key, but a stylish base can make all the difference in mood and atmosphere (who wants to prepare and clean up food while lounging in their drab surroundings?). For some, neutral means strictly grays and earth tones, while others interpret the word more loosely. Wherever you fall on the color spectrum, the world of neutral paint colors is wide – even white paint has endless varieties, each suited to different styles, lighting, and preferences. We’re here to help! See also 16 design examples of kitchens with neutral paint colors.

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Shapeless Studio used warm materials, such as blond wood, zellige tiles and pale green-gray paint in this Brooklyn kitchen to set a welcoming, yet polished tone. This results in a more relaxed atmosphere for cooking, cleaning and hanging out.

A warm white paint color is used on the ceiling and cabinets of this kitchen designed by Landed Interiors and Homes, serving as the perfect backdrop for authentic drawer handles salvaged from an 18th-century apothecary. The schoolhouse lights are on dimmers and can be turned up for dinner prep or down to make the guests moodier, and the paint changes beautifully under any setting. The floor is also hand painted in a checkerboard pattern, but instead of black and white it’s a nice combination of cream and wood.

While a cream can look great in a modern setting, it goes especially well with antiques or in historic spaces. Here’s an example of a kitchen with a brighter, cooler white. Designer Regan Baker gave this 1920s Spanish Colonial in San Francisco a modern update with contemporary lighting, large windows, simple millwork, and fresh staples like black bar stools and white marble surfaces.

Black paint envelops this kitchen designed by Heidi Caillier, giving it a sophisticated edge. The backsplash extends upward and frames the window, while the beadboard and terracotta tiles provide a softer feel. In addition to being stylish, black paint can help embrace the intimacy of a smaller kitchen.

Pale blue paint brightens up this kitchen designed by Elizabeth Cooper. She hired Jonathan Kutzin of America Painting to custom mix and hand-paint “a very serene blue that pulled the space together” onto the formerly white kitchen cabinets.

The deep red cabinets and range in Shavonda Gardner’s kitchen add a fun and unexpected contrast to the copper pots and soapstone counters.

The rest of the house, designed by Nicole Dohmen of Atelier ND, is dominated by shades of pink, so to prevent it from taking over the kitchen while still ensuring harmony with the surrounding rooms, she disguised the ceiling in dusty blush and chose then for alternating earth tones on the cabinets. The back wall is Invisible Green by Little Greene and the island is Mouse’s Back painted by Farrow & Ball.

White glossy drawers (an IKEA hack!) blend in perfectly with the white painted walls and exposed beams on the ceiling. This all-white trick is as simple as it is transformative when it comes to making older foundations feel fresh again.

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The old-world energy of stained glass can also be a great problem solver, providing privacy or hiding a less-than-great view while still letting in natural light, as in this home from Reath Design.

A greige tone is used for the cabinets, while cream is used on the ceiling and accent wall. But the color-blocking fun doesn’t stop there in this Heidi Caillier-designed kitchen — the door is painted in a muted mint hue that picks up on the range’s unique color.

This kitchen, designed by Melanie Milner, features a deep navy blue, which is glamorous in its own right, but is made even more opulent with the materials of bronze, mahogany and stone used. She applied the blue paint to the cabinets and extended it to the molding and ceiling, allowing the color to function as a neutral background (it can feel too bold if used only as an accent wall).

While designer Tammy Randall Wood is a proponent of hiding appliances and other kitchen essentials behind closed doors, she also advocates making the cabinets shine with a bold paint color. She chose a custom mix combined with Winter White by Benjamin Moore on the walls and ceiling.

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Pale buttercream and grey

A light buttercream yellow adorns the backsplash and ceiling in the kitchen designed by Tamsin Johnson Interiors. In addition to injecting heat, it also adds a subtle contrast to the white sconce and marble flecks in the countertops and backsplash. She painted the cabinets a light gray color to break things up.

Frances Merill of Reath Design hung fabric panels from the countertop next to the sink to add softness to the exposed materials. The sage accent wall provides a touch of nature and together with the brick, wooden beams and terracotta tiles.

In this 1950s Colonial Revival kitchen by Michael Maher, neutral colors and materials are layered for subtle dimension. Benjamin Moore’s Burlap is used on the walls, while Farrow & Ball’s Hardwick White is used on the cabinetry and trim. The gilded still life painting and chandelier add elegant sensibility.

Everyone defines “neutral” differently, right? In this striking London kitchen, designer Rita Konig opted for cabinets from her own colorful line of Plain English in a shade of purple called Burnt Toast. Calacatta Viola, a marble streaked with mauve, brings out the inky eggplant.


Senior editor
Hadley Mendelsohn is the senior design editor of House Beautiful and the co-host and executive producer of the Dark House podcast.

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