Back in 2003 when I was renovating my first home it was hard to find an affordable cabinet manufacturer that offered white painted cabinets. Yes, cabinetry with a white thermofoil finish (yuck!) was common, but that plastic coating was better suited for low cost rental properties where durability was more important than style. Fast forward 15 years and painted white kitchens have become mainstream. Nearly every major cabinet manufacturer includes a painted white finish as part of their standard product offering.
In 2003 I renovated a tiny cottage kitchen with white painted cabinetry purchased from Horner Millwork.
Although kitchen fads come and go, the crisp clean look of white cabinetry has a deep rooted history in American architecture. In fact, from the mansions of Newport, RI to the farmhouses of Cabot, Vermont, throughout most of American history white paint was the most popular cabinetry finish in residential kitchens. Only later in the twentieth century did bright colors (i.e. midcentury orange) and varied wood species and stains gain widespread appeal.
Today many homeowners are returning to the classic look of white painted cabinetry to help achieve a timeless look with modern appeal. However, creating a gorgeous white kitchen can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you design a white kitchen that’s worthy of a magazine spread.
1) Explore the many shades of white
White is white, right? Not exactly. White can have both warm (red) or cool (blue) undertones. The trick is to first choose a warm or cool white color palette and then choose your shades of white accordingly. You don’t need to use one shade of white for all surfaces, instead layer a variety of whites to create a more interesting look.
The designers of this white Kemper Cabinetry kitchen did a great job of incorporating several shades of white into the overall design of the space. The maple cabinets are Kemper Cotter door style in Honeysuckle paint finish. Honeysuckle is a yellowish off-white color that incorporates perfectly with the white quartz countertops, warm gray walls, and pure white ceiling in this kitchen. The different layers of white add depth and interest to the space.
2) Let an accent color pop
White is the perfect blank canvas to showcase a favorite accent color. Whether used in a backsplash, upholstery, or in the décor, an accent color can help keep a white kitchen from falling into the trap of looking sterile. Tip: Choose a color that you love and repeat it three times throughout the space to create a triangular effect that is both balanced and visually appealing.
This small white kitchen is big on style! An aqua blue tiled backsplash and aqua blue decor accessories create a gorgeous pop of color. This kitchen features StarMark Lafontaine inset door style in Maple finished in Marshmallow Cream. Shown in Beaded Inset with optional five-piece drawer headers.
3) Embrace Natural Light
White cabinets reflect natural light helping to illuminate the entire space and make a kitchen look bright and airy. In contrast, a poorly lit white kitchen can easily look drab. Too often homeowners opt for more wall cabinets rather than windows. This mistake creates a space that can feel too enclosed. If windows aren’t an option, try incorporating skylights into the design or be sure to use plenty of artificial light to strategically brighten the space.
Here the importance of incorporating natural light was well understood by the designers of this kitchen. Beautiful natural light blankets the entire space creating well-illuminated work spaces throughout the kitchen. This Kemper kitchen features Lawton Maple cabinets with Dover finish.
4) Create a Contrasting Island
Whether it is dark stained cherry or painted navy blue, a contrasting island is a great way to add emphasis to the island and help anchor the kitchen workspace area. The island is the perfect place to be bold with color or finish without overwhelming the space. The countertop can either match the perimeter kitchen or it can be totally unique.
This StarMark kitchen features Lafontaine door style in Maple wood type finished in Marshmallow Cream with inset doors. The contrasting island is the same door style in Maple wood type finished with a custom stain. The kitchen was created with optional five-piece drawer headers.
5) Mix it up
So you love the classic look of white cabinetry but also value the warmth and softness of hardwoods? Mix it up! Vignettes of both painted white and stained cabinetry can live in harmony within the same kitchen. The key to executing this look is to exercise balance. Start with a central focal point (i.e the sink or stove top) and maintain symmetry from there.
This traditionally styled StarMark kitchen was designed to meet the needs of Orthodox Jewish homeowners. Alexandria inset door style in Maple is finished in Macadamia paint and pairs perfectly with the Cherry cabinets stained in Brittany.
6) Use Bold Hardware
A white kitchen can easily look boring without some touches of creativity. The hardware throughout the kitchen is a great place to be bold because it can be replaced much more easily and for less cost than other kitchen components (countertops, backsplashes, etc). Hardware is to kitchens what jewelry is to fashion, it adds a bit of bling to a well-designed look.
Add a touch of Boho Chic to your kitchen by using matte gold pulls and knobs.
Oversize handles were used throughout this kitchen to help support its luxurious feel. This kitchen was created with StarMark Cabinetry’s Alexandria and Lafontaine inset door styles in White and StarMark Cabinetry’s Alexandria inset door style in Maple finished in Black.
7) Think Transitional
The transitional design aesthetic bridges the gap between modern and traditional. Classic furniture style cabinetry is paired with modern accents such as industrial lighting, marble countertops, and commercial appliances. Transitional kitchens often incorporate wood, metal, glass and stone all in the same space. When designing a transitional kitchen, a neutral color palette is key. Complement white cabinetry with shades of gray and use bright colors with intention.
Flat panel doors and drawers are a great choice for transitional design. This kitchen was created with StarMark Cabinetry’s Farmington door style in Maple finished in White with optional five-piece drawer headers. The island was created with StarMark Cabinetry’s Farmington door style in Maple finished in Mocha with optional five-piece drawer headers.
8) Add Texture
Clean and crisp white cabinets can easily look stark and boring without a touch of texture. Texture is a great way to add complexity to the space without deviating from the white color scheme. A neutral colored natural stone backsplash or hand scraped wood floors add richness to the kitchen. These textured surfaces reflect light differently than smooth surfaces producing facets of light and shadows. Tip: For a farmhouse look, add texture by creating a shiplap accent wall.
With its brick accent walls and reclaimed wood floors, this stunning StarMark white kitchen is full of interesting touches of texture. The cabinetry is StarMark Fairhaven door style in Quarter Sawn Oak finished in Pearl with Bronze glaze. Shown in Flush Inset with standard slab drawer headers.
9) Conceal the Clutter
The beauty of a white kitchen is in its simplicity. A minimalist approach is paramount to achieve a white kitchen that looks sleek and modern. Keep the countertops from becoming cluttered by taking advantage of the many space-saving organization and storage solutions that today’s cabinet manufacturers now offer. Conceal microwaves, mixers, blenders, coffee makers, etc. to help maintain a look that is clean, tidy, and functional.
StarMark offers hundreds of space-saving organization and storage solutions to keep even the busiest kitchens tidy. This base cabinet with butcher block mixer shelf features a heavy-duty appliance lift to easily raise the mixer to countertop level. The cabinetry in this StarMark kitchen is Stratford door style in Maple finished in White with Nickel glaze. The island was created with StarMark Cabinetry’s Lafontaine inset door style in Peppercorn.