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Dark kitchen cabinets are a great way to bring drama and moodiness to your kitchen, and choosing the right light color to complement them will be the cherry on top of a beautiful kitchen design.

collage of dark cabinets with text overlay

While white cabinets remain the most popular, dark colors on cabinets were popular in older traditional style homes and have once again come full circle.

While the style of cabinet make look different to those in older homes, wooden or cabinets with dark paint colors now have a more modern style that lends itself to a beautiful contemporary kitchen.

Dark cabinets don’t have to mean a dark and dingy kitchen, as long as you follow a few simple rules when it comes to picking a paint color for your kitchen walls.

What Color Cabinets Do You Have?

Before choosing a paint color for your kitchen walls, understanding the undertone of your dark cabinets is important.

Cabinets that are dark gray or navy blue will have a cool undertone.

Cabinets that are brown or dark green will have a warmer undertone.

Cabinets that fall into the “cherry wood” category will have a red or pink undertone. I have a whole post dedicated to the best paint colors for kitchens with cherry cabinets, since they have a unique undertone.

Finally, black cabinets usually fall into neutral territory, or depending on the color, can swing slightly warm or cool.

RELATED: Looking to DIY the job? You’ll need to know the best type of paint for kitchen cabinets.

Embrace Contrast

Dark cabinets are a statement, no matter what color they are. Embrace the design statement that this bold colors makes and amp up the contrast with a light paint color, such as white or lighter shades of gray, beige or greige.

dark lower kitchen cabinets with wooden countertop and white range hood
Kitchen Remodel Reveal via Chris Loves Julia

Including marble countertops or quartz in lighter colors also helps create that stunning sense of contrast.

Think About Your Natural Light

Dark cabinets can make a poorly lit space feel even darker. The amount of natural light you have will partially dictate the color you end up choosing for your walls.

kitchen with black lower cabinets and white floating shelves
Designed by @alyssakapitointeriors/ Image via @onekingslane

While white paint can bring more light into your space, it will help bounce around the light you have, thus creating a brighter looking room. Darker colors will absorb the light and not reflect it back into the room.

black lower cabinets and white upper cabinets with marble backsplash
Benjamin Moore Midnight lower cabinets via Craftberry Bush

If you have a lot of cool northern light, you may want to steer clear of blue-toned paint colors that will make the room feel cold, and instead opt for a warmer white or at least a more neutral undertoned color.

dark blue kitchen cabinets with gray walls
Dark Blue Kitchen Cabinets via Eleven Interiors

Considering the light is especially important when dealing with a small space. It can feel closed in very quickly!

Even if you are limited and in need of small kitchen paint colors, as long as you have an abundance of light in your home, then you can get away with most colors! Don’t be afraid to add a bold contrast to bring visual interest to the room.

warm wood cabinets with white countertops and wooden floating shelves
Kitchen Remodel via Arrows & Bow

I personally think that this kitchen remodel from Arrows & Bow is the perfect blend of darker cabinets and light touches. They made the perfect choice to add a striking contrast.

The bright white counters and appliances with the white backsplash and white walls stop the stained wood from feeling dark and heavy. The space still feels light and bright with a modern look.

White Paint Colors

dark wood countertops and marble counter and backsplash to the ceiling
via Scout & Nimble

For really dark brown cabinets or black cabinets, accenting with bright white creates a modern vibe. It’s a cool, high contrast look, great for a modern twist.

If you go with all white walls, or a white backsplash, brighten things up with small pops of color through accessories and appliances. It’s a simple color palette that really stands out and makes a big visual impact. Don’t forget a white countertop will add vibrance to the room, too.

White paint colors that are popular include:

Warm Neutral Paint Colors

traditional dark wood kitchen cabinets with stainless steel appliances
Dark Wood Shaker Cabinets via Masterbrand Cabinets

If you have dark or medium wood cabinets, try a color palette that brings out the warmth in the wood. Lighter neutrals with a warm undertone emphasize the warmth in the cabinet. Examples of popular paint colors in this family include:

Cool Neutral Paint Colors

Light cool toned neutral paint colors that would be a great option are:

Accessories and Accents

I always prefer to keep walls simple and neutral and bring in accent colors through accent pieces. Art, decorative objects and even appliances can add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral space.

Of course, use your own personal style to determine a focal point and enhance it with different colors that speak to you! After all, it is your own space.

Don’t Forget…

Don’t forget – no matter what you’ve read or photos you’ve seen online, it’s really important to sample paint colors in your home before committing!

Samplize provides real paint samples that are easy to move around your home, and cheaper than buying a gazillion paint pots! It’s the only way I buy paint samples.

Final Thoughts

The best paint color for your space is the one that works best with your particular shade of dark cabinets.

Whether you have a modern kitchen or a more traditional kitchen, you can’t go wrong by keeping it light and bright with a shade of white or light neutral. Once you have determined the undertone of your cabinets, you’ll know what paint colors will work in your kitchen space.

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  1. I love the colors and wood cabinets on this post. I don’t really know warm and cool tones concept necessarily but I did paint my walls SW Anew Gray and it seems to really compliment my cherry-ish like cabinets. I love all the wood tones and hope to add a nice cream stone backsplash to my kitchen some day soon. :)
    Thank you for this post! Some of us are not willing to part with our wood kitchen cabinet or furniture but absolutely would love to update it.

  2. Hi Jenna-thank you for this post. Cabinets (replacing and refacing) can be so expensive. It’s great how a coat of wall paint can help freshen things up. What are your suggestions for the honey oak cabinets that so many of us have. Many people can’t agree to paint the cabinets, but do agree to try a wall color change. Are there colors that you would suggest? I’ve seen some people say to add copper accessories and warm paint colors to enhance the warmth of the oak, while others say to counteract the warmth with a neutral that has cool undertones. Any thoughts?