Gray Kitchen Cabinets: 4 Ways to Know if You Should Follow the Trends

I find the direction the gray trend is going is really interesting. When gray first came in, back in the 90s, there were many cold gray 12×12 inch tiles in kitchens and bathrooms, paired with a lot of shiny white (not gray) cabinets.

But now that gray is coming back around again, it’s everywhere it was before and going on cabinets too.

Via Verdigris Vie

For the most part, now that we are using complex grays, the look is warmer and more luminous. If you now have white appliances, you don’t need to worry as much about choosing a white cabinet colour that might clash.

Southern Living

This first set of cabinets (above) looks distressed. At the CMG Conference last year, cabinet makers educated us that for many years customers had wanted “perfection”in all their cabinetry. Now though, customers can’t get enough worm holes and distress marks on cabinets as well as on furniture.


The lower cabinets in this kitchen (above) are Farrow & Ball’s No. 40 Mouse’s Back.


If you are thinking of installing a Carrara marble countertop in your kitchen (like the one above) and are worried about the marble staining, keep it in the bathrooms.

Or you could always do what I heard (a long time ago) that Meg Ryan (or maybe it was Gwyneth Paltrow) did. She took a can of tomatoes and evenly stained all her counters with it.

I have no idea what that would look like or if it really works, but I thought it was a super creative way to get the staining process over with!

In Europe they have been using Carrara marble forever and they don’t care about staining.

I think maybe that’s because it relates to the properties of crushed velvet. Velvet fabric looks terrible before it has an all-over crushed look to it. You lay down on your sofa with your head on the arm and your head mark is there. If you rest a plate of food on the seat cushion for even a second, suddenly you have a ring mark permanently etched into the fabric.

But wait a while and the whole sofa gets evenly “crushed” so all of those obvious marks go away.

Image via Cote de Texas

This kitchen (above) on Joni’s blog at Cote de Texas has definitely made the rounds as being a favourite in blogland. The colour of these cabinets is BM Fieldstone 1558.

What I found fascinating about this (because I just looked it up) was that I posted about this exact shade of blue in February last year when I was in Houston to see a client.

She wanted the “real French Blue” colour for her powder room cabinet, so, when we were in one of the many beautiful home decor stores there, I brought my fan deck right into the shop and found the muted blue that appeared on so many of the french antiques. I found that it was this same Fieldstone 1558.

Joseph Dirard Architecture

I love this rustic stone floor (above) even though it is greener than the blue/gray of the island that’s all finished in Carrara marble.

How about black kitchens?

I recently received an email from a reader who said I hadn’t mentioned them on my blog at all. I like the black lowers in the above kitchen because they don’t fill the entire space and they contrast beautifully with the whites and grays. But in general, I have black in the same category as brown.  Too dark and trendy for the average kitchen. And you need a lot of light, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s kitchen in House Beautiful (below). See the skylights?

 House Beautiful

Black and brown are fabulous grounding colours in any space. Prior to the brown trend of the 2000s, common decorating advice was that “every room needs a touch of black to ground the space.”

Brown does the same thing, but when it’s the colour of the sofa, the kitchen cabinets, the walls and the floors, etc, etc — it starts to read super trendy.

Let’s face it, a gray kitchen is trendy too. But if you are just now painting your cabinets gray, they will be good for at least the next 10 years before the next trendy neutral arrives on the scene.

How do you know if you should follow the trend and paint your cabinets gray? Here are three ways to decide:

1. If you plan on selling your house inside of 10 years, many prospective homeowners will love your gray cabinets because they will still be hot.

Image via The Granite Gurus

2. If you loved gray before it became a trend colour (and you’re not planning to sell your house) you’ll still love it when your kitchen is 20 years old. Go ahead and then do it!

3. If you have white appliances, a soft shade of gray will contrast nicely instead of looking like you’ve tried to match the appliances (impossible) and failed.

And here’s a good tip: DO NOT slap just any gray on your kitchen cabinets if everything else in your kitchen still tells a story of another era. The best advice I give every day to my clients is to be careful of mixing something too new and trendy with existing, not changing, dated elements.

Yesterday and today all in one space is not a look that will make you happy when you walk in the door.

A good example of combining this look appropriately is the third kitchen in the photos above. You can tell by the rounded tops on the upper doors that this was most likely an oak kitchen before it was painted. And even though this could look like “yesterday and today” I think the new paint job works because of the choices they made for the floor and the countertop.

Better to get some professional advice first to make sure that the finishes and colours you are injecting into your kitchen or house will give you the look and feel that you want.

You can combine old and new but it needs to be done correctly. Trust me, if it bothers you now, it’ll bother you even more when you’re done because it still won’t look right.

If you would like your kitchen to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Related posts:

Will the Real French Blue Please Stand Up?
Timeless White Kitchen Cabinets
What Everyone Should know About Gray
Is Travertine Pink or Yellow?

If you would like your kitchen to fill you with happiness every time you walk in the door, become a client. Online or In-person.

To get your exterior colours right, download my How to Choose Exterior Colours with Confidence training and get my go-to list of colours.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large colour boards!

And, if you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert™.

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  1. I get so much useful information from your blog. I have a question: In these days of open layouts, If you cannot incorporate gray in your living area, can you still incorporate gray in the kitchen? They are separated from each other but a portion of the kitchen wall can be seen from the living room.

    Another question is: Would you say that a black and white kitchen is a timeless look?

  2. I'd love to be able to 'translate' the shades in that first floor into Marmoleum for my bathroom! How could I do that? Anybody?!

  3. I love your blog and I am so glad I found it! I am buying a house that has oak cabinets on the top, bottom cabinets are painted black, and the counter is corian in a green with black specks.(Yuck! And this house is only 10 years old?!) I was just going to paint them all black, but started thinking white. I decided to go white, but now with all the different whites, I don't know which to choose. I hate the counter color, but can't afford to change it now. I don't want the white to "look wrong" with the green. And then wall color??

    I'm a little nervous about choosing color because I always seem to choose something that doesn't match what I see in my head. (I painted the walls in my daughter's nursery 3 times before giving up!!) I guess that is how I ended up here on this blog.

    Anyone's suggestions would be appreciated! 🙂

  4. Hi Collette,
    Hmm. . . it all depends how much black, what your flooring is, etc. I would need to see photos, etc before I could give you the right advice. I conduct 1/2 hour consults, email me for more info, [email protected].

    Thanks for reading my blog!

  5. Like Gwyneth’s cabinets above, I did mine in black as well six to seven years ago. I was so tired of the golden oak we had in our previous house. I still get many compliments on them. Like you stated about the abundance of lighting, it is necessary with the black. And we have a vaulted ceiling as well (no skylights) are helpful in pulling off the appropriate look.

  6. Am redoing again a 100 year old farmhouse. refinishing the light oak we installed 25 years ago and also removing carpet and refinishing existing oak floors, staining all the same. Trying to find combination of white cabinets, and wall paint with simply white (BM) trim paint. Floors will be walnut color…have Valley forge brown 2 rooms away, any suggestions? Love, love, love your blog. I have helped many to achieve what they were working for but am stumped with my own. Like white on white but maybe too light weight in this old house.

  7. Trying to find the right colors for redo (again) of my kitchen. We are staining 100 year old oak floors a darker color. Need to find the best color for cabinets and wall— with simply white (BM). trim. Have valley forge brown 2 rooms away–picked a pale almond color for wall, but afraid it could be too light weight for this old house. please help….loving your blogs!

  8. This is a great article and I appreciate your sharing. Personally I LOVE gray and have just recently painted my kitchen cabinets SW Light French Gray and glazed with Valspar Antiquing glaze. Everyone who has seen them loves as well. I think your home should represent WHO YOU ARE unless your trying to sell it…we are in our forever home and the cabinets needed a makeover!

  9. Dena is right. My eyes say thatBM fieldstone is definitely a greeny gray. In fact that was how it was described on the Cote de Texas blog. Maybe wr all do see colors a bit differently!

    • Yes, it’s a tricky colour. It shocks me how blue it looks in images because it looks so green in the fan deck. it’s a blue/green and if you compare it to HC-95 Sag Harbour Gray, you’ll see it.

  10. I had my Maple kitchen cabinets lacquer sprayed about 5 years ago in Para Memory Overload, a lovely warm grey. I’ve always been comfortable with grey, trend or no trend. My house is open concept so the grey was the perfect choice as it fits perfectly into the rest of the surroundings. I think it’s the perfect neutral.