Gray Kitchen Cabinets: 4 Ways to Know if you Should follow the Trend

I find the direction this trend is going to be interesting.  In the 90’s when gray was in, there were many cold gray 12 x 12 tiles in kitchens and bathrooms with a lot of shiny white cabinets to go with them. However, not a lot of gray cabinets (not here in Vancouver anyway). Now that gray is coming back around again, it’s going on cabinets too.

For the most part, we are using complex grays now so the look is more warm and luminous. Then if you have white appliances, you don’t need to worry about choosing the wrong white which might clash.
The first set of cabinets looks distressed. As the cabinet makers said at the CMG Conference last year, for many years now clients wanted ‘perfection’ in all their cabinetry. Now they can’t get enough worm holes and distress marks on cabinets including furniture.
The lowers in this kitchen are Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back.
If you are thinking of installing Carrara in your kitchen and are worried about staining, keep it in the bathrooms.  Or you could always do what I heard (a long time ago) Meg Ryan or was it Gwyneth Paltrow, did. Take a can of tomatoes and evenly stain all your counters with it.  I have no idea what that would look like or if really works but I though it was a super creative way to get the staining process over with.
In Europe they have been using Carrara forever, and they don’t care about staining and I think it relates to the properties of crushed velvet. Before velvet has an all-over crushed look to it, it looks terrible.  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 on Joni’s blog has definitely made the rounds in blogland as being a favourite. 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 last year in February when I was in Houston to see a client. She wanted the ‘real french blue’ 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 and it was 1558. 
I love this rustic stone floor even though it is greener than the blue/gray of the island all done 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 this one (above) because they don’t fill the entire space and 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?

Black and Brown are fabulous grounding colours in any space. Prior to the brown trend of the 2000’s, common decorating advice was that ‘every room needs a touch of black to ground the space’.  Brown does the same thing, but it’s when it becomes the colour of the sofa, the kitchen cabinets, the walls, the floors, is when it starts to read super trendy. A gray kitchen is trendy too, lets face it, but if you are just now painting your cabinets gray, they will be good for at least 10 years before the next trendy neutral arrives on the scene. 
How do you know if you should follow the trend and paint yours gray?  Here are 4 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 which means you’ll still love it when your kitchen is 20 years old (and you are not moving). 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.
4. 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.

An example of combining this look appropriately is the 3rd kitchen in the above photos. You can tell by the rounded tops on the upper doors that this was most likely an oak kitchen before it was painted.  However I think the new paint job works because of 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?

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43 Responses to Gray Kitchen Cabinets: 4 Ways to Know if you Should follow the Trend

  1. Annie Wilcox Designs says:

    A friend is painting her light filled walkout basement fieldstone gray and it is going to be gorgeous. I went with Tudor Brown for my lower accent cabinet, my granite didn't allow a gray. Love the images.

    I did do my office in Gray Cashmere, a blue gray too.

  2. Mary says:

    I don't think I could put that much work or money into painting my cabinets a trendy color.
    I'll stick to white.
    Great post!

  3. Carol@SofasandSage.com says:

    I like black better than gray, but would still stick with ivory or a wood no matter what. I just don't have the cash for changes like that and wouldn't risk too much because of resale. Great advice, as usual!

  4. Lee says:

    Beautiful pictures, good advice. I think that the best test is if you think you can walk into the kitchen in the morning for 10 years and still love the color and that it looks good throughout the day and evening as the light changes. Unless you're moving soon, go with what you love, not today's trend.

  5. Virginia from blue fruit says:

    The Joseph Dirard kitchen is fabulous ~ I haven't seen that image before and it is a really beautiful space.

  6. Angie@Echoes of Laughter says:

    Great post Maria! I have been watching the gray trend with envy although I don't have a gray stitch of anything in my house. I have seen a gray kitchen in a friend's house and I thought it was fabulous! I think it just depends on how it's all put together. Generally, I try to avoid super trendy and stick to what I know I like with a little trend mixed in…like throw pillows.
    Have a wonderful day! Angie xo

  7. Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    I have gray kitchen cabinets and a distressed black island and I adore the feel it brings to the space. My guests always comment on how comfortable and inviting it feels. It really looks nice at night with all the accent lighting too. Enjoyed the post Maria.

    Ruthie

  8. My House, My Garden says:

    Oh, Maria, I wish you lived in south Texas! You are a genius when it comes to color.
    Wonderful post. I am about to paint my living, kitchen and breakfast area Restoration Hardware's Slate and will then make a decision whether to keep my kitchen SW Natural Choice.
    Love love all of your posts. They always seem to speak right to me. :)

  9. Pixie Dust Painting says:

    a nice gray to use for cabinets is Pashmina from the Affinity collection from Benjamin Moore and Mascarpone is also another good one for the look of a warm kitchen

  10. Donna says:

    This was such a fascinating post, Maria! I have not seen gray cabinets before and I think they look great. I'm very interested in the idea that grey is the new neutral and loved how well you explained the best way to put that color to good use.

    BTW, I adored that blue paint color you mentioned in the kitchen from Cote de Texas. It's one of the loveliest colors I've seen so far.

    Thanks for the 'free' lesson on grey! :O) And thanks for your sweet comments. It's been a rough transition for me this week. Tim said they just decided NOT to go through Montana because of bad weather and they are now headed NorthWest through Idaho and then will head up through Oregon and then over to Washington.

    Hmmm…you know I WILL have to make a trip up there one of these days pretty quick..and I'll be much closer to your part of town. Possibly this summer after Jacob graduates. :o) Tim is planning to save his frequent flyer miles for me.

    The bubble photo was my very favorite too! The expression on Lena's face..I just couldn't believe I caught it!

    Have a great week. I'm off to read Friday's post now.

    xo
    Donna

  11. LongStoryShortCrafts says:

    This was a very helpful and informative post! The photos were fantastic – they really illustrated your points. Thank you so much for posting it!

  12. alison@MyLittleHappyPlace says:

    I've been trying to get my mother to paint her light oak kitchen a pale, warm gray for some time now. I think it COULD be done correctly, but this post makes me think even more about the pros/cons of painting an older style of cabinet.
    I'm on board with the gray, though, if I had a house I could do it, I would!

  13. Debra Phillips says:

    each image is drool worthy but the advice at the end is priceless. you have me rethinking maria!
    debra

  14. Kristie at The Decorologist.com says:

    Great post, Maria! I'm loving gray cabinets, but haven't seen a lot of Nashvillians ready to take that plunge yet. They'll put it on walls, but they're still a little nervous about the perceived permanency of painting cabinets that color.

  15. Laura@Developing Designs says:

    Fabulous thoughts and images. I am very anxious to paint some kitchen or bathroom cabinets a warm grey and am happy to add more inspiration to the list. I think this is a sophisticated look especially when contrasted with accents of white and black. Currently am on a kick painting walls warm, cool, and blue shades of grey and loving it. xo

  16. Ruth at Chancellor Designs says:

    Wonderful advice! I'm a home stager and have recommended gray lowers with soft white upper cabinets. The results were great, the homes sold quickly and at top $. Of course (as you pointed out) this scheme doesn't work in every kitchen so I don't suggest this to all my clients. But in the right space it's a fabulous option. Now I have to get my fan deck and look up the French blue you talked about.

  17. Jürgen says:

    As always, your post is very interesting and very practical too. The gray is a classic.
    Tschüss!

  18. Luciane at HomeBunch.com says:

    I like seeing these kitchens on the pictures, but I haven't seen a gray kitchen yet, so I'm not sure how I'd feel about it. It's beautiful, but I wonder if I'd get tired of it too soon. I think white kitchen still what I want. :-)

    I love your tips, Maria. You're so wise! As always. :-)

    Have a blessed week!

    xo

    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    Post of the Day: A Retreat in Brazil/ Britney Spears' New House.

  19. Dena says:

    Maria-I love your blog posts! So interesting & informative. I have a question about that 'French Blue' that you mentioned. I ran for my fan deck to see the color first-hand and my BM #1558 'Fieldstone' is GRAY! (gray that trends towards green.) Am I missing something? (Perhaps I need to have my eyes checked?)

  20. The Shade Shop, Inc. says:

    This was so so very timely as I just had a client in my showroom asking about putting flair into a plain white kitchen. Of course, I shared your blogspot with her and told her "here is an expert on color worth reading….every post!" Thank you!

  21. AK-Magnolia House says:

    I consider you one of my sources!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the colour code BM1558! I posted about you this evening just to be sure anyone who reads my blog has not missed reading yours.
    AKxo

  22. IDTracy says:

    I designed my client's bathroom cabinetry, painted it a deep blue gray- "Witching Hour" from Benjamin Moore- with matte silver antiquing…A STUNNING result!

    I prefer black or a version of black to gray.I find gray too sullen.

    Nothing like a little drama in every bathroom- it's the only anomaly in everyone's home. The little jewel box waiting for a " hit".

    I prefer kitchens to be transitional, blending materials and having a "pop".Gray would not be my choice… as food looks better on a white plate…with a black charger plate.

    I respect the look- however, I would never personally select it.
    Happy Cooking in Every Kitchen!

  23. Matt says:

    I first installed a set of grey cabinets 15 years ago and I thought they were U-G-L-Y, but the homeowner loved it. I guess she was ahead of her time, because about a month ago I got to go back into that house. They looked great this time around! I guess I am trendy!

  24. Ivy Lane says:

    nope, not gonna be my thing…. photos are beautiful.. grey with marble..gorgeous…but…not my thing…

  25. Lila says:

    As always, thanks for the tips, advice, and inspiration. I've been playing around with changing my cabinets for a while and I'm always stuck on colors! Thanks again!
    xoxo
    Lila Ferraro

  26. shopgirl says:

    Maria, I just wanted to say that I love reading your posts and your expert opinion. I realize that you probably don't participate in blogger awards, but I still passed on the Stylish Blogger Award to you because you deserve it!

    Have a great week!

  27. Marie says:

    Haven't seen really any grey cabinets around here in the Bay Area but loads of Carrara marble. Always cringe when I see it on kitchen counters even though I love the look, not practical with stains.

  28. Renae Moore says:

    I'm definitely in the mood for change….these are some great ideas!

  29. Holberg Dairy Farm says:

    Great post as usual and learned as usual :), but can't find fieldstone in the Canadian deck. Am I blind?

  30. Maria Killam says:

    Hi Holberg,
    Fieldstone is only in the US deck and there isn't one close in the CDN deck unfortunately. You can order a quart of it or take a look at the colour in a BM paint store but they won't have chips.
    Maria

  31. Cookingisfun says:

    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?

  32. Susan says:

    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?!

  33. Collette says:

    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! :)

  34. Maria Killam says:

    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, info@mariakillam.com.

    Thanks for reading my blog!
    Maria

  35. Collette says:

    You are awesome Maria!!! Thankyou!!!

  36. Ryan Dye says:

    awesome! Thanks for sharing the wonderful post.

  37. Stacy Griffin says:

    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.

  38. vickie lee says:

    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.

  39. vickie lee says:

    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!

  40. kendra says:

    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!

  41. Betsy OShea says:

    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!

    • Maria Killam says:

      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.

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