Is White Worth the Extra Maintenance? Yay or Nay


The other day I received this note: “We had a house built this year and the builder would not put in the white cabinets I have always wanted, its a cookie cutter builder who just wasn’t offering that in our neighborhood. To me this was crazy, all I have ever wanted is a beautiful white kitchen!
They wouldn’t do it so i thought I’d upgrade one level to the very smooth nicer cabinets but not all the way to a chocolate brown. That way I have nice cabinets and can paint them. Somebody just told me this is the worst idea and I’m going to ruin them forever! They said they will dent and scratch and look horrible, given they are really new and very nice cabinets just not the finish color I want what do you think? If you think I could have them painted or do it myself what method would be best?”

Here is my response:

YES painted cabinets will never be as durable as wood but who cares? White furniture is also not forgiving but people still buy it because it’s about the look and the feel. Either get them professionally sprayed for more durability or paint them yourself (whatever it takes really) and then you will have the look that you want.

Anyone that would give advice called “If you do that you will ruin it forever” is simply someone that loves wood.

And the same applies to anything white.  My office chairs are white leather and when I sat on them in a brand new pair of dark jeans, I had to clean them.  It’s totally worth the enjoyment I get just looking at them, whenever I walk into my office.

Buying white furniture or wearing white presents the same problem and it seems like the more money people have the more white they surround themselves with. Ever noticed in the summer how many expensively dressed women are wearing white?

It’s also why I can count on one hand how many wood stained kitchen cabinets I see in the more expensive area of the city I live in.

White is timeless in so many ways. And it needs maintenance and extra trips to the drycleaner, no doubt about it.

Over to you? Is white worth the maintenance in general? Where is white in your house or wardrobe?

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

Related posts:

White is a Snob
When is White Just Right?
5 Steps to a Kitchen You will Love

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  1. I also cannot believe your builder refused to give you white cabinets. I would have had him deduct the cost of the cabinets from his price, and hired another kitchen installer.
    I like the boycott post. If men who agree with this nutcase use his service, the risk of one of us accidentally ending up married to one of them is eliminated completely. Win-Win.

  2. This post is truly an example of everyone sees what they are looking for (me included)! In my area, almost none of the million dollar plus homes have white cabinetry. And it is considered a bit risky for builders to put white cabinetry in a spec home. A lot of people think white cabinetry has a hospital lab feel about it – not warm.

    I also seldom see people dressed in all white, wealthy or not.

    A couple of years ago I moved into a brand new expensive spec home that I got at a bargain. The builder had put in white tile flooring in 4 of the bathrooms. It has been such a pain to keep clean and it is not worth it. It's not even that attractive when totally clean. I would have loved a darker tile or natural stone.

  3. No matter what color your cabinets are, they still need to be kept clean. White just shows the dirt better and actually makes it easier to keep up with any spills.

    I love my white cabinets. I painted the original dark oak cabinets that were in our kitchen. It was quite time consuming process since I filled in all the grain, but it was so worth all of the effort.

    If done correctly, the cabinets will not be ruined. I say go for the white if that is what you want!

  4. Elizabeth Roberts Design

    GO WHITE !!! And you don't have to use an oil-based product. I painted old laminate-front Ikea-type cabinets yr's ago (they simply got smoother and smoother the more they were sanded – not what you want) with water-based latex paints, and they looked great for years and years b4 we finally tore our 1918 house down.

    1-2-3 primer is a great product and anything will adhere to it. Start with 2 coats of that, then 2 coats of a water-based latex paint (better for the environment and your body will appreciate it too).

    I love BM Simply White if you want 'really white' but not a cold white.

    I have a ton of cabinetry in my kitchen – all white. Plus white cabinets in my laundry room and one bathroom.

    GO WHITE !!!

  5. Hi Momlady,
    That spam email came through while I was sleeping and usually my spam filter is better than that. So no, I am definitely not that desperate for a big comment count 🙂

  6. Hi…

    Everyone here talks about spraying cabinets and furniture. Where can you get that done in the Vancouver area? I've had no luck finding someone or I have been looking in the wrong places!


  7. Linda @ a design snack

    White cabinets don't show any more dirt/dust/grime than stained! I think they are far easier to keep clean than stained wood.

  8. I have white cabinets which I have to clean a lot in our busy kitchen, but I like to think that I KNOW they are clean whereas if they were wood, they'd be dirty and I might not notice. It's not a big deal to maintain them, though I do have to repaint one of the doors. The people who painted over the wood didn't do a very good job and it started chipping right away.

    White shirts are my FAVORITE. I just keep buying more-LoL! I don't have a big budget, but frankly, there is nothing quite like white. It feels so fresh and cool and I like the summery look of them. I feel almost like a 'princess' in white and it goes with EVERYTHING. So I get VERY good at pre-treating and cleaning my white blouses.

    I'll never quite wearing white. It's one of life's few luxuries. :o)

  9. I'm completely on board with white. my last two kitchens are white, and yes, in certain lights I could go crazy cleaning them of the finger prints and splash marks, but most of the time all I notice is how much I love my kitchen!

  10. I love the idea of white. I wish I had lots of it in my home. I'm entirely on board with white cabinets – BUT – I can't (won't) embrace white upholstery. I have a house full of animals and teenage boys; white soft furnishings are simply not practical for me at this stage in my life. 🙂

  11. I'm all over the white thing – I just cannot get enough. White slipcovered sofas – what a statement. Gleaming white painted paneled walls, white linen drapes wafting in the summer breeze. White linen sheets! Fluffy white towels! Okay, okay, I'm getting way carried away now. I'll stop. But …honestly…

  12. White is a very popular colour here in the warmer climates of Australia and especially in summer. The light we get here is very bright and white looks great and gives the illusion of coolness!

  13. For over 18 years, I had a White Damask couch and loveseat on a white carpet in our living room, where we had our 4 children, many dogs, a cat and their friends run through,along with a ton of parties, and it still looked fabulous, but when it was time to update this year, I gave the set to my sons girlfriend for her new apartment,and I am honestly missing the crisp,clean look-so I say,you can never go wrong with white-it never goes out of style, I used to just change pillows and room accessories after a few years,it was the best money ever spent on furniture!

  14. White …. definitely a 'yay'. The more the mix, all the better! Anyone who has had 'dark' colors will tell you, there is far more maintenance involved in upkeep. For example in our old home we had light ceramic kitchen flooring and in comparison to my present terra-cotta colour it was a breeze to look after. (My children were little at that time and we also had a Sheepdog.)
    In summary, I totally agree with Maria so if you love 'white' or even 'light', go for it!!!!!!!!!

  15. traci zeller designs

    Yay! Yay! Yay! Of course white is worth the extra maintenance. If I had my house to do over, however, I would have the drawers and shelves themselves be wood … because the white does show every speck of dirt. But I would never sacrifice the white exterior!

  16. Some of the cheaper cabinet lines can be very easy to dent and mark, and it may be that the painted line the builder had wasn't that good, which could be the reason he was so adamant about them.

    Also, no one has mentioned yet that if you can, try to get the cabinets made with the white rather than buying and painting. The factory finishes are simply that much more durable.

  17. YAY!! Its totally worth it…we never had white before and we choose this particular rental only cause it had white kitchen! We cook indian food all the time and i have even given up adding tumeric (an integral) indian ingredient as it tends to stain very easily…But its totally worth it…May be the countertop was not white too, but I love it!

  18. I'm not convinced that white cabinets are more work (yes …I have warm white painted cabinets and I love them). The same amount of dirt and dust lands on the cabinet surface regardless of the colour. The only difference is you can see the dirt on white and therefore can wipe it off more easily. Since we are talking about a food preparation environment, this actually seems like a real advantage (i.e. I'd rather have a kitchen that is actually clean than one that looks clean but is hiding lots of dirt).

  19. Every kitchen I have had has been white. I just finished remodeling my current kitchen a few months ago and this time around I even used white marble counters. My three previous kitchens required a bit more upkeep and smudges were harder to remove. The finish on my new cabinets seems to be almost bulletproof. Finger prints and food drips wipe easily. White kitchens are timeless and beautiful.

  20. We started last year with all white bedding. Yeah it takes more frequent washing to have that pristine look…but I love the look. Next is the kitchen! Personally I’d much rather see where the dirt is so I can clean it than have it hidden by color.