Two Ways to Know if Your Kitchen Should be White, Gray or Brown

Early this week I arrived at a client’s home during a huge renovation. They showed me the espresso brown shaker-style cabinets they were leaning towards as well as the 24×24 inch chocolate and caramel tile.  The countertops were going to be quartz. This couple plan to retire in this house — they have an amazing view (below) and it’s going to be fabulous!

So, even though the gray trend is now here, should their kitchen look something like the one (below)? Here are two questions you want to ask yourself to get the answer:

Image via Decorpad

1. Will you live here for the next 15-20 years?

2. Did you love brown before it ever became the trendy colour of the 2000s?

If the answer to both questions is “Yes,” then go ahead and install brown cabinets.

But if you plan to sell your house in the next few years the average homebuyer will be looking for gray or white. The brown trend is still about eight years old and trends typically last about 10 years. But as soon as the switch to gray and/or white becomes mainstream, even a brand new brown kitchen will already look 10 years old!

There are exceptions to this of course. The classic French Country walnut kitchen shown below is one of the exceptions and will look timeless for many years to come. But, for the average kitchen, this is my general advice for kitchen colours right now.

The gray trend is certainly everywhere!  I just received IKEA’s 2011 Catalogue in the mail yesterday and the cover was entirely done in grays:

And as much as I love colour, I love and adore a timeless white kitchen.

But don’t worry. If your kitchen is brown and the time comes when you think white is really hot, you can always paint your cabinets and I can help you find the right white.  So for now, enjoy your warm and rich cabinets!

Related posts:

5 Steps to a Kitchen You Will Love

Danger: The First 24 Hours After You Take Possession

When is White Just Right?

If you would like your home 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!

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


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  1. I love a white kitchen. It will always be my first choice no matter how trendy grey becomes. I'll stick with grey shoes and handbags!! Please keep us posted as to what your client chooses.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and for the incredibly kind comment. My face actually turned red because I'm such a fan!

  2. You are so right about brown, and that we are moving from a warm neutrals (brown) phase to a cool neutrals (grey)phase of fashion. Though I would add if this is your forever kitchen, don't limit yourself to a choice between grey, white and brown. Think about the colors that you have always loved. You probably won't want to commit to cabinets in say, primary blue, (though if it makes you truly happy, why not?) but a professional designer (or color consultant)can help you incorporate your favorites into a scheme that works for you and makes you happy. Not everything has to be neutral!

  3. I love a white kitchen too Maria. It has a timeless quality that always pleases. Not that I haven't done a dark cherry wood cabinet in an old victorian home which was gorgeous and fitting….but give me white cabs!

  4. I love a white kitchen too Maria. It has a timeless quality that always pleases. Not that I haven't done a dark cherry wood cabinet in an old victorian home which was gorgeous and fitting….but give me white cabs!

  5. Hi Sarah,
    Your advice is right on if people want to get more creative with their kitchens which I think is wonderful. My advice is for the average homeowner who may not hire a designer to help them pull it together, or who would be afraid of doing something too outside of the box!
    Thanks for the great comments!!

  6. We've just moved into a house with wooden cabinets similar in tone to the ones in your picture. I am so torn over whether to paint them white. I love white cabinets, but hubby thinks its only a matter of time until the trend is for wood again and we will never get them back to their original state.

  7. Great advice Maria, I use that same criteria on all design. Not necessarily the colors white vs. brown but just doing anything trendy at all. I plan on being in my house forever and I used a depression era green for my cupboards and love them but otherwise I would have gone with white!!

  8. Sigh of relief. My new kitchen will be a combo of white and grey. I cannot wait! My old kitchen was original to the house and the cabinets are wood. I do love wood, and adore the farmhouse look too, but I am ready for a clean modern look.
    Great advice Maria~

  9. I agree about kitchen cabinet color and resale. Is there really anyone who couldn't live with white (for me soft cream, slightly glazed with a mix of walnut on the island — dreaming here). Unless a client has money to burn when it comes to resale, my vote is to express love of color in other ways in the kitchen. It's just too big a part of the value of a home. Plans for where we live, as we all know, don't always pan out.

  10. My kitchen is 10 years old and the cabinets are a horrible orange stained cherry. I REALLY want to change it to ivory cabinets cabinets but my floors throughtout my house are a very light birch. I really want ivory cabinets and dark floors but changing the floors throughout the house isn't an option. What to do?

  11. The dark floors is a trend thing as well and I think it will change very soon. Could you possibly do a white with a nice glaze on the cabinets with the light wood floor. Sounds pretty in my head. hehe

  12. I like the advice that if you loved it before, go for it. I have wasted sooooo much money over the years by trying to follow color trends. I love navy and white and black and white, that's what I'm going with now. I'm decorating for me and not for resale anymore.

  13. We've been looking at houses for three years and I can count on three fingers the number of white kitchens I've seen. This might be a regional or urban choice (white) but it hasn't hit our area, even in all the new houses I've seen. I do like a white kitchen but my long term thinking is that I'll get what I love now and ten years down the road a new owner can change it. The R-word (resale) carries too much weight, especially now that the economy has changed and "things" will not be what they used to be. Value what you love, don't place too much value in what "could be" ten years from now.

  14. Re the "white is timeless" comment, I do think you get tired of what you have. We lived with a white kitchen that came with the house, white cabinets, counter and backsplash. We are loving our new brown kitchen. In another 10 years, maybe we'll want white again. But not now.

  15. Hi Kim,
    Trust me when I say that your Espresso brown kitchen will ALWAYS say 2008 and will never come back and style in quite the same way. By the time brown is in again your kitchen will be 30 years old just like brown from the 70's but would you want a 70's brown kitchen?

    Hi Anon one,
    Yes the expresso floors will be just as dated as the cabinets.

    Anon two,
    I can count on one hand the number of wood stained cabinets I have seen in West Vancouver which is an expensive suburb in Vancouver. So yes it's regional for sure. The farther out your city is from a major metropolitan one, the longer it takes for the new trends to hit. And I think it's a great idea to go for what you love, someone else can always paint it themselves.

    Thanks for your comments!

  16. Good thinking. My background is in gerontology so I am always thinking about the aging eye/ shadows/ falling… (with out actually telling them that of course). Do you have recommendations for people who want to age in place and will prob. keep the same colors for 10 years?

  17. I also think grey is becoming a regular neutral too. Actually, I thought gray was already popular for about a year now! It goes great with so many colors and it can be used as 'warm' or 'cool'.

  18. Hi Maria. Thanks for responding to my comment. I actually meant the "French Country walnut kitchen" – I would have no hesitation in painting the espresso brown one. :o)

  19. Have always loved grey and white kitchens when suitable as I prefer a light filled bright kitchen to a dark one.

  20. too late.. my cabinets are maple with an espresso brown glaze… walls are dark brown… I love it.. and hope it will not go out of style anytime soon….

  21. Wow..very interesting! I always learn something new from you Maria. I'm glad you picked MY kitchen color! It's white of course, but I like the color you chose to go with the cabinets. I can't wait to paint!!

    I had noticed that the French Country/Walnut thing was popular. I wondered for how long that would be so. I love it, but frankly I was getting a little tired of seeing it in EVERYone's kitchen. It is VERY popular in the upscale The Woodlands, Texas area.

    How do people avoid copying everyone else? I've never had been in danger of that since I tend to be eclectic and frugal (limiting factors for sure). The thought of doing what everyone else is doing scared me a bit. Is it because they buy from the same generic the same magazines? Just thought I'd ask you as it certainly was noticeable.

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  22. I really love white right now and a white kitchen is just beautiful! Especially with small splashes of color!

    Great post!

  23. Maria, I wanted to let you know that I gave you the Beautiful Blogger award. I know you don't have them on your side bar etc., but I just wanted to send my followers your way. You are the at the top of the list of my five favorite bloggers. Thanks for being such an inspiration and such a beautiful blogging friend. :o)


  24. I'm with you on white kitchens, but my new vision is a light gray kitchen with all stainless appliances. So soothing. The food would provide the color. What do you think…and what would you recommend for the floors?