White Kitchen Cabinets for the Most Timeless Kitchen

My favourite kitchen is white. White kitchen cabinets offer the most timeless look and the one you’d least tire of over the years.


In the hundred’s of homes that I have been in over the last ten years, the obvious giveaway on the age of the home is always the kitchen, and usually it’s the colour of the wood cabinets that defines it even faster.

If I walk into a kitchen that has dark brown cabinets, I know it was installed in the last 10 years. If it’s an orangy, ginger coloured, shaker style cabinet, I know that it was installed in the late 90’s early 2000, if the cabinets are oak (keep reading), well you get the picture!

One of the worst mistakes is when a homeowner installs an 80’s kitchen (for example) in a turn-of-the-century character home. Especially those white melamine cabinets with the strip of oak on the bottom of each door. Please consider the era of your home when you are designing your kitchen!!

The most beautiful kitchen renovation in a 1905 home that I have ever seen was designed by Susan Dossetter and Andrew Skurman and featured in House Beautiful magazine. If you have a house circa 1905, this is the kitchen that should be in it!

White kitchen cabinets wood floor

The antique oak cabinet, originally made for a French store, is perfect for a collector. Susan Dossetter found the reproduction Windsor chairs in Nantucket and had the table made to work with the chairs and the cabinet. The floor is hand-rubbed wide-plank red oak.

All white kitchen

Love the combination of glass knobs, chrome faucets and pulls. See this post for more advice on hardware.The countertop is made of two 3/4 inch slabs of Calacatta Oro marble glued together, for extra thickness, then topped with a third layer in the back.Are you installing Carrara? Better download my eBook on choosing whites to get it right.

Wood kitchen island

The vintage French towel racks, which Susan Dossetter added to the antique baker’s table, are hung with vintage towels that she has collected over the years. The baker’s table came with a new sycamore top. Vintage and new cake plates hold treats for the children.

White kitchen walls

Archive beveled tile provides a clean backdrop for the La Cornue Chateau range, made to order in burnished stainless steel and brass. The floor surrounding the range is covered with hexagon tiles.

Rustic kitchen

The cast-plaster motif on the ceiling is from Decorator’s Supply. The hood over the range was part of the original kitchen. Quilted steel insulation panels, covering the Sub-Zero refrigerator, should be available at any sheet metal shop. The antique butcher block by the island is on casters, so it can go anywhere it’s needed. Pot racks from Williams-Sonoma were powder-coated in white. 80’s Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Oak kitchen cabinets

Here is a photo of a typical oak kitchen mostly installed in this era of kitchens. When I am standing in a kitchen that looks very much like this one, and I recommend that this kitchen be painted white or cream–as soon as the words out of my mouth–the wife’s face lights up and the husband looks horrified at the prospect of painting THE WOOD! I’m not sure why most men have this reaction (okay I’ve figured it out, and here’s the post–written after this one) but it’s pretty common.

Men usually come around once they understand that it’s not about the wood, it’s about the fact that it’s dated. And to be clear, I don’t advocate painting ALL WOOD, just kitchens in this era.So for those of you with this kitchen, reading this right now, there’s really just one thing you need to know: This kitchen IS NEVER COMING BACK. So the only way to extend the life of it is to prime it, paint it, and install new hardware. Period, end of conversation.

Here’s a ‘before’ picture of a kitchen I did for a client in West Vancouver with another designer, Jan Romanuk back in 2005. This client moved in with the cabinets already painted but you could still see the grain of the wood through the paint colour. They also wanted the cabinets above the peninsula removed, new lighting, flooring, colours, etc:

Ivory kitchen cabinets


Here’s the after photo with 3 more coats of:Dulux Ivory Fresco, 30YY 81/123 or OC-92 or Cloverdale 7980 with all the updates.

Ivory kitchen cabinets with granite

After (Update in 2015)

Now that I’ve been talking about colour on this blog for 7 years, I would NOT specify white kitchen cabinets this yellow again (above). Especially because the granite countertops are pink beige.

Instead, I would suggest the white I specified for this kitchen (below) which you’ll find in my White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White.

Kitchen cabinets before


Kitchen cabinets after


You can see that the countertops are very similar to the first kitchen, however the white kitchen cabinets here are actually a greige, not a white or cream at all.Get the white eBook here.

I love kitchens with glass uppers like this one:

White cabinets light grey wall

How about the absence of upper cabinets – this means you probably have space for a fabulous pantry!

White kitchen yellow accents

Bobbie Burgers kitchen from House & Home A post on white kitchen’s would not be complete without the famous, most copied, kitchen from Something’s Gotta Give!

Movie kitchen before

This following image is from ‘Maine Home & Design Magazine’ and is a good copy of the movie kitchen:

Movie kitchen after

Should you choose a gray for your kitchen (below)? Read this post to help you decide..

Gray kitchen



Need help choosing the right white? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.

You’ll need them both if you have an entire house of whites and neutrals/colours to choose, get them here.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.

The only way to choose the right colour every time is to combine my system of understanding undertones with the most indispensable colour tool available. You can purchase your own set of my curated large colour board collections here.


Related posts:

For more advice on planning your kitchen read;

5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love!

How to choose the Colour of your Kitchen Appliances

5 Questions to consider when selecting a new colour for your kitchenSelecting your kitchen or bath backsplash; Accent tile or NOT?

The Best Trim Colours–NOT Cloud WhiteHappiness is. . . A Happy Wife (every man should read this one)

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leave aREPLY

  1. Hi Maria, love your blog! I’ve learned so much already! But I feel I really must comment on the derogatory impression everyone seems to have about oak kitchens. I had oak cabinets installed in the early 90’s and just love the look! Wood is so classic, I just don’t understand why everyone feels they are something to hurry up and change ASAP before anyone sees them. Mine are paired with Silestone Absolute Green quartz countertops, off-white subway tile backsplash, large ceramic tile floor in swirling shades of off-white, black, grey and honey beige. As for looking “dated” well doesn’t everything eventually indicate its era? If I spend $30K to switch cabinetry to the latest trend, I’ll just be spending it again in 5-6 years….does that really make good financial sense just so my cabinets don’t look (gasp!) 22 years old? I bought good quality in a style I love, I keep it in good shape and do periodically freshen things up a bit as they begin to look worn. Our decor is a mix of bohemian/Arts Crafts/midmod and everyone thinks our house looks fantastic! So please… give oak cabinets a break, they really can be quite beautiful!
    I do love your blog and style! But I’m keeping my oak kitchen 🙂

  2. Maria
    I purchased your books. I have a maple floor and verde butterfly granite tops with light backsplash. I want to paint the cabinets a white color but not to look stark. which is my best white. color of walls are light beige

  3. Andre & Cori Perlander

    HELP. We are building our home and want to use shaker style cabinets in an off white color (dark stained or soft black island) and some shade of concrete grey floors. Not sure of the granite color either. Can these combinations work? We don’t want to make poor decision that we’ll have to live with forever. If you have some time to give advise we would greatly appreciate it.
    Also, DCS stainless steal appliances.

  4. The problem with painting oak cabinets white is not that one is painting over wood; it’s that one is painting over oak. If you’ve worked a great deal with oak, and done much painting of it, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the enormous pain that oak’s open grain always is.

    The time, effort, and materials that go into leaving a smooth finish on painted oak cabinetry are significant enough that it’s never worth the effort. Not for white. You’d be better off finding anything BUT oak cabinets, even second-hand from an upcycle store, and then painting and installing that.

  5. Love your take: we are redoing our small kitchen (with 5 doorways and several windows!) with white cabinets, wood floors, and butcher block. Likely stainless appliances. I’d like a not-screamingly white white, and I’m curious for your take on tone of the wood floors vs. the countertops — i.e. is it weird looking if they are too similar? Better to go with a dark floor even if the rest of the home (same wood floors throughout) is not/yet dark? We are not wed to any trim yet — our DR is Revere Pewter (oy I know), and the front hall is similar, and we need to paint the trim. Any advice would me most welcome!

  6. I have been reading your blog for years and finally have the opportunity to renovate my kitchen! I have been reading every one of your posts related to white cabinets, subway tile, kitchens, etc! We are planning white cabinets with black soapstone countertops. We have medium wood floors and BM Acadia White trim throughout the house. I thought I would continue the Acadia White for my kitchen cabinets, but I am struggling with the backsplash color. The white subway tile seems too bright white compared to Acadia White, but the biscuit tile looks too drab/dingy with it. I really like whites better than creams, and I didn’t realize till recently how creamy the Acadia White is. It looks nice in the rest of the house. I haven’t been able to find any other shades of white in classic subway tiles online or in stores, although I’ve seen pictures, including on one of your posts. I have looked at the white glass subway tiles and they appeal to me because they have a softer look with less of a bright white statement. What do you suggest for the backsplash? I would love love for you to consult with me on this. This white kitchen post is obviously having a huge impact on your readers. It has been going strong since 2009!!

  7. What do you think about white kitchens with an island painted a dark accent color? Is it better to have the island white too?

  8. Thank you for sharing these images. I have been dreaming of that kitchen by Susan Dossetter and Andrew Skurman since you first posted about it. Is this kitchen true white, off white, or cream? I bought your White is Complicated book and am hoping this will help me learn :).