Why Two-Tone Kitchen Cabinets Are the Best Of All Possible Worlds

updated Mar 1, 2020
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Picking a kitchen paint color is difficult. It’s something you’ll live with for quite awhile, so you want something classic. If you choose a white or neutral, however, you run the risk of it being too boring, or even too cold. But, indulge your love for color and there’s a chance you’ll get tired of your choice. Here’s a trick: go two-tone. It adds nice dimension and lets you explore a little bit of color, without overdoing things. Here are some great strategies to get a kitchen in a couple of colors you love.

Let’s start with a now-classic idea, which is to paint the bottom cabinets one color, and the top cupboards another. This timeless tuxedo kitchen comes from Elizabeth Lawson Design. The black base below is simple and striking, while the white uppers and shelving keep the space looking bright and airy.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

For a little less contrast, choose different shades in the same color family. This Paris apartment from GCG Architects is filled with quirky and playful paint jobs, and they’ve combined royal blue with a lighter baby blue up top, all of which looks great with that patterned floor tile.

Usually people choose to put the darker color down below, to anchor the room, but you can also flip that idea on its head. In this kitchen from Ideal Home, a deep marine blue was chosen up top, and white cabinets were put underneath. It’s a dramatic and unexpected look that works.

(Image credit: Stadshem)

Of course, you don’t just have to decide between upper and lower. This Scandinavian kitchen (seen for sale on real estate site Stadshem by Coco Lapine) places two blue shades side by side instead.

(Image credit: Style By Emily Henderson)

Another way to integrate a little color into an otherwise all-white kitchen is to just paint the island. Emily Henderson painted her Tudor home’s kitchen cabinets a taupe-gray-white called “Strong White” by Farrow & Ball and the island is “Green Smoke,” also by Farrow & Ball.

(Image credit: Plain English)

You don’t often see this color combo in kitchens, which is why this Plain English example is so fascinating. Here the island is an inky black and the orange (orange! with black! orange and black!!!) cabinets are an unique burst of color.

(Image credit: Plain English)

And here’s an interesting design, also from Plain English. Just one section of inset open shelving is painted a light peach, while the rest of the kitchen is burgundy. That tiny bit of color really makes a huge difference and breaks up what could be very dark and imposing space.

Think about painting your kitchen’s horizontal and vertical planes different colors. This minimalist modern kitchen was sold through Scandinavian firm Entrance. A long row of navy blue cabinets stretches across the room, and is paired with just one wall of lighter mint storage that reaches up to the ceiling.

Similiarly, the vertical cabinet walls on either side of the island in this kitchen from Box Street Designs are painted white, while the horizontal planes are a grey-ish green. Not convinced? You can instead opt for a single tone kitchen for a more expensive look.

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