Kitchens: Two-Tone Cabinets

My kitchen is technically interior project #3 on the list this year (first the stairs/living room re-do, then the dining room, then the kitchen).  So even though I’ve got a while to decide on what I really want to do in the room, I wanted to let you know what I’ve been thinking of lately.

The kitchen is just beyond the black and white staircase when you walk into the house, so basically, the cabinets are one of the first things you’re able to see from the entryway.  So, I’ve been thinking that I might need to balance out the white/black contrast of the stairs with white upper cabinets and something dark on the lower half.

There are a ton of examples of two-tone kitchen cabinets on Pinterest.  Some are stark contrast, like this white/black combo:


Some are much more subtle, like this white/light gray kitchen:


And some even incorporate color, like these navy lowers:


But overall, I think the one I like best is white uppers with dark gray lower cabinets.  When I also consider the butcher block counter top that I’m planning to replace the existing painted ones, I think this combo is my favorite.


The window above the sink also needs a little punch to really stand out.  So far, the window picture below is at the top of my list for inspiration.  I figure it’s going to be the easiest solution to the narrow strips of wall on either side of the window.  Instead of worrying about tile (or the more difficult decision – where the tile stops and the upper wall area begins), I’ll just beef up the molding around it.  The white/black contrast will be played up here as well, just like it is in the picture (the window is already housed in black metal and I actually like the look, so I don’t plan to replace them).


I think this cottage-y feel will perfectly match the house’s overall feel.  What do you think?  Do you like two-tone kitchen cabinets?

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  1. says

    Hold on, let me wipe the drool off my face. Love the two tone cabinets, and I am also partial to gray. I do like the navy blue example more than I would have thought. Hmm. My cabinets are dark-ish wood and the thought of painting all of them makes me twitchy, but if I were GOING to paint them I’d go two tone.

  2. Emily says

    I really like the two-tone look. I’ve been thinking about doing it in my own kitchen! I like the white on top, dark grey on bottom you showed, and also the white and navy combo (but I love all things navy, so that’s not surprising).

  3. Teresa says

    Love the two tone and I favor the light gray/dark gray combo! I just did mine last summer using Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint Barren Plain for the top, and Granite for the bottom. Still in love with them :)

  4. says

    I love the two tone look, but is it possible to do it with wood cabinets? I’ve only ever seen it with painted cabinets. My husband is set on wood faces, which is fine by me, but I love the added drama of the two tone look.

  5. says

    I ADORE two tone cabinets! The house we’re moving into had (nice) oak cabinets and unfortunately my husband is a sucker for natural wood….so I will live vicariously through the internet.

  6. says

    Alright, I’m the Debbie Downer: while I really like the look of two tone cabinets, I feel like it’ll look dated in a couple of years and you may not like it anymore. I think it’s something that people are really liking right now, but might not hold up over time…

    I told you I’m a Debbie Downer!

  7. says

    I LOVE the two-toned cabinets! Hoping to do ours white on top and gray on the bottom one day but I have yet to grow the balls to do so. Saw so many bad cabinet paint jobs while house hunting that I’m so worried about messing up. Looking forward to living vicariously through your kitchen paint job while I work up the guts to tackle my own!

  8. says

    i adore the two-toned cabinet look! i’m dreaming of doing that in my future home. i love how light having white cabinets looks…but i like how grounding darker lower cabinets can be. it’s a great option in my opinion!

  9. Tracy says

    When my husband and I were planning our home remodel, we originally thought we’d keep the existing cabinets (they were light maple) and just have them painted all the same color. As our ideas morphed, we settled on a two-tone look for the kitchen. We wound up with dark walnut shaker panel cabinets form the base. White open shelves are on the one wall near our sink, and the pantry wall is white. We used a white quartz countertop. I couldn’t love the contrast more. If you’d like additional inspiration and confirmation that dark/light combos in kitchens work, as well as for your idea of gray as your dark color, check out houzz.com if you haven’t already. Enjoy the planning!!!

  10. Nikki says

    Wow! Looks like we have basically the same plan for our kitchen. Since our kitchen is on the small side, we wanted to go with the lighter upper cabinets to make it feel more bright an open. We also have the window surrounded by cabinets (and that same awkward no-man’s land between them), but we opted to remove those upper cabinets and install some open shelves. I personally love the white/navy combo, with butcher block countertops as well. We’re starting on it this summer!

    • Sarah says

      Good luck on the open shelves! That is a big difference between yours and mine – no way would I be able to stay that organized!

      • Nikki says

        LOL, that’s why we are only doing a few open shelves! We are only taking down 3 cabinets, and it’s really just to open up the room. This way I can still hide my messes! Either way, we still have to redo the kitchen floor (we’re trying the brown paper floor) and install a wood burning stove, so we have plenty on our to-do!

  11. says

    I really like the two-toned cabinets. I prefer the lighter gray to the darker however. Remember, do what makes you happy (like the stair runner) and don’t worry about the next owner or if it will be outdated someday. Who knows what may be considered outdated down the road! Like I said before…you may as well paint everything tan and live in a house of beige if you are going to worry what the next owner may think. So do what feels right for the space.

  12. says

    A big fat YES to that. Not only do I love that look, I did that in my own kitchen when we remodeled it. Actually I did a tri-color look mixing dark, white and metal/glass. I love the look!

  13. says

    I absolutely love two tone cabinets. So much so that I decided to paint ours two tone during our recent kitchen revamp. We went with the white/dark grey combo. I really love it paired with wood countertops and am hoping to replace our island with a good piece of old wood someday. My kitchen is a bit more modern/eclectic than cottage in design, but you can take a look at my color choices if you’d like. Can’t wait to see what you do.

  14. anna says

    I think lower black cabinets are good if you have black or stainless appliances (range, dishwasher). Looking at the picture of your kitchen in the Rustoleum paint-the-counter project I would definitely say to do the black and white combo. As a plus, it carries through the black/white motif from the stairs.

  15. Jess says

    I really like the two-tone look as well, and I think it’ll look great in your kitchen. Is the grey you’re thinking of similar to your inspiration picture or darker? Are you planning on painting your existing cabinets, or refacing the boxes with new doors?

    Using beefy molding around the window instead of figuring out where to do paint/tile is a brilliant idea – the dark metal window will look great in there. Are you going to add an island or a peninsula with a breakfast bar or something?

  16. Jim says

    Another thumbs up for the two-tone look here as well, Sarah. I think it will definitely add that something special

  17. Rachel Moran says

    Yes, I love the two-toned look! The white/light gray and white/dark gray combinations are my faves. When we get around to remodelling our kitchen, I’m hoping to go for that look.

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