Cabinets are still a hot topic
Last month I wrote a post featuring 30 colors to paint your cabinets from 4 main categories: white/cream, gray, greige and black. My original thought was to have one big post that included wall colors to compliment and update stained cabinets as well. However, the post got so long that I decided to split the post in half and post about the stained cabinets this month.
As I mentioned in 30 colors to paint your cabinets, I get tons of comments and questions from my readers and clients about what paint colors to use to paint cabinets. Even more challenging than that, I have had several clients that have existing stained cabinets and are at a loss with how to pick a wall color to pair with the stained cabinets.
This month, I am focusing on the best paint colors to compliment and update stained cabinets.
Post Outline: Stained Cabinets
Similar to 30 colors to paint your cabinets, this will be chock full of information and paint colors. To help clarify, I am going to focus on kitchen cabinets, although the same principles can be applied for bathroom cabinets or built-ins.
I have outlined the most common stained cabinet colors: dark (espresso), medium (walnut), cherry (red toned) and light (yellow or orange toned oak/maple). For each stain color section, I selected several paint colors to help both compliment and update existing stained cabinets.
I often have clients that are not ready or able to take on a big project like painting their cabinets and need a way to freshen up the look of their home without spending a ton of money. You will be amazed at how a fresh coat of paint on the walls can change the look in spaces with stained cabinets! Keep reading to find my top picks!
In order to find the right wall color, it’s important to know what type of stained cabinets you have: dark (espresso), medium (walnut), cherry (red toned) and light (yellow or orange toned oak/maple). Each stain has an undertone of it’s own, just like paint colors. I have noted the undertone color in the parenthesis and detail out each stain and the best wall colors to coordinate with them in the sections below.
Dark Stain (Espresso) Cabinets
Before 2006, espresso or “java” wood furniture, floors and cabinets were super popular. In fact during that period, while working for a model home merchandising firm, I was always doing my best to select the darker stained cabinets and floors to go with the color scheme in the model. I LOVED this trend and actually ended up purchasing the majority of my furniture in the espresso finish.
Once the Scandinavian lighter woods became more popular and trendy, I got kinda sad that my entire house was in espresso. However, what I didn’t recognize at the time was that the espresso stained wood actually reads more black than I realized. Now I feel more at peace knowing that I have more classic pieces, except I would love more white furniture to lighten up some of my spaces that can get dark. I digress.
Wall Colors That Go With Dark/Espresso Stain
If you are trying to update your space, I prefer the greige wall colors paired with espresso stained cabinets. Cooler light gray colors can also work, but since gray is phasing out a bit, I am leaning more towards the tad warmer greige wall colors.
Greige wall colors contrast nicely with the espresso cabinets and with an added greige textured tile backsplash, it’s a perfect combo for an updated kitchen!
Greige Wall Colors for Dark/Espresso Cabinets
Accessible Beige, Aesthetic White, Agreeable Gray, Incredible White and Shoji White are a few of my top greige colors to paint walls in kitchens that have espresso cabinets. Some of these are greige whites that would be super soft and pretty next to the darker stain. These are not ALL of the paint color options for espresso cabinets, but are some of my top picks.
Another way to update and freshen a kitchen with espresso cabinets is to consider replacing an outdated granite countertop with a crisp white quartz, like in the inspiration picture. This will brighten up the kitchen and is a gorgeous contrast against the dark stain. Just like the countertops, replacing the backsplash with something fun like a striated greige tile will complete the entire look with your newly painted greige walls.
Medium Stain (Walnut) Cabinets
If you currently have medium stained (medium brown or walnut color) cabinets, you are not in a bad spot! The medium stained wood tones (especially in floors) tend to be versatile when it comes to selecting paint colors for interiors. By adjusting your wall color and possibly your backsplash and countertops, you can update your stained kitchen cabinets in no time.
Wall colors that were the most popular with medium walnut stained cabinets were more golden beige. And even though beige is starting to trend in interiors, the yellow-toned beige will keep your walnut stained cabinets feeling outdated. Keep reading for my solution!
Wall Colors That Go With Medium/Walnut Stain
The best way to update those walnut stain cabinets, in my opinion, is to paint the walls white or a slight warm off-white. I love the idea of modernizing walnut cabinets by adding white subway backsplash tile and white quartz countertops. Also, by updating the light fixtures, this adds to the overall look for the kitchen refresh.
Adding in other areas of the home that have the walnut stain helps to tie it in and add some texture. For instance notice the walnut stained wood beams in the inspiration picture below. Another way to cut down on cost, but still update, is to paint the cabinets white, but leave the island in the original walnut stain or to paint the upper cabinets white and leave the lower cabinets stained.
White Wall Colors for Medium/Walnut Cabinets
Since the Farmhouse Style is all the rage right now, walnut stained cabinets are actually desirable and are being installed in new home builds to complete the warm and rustic feel. These warmer off-whites listed above are ideal to create a clean backdrop for farmhouse style accessories and artwork.
Cherry Stain (Red Toned) Cabinets
I have had several clients recently that would like to paint their open layout/kitchen area, but are struggling to find the right paint color to coordinate with the existing cherry stained cabinets. Cherry stained cabinets, have a red tone that can make it tough to find colors that won’t accentuate the red tones even more.
Wall Colors That Go With Cherry/Red Toned Stain
In order to tone down the warmer red tones in cherry stained cabinets, the rule of thumb is to find a complementary color. In this case, green is complementary to red. However, blue also works in the same way to tone down the red tones in cabinetry because it a cooler color and is very close to being the compliment to red.
That being said, my wall color selection for cherry stained kitchen cabinets are colors that have a blue undertone, but have some gray to them as to not appear too bright. Namely, blue-grays or blue-green/grays work best with cherry (red toned) stain kitchen cabinets.
To help with the kitchen update, white quartz countertops and a fresh cool backsplash tile will kick your kitchen into a more modern mode, in no time. As crazy as it sounds, I sincerely believe that you will be amazed at the transformation in your space by painting your walls these complimentary cooler colors that I have listed below.
Cooler Blue/Green-Gray Wall Colors for Cherry/Red Toned Cabinets
There are more colors that could work with cherry stained kitchen cabinets, but I like Lattice, Silver Strand and Silverpointe as options for a blue-gray or blue-green/gray color to tone down the red in the cherry stain.
For peace of mind, I will tell you that I have Lattice in my own home and LOVE it. I don’t have cherry cabinets, but my floors have a warmer tone to them that I don’t exactly adore. The blue-gray undertones in Lattice have helped to both compliment and tone down the less desirable color in my floors.
Light (Yellow or Orange Toned Oak/Maple) Cabinets
This is my final section on stained cabinets and I feel like I saved the best for last. One of my dear clients that I recently worked with, had a big design dilemma. They had natural maple cabinets, trim and furniture all throughout the house and they wanted to find a paint color that would best compliment the wood tones throughout.
To clarify, the undertone in the wood was mainly yellow and sometimes orange in different areas. If you fall in this category, you either have a yellow or orange undertone in your stained kitchen cabinets that you are trying to work around.
Wall Colors That Go With Light/Yellow or Orange Toned Stain
I thought long and hard on what color to pick for my client and finally settled on Mindful Gray. Mindful Gray is a greige with a blue undertone and just like I mentioned in the previous cherry stain section, it compliments the yellow and orange colors and helps to tone them down. The complimentary color with orange is blue So, it was a perfect pairing of colors!
Warmer colors paired with warm wood tones only makes the space feel even more warm. When you pair a cooler color with the warm yellow and orange wood tones, it helps them feel less warm while also complimenting them. So, my choices for a wall color to go with yellow or orange toned stained kitchen cabinets are cooler greiges/grays that work out so well and turned my clients home into her oasis!
Cooler Greige Wall Colors for Light Yellow or Orange Toned Cabinets
Mindful Gray and Repose Gray are you my top 2 colors to paint walls with yellow or orange toned stained cabinets. While I only listed 2 colors here, the other cooler blue-grays and blue/green-grays that I listed for the cherry toned cabinets could also be tested out with the yellow and orange toned stained cabinets.
Homes that have existing oak cabinets also tend to have other outdated selections like golden granite countertops and backsplashes. The best way to freshen and update (besides the wall color), is to install a new countertop and backsplash. Like I have mentioned in the other stain sections, you can’t go wrong with a white quartz countertop and white subway tile for a classic and clean look!
Wrapping it All Up
My sincere hope in writing about wall colors to coordinate with stained wood cabinets, is to empower you to make the necessary changes to update and refresh your space. My wall color choices that I paired with the various wood stains also transfer over into other areas of your home that may have the same stain color for interior trim and doors.
Those of you that have stained cabinets (or trim!) and have been agonizing over what color to paint your walls, you are now armed with information, new hope and resolve that stained cabinets can work in your space!