Gray vs. White Cabinets: What’s Best for Your Home?

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated March 22, 2022
A spacious and bright kitchen with white cabinets
Photo: John Keeble / Moment / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Gray cabinets are a new neutral that go great in kitchens.

  • White cabinets are a classic choice.

  • Mix up the two types for a unique look.

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White kitchen cabinets have been a popular trend since designers started incorporating them in the 1980s, but gray has crept into the running as a contender these past few years. Some cabinet companies have even gone so far as to declare that gray is the new white. So which one should you choose for your kitchen? Here are some details to help narrow down your choices.

Pros of Gray Cabinets

Some people describe gray as detached and neutral, while others say it’s the color of intelligence and wisdom. Color psychology also classifies gray as mysterious and even gothic. 

As far as aesthetics go, gray is a popular color choice for rooms because it’s versatile. If your kitchen has a warmer tone, you can go with a warmer gray; if your kitchen favors cooler colors like blues, you can choose more of a slate gray with blue undertones.

Cons of Gray Cabinets

While gray cabinets can help a space look more modern, they can also make it look dreary if not paired with the right complementary colors. If you go with a darker gray, you may end up making your kitchen feel smaller as well. 

It’s important to choose the right shade of gray. Otherwise, you could dull down your kitchen. Think about the other elements of your space like your countertops, walls, and flooring before landing on a shade.

Pros of White Cabinets

White is like a classic trench coat: timeless and never goes out of style. White cabinets can be an excellent complement if you punch up your other kitchen remodeling designs, like the backsplash, countertops, and even flooring. 

In general, white also tends to open up any spaces and make them appear bigger, so if you have a kitchen on the smaller side, white cabinets can help create the illusion of more room.

Cons of White Cabinets

Just like with white clothing, white fixtures are hard to keep clean. Dust buildup is very noticeable on white, so learn how to properly care for kitchen cabinets. In contrast, gray will hide dust better. White cabinets also tend to yellow with age, especially if they’re in the path of direct sunlight. 

Since white has been so popular for kitchen cabinets, you can find it everywhere—which isn’t optimal if you want your kitchen to look unique.

Gray vs. White Cabinets: What’s Best for Your Home?

Ways to Style Gray Kitchen Cabinets

A kitchen with gray cabinets
Photo: Serghei Starus / iStock / Getty Images

Gray kitchen cabinets, though modern, are still pretty versatile. Here are some ideas for how to style them.

White Subway Tile

White subway tile has been traditionally used as a backsplash, and that’s no different when thinking about incorporating gray cabinets. Use a repose gray for a more subtle look or gauntlet gray for more drama.

Go Really Dark

If you’re looking for uber drama, try a dark gray. Just remember that it may make the room look smaller. Dark gray is best paired with either white or light brown countertops and light-colored walls and backsplashes.

Paint the Island

No rule says all of your kitchen cabinets have to be the same color. Add a pop of gray by just painting the cabinets on the kitchen island. It’s a good way to test-drive the color without committing all at once.

Ways to Style White Kitchen Cabinets

White kitchen cabinets are a classic look great for brightening up your kitchen.

Pop of Color

You can experiment a little more freely with other color elements in your kitchen with white cabinets. If you’re looking for something specialized, find a ceramic tile pro near you to get a custom backsplash made. A fun backsplash works well with white cabinets, as do different colored appliances and creative kitchen wall colors.

Go All White

White cabinets. White countertops. White backsplash. An all-white kitchen certainly has a dramatic flair. Just remember that while a darker-colored surface or granite countertops may hide crumbs and other miscellaneous spills, white shows everything. This option isn’t for the faint of heart or those short on cleaning time.

Experiment With Hardware

Looking for a little more pizzazz? Try some dark handles. Want a more classic look? Nickel-brushed hardware is just the thing. There are tons of options out there, and you can usually swap out hardware pretty easily. Going antiquing can also yield some creative finds for kitchen hardware.

Try Both

Still can’t decide? You don’t have to. Mixing gray and white kitchen cabinets can bring a cool vibe to your kitchen. If you’re unsure how to mix it up, stick with gray on the bottom and white on the top for a sleek look, or try gray on the top and white on the bottom to pump up the drama.

Gray Cabinets vs. White Cabinets: Which Is Better?

If you’re on the fence about whether to choose gray or white cabinets, here are some other factors to consider.

Appearance

As far as appearance goes, choosing between gray and white cabinets is a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking to open up your room and give it a larger feel, white cabinets are a good option. But if you want a more dramatic, modern look, you may want to consider gray.

Winner: Tie

Options and Customizations

When looking at options and customizations, gray cabinets have more choices for color gradients. You can choose light or dark gray or any number of shades in between. The color is also versatile because, depending on the shade, it can lean toward a cooler feel with slightly blue tones or more warm.

With hardware, white cabinets are more versatile because they provide a blank canvas, while choosing hardware for gray cabinets will be trickier because you have to consider the specific hue. Design options like shaker versus traditional cabinets are available for both, and gray and white look good on either one.

Winner: White cabinets

Maintenance

Maintaining the appearance of kitchen cabinets can be a challenge, especially if you and your family cook a lot. Gray cabinets are easier to maintain because they hide dirt better, whereas white will show every little speck of dirt, dust, or grime.

Winner: Gray cabinets

ROI and Resale Value

When thinking about your home’s resale value, neutral colors or colors that appeal to many homebuyers are the way to go. Light gray cabinets are a good option because they can match with many different decor styles, while darker gray cabinets may not increase a home’s resale value as much because of their modern look. 

While white cabinets may seem like the ultimate neutral, they can decrease a home’s value because people are concerned they won’t be able to keep them clean.

Winner: Gray cabinets

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