Can You Paint Kitchen Cabinets Two Colors in a Small Kitchen?

Is painting kitchen cabinets two colors a big no-no if you have a small kitchen?  Not necessarily!

darker lower cabinets

via Pinterest 

I did a Color Consultation with a local client sometime last summer and recently revisited to help her tweak a few things and choose new colors for the exterior of the house.  Her kitchen was small and a complete renovation was not in the budget.  It needed a little something-something to compensate for some of it’s dated finishes.  Something that didn’t require a lot of money!  Her dream kitchen looked something like the photo above, but the trick was how to get that look on a limited budget.   Could we paint kitchen cabinets in two colors in such a small area?  Here’s where we started when I met with her intially:


 Kitchen Before


The top cabinets of the kitchen had recently gotten a fresh coat of white paint.  You can see that she went a bit lighter than what was previously a creamy white on the cabinets (see lower cabinets).  Now she was stuck.  There was so little wall space in this kitchen that the green color really just chopped things up a bit and looked like a stripe along the top of the room.


Kitchen Before 


The island was previously red in order to give this space a bit of personality.  It was time for a little face-lift, don’t you think?  I proposed painting the base cabinets a darker color that would be fairly neutral and painting the small amount of walls white to make the space feel less choppy.  After testing lots of paint color options for the base cabinets, we decided upon Benjamin Moore Storm Cloud Gray.  When I came back a couple of weeks ago, I got to take a few unstyled shots of the “after.”

painted lower cabinets

Painting Kitchen Cabinets Two Colors – After


I know there’s junk on the counters, but that’s real life, right?  I love how the kitchen looks fresher and updated.  The toughest part of this was convincing my client to paint the walls the same white as the cabinetry and trim, but in an eggshell finish.  She thought that small amount of wall was her only opportunity to get some personality in the room.  You can see in the photo below how the white on the soffit above the cabinets actually makes the room feel a bit larger and taller as it visually extends the cabinets up to the ceiling.

painted kitchen cabinets in small kitchen

Painted Kitchen After Color Consultation 


You can see the kitchen from another angle in the photo below, along with the partial brick wall.  Her hubby has agreed to let her paint the brick to lighten up this room a bit more after seeing the positive results of the new colors throughout the rest of the home.  

green lower cabinets

Two-Toned Kitchen Cabinets 


My client wants some touches of orange in the kitchen, so I suggested some glazed pottery and bowls that would be functional (not just decorative in the space) and maybe some fun curtains on the one large window.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 10.35.45 AM

via Spoonflower 


I love it when a plan comes together!  Now it’s on to her exterior paint colors . . . 

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35 thoughts on “Can You Paint Kitchen Cabinets Two Colors in a Small Kitchen?

  1. Christine says:

    Looks great! I love darker base cabinets (if painting is an option). That is a bold, but fun, fabric choice. I love how it breaks up all of the linear kitchen surfaces.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thanks, Christine. I think the kitchen looks clean and fresh without the fabric, but she really wants some color and fun. Curtains can be changed much easier than fixed elements like tile, right?

  2. Cathy says:

    Love this! I’ve always wondered if two tone is an option in my small kitchen! Wish I was in the Nashville area so I could enlist your help, Kristie! Do you have any contacts in the Denver area who can help me with paint choices. A complete re-do is in order!!!

  3. Sherry says:

    How smart is that to paint out the walls the same as the uppers, and introduce color on the lowers to visually expand the space? I’m bookmarking this one! Great job, Kristie.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thanks Sherry! I think the fear of lower cabinets in a small kitchen is that it will make it appear smaller, but sticking with the same white on the walls kept that from happening here.

  4. Dana Tucker says:

    I love it! Painting the white above the cabinets and painting the lower cabinets made a huge difference. I can’t wait to see it with painted bricks. You are a magician 🙂

  5. Brenda says:

    I am thinking of doing the same thing in my kitchen. any other base colors in the blue/green area you can recommend. or maybe a mint color?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      It all depends on your existing finishes (countertops, flooring, tile) and the “look” you are trying to achieve. I would suggest you only do a mint color if your tile and countertops are white or black!

  6. Suzy says:

    Fantastic! Entries like this are why this blog is on my daily “must read” list. The red and that green together were pretty harsh, but really it was “white on the soffit makes the room feel larger” that will stick with me. Thanks!!! Suzy

  7. Cheryl says:

    I love this look. I think I would like to paint my bottom cabinets. I’m getting tired of the all white, but love the light, airy look it gives. Could I paint the bottom cabinets blue?

  8. Sarah says:

    Amazing! That gray really pulls everything — white up top, checkers below, white and black between — together like they were all meant to be. I first looked at the kitchen and knew it felt wrong but didn’t know why or what to do (except get rid of the green and the red). It looks so pleasing and stylish now.

  9. Brenda says:

    My cabinets are flat with no detailing…..other than new hardware, what else can I do to make them interesting. I plan on painting them white or a blue/green/ gray? How hard is it to add glass to them? They are a old 50s blonde. My BM dealer thinks oil paint is best for cabinets. Do you agree?

  10. Ryan Hart says:

    Choosing the right color(s) for your cabinets is such a huge decision but most blogs don’t even touch the subject. What other colors were you considering for the base cabinets?

  11. remodeling service says:

    I looked at the before pictures and your client was right to choose you. I like how the colors coordinated in the after picture, although the before does seem to show some personality indeed!

  12. Sharon says:

    Looks great! I love the exposed looks great with the island color and brings in the orange she’s looking for…. but I’m sure it will look pretty painted too.

  13. Steff Tharle says:

    I really love this idea & colours, although i also think the brickwall works well with the scheme…especially as your client is wanting to have some orange brought in. xx

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