How White Kitchen Cabinets Make Your Kitchen Larger

With all the talk about warmer colors for kitchens, don’t be afraid that white kitchen cabinets are going out of style. White kitchen cabinets are classic and are found in all eras of kitchen history. I am NOT anti-wood stain, believe it or not!  However, too much wood in a single space can be just too much. If you’ve ever had a wood paneled room, you know that wood can make a room appear smaller.

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If you read my post last week about the makeover of my client’s great room with vaulted ceilings, you already know that we also made over the adjoining kitchen. This kitchen was packed full of quality kitchen cabinetry. You can see it was a sea of orange oak – cabinets and floors.


The goals for this kitchen:

create a brighter, more welcoming space

make the island more functional and attractive

eliminate the “dead zone” between the kitchen and great room

tie together the kitchen and great room for improved entertaining 

First up: the discussion about white kitchen cabinets. Were they ready to take the plunge and paint the entirety of the cabinetry white? Yes, they were! Over the years, all that wood came to feel dark and oppressive when artificial lighting wasn’t on. The spacious kitchen didn’t feel all that spacious, but I knew that painting the cabinets white would make the space look not only lighter, but also LARGER.

Below is the result of this kitchen makeover:

white kitchen cabinets with long quartz island and iron lantern light fixtures by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologistdesign by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist

So what do you think? My client wanted a double oven, so this was the time to add that in and reconfigure some of the cook space.


The cooktop was moved into the island, which is now topped with graceful iron lantern fixtures.

Here’s a tip for you: opt for lanterns WITHOUT glass for above a kitchen island.

Grease and smoke from cooking can mean lots of glass maintenance on fixtures, plus fixtures without glass are less expensive!

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Designing a new, longer island with seating was next on the list and eliminated the need for the breakfast room table or any other furniture to bridge the “dead zone” between the kitchen and the great room.


Obviously, we haven’t chosen the island stools/chairs yet, but I just couldn’t wait to show you this kitchen!

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We chose quartz countertops that gave us the look of honed concrete on the perimeter counters. The oversized light fixture in the great room has a similar gray finish.

caesarstone rugged concrete quartz countertop design by Kristie Barnett, The Decoorlogist


caesarstone rugged concrete quartz countertop


We used the same Caesarstone quartz in the adjoining great room beneath the floating wood bookshelves:


To set it apart a bit, we chose this beautiful Caesarstone quartz that gave us the look of marble for the island. The coffee table in great room has a very similar marble top.

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The dark gray island cabinets tie in with perimeter quartz, as well as the ceiling beams and gray stone fireplace in the adjoining great room.

caesarstone quartz minuet


Now you can see the great room from the vantage point of the kitchen:

design by The Decorologist

Let’s turn around and look at the “before” from the great room into the kitchen:


It hardly seems as though it’s the same house in the “after” photo:

design by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist

I’m betting my clients will enjoy their “new” kitchen and great room for many years to come! White kitchen cabinets may not actually make your kitchen larger, but they certainly make it feel larger! If you missed the great room makeover, you can catch up here.

I really appreciate you reading my blog for the last 9+ years! If you’d like more in-depth decorating instruction, please check out my instructional videos for homeowners and design professionals here.



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47 thoughts on “How White Kitchen Cabinets Make Your Kitchen Larger

  1. JL says:

    After 11 years of saving, we finally completed a kitchen renovation and replaced our dark, dated knotty pine cabinets for new white cabinets. FIRST comment when people walk in? “It looks so much bigger!”

  2. Joy says:

    That kitchen is gorgeous! I want white cabinets so badly, but I worry about chipping and how it will look in a few years. Do you think that painting cabinets can by done by a homeowner, or is that something best left to a professional?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      If the proper prep, priming, and painting is done, painted cabinets can last for many years – my own were painted well over 20 years ago. Actually, they could use painting again, but they’ve held up pretty well! BUT, I would definitely suggest leaving them to a professional. Be sure that you use a painter that has lots of experience painting wood cabinetry – it’s not the same as painting drywall! Proper dry and cure time is very important, too. If latex paint is used, I wouldn’t close the drawers or doors for at least 3 weeks – it can take up to a month for latex to fully cure, even though it’s dry to the touch in a couple hours. After that, you should be good and they will hold up without chipping for many years.

      • Judy Riordon says:

        Hi Kristie,

        Love this change! I’m re-inspired to do something about our dark kitchen. I have been (slowly) repainting rooms in our 1950 Cape Cod-style house, and I LOVE my Palladian Blue dining room (it was forest green–lol!). I am wondering if Stonington Gray would flow well from the Palladian Blue or how to figure out a good color flow in a house. I need to take your color class!

  3. shirley schaugaard says:

    I am loving this makeover. Can you share the name of the quartz pattern you used. I clicked the link and it didn’t give any specific color of Ceasarstone. Hoping to do something similar in my home.

  4. Kim Hume says:

    Beautiful transformation!! I can attest to white cabinets making your kitchen look bigger. We are in the throes of painting our cabinets white, with only the cabinet boxes painted right now and all of the doors off, and it’s amazing how much bigger our kitchen looks, even while in process!

  5. Carol says:

    I lived with oak cabinets for ten years and yes, the kitchen lights were almost always on. When we moved we bought old wood cabinets and stripped them and painted them Steamed Milk. Oil base. That was 6 years ago and they still look like new. Easy to clean. I do have a contractor husband but I did much of the work. They have made our smallish kitchen look airy and bright. Their new kitchen is gorgeous. I like wood but I will never have wood stained cabinets again. Beautiful work.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thank you, Carol – and thanks for sharing your experience with painted cabinets and how they held up over time. I think so many people would like to paint their cabinets, but are so afraid that the paint won’t hold up or the upkeep will be a hassle!

  6. Sarah says:

    I’m curious where did the microwave get hidden?
    (I put mine below the counter where there was already an extra outlet in cabinet space and I love it there.)

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Hi Kathy,
      In the post, that’s why I gave the designer tip about purchasing a light fixture without glass for that area. If those lanterns had glass inserts, they would get very dirty. Much easier to occasionally wipe down these metal frames 🙂

  7. Gretchen says:

    Stunning transformation. I have the same problem, where my wood kitchen cabinets plus wood floors are an overpowering orange. I can’t wait to have my cabinets painted white one day. I am most amazed by how you can choose just the right white – not too stark, not too yellow. There are so many whites out there and I’d be afraid to chose the wrong one!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Yes, Gretchen – there are sooo many whites out there! Here’s a tip for you: be sure to use the same white on your cabinets that you use on your trim. That will give you a cleaner look every time!

  8. Marie says:

    Our kitchen reno started with trying to replace a broken builtin gas oven. Oak cabinets that I tolerated for over 30 years. We completely reconfigured with white Shaker cabinets and quartz countertops. Still love it after more than six years.

  9. Leslie Carothers says:

    Kristie: What an amazing transformation! It IS hard to tell it’s the same 2 rooms. You did such a great job in listening to what your clients told you they wanted and then giving them something that so beautifully delivered on it.

    And I love your tip about using light fixtures over the island without glass. Not only is that easier for cleaning, but it’s so much easier to change the light bulbs that way, too.

    Great, great work: congratulations on this transformation!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Leslie! For this couple, it was about finding a balance so that both of them got a result they were hoping for. The Mrs. wanted light and sophisticated and the Mr. had ideas that were more masculine-leaning. The white cabinetry, marble-like quartz, and cozy seating area suited her aesthetic, while the stone fireplace, concrete-like quartz, and wood mantel and shelves suited his. And I think the elements married well! 😉

  10. Bonnie says:

    I love your kitchen reno! Are the pretty little olive trees in the green pots on each side of the cooktop real or faux? If faux, can you tell me where they are from? Thank you!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Hi Bonnie! Funny you should ask about that – I actually picked those up at a garage sale the week before I came over to do the final styling for photos! I don’t know where they are from originally, so sorry.

  11. Abbey says:

    You consistently have great ideas or spaces and see things in a way I wouldn’t have thought of. I like the extended island to replace the breakfast table. To make it function as a casual eating space though, do you suggest stools that slide all the way under the island?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thank you so much, Abbey! To make this functional as a breakfast/lunch table, I think the stools/chairs need to have at a back – even a short one would be sufficient. So, yes, the seat would slide under the island – but the back doesn’t have to. A bit of a back won’t impede traffic flow. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts and questions. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Valenica Abbott says:

    I have the same furniture as 40 years ago. I have always been very progressive and at that time I already put white chon a red band. I recently changed the countertop that was white to a bright red one. On top of the tall furniture I placed some Ikea wooden toy store and stuck some adhesive mirrors. I would like to put a vinyl floor over the white gre that is very dirty. And to finish painting the front.

  13. Lindsay C says:

    I’m backing what everyone has said in these comments. I recently had a company come out to paint my kitchen cabinets and it literally blew me away walking back into the space for the first time. I always hesitated to jump on the all-white bandwagon with little kids but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

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