White Walls? Paint the Cabinets?

I’ve been thinking more about the kitchen and bathroom. All of you seem to be leaning toward dark or mid-gray walls, where I’m looking at it and thinking I want to go with white. So I was trying to figure out why I’m so drawn to the idea, when I’ve never been known to paint a room white before. Would it look cold? Sterile?

I’ve been toying with the idea of painting the cabinets a color for a long time now, but I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it other than on Twitter.

So here’s what I’m thinking. The kitchen is keeping its stainless steel appliances (though how I wish for a colorful fridge!), white subway tile, white trim, wood floors, and upper white cabinets. The walls would be painted white (or almost white), and the bottom cabinets would be painted a color pulled from the new curtain fabric. The bathroom keeps its hundred-year-old hex tile (damaged as it may be) for now. The sink is unchanged, the toilet seat gets swapped out for a black one, and the pedestal tub probably goes black too. The new black and white polka dot shower curtain is a cutie and makes me happy, so that’s staying, and I think the metallic stool stays as well. The walls get painted the same color as the lower cabinets in the kitchen for continuity, or maybe a shade that is similar but not exactly matching. I need to finish painting the wooden doors to the kitchen and bathroom white too, and put a coat of colorful paint on the wooden step stool. Make sense?

You know, like this.

Kitchen and Bathroom Direction and Inspiration
photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

What do you think — can you see it? Still see dark walls as the better way to go?

61 Responses to “White Walls? Paint the Cabinets?”

  1. Natalie / Half Asleep Studio January 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    After painting every wall in my house a different color (some dark, some bright) and getting it out of my system, I am the biggest promoter of white walls these days. Clean & bright is the way to go, I think! You can add color in so many other ways.

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

      I think that’s where I’m at. This house is colorful, our apartment before this was even more colorful — I’m ready for some white.

  2. Melissa | I Still Love You January 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    You’re full of so many great ideas! I love the idea of going white on the walls and color on the lower cabinets. It’s sort of reverse from what I would normally gravitate towards (i.e. keep the cabinets basic and pizzazz up the walls). It’ll look gorgeous I know!

    I need a new shower curtain. I think I might copy you on that polka dot on. So cute!

  3. Katharine January 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    I say don’t be afraid or think it’s uncool to go with white walls! (I did read a pro tip recently that said if you do white walls, you should paint the trim work a slightly different shade of white for a little contrast.) I think white makes kitchens look especially clean and bright, and the colored cabinets could be fun! I dunno about a black toilet, though …

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

      The white trim we have in the kitchen now is Behr’s ‘Swiss Coffee’, but I don’t think I want an exact match for the walls. Just a little contract, enough to be interesting, is good.

  4. Amber @ Wills Casa January 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I can see it! Do it! I’ve been wanting to paint my cabinets a color. They are white but the island is F&B Adaptive Shade, so I guess that counts right?

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

      I like when the island is a different color. That totally counts.

  5. Kelly January 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Natalie and I are on the same page. I don’t paint every room in my house but I did get it all out of my system. Now I have all white walls and my furniture are the accents. I am a full supporter of painted lower cabinetry.

  6. Christi January 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Your ideas and color palette are wonderful! I only want to offer caution about a black toilet seat in a home where a little boy will be potty training! (Hard to see the spots, but maybe with a black toilet seat only you will fare better than I…)

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

      Ah, I see your point. I think that since it’s just the seat, not the whole toilet, it should be OK.

      • Lydia January 4, 2013 at 2:47 am #

        Is the toilet seat made of wood and painted black? I can’t tell from the photos. We had a wooden toilet seat and cover in our rented apartment and it was so disgusting. After a while the wood warped and cracked. We all know what’s in that water that caused it to warp *shudders*.

  7. Amy January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Ooo… I was totally on the dark wall bandwagon but with colorful base cabinets to ground the room I can see white walls with white subway tile… Love it!

  8. Valentine January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Too much gray??? Is that possible? (You should probably never come to my house!)
    I do love your idea of darker lower cabinets and white walls. It’s more of a commitement, but it’s still only paint!

    Not exactly sold on the black toilet seat, but I’m intrigued and I’m sure you will style it well.

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      Ha, it is possible! My dining room has a LOT of gray (gray wallpaper, darker gray above the picture rail, a dark gray rug, gunmetal chairs), and I feel like maybe I’ve filled my quota.

      And I’m not completely sold on the black toilet seat either, but I like it so much when I see it done well.

  9. Emma (Broke Ass Home) January 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    I personally am not a white wall person in a kitchen. Maybe it’s just the man that I live with, but I’d hate to be washing my walls every time him or the dogs went in there. I fully support the two tone cabinets to pull in colors with your bathroom, but I think I’d go about it like (not these colors exactly, but just to get an idea) navy bottom cabinets, white tile and uppers and then the whitest blue you can find for the walls or something. Just to give a tint of color for forgiveness. Though the white would make the whole upper half of your kitchen disappear. I say…paint the lowers, live with it for a couple days and then make a decision from there. The glory of paint is though (as everyone knows) if you change your mind you can easily redo it. I don’t know how you’ll possibly do anything I don’t love though!

  10. Christina W. January 3, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    I think white will look good! I’ve never actually painted anything white, but I’m led to believe that the MILLIONS OF CHOICES are totally not just all the same white with different names in varying degrees of fanciness. The only two kinds I can see are Gross Yellow/White Renter’s Special and Expensive White That Isn’t Gross, Is Probably From Benjamin Moore and Kinda Looks Blueish (Kinda). I dunno, Anna from Door 16 and Daniel from Manhattan Nest have the good kind, and it’s BM Moonlight something? I made note of the name because I am going to craftily paint over my Renter’s Special with it, muahaha. Can’t wait to see which color you pick out of the curtains!

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

      I’m going for the “Expensive White That Isn’t Gross, Is Probably From Benjamin Moore and Kinda Looks Blueish (Kinda)” type, for sure!

      And yes, Anna and Daniel do white walls well. Moonlight White and Dove White, respectively.

  11. Fiona January 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    I like the idea of the colored cabinets and white walls. And heck, if you want to paint over white, at least it’s a lot easier.

    Not so sold on the black toilet seat. It makes me think of those chain restaurants that are trying to be “old-timey,” but if anyone can pull it off, you probably can!

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

      It is a nod to vintage, but since my house and bathroom actually are vintage, I think the black seat could work.

  12. Gretchen@Boxy Colonial January 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Love the idea of colored cabinets….I’m not brave enough to do my kitchen ones yet, but I’m planning on painting one of our bathroom’s cabinets one of these days, at least. And I can totally see colored cabinets/white walls.

  13. Lesley January 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Go with the white walls. The beauty of white is that it goes with EVERYTHING…then the coloured cupboard doors will lift the whole room and the white walls will make them “pop”
    PERFECTION!

  14. Momcounsel January 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    We just got new cabinets and I wish we went for painting over the old ones with dark grey – money saver and so updated.

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      My cabinets are fine, but they’re just standard IKEA fronts — nothing special. Paint would be a welcome update.

  15. Lisa January 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I’m on board with the white walls and colored cabinetry, but I couldn’t live with the black toilet seat. That doesn’t mean you can’t though. Whatever you decide, I’m excited to see the results.

  16. AnnW January 3, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Sounds great! You can always change the wall color later. Love the curtain fabric. Ann

  17. Kenz @ Interiors By Kenz January 3, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    I’ve never been a white wall person. My mom always had builder white, and would NEVER paint colorful walls growing up. So I swore I wouldn’t be like that when I have a house. I think I’ve got my wild hair out, because now, I want white walls. But not builder white. The beautiful thing is, there are sooooo many shades of white. Which sounds really lame, but I feel like the right white, paired with the right furniture and accents looks beautiful.

    • Making it Lovely January 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      I know what you mean. I’m actually getting excited about finding the right shade of white.

  18. Mia January 4, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    I hate to fulfill a stereotype, but I’m Swedish, and everything white, all white is my motto! *grin* I’ve tried doing colors on my walls, but I never feel comfortable, it’s only when I have white walls in all rooms I feel at peace in my own home! Thus, I’m a afraid to give interior advice as my own bias will always say WHITE if it’s comes as an option! :P

  19. Sherry January 4, 2013 at 2:15 am #

    Gray walls are lovely but SO overdone right now. So I say (a rather emphatic) YES to your ideas. In 20 years all these gray walls are going to look like 1970s paneling or shag carpeting does to me (having grown up with that stuff everywhere I looked). I applaud your decision to do your own thing.
    Oh, and call me crazy but I am really digging the idea of hundred year old hex tile in the bathroom. I love vintage houses.

  20. Christina W. January 4, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like a chalkboard wall in there would be really cool/fun for the littles. I’m just kind of reobsessed with the whole black accent wall craze from a few years ago, though, so don’t mind me.

  21. Coulda Shoulda Woulda January 4, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    The thing with white – especially in the wet rooms like bathroom and kitchen are just a great palette and there is that feeling of zen and cleanliness. the reverse palette sometimes seems quite affected. not a natural flow. whatever trends come and go the white is such a staple.

    and yes it is about finding the right shade of white – a hard thing to do – light what is the sun direction what are the undertones but once you nail it – perfection

  22. Chedva January 4, 2013 at 3:57 am #

    I love that Domino bathroom, and I’m all for letting the dramatic tub shine (so to speak) against white walls. As for kitchens, I prefer them as simple as possible, so painted cabinets + white walls sound great!

  23. julie s January 4, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    Definitely do what you’ve described, and shown, above! You had me up until you mentioned the black toilet seat — WHA?!? But then I saw the black toilet seat! Do it all!!!!

  24. angie January 4, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Go with the dark green in your fabric for the lower cabinets. Green, black and white will look gooood in a bathroom too.

  25. Erin January 4, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    We are going to be repainting our currently VERY dark wood cabinets white this year, and I’ve been toying with the idea of painting the base cabinets a different color. So I’m looking forward to seeing what you decide and how it works for you. I really like angie’s suggestion of dark green.

  26. corrin January 4, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    More than anything, I love painted cabinetry these days. So over wood.

  27. thequeenofquirk January 4, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    the first image has been my inspiration image for my kitchen for months now. i am SO doing it. the one wall in the kitchen will be just 1 shade lighter than the bottom cabinets. the rest will look very similar to the photo. and my dining room is white w/ gold&white wallpaper :)

    white is good. not boring at all.

  28. Jenn January 4, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    I love painted cabinets! I think it’s an unexpected place to inject some life into your kitchen. Our cabinets are painted and it’s the first thing people comment on when they walk into the kitchen. Granted they were the original cabinets to the house (1969), so they have great MCM lines, but they were looking a little worse for wear before paint. Long story short – paint your cabinets you won’t regret it!

  29. Kerry January 4, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    We must be on the same wavelength. I have that photo of the gray cabinets pinned on my kitchen inspiration board. We are starting our kitchen remodel in three weeks and plan on white upper cabinets and charcoal gray lower cabinets. I am also painting the walls in my living and dining room white. Picking out gray and white paint colors is proving challenging, would be interested to hear which white you decide on and gray, if you go that route. My house used to have a lot of color, but now I am moving towards whites and neutrals, seems to be the trend …

  30. Kristin January 4, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    I am kinda hoping you try the black toilet seat. My bathroom is very similar to yours and I am dying to know how it will look. I’ve seen it done where it really completes the vintage look and is amazing!

  31. Kathryn January 4, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I love the look of gray cabinets in a white kitchen, I’m sure it will look fabulous. We’re painting our cabinets grey (quite possibly the same as the walls, trying to decide if that will look weird) and getting a white countertop. I pinned that same picture as inspiration. I painted the back of the island gray and it looked so amazing we decided to finish. Have to wait till spring though, because the primer we have to use on the laminate kills brain cells.

  32. Kristi -SIMPLEPRETTYTHINGS January 4, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    I like the idea! I don’t have white walls in any room but I’m not opposed to it at all. I think it will keep the kitchen looking crisp and pretty… like freshly laundered sheets hanging out in the sun… how’s that for a visual? I don’t see cold and sterile. Especially in the direction you plan to go. My kitchen is a sage green that we painted a year ago and I’m so over it but I think my husband will not be happy if I tell him I want to paint it neutral.

  33. lexie January 4, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    yes, to white walls and painted cabinets. and i cannot believe i’ve never seen a black toilet seat before – i may steal that idea!

  34. Kim @ Yellow Brick Home January 4, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Yes, yes, YES. I see it, and I LOVE it.

  35. Nicole M. January 4, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    I have been drawn to the lower dark cabinets and white uppers for sooo long, I LOVE IT!! The upper white cabinets with white walls really makes the space seem taller and the lower dark cabinets really anchor the room. I would definitely go with the white walls with the white subway tiles and white upper cabinets…it will feel so bright and airy, DO IT!!:) Oh and the black bearclaw tub, again, I have been wanting to do that for so long as well! I can’t wait for my husband and I to have a house here in Chicago we can renovate and make our own!

  36. Artsy Forager January 4, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    In my last home ( that I still dearly miss to this day– ugh rentals for the last 2 years! ), once I tore down the hideous 80s wallpaper in the kitchen, I painted it a soft mustard yellow. I loved the color, but the room never felt happy & clean to me.. until I painted it a soft off-white! Once I made that switch, it positively glowed. I’m not sure I would ever want colored walls in a kitchen ever again, but I do LOVE the idea of colored lower cabinets. Not as eye-jarring as all-colored cabinets would be, but it adds so much personality to otherwise neutral kitchens. I say go for it!

  37. Nicole M. January 4, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Ohhhh…and maybe to pick up on the black counter top you could paint the window casing and mullions of the windows black (keep the trim white to match the walls). That would be a great contast against the white walls!!
    And I would also keep in mind the colors that are in the countertop not just in the fabric when you choose a color for the lower cabinets…but I am sure you already thought of that :) Can’t wait to see your design decisions!!

  38. Elizabeth Maletz January 4, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Pretty pictures, and I love the idea of the black base cabinets. I like white walls, but in my own work, I sometimes use a very very light gray, like Benjamin Moore’s Silver Satin, which offers just enough color to provide a little contrast with white tiles, white trim and moulding, etc. Just so the two whites don’t clash, if you know what I mean.

    Good luck! Love your blog and your work.

  39. Morgan January 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Yes!! Love all of those ideas, especially the grey cabinets with white walls. And that subway tile in top photo (while I know not part of the vision now) is amazing.

  40. casacaudill January 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    I talked about doing this two or three years ago but we’re lazy and never got around to it. I know several other bloggers are also contemplating this idea. It seems to be a great compromise for people who like color but still want some white cabinetry. And color on the bottom helps ground the room. I say go for it!

  41. kelly January 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Isn’t it funny, I too am considering white walls after three houses of color filled walls. But the right white is sooo important. Like for example the white on the walls in the photo with the light blue cabinets above is not the right one. I visited a beautiful home a few days ago and she had a Pittsburgh color called Sailcloth the wood work. Beautiful but not so sure it would be on the wall.

  42. Krista January 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I too, LOVE color and have had my fair share of crazy walls in past apartments/homes. When I redid my kitchen in our 115 year-old farmhouse I too opted for a more subtle option–all white cabinets and a brown gray on the walls. With all the cabinets being white I really couldn’t do the whole white wall thing. I recently took photos and uploaded them to Facebook because I had curious out-of-state friends. I was struck with how “vanilla” my kitchen looks even with the brown/gray on the walls. It made me sad–I NEED some good pop of color. So, I’ve decided to paint the door that leads outside a warm green (matches the adjacent dining room) to connect the two rooms (like you are doing with your bathroom).

  43. Meep January 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    While I’ve jumped on the grey walls bandwagon in my house there’s just something about bright white walls in the kitchen. It looks clean and I think it makes food look better too (like white plates do.)

  44. Andrea R. January 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I am all about the white walls! Color can be added in accessories! I did the light blue color on my island in the last renovation. Loved the color but it’s hard to keep clean, like white cabinets. I’ve always wanted to do the dark charcoal color on my lower cabinets!!!!!

  45. Cottage katie January 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    I am digging it!! Love your idea of the blue cabinets and then pulling the blue into the bathroom, but I would probably go darker or lighter in the bathroom so it’s not soo mathcy. Especially since you have such a funky and whimsical style. Are you going to bring that avocado in anywhere?? I love tat tone of green found in your curtain palette.

  46. Megan January 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    I’m craving white walls and the two-tone cabinets myself so I say go for it!

  47. Kristan January 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    I love the combo of white walls and painted cabinets. I also have a lot of color in my house and constantly think about going white. Oh, and my old 1940’s apartment had a black toilet seat. With the original floor tiles, it had a cute vintage look.

  48. Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms January 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    I say go with your gut and go white – with the painted cabinets. I love the idea of the darker cabinets on the bottom. Gorgeous!

  49. Colleen January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Excellently conveyed design plan! I would love to paint our brown wood IKEA cabinets but everyone told me they would get chipped & beat up looking quickly. I wish I’d had the courage to go for it! I’d do 2 tone too if it wasn’t a galley kitchen. Love light uppers with darker/ colored bases.
    Side note: love the font & arrows you used for the inspiration board! Must know what that font is & did you do those arrows in photoshop? I used to know how to do cool things in that program but have forgotten in the years I didn’t have access to it. Would love to teach myself again.

  50. S January 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    I like the dark grey lower cabinets! You should go onto zillow and look at what they did in the kitchen of 403 N Taylor in OP…. I never really like white walls but I do really like what they did in that house!