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Choosing the right paint color to update kitchen cabinets can be a tough decision. Making the wrong choice is frustrating and costly. This article will discuss three of the best paint colors for updating oak kitchen cabinets.

man pointing at paint colors

Kitchen cabinets take up a lot of real estate in your kitchen workspace and they need to be durable enough to tolerate regular handling and a good scrub.

If your current oak cabinets are looking oh-so-80s, it’s time for an update. If you’re not sure what color to use and the rest of your trim is painted, paint a large piece of cardboard in that trim color and hang it in the kitchen to study how the light impacts the color and your feeling about the space day in and day out.

If you want something different and unique to the space, check out the colors below.

Best Paint Colors To Update Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Best Paint Colors To Update Oak Kitchen Cabinets infographic

Chantilly Lace: White Cabinets For a Cottage Look

Pale and pretty Chantilly Lace is a white that goes with absolutely everything. For DIYers looking to bring cohesion and tidiness to a house that is new to them, this color is a wonderful choice in a lot of applications.

When we look at the numbers, we notice that Chantilly Lace is very well-balanced with a slight green tint.

chantilly paint color square with paint cans

Like the green leaves in a flower bed, this very pale shade will serve as a foil for anything you want to add to the space.

Got white appliances? This will work. Got a mish-mash of colorful dishes, linens, and counter-assigned appliances? This will work.

This white is a beautiful foil for pastels. If you’ve got an aqua icemaker or a pink toaster, let them shine against Chantilly White!

RGB: 244, 246, 241
Hex Code: F4F6F1

Chantilly lace paint color

Pigeon: Sage Green For a Fresh, Earthy Design

Pigeon is one of those colors that is heavily impacted by the color of light in your space. By the numbers, it’s a warm shade. Under yellow light and sunlight, it will read as a pale, smoky sage. Under blue light, it may appear grey.

Bring out the green by adding strong colors for this pale sage to contrast with. For example, you can pair this color with burgundy towels. Use an ivory or biscuit white tile on your backsplash to warm up the under-cabinet workspace.

This pale green is the color of plants that can survive in tough conditions. Plants that can make it on the beach or in the heat of the desert are generally not a lush pine color.

If you’re not sure what to pair with your Pigeon cabinets, check out images of rock formations in the desert. Sand, rust and terra cotta are all great colors to link with this shade of green.

If you’re going to go to the work of pulling your cabinet drawers and taking off all the hardware, consider replacing those hinges, drawer knobs and cabinet pulls.

chantilly lace, pigeon, black flame paint colors on black background

Because this shade of sage is on the warm side, consider using a brushed brass-tone on your hardware choices. The hardware finish can be a bridge to your appliances; if your appliances are white or stainless, you will likely want to use a brushed nickel.

However, if your appliances are black you can get a lovely effect with a rubbed or aged bronze finish.

Make room in your budget for hardware. Cabinet hinges can take a lot of abuse and the engineering that goes into them can be quite involved. Don’t get rid of the old until you have the new hardware installed as it can take time to bring in.

RGB: 185, 190, 170
Hex Code: B9BEAA

pigeon paint color

Black Flame: Rich Grey For an Elegant Space

As noted above, your kitchen cabinets will take up a lot of real estate in your space. If you’re not absolutely committed to black cabinets, consider putting Black Flame paint on your base cabinets for one season just to make sure you absolutely love it.

You can also use a large piece of cardboard and paint yourself a sample panel to hang over your existing cabinets. Consider using this panel at all times of the day and through the darkest months of winter.

Black flame paint color square with paint cans

Yes, your dated oak cabinets may be driving you crazy. However, once you invest in a rich, saturated color like Black Flame anywhere in your home, banishing it will take some doing.

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You want to be fully committed to the color. Once you’re committed, go for it!

When we look at the numbers we notice that this is actually a rich grey-blue shade. It’s quite cool and will create a beautiful contrast against warm tones. If you love the look of a concrete countertop and a cherry floor, cabinets in this color will make the space sing.

It’s important to note that paints formulated for kitchen and bath always nearly always have a sheen. To resist moisture, even wall paint for these spaces has a bit of a gloss.

If you want Black Flame cabinets, do the groundwork to completely cover the grain of the oak and get a top-notch primer laid on before you put on that topcoat. If you’ve never painted any cabinets before, oak is not a good material for a beginner.

That’s not to say that you can’t play around with the inside of a cabinet door to start. However, if you don’t have the time and the tools to do it right, hire this painting project out.

RGB: 72, 75, 90
Hex Code: 484B5A

Black flame paint color

Chemistry, Labor, and Grain

Oak can be a challenge because it has a strong grain. To prep your cabinets for painting, you will need to

  • clean and degrease the existing finish
  • sand the existing finish
  • putty to cover the grain
  • sand the putty
  • prime, and finally
  • paint

The chemistry of paint matters greatly when covering oak. Paint, whether oil or latex, is formulated to cling. The best primer in the world will show the grain.

If you don’t have the patience to putty and sand, consider taking your cabinet doors to a professional painter with a spraying booth who can apply a self-leveling primer to your cabinets.

If you plan to paint your own cabinets, make sure you allow for plenty of drying time and work in a space that you can vent. Kitchen cabinets can take a lot of abuse.

You may be much happier with an oil-based finish over time, but the priming and painting will take longer.

kitchen with white cabinets

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