Your shopping cart is empty.

Cabinets are grayer than planned ... how to compensate?

Pam A
March 11, 2019

My cabinets arrived today and they are more gray than expected. The wood is quartersawn white oak and the hope was to get something as close to raw wood look as possible. That wasn't something they were able to do so we arrived at the best possible compromise. The light gray stain is darker than the sample board, but not horribly, and the cabinets are incredibly well made. So I'm not about to alter them. And they aren't BAD, it's just not what I love.

So ... dusting off my minor disappointment ... what is the best way to bring some warmth and life back to the space? I have changed the color temp of the lights from 4k to 3500, which warms up the tone a bit. Our floor is light which might help bounce light around, I am wondering if I should change from Azul Aran granite to a lighter quartz?

The kitchen below is a dead ringer for the cabinet color I have. The lower pic is the combo of granite, floor, and stain sample they supplied. Looking at the kitchen pic, imagine the light floor, and do you think the granite helps or hurts the cabinets? I have an island but it is same color as perimeter.

Many thanks in advance for your help - the cabs are great quality, just not the color I hoped for. I want to love them :)

Comments (118)

  • Dawn Martinez

    Like the idea of cork or even tile (it's come a long way), in a tone that is not gray....your cabinets are already cool in tone and can't agree enough that it doesn't create a wow factor in your beautiful new kitchen.

    Pam A thanked Dawn Martinez
  • Michelle misses Sophie

    Some color direction from Maria Killam to work with the pink-beige

    Pam A thanked Michelle misses Sophie
  • Pam A

    Wow. I'm more confused than ever. I think my take-aways are:

    - Floor - need something darker and warmer. Avoid gray & blue. A brown/gray color would be good. Do not do wood-look anything (since it will not look good with real wood in the next room).

    - Counter - Stay light & bright, go with palest beige if possible. Needs to have a warm undertone & no gray in it.

    I'm worried I will wind up with a big steaming pile of bland if I do this. I know it would be very appealing in some ways, but I don't know how much life it will have in it (almost like a wax museum representation of a person ... no spark). I have read a lot of advice about having just one star to a kitchen but if I stick with this I think I'll have NO star ... am I not understanding something? How do I inject something fun into the kitchen?

    I should have bought a spec house, LOL.

  • PRO

    You have to stand back, and ask yourself WHY you chose this cabinet? You mentioned "raw". But none of your other selections bear that feeling out. When we say "one star" we mean avoid the attempts to make two strong selections compete with one another.

    So........ go back, breathe, and ask why this cabinet selection? But your flooring must come first as it will be more difficult by the elimination of real wood, or real tile, or real stone as possibilities.

    Pam A thanked JAN MOYER
  • PRO

    That's LVT, with Taj Mahal quartzite.

    Pam A thanked JAN MOYER
  • Dawn Martinez

    Like the Taj Mahal quartzite Jan (thumbs up)

    Pam A thanked Dawn Martinez
  • Bri Bosh
    OP, your backsplash can always have some more character. What was your original plan?
  • Pam A

    " You have to stand back, and ask yourself WHY you chose this cabinet? You mentioned "raw". But none of your other selections bear that feeling out. When we say "one star" we mean avoid the attempts to make two strong selections compete with one another. "

    Good question. I love the look of oak, but not when it's been turned yellow by polyurethane. I do some small woodworking on the side (picture frames) and I even though quartersawn white oak is a pain to work with, I like the look of it. It looks strong and there is something about the grain pattern that is soft. And when it's fresh off the planer or sander, it has a relaxed, comfortable vibe to me. I wanted my kitchen to look natural/organic with light colors & natural wood. I like a relaxed, casual feeling in a kitchen. But it also has to be able to get really dirty & clean up again. As for colors - I like beach colors - white, blue, gray, sand. I was thinking the oak would have been the "sandy" color and I could fill in with "rocks" and "water" and white.

    The finish on the cabinets is a flat conversion varnish - it has no sheen. Not sure if that matters, but it's something I'm aware of when I look at counters and floors.

    I see a lot of pretty kitchens with similar cabinets that use gray tones well. The first one is has a very cool toned marble with lots of gray, while the floor reads like a dark warm brown to me. The second one is a medium gray counter and light blue-gray backsplash. And the third is an odd choice - I think the warm floor is what doesn't work there, but the cabinets & counters do seem to work.

    I think it's the 1st & 2nd pic I get hung up on - if that works, then why couldn't a blue/green/tan counter work well with the cabinets?

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    Because the combination makes the cabinets look pink. Neither of the first two photos above has any blue in them. But if that's the look you want, then go for it. But that's not what your original intent was.

    Just keep in mind that what you see on a computer monitor isn't necessarily what exists in real life. Meaning that if you actually were standing in any of these rooms that you see online, you may not like what you see. So you need to go through the process of getting samples and bringing them home to see the effect that the combinations have in your room with your lighting.

    Pam A thanked Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
  • PRO

    Good. You put in the word. " Organic"! In its truest sense it's the opposite of fake anything. So. Now you know why I said slate and soapstone. Or natural wood flooring, and boooo hoo you use some wonderful kilim rugs.

    Your first and second photos have a wood floor. A wood floor. ...................it is not that gray can not work. Just not every gray, and definitely not on the floor as your first selection.

    This kitchen??? Has ONE star. The counter and splash.

  • nosoccermom

    The grays in the two pictures you posted seem more like true gray (like a light charcoal or steel gray) while your samples seem a lot more blue/gray. Now as I said earlier, on my monitor, your cabinets look slightly pink to me. Blue/green will bring that out even more.

    For example, again on my monitor, in pic 3, there's light blue on the wall, a kind of yellowish floor, and more pinkish cabinets --- all together not such a successful combination IMO.

    Pam A thanked nosoccermom
  • Rachel Nye
    Jan I love that. It shows my example with the 3rd choice quartzite and a flooring to match the darkest vein in the quartzite would really work.
  • Rachel Nye

    Get this quartzite and find a flooring that matches the darkest vein. I am a Floridian and hate tile floors. But right now in a Vermont home with slate. It really doesn't seem that bad on the feet. There is a softness to it that tile does not have. Also do a full splash while you can. I wish I would have with my quartzite.

    Pam A thanked Rachel Nye
  • Rachel Nye
    ps they have the slate here to protect the floors from snow so they must be awesome for what your goal is in a floor
  • Pam A

    I went to another flooring store and found 2 options that are warmer than the grays. I did not find any slate-like options that looked good, sadly, they all reminded me of 80's sheet vinyl in terms of texture and image clarity.

    I even looked at cork and found one I liked the color of a LOT from US Floors. It felt great underfoot. But when I asked about how it handles muddy or wet boots the salesman said it doesn't stand up to abrasion or grit very well. That makes it a bad choice, sadly.

    I brought home 2 new samples of floor, and have them lined up against a previous option I had liked so you can see the difference between the cool blue-gray and the new options.

    Fossil is a stone look tile, 1' by 2'.

    Driftwood is a wood look plank, 6" x 4'

    Steel is also a plank, 6" x 4'

    I understand why LVT is disliked, but it is a product that works for me for a lot of reasons. Wood, tile, and stone are not options (much like marble counters are not an option). Please help me work within this framework (even though it may sound misguided and idiotic to you).

    Right now ... Driftwood is winning. I wish it was NOT a wood pattern because the transition to real wood will not look great. But we are flooring a large area (25' x 15') and there are two places the hardwood and LVT will meet. A 3' wide hallway and a 9' entrance to the dining room. The colors in Driftwood seem like a better complement to the cabinets. Tomorrow afternoon both new samples will go to the granite yard with us.

    Thoughts on which is a better option?

  • Bri Bosh
    Show a picture of the floors next to your existing.
  • barncatz

    Agree about the Driftwood.

  • Amanda Smith


  • FinallyHome

    Please help me work within this framework (even though it may sound misguided and idiotic to you).

    I like the Driftwood.

    I actually don't see vinyl as ugly, but I guess we will have to disagree on that Wolfgang. :)

    I agree with this statement. Design your house for what works for you. Also, I totally understand about finding something that will work for your bad back.

    Pam A thanked FinallyHome
  • kariyava

    Of those choices, driftwood hands down, but I would keep looking for another lvt that isn’t wood patterned.

    Pam A thanked kariyava
  • wolfgang80

    Sorry for the unkind words about lvt.

    How about marmoleum? Lots of colors to choose from, a natural product, and could be fun in a pattern.

    Pam A thanked wolfgang80
  • Bri Bosh
    Putting vinyl wood look next to real wood will make it look SO cheap. Please don’t! Here are some slate look Luxury vinyls. They exist, really.
    Pam A thanked Bri Bosh
  • Rachel Nye
    I agree about finding something not LVT. If trying to create s natural/organic look I would stick with as close to natural products.
  • Angel 18432

    I'm agree with Driftwood also right now. I'm amazed (well not really) at how different the floors and cabinets look in different lighting situations and how you have to take that into consideration.

    I would also keep on looking for something that isn't wood looking.

    Pam A thanked Angel 18432
  • PRO

    "3 swaths of countertops, there's a perimeter in the kitchen, an island
    in the kitchen, and then another perimeter in something like a
    mudroom/drop zone area. The room is one big space but feels separate
    because the mudroom area has 3 doors. It's the breezeway to the garage -
    so 3 doors & lots of traffic".

    "Driftwood is winning. I wish it was NOT a wood pattern because the
    transition to real wood will not look great. But we are flooring a
    large area (25' x 15') and there are two places the hardwood and LVT
    will meet. A 3' wide hallway and a 9' entrance to the dining room. The
    colors in Driftwood seem like a better complement to the cabinets"

    "I think wood is too easily damaged by water & dogs, and we have a
    lot of traffic with wet/dripping people, dogs, and other chaos in the
    kitchen. So having a waterproof floor is VERY important to me. It is
    something I feel strongly about, I've had wood floor in a.........................."

    "We do use WaterHog runners and they help, but not a ton"

    "I know there are thick rubber mats I could use in front of sink, stove, and work zones but I find them unattractive".

    Lots of roadblocks here, huh? A"breezeway" is a transition space of outdoors to indoors . Assuming 12 feet of space for walk off/dry off of wet and drippy human or canine. Or I am completely nuts

    Bare feet/ stocking feet: With any bad back, maybe not the best idea? Certainly not the best idea in a working kitchen, on any drippy wet floor ......if only for protection of those tootsies.

    Just sayin.........: ) Lots of roadblocks.

  • Holly Stockley

    Monitors are deceiving, so I have no idea how these would work with your colors, but maybe look around locally and see if you can snag samples of Viking Flooring's Lakeshore collection LVT. There are a couple of stone/slate options:


    And Saugatuck:

    They also offer one called Silver Lake, but it's more of a blue grey.

    Find a dealer on their website?

  • Pam A

    Thanks Everyone!

    Bri - the Armstrong floor pic you posted, do you know what that is called? I like it a lot, but I can't find it on their website. We looked at a lot of Armstrong last night but that sample might have been checked out of the store.

    Jan - Yes, a lot of roadblocks. Funny you mention that walking around in bare feet is bad for one's back - I have found the opposite to be true. Maybe it depends on what the back problem is? I even run on my treadmill in bare feet at home (outside I wear minimalist running shoes to run on a track). Walking and running in bare feet (or thin shoes) certainly prevents you from landing hard on your heels, it's a nice feedback loop to remind your body to cushion with your knees and hips. If you were implying that I'm creating roadblocks (not saying you are saying that, just saying IF that's what you meant) ... I'm not. I'm just a 48 yr old woman who knows what works for me and I'm not afraid to share my reasons for sticking to certain choices in materials. It's a fun, messy, and chaotic life but I like it.

    I used the wrong word when I said breezeway ... it's this 15' square space that connects the house to the garage. There's a door to the front, a door to the backyard, and a door to the garage on the 3 walls, and then the other "wall" is just where it attaches to the house/kitchen. Loads of windows on the front & back ... Not sure what to call that.

    Holly - really nice stuff! I like Copper Harbor in their line up. The closest dealer to me is in Michigan, which is something like 15+ hours away (I'm on the East Coast). That gives me hope, though. Maybe there are other niche/local brands I can find.

    Someone had asked for a pic of the Driftwood against the hardwood ... Here it is in two lights. The truth is probably in between these. Thank you!

  • cpartist

    You said tile wouldn't work for the mudroom and wood for the floors because you'd need a transition? Why would you need a transition? How does your mudroom floor run into your kitchen floor?

    I have cement tile in my mudroom and wood flooring in my kitchen with no transition. A good flooring person can do it.

    Or do you mean it's part of the kitchen? And if it is there still might be a fun way to make the transition.

    One other thought is marmoleum? Very soft on the feet and wears like iron.

    Pam A thanked cpartist
  • Holly Stockley

    Marmoleum has been mentioned a couple of times. What would you think of that, in some soft beachy-colors. Maybe laid in a gingham:

    Or a stripe?

    An utterly different feel, but maybe something to think over.

    Pam A thanked Holly Stockley
  • Holly Stockley

    (Darn, about the Viking. I live in Michigan, so I tripped over it at a local place. BUT - that local place is a little hole-in-the-wall outfit that mostly supplies things for log homes. Log siding, beams, etc. Lo and behold, they also have a pretty wide ranging selection of floorings. So, maybe cast your net a little wider?)

  • Kathryn P

    Interesting. Your last set of pics has me liking Fossil better than Driftwood. I think because it's similar in tone to the cabinets and so doesn't stand out as much as Driftwood does. It sort of disappears. My totally amateur sensibilities would use Fossil on the floors and a light counter top that extends up to the splash as well. Let the counters/splash be the star, like in your inspiration pic that Jan reposted.

  • Pam A

    Thanks CPArtist & Holli,

    The mudroom is part of the kitchen. Thanks in part to some killer steel beams, there is no wall there. I thought breaking the floor up into two swaths would look ... I don't know, busy/blocky? It would be a full 15' of floors touching each other, almost like changing floors between a dining room and living room in an open concept home. It just felt like a bad thing to do, maybe I'm wrong though.

    Marmoleum is an option, I need to research it more. About 7 years ago I wanted to use it in the 2 bathrooms upstairs but couldn't find anyone who could install it locally. But a lot can change in 7 years. IIRC it comes in 6' wide rolls and you can have a welded seam done on site that seals it well, just have to plan where to place the seam. The glue down tiles can be great in terms of patterns but it seems highly installer dependent (if they shift you get little gaps that are dirt/fur catchers). I will look to see if they have any click-lock plank type products. I do love the feel of Marmoleum - almost as nice as cork (and more durable, I believe).

  • Holly Stockley

    I think transitions CAN be tricky. It really depends on your installer and an artful designer, I think. I've seen some neat things done, but I worry about whether this will age well, design-wise.

    Out of curiosity, would recycled glass countertops be carrying the beachy thing too far? :-)

  • Dawn Martinez

    Marmoleum with transition to hardwood floor.

  • cpartist

    Can you post a rough 2D plan of how the kitchen transitions into the mudroom?

    Also have you considered putting in a small header and side walls to delineate the two spaces?

  • PRO

    Honestly, it might be less agony to simply try some Clarks on your feet, and stand still on the concrete floor in a mall for a half hour. Simply the best : )cushioning and fully adjustable velcro slide.Seventy nine bucks to find out.

  • Dawn Martinez

    I have a bulging disc and spinal stenosis (albeit I have hardwood floors) but I did put professional anti-fatigue mats in my kitchen. Don't think they look bad at all, wish I had a better photo...you can go to my idea books and look at the renovated kitchen to see if you can spot the gel mat :-)

    Here's a link to the mats as well.


  • Michelle misses Sophie

    The Home Depot-sold Marmolium is their Click product, which has a fiberboard layer. The joints themselves are not water resistant unless you seal them. It might not be appropriate for a wet area. Marmolium Click in wet areas

    Pam A thanked Michelle misses Sophie
  • Bri Bosh
    Pam, here’s a link to the Armstrong product: https://www.armstrongflooring.com/residential/en-us/engineered-tile/alterna/item/D7197.html

    They’re actually calling it “engineered tile.” Here’s the description: “Like stone, ceramic and porcelain, Alterna Engineered Tile flooring is incredibly beautiful and durable. But its comfortable surface makes Alterna warmer to the touch, kinder to your feet, and easier to care for in any room of your home.”
    Pam A thanked Bri Bosh
  • Pam A

    I have a decision (at long last)!

    These are the 3 floors with the cabinets, at the granite yard in front of polished Blue Ocean Quartzite. We are going with the lighter floor (sandy tan color in the middle). I ordered a box of it to see a larger swath, but it works.

    The contractors all like the blue gray best, funnily enough.

    The counter material is being honed, they had some honed slabs (all on hold) and while its beautiful in polished, it is even better honed. Our fabricator will do this (for a fee, of course!)

    This is what it looks like when honed, it gets lighter and softer. I realize that many people won't love this choice, but when I see it ... I love it. I see sandy floor, aged oak, and soft blue water.

    Thank you for all of your help. When it is all done I will post pics (and hopefully figure out the white balance on my phone so it looks like real life).

    Close up of honed stone ...

  • shead

    It truly is a beautiful slab and the honed is lovely. I'm sure it will all look nice when it's finished. The honed does seem to make your cabinet look less pink and I like that flooring better than your original options. Good luck!

    Pam A thanked shead
  • Scott G

    I'm happy you found something you love!

    Pam A thanked Scott G
  • Amanda Smith

    The slab seems to have some warm tan color to pick up the warm color of the cabinet. The flooring looks great.

    Pam A thanked Amanda Smith
  • krottmann
    Can't wait to see the finished product
    Pam A thanked krottmann
  • Pam A thanked lindahambleton
  • CLC

    I’m glad you went with what makes your heart sing.....your kitchen needs to make you smile and feel happy in it, not anyone else. I can’t wait to see pics after it all gets pulled together.

    Pam A thanked CLC
  • Rachel Nye
    beautiful slab:) carry it up as a full splash if you can. Are you able to put that flooring throughout the house or stain the existing wood to match?
    Pam A thanked Rachel Nye
  • lrunner

    Those slabs are gorgeous. I haven't seen anything like those before. They look great with your cabinets!

    Pam A thanked lrunner

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268 (Mon-Sun).