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Small dark kitchen needs a facelift!

Brooke Riske
4 days ago
We plan to update our 90’s kitchen and I’m trying to narrow down cabinet and wall paint colors before I test samples. Our kitchen is tiny and has minimal natural light (the overhead light is almost always required, even on bright days).

I am drawn to warm whites and creams but I don’t want it to look dirty. I’m open to mushroom/Greige shades. What do y’all suggest?

Should the (minimal) wall space be painted the same color as the cabinets?

Floors and footprint will remain the same but we plan to replace light fixtures pulls and backsplash, possibly counters.

these are Zillow pictures and no our rugs or decor

Comments (35)

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    First it is important to post pics of your space. As for lighting get pot lights in a 4” can ith LED bulbs in 3500- 5000K range before deciding any colors

  • rantontoo

    If the backsplash is staying, you will have to coordinate with that. I would encotage you to replace it.

    I like BM White Dove...do not know if it looks “dirty” to you or not. It looks warmer than a stark white but not yellow in my house and can play nice with wood tones and some greys.


  • Chris & Donna Barton
    paint cabinets a bright color you love. I dry brushed mine in cardinal red then aged then with sandpaper and clear coated. love them!
  • Jora

    Although I'm not an 'all white' kitchen girl, in this case I'd go with an 'off white' everything. Cabinets, walls, trim = Benjamin Moore White Dove or Cloud White (both are gorgeous whites). Stainless steel appliances + handles and pulls, light colored countertops (def. replace them), with minimal gray veining, and laser cut mother of pearl backsplash to pull in all together.

    Your flooring is GORGEOUS, leave it! :)

  • rinq

    Will you keep the door/baseboard color? If so, paint the lower cabinets and tall cabinet that color. White-ish countertop, white uppers, white ceiling trim (maybe the thin crown molding the door color. Wall color inbetween the white and beige, leaning more towards the white. Brushed nickel handles and light fixtures. And lighting under the upper cabinets! And please ditch the faux curtain. ;)

  • rinq

    Beige shaker bomb:











  • arcy_gw

    I would make the door casings WHITE and find a simple back splash and call it done!! Gray/greige will not lighten up the space. Your cupboards are very light. If you feel the space is dark improve your lighting.

  • ShadyWillowFarm
    A glass tile backsplash will reflect light.
  • rinq

    Stay off the creams if you're keeping the appliances ;)

  • cpartist

    I would not paint those cabinets. Painted cabinets unless you have them professionally done will never hold up as well. And that will cost you somewhere between $3500-$5000 to have them professionally painted for your small kitchen. And even then it's questionable how it will all hold up.

    Additionally if your kitchen is dark naturally, white cabinets will never look white. They'll look dingy.

    Your cabinets are lovely and the problem with the kitchen being dark, is not the cabinets. It's that you need more overhead lighting and you need under cabinet lighting to start.

    Then I'd choose a creamy white or off white countertop and a creamy white or off white backsplash tile.

    Also what direction does that one window face?

  • Cheryl Smith

    I actually like your cabinets. They are NOT dark even if you think the room is. I wouldn't paint them. There are other things making the room dark. I would first remove the valance and leave the window bare. Or at raise it so it covers the wall and leaves the whole window open. change out the light fixtures or at least the bulbs to a bright white. Replace the backsplash. paint the door and floor mold (that is kind of a strange color) white and add color to the wall and backsplash instead. New cabinet hardware that isn't more wood will update the look too. The room is too beige, for it needs some color.

  • Brooke Riske
    Thanks for all the feedback! I love these ideas. We plan to eventually update the appliances but not now.

    The window is west facing but we have a steep incline behind and a mountain/forest basically blocks the sun.

    For those that stated they would leave the cabinets alone, what color would you paint the wall? The trim/door frame will be painted white and the backsplash is definitely gone! If we did paint the cabinets, we would hire a professional.
  • Brooke Riske
    I feel like I have to state that this was not our design!! These pics are from Zillow (prior owners) and we have removed the valence and some of the outdated decor.
  • Brooke Riske
    Oh and if the cabinets are kept as is - do we paint the trim above the cabinets? There is ceiling trim but also a wider crown molding type that goes all the way around...
  • cpartist

    Do not paint the cabinet trim but do paint the room trim.

    What would work well with those cabinets and bring some life to the room is a very pale soft blue/gray color. One that on the card reads gray/white but once on the walls is more blue.

    I could see something like BM Lily White, Feather Gray, Gray Sky, Ocean Air, Sheer Bliss, Silver Gray, Iceberg, Misty Blue, etc.

    Paint the trim and the door a white. A soft green would also work.


  • Susan

    New cabinet knobs and a white tiles backslash will help a bunch. The trim at the top seems a bit strange to be honest. Like it doesn't match. I would remove a section and see what's behind it. You may be able to do a crown treatment is a simpler style directly above the cabinet leaving some space between cabinet and ceiling.

  • Brooke Riske
    A light blue/gray would be perfect and coordinate with our living room. Thanks!
  • Brown Dog

    If your kitchen is small and dark, paint everything white (or off white), and that's walls, trim, cabinets. Choose a white countertop with not a lot of pattern if you go with stone. The less colour changes and less contrast you have, the more spacious your kitchen will appear. You have nice flooring and great cabinet style so those are things you don't have to worry about. Choose a white backsplash with tile maybe in a funky shape. Go for stainless appliances when the time comes. So, your kitchen would be white with dark wood flooring and stainless appliances. Add colour in the things you put on your countertops. Good luck!

  • houssaon

    I think you're on the right track. Don't paint the cabinets and replace back splash with a simple white subway tile.

    Install the lighting Patricia Colwell Consulting recommended. Look at some new hardware and the colors cpartist suggested.

  • Cheryl Smith

    Paint only the floor molding not the cabinet. First decide on a backsplash and pick a color from it for the walls. If you go with a white backsplash you can pick any color for walls. What colors do you have in the rest of your house? What colors do you like? What colors do you wear? It's the all over look and feel not just the color

  • Brooke Riske
    Here are the current wall colors from around the home.
  • Sammie J

    I would spend the $$ you set aside to paint the cabinets, and instead buy a counter-depth refrigerator (if you are careful and watch sales, you might be able to replace all of your appliances with the $$ saved), get new cabinet hardware, and update lighting. I love the idea of white trim, and a pale/soft bluish/grey wall color. If you don't need the privacy, paint the window trim white and leave it bare. Everything in the room is "hard" - a textured rug will help to bring some softeness to the room.

  • cpartist

    Paint the walls a lighter shade of the blue wall color and pick up that off white color for the trim around the walls and door. I'd also pick up that off white for a backsplash color. I'll see if I can do a quick photoshop later.

  • arcy_gw

    Some of the pictures above do not look any lighter than yours. The painted cupboards do make the room APPEAR larger. Wood grain takes up visual space so the room may LOOK more closed in. I would still want the warm wood.

  • cat_ky

    I would leave the cabinets, they look really nice, and they are not darkening your space. When you look for paint, make sure you pick a color that doesnt have yellow tones to it, as that does not look good with your cabinets.

  • Amanda Smith

    I think your kitchen is adorable! What’s wrong with the current backsplash? It seems to match perfectly and doesn’t appear dated at all. I also like the color scheme as is. I think a stainless appliance package is what would give you a nice update.

  • Lisa

    Love the cabinets. The warm tones are very inviting. Also the floors are very nice. But, I'm not a fan of the backsplash.

  • rinq

    Let's just say you won't paint the cabinets.

    See what another countertop and tile can do (and handles, perhaps even appliances):










    Could you do without the upper cabinets besides the window? (as in hang the left one where the right one is now) That would open up your window a lot more! Maybe hang some cute shelves instead.



  • 2pups4me

    I think your plan to change the hardware, backsplash and counters is a good one. Going with a white bs and counter would really liven up the space. You can add the SS appliances down the road. Before anything else, get your lighting plan in place.

  • artemis_ma

    Yes, work on the lighting. Leave the cabinets alone. The appliances are fine for now, let them age out on their own rather than wasting them in a landfill. Your floor is fine!

    Cpartist has great color suggestions - she has the artist's background for making them, too.

    Once you do lighting, and begin to decide on paint color, approach the backsplash. I personally dislike white subway tiles (reminds me of old dormitory bathrooms and dirty subway stations) but I'm a decided minority on that. But something less flashy than what you've got.

    Definitely change the hardware to metal.

  • Nancy R
    You said you wanted a facelift. I think your kitchen looks very nice the way it is. You need more lighting. I would add recessed lights in the ceiling and under cabinet lighting. Over time, I would replace the appliances with stainless steel. Then you could replace the door pulls with a gray metal.
  • Amanda Smith

    The appliances look like basic builders’ grade. If it were my kitchen I would put my money into stainless...

  • cat_ky

    The backsplash could be toned down a bit, and I see everyone advises stainless appliances. I dont see anything wrong with the ones you already have, so that would be the last thing I would change, and even then, it wouldnt be stainless, since I really dislike the look of stainless appliances.

  • Current Resident

    Other things I would do besides paint cabs - as has already been said: update the hardware, improve the lighting - the new LEDs put out pleasantly clear and vibrant light (unlike the dingy yellow color of old incandescent and compact florescents) But avoid the ones that are too "blue" or stark.


    White often looks dingy in dim light because there is a certain amt of gray (ie dinginess) in the base itself. For that reason, a real COLOR can actually be a better choice.


  • fifamom

    Please don't paint the cabinets.. they are a lovely natural color and not really dark.. change out the knobs for brushed nickel as well as the light fixtures.. paint the door, door trim, window trim and ceiling trim white and see how it feels to you.. maybe replace that busy backsplash..

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