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Color Combinations

A kitchen with warm maple cabinets, gray counters and gray tile flooring.

Contemporary: Maple cabinets from KraftMaid with a Praline finish pair well with stainless steel appliances, gray countertops and gray flooring. Photo courtesy of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

Among the most commonly asked kitchen design questions are which colors and materials work best together. That's what we'll be looking at this time around in Sensible Style, using three of the most popular cabinet finishes as a starting point.


Maple Mastery

Maple is a wood species, not a color, but it's most often associated with golden- or light- to mid-brown-toned stains. These give you a ton of versatility in flooring, appliance and countertop combinations. Here are a few options to get you started.

Classic combinations: Dark gold and rich tan cabinets work well with black or stainless steel appliances and dark countertops, such as black and dark green natural or engineered stone. Select a wood or tile floor in the same gold or tan/brown family as the cabinets — but about two shades lighter or darker — to coordinate. As maple tends to have little visible grain pattern, maple can work well with vivid woods like oak or cherry.

Contemporary combinations: Dark gold and rich tan cabinets also can work well with gray counters — especially concrete or a matte-finish quartz — for a more updated look. I suggest pairing them with stainless appliances and a slate or slate-look floor. You could also opt for a bamboo in a coordinating gold or tan about a shade or two lighter than the cabinets.


A kitchen with warm maple cabinets, gray counters and gray tile flooring.


Cherries Jubliee

Cherry is one of the most popular wood species available, and ranges in color from a natural, strawberry-blond finish to a ruby red to darker cinnamon and chocolate finishes. I have found the last two to be the most requested among my clientele, and the ones I've seen the most often in kitchen publications.

Classic combinations: For an elegant look, cinnamon- and chocolate-finished cherry woods work beautifully with natural stone tops in pale golds and creams. I would pair these with paneled or stainless appliances with minimal black accents for the richest look. A light tiled floor that picks up on the gold or cream tones in the counters will work the best. Because cherry tends to have stronger graining patterns, I generally don't love wood floors with it: the grain pattern in the cabinets and the graining of the floor can get too busy together.

Contemporary combinations: Cinnamon- and chocolate-colored cabinets paired with monochromatic white countertops give a very strong, updated look. Again, I'd opt for stainless appliances with minimal black accents, or paneled appliances, for the best match. A nearly white terrazo, tile, or stained concrete floor would complement the contemporary look.


A kitchen with dark cherry cabinetry and light stone counters and floors.

Photo courtesy of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

Contemporary: A Cognac finish on cherry cabinetry coordinates stylishly with stainless appliances and fixtures, white countertops, and off-white flooring.




White Album

White cabinets run the gamut from entry-level builder laminates to high-gloss European lacquers. The most common whites you'll find are painted maple — my personal favorite — and thermofoil synthetics, which often have a bit of a plastic look to them. I would suggest the painted wood cabinets even if you're budget-sensitive, as painted finishes have become more widely available in affordable stock cabinet lines and will give your kitchen a more timeless look.

 Classic Combinations: White cabinets pair beautifully with white, paneled or stainless appliances. (You can use black with them, but then the appliances become more of a focal point than they deserve to be.) I adore white cabinets with black or dark green stone tops and mid-toned or dark-stained hardwood floors. Another stunning, albeit less neutral, pairing is blue pearl granite with creamy, ivory-colored cabinets. White marble or granite tops with white cabinets and lighter wood or stone floors is another great traditional combination.


A large classic kitchen with white cabinets and hardwood flooring.

Photo courtesy of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

Classic: A Dove White finish on maple cabinets pairs elegantly with stainless appliances, white stone countertops and hardwood flooring.




Contemporary Combinations: High-gloss lacquer finishes in white give a sharp, contemporary look to a kitchen. They work best with paneled and stainless steel appliances, although sleek white appliances also can work. When going modern with a white kitchen, you can go bold with an orange quartz countertop or multi-colored recycled glass countertop, or go sleek with a pale gray or white material, for more of an "un-kitchen" look. You could also add stainless and glass cabinet doors and other stainless details, like legs or toekicks, for a modern look. (The trendier you go, however, the quicker your kitchen will date itself.)


Visit my blog for more classic and contemporary color combinations in the kitchen, including black and colorful cabinets.


Kitchen and bath designer Jamie Goldberg

© 2009, Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS. Excerpted from Gold Notes: Nuggets from the World of Residential Design. Jamie is an NKBA-certified designer of kitchens and baths in San Diego, CA, and offers Sensible Style for Home Seller consultations around the country. She can be reached at (619) 796-2217 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.








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