How to Pick Colors for Two-Tone Kitchen Cabinets That Don't Clash

Step out of the single-color zone and pick the perfect color combination for a two-tone kitchen with this guide to the top kitchen design trend of 2022.

All-white kitchens had their time in the spotlight, but we're ready to leave this look in the 2010s and welcome color back into the kitchen. One of our favorite 2022 kitchen trends, two-tone kitchen cabinets, is all about ditching uniformity and embracing contrast. This happy medium between all-white and color-covered kitchens has been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years. As a result, we're now seeing tons of dual-color kitchens flooding our Instagram feeds.

The best part about this timeless kitchen trend is two-tone cabinets let you play with color without going all in. Splash a daring hue on the island or one wall of cabinets. Layer neutrals on top and color on the bottom. Or choose two complementary neutrals and bring in color with appliances or accessories.

Here are a few ideas to integrate two-tone kitchen cabinets into your cooking space.

kitchen with green and white cabinets and stenciled floor tiles
Annie Schlechter

1. Strive for balance.

Choosing a two-tone cabinet combo means paying special attention to the color balance in your space. A few design tricks can help you do that. For starters, instead of picking two completely different colors (yellow and blue), vary the tonality in a single color, such as pairing sunny yellow with pale buttercream. Paint lower cabinets in the darker hue and uppers the lighter one. If you have distinct colors in mind, think about their brightness and lightness. Very bold colors (like vibrant orange) demand more visual energy and should be balanced with a more neutral hue.

Suggested paint colors: White Dove OC-17 + Etched Glass 626, Benjamin Moore

deep blue cabinets in white modern kitchen
Jeff Herr Photography Inc

2. Use the second tone as an accent.

If you're on the fence about two-tone kitchen cabinets, strive for highlights versus true color balance. For example, pick a small spot, such as a short stretch of cabinetry or a built-in desk, and use it to try out your color variation. Another way is to paint only the crown molding in a slightly darker tone to add a definitive border to a kitchen with high ceilings.

Suggested paint colors: Rock Candy SW 6231 + Dark Night SW 6237, Sherwin-Williams

Kitchen with patterned tile and island
Brie Williams Photography, Inc.

3. Try a contrasting material.

If choosing a second color seems intimidating, think of it in different terms: Pick a secondary material that complements the undertones in your primary color. Blonde wood and white-painted cabinets make a natural pair that offers contrast without overloading on color. Or consider warming up the cool blue of navy kitchen cabinets with a darker stained wood.

Suggested paint colors: Natural oak wood + Pitch Black No. 256, Farrow & Ball

modern kitchen with dark cabinets below and white cabinets above, black and gold oven range
Dane Tashima

4. Use white for a harmonious look.

Choosing a trio of colors is a common design trick that helps ensure visual balance; it's often referred to as the 60-30-10 rule. For color selection, it translates to 60% of a dominant color, 30% of a secondary color, and 10% of the accent color. A popular choice is white for the second color in a two-tone kitchen cabinet composition. Try painting a few uppers white to allow resting places for the eye or to balance a very strong tone with a lighter hue.

Suggested paint colors: Polar Bear 75 + Very Navy M500-7, Behr

white and green kitchen with vintage range
David Tsay

5. Reference the color wheel.

Choosing colors is a tricky job; that's why there are books, magazines, websites, and professionals devoted to it. If you're committed to two-tone kitchen cabinets but unsure where to start, use a simple tool: the color wheel. In general, adjacent or analogous colors on the color wheel work well together, as do complementary colors— those across from one another. A pair of neutrals with similar undertones (like warm white and taupe gray) also form a no-fail combo.

Suggested paint colors: Decorator's White CC-20 + Rockport Gray HC-105, Benjamin Moore

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