TIPS & IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR CREAM CABINETS LOOK MORE MODERN
When it comes to updating a kitchen or bathroom with cream cabinets, it’s not just about looking for the best paint color (you’ll find a link to them in this blog post); it’s about understanding WHY it’s the best.
So without further ado, let’s get this cream-inspired color party started!
CAN I PAINT MY WALLS WHITE OR OFF-WHITE WITH CREAM CABINETS OR TRIM?
Hard no. You can stop looking; you can stop agonizing – that magical color doesn’t exist (insert wine here). It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at a warm white or a true white; NO white will work, no exceptions (sorry).
- If you partner your cream cabinets (or trim) with a white, your cabinets will look MORE YELLOW in comparison. If this is okay with you, fill yer boots, but isn’t usually the desired look.
- If you partner your cream cabinets with an off-white paint color that’s the SAME COLOR as your cabinets, you risk some seriously clashing undertones – the two colors will be fighting for the same color slot.
Take a look at this next photo. You’ll see a range of warm off-white neutrals partnered with very creamy cabinets. Notice how much richer and more yellow the cabinets look compared to these warm off-whites…
Don’t worry; the above samples weren’t intended to be ‘coordinating wall colors’ – they were for a different project; I’m grateful as they came in handy for this blog post as a great example of what DOESN’T work!
Now let’s try to partner cream cabinets with a warm white or two…
While it never hurts to TRY, notice how much more yellow the cabinets look IN COMPARISON to a warm white – examples like these are important to see! It’s one thing to have cream walls and white trim; it’s a WHOLE ‘nother thing to turn that around. With this client, we were TRYING to humor a warm white, but it was a hard no.
And here’s Sherwin Williams Creamy, a warm off-white on Antique White again…
LOOK AT HOW GOLDEN YELLOW THOSE CABINETS LOOK IN COMPARISON! I mean, sometimes you don’t know until you TRY, but once you’ve tried and it doesn’t work, it’s time to move on (I tell this to Tim every Friday night).
Remember, just because you don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean it’s not true (said with love, wink wink).
1. If you’re among the lucky few who have cream cabinets that are on the HIGH of the off-white range (LRV of 80/81), you can get DARN CLOSE to soft white on your walls, as you’ll want to repeat your cabinet color on the walls. For example, Sherwin Williams Creamy is on the border of white/off-white. When a color like Creamy has this high LRV, it’s slightly more likely to act like a soft, warm white than an off-white, making it a GREAT choice for walls & cabinets (& trim).
2. If you have darker/heavier/more yellow cream cabinets or trim and are dead-set on having off-white walls…
I suggest painting your walls and cabinets the same color; there simply isn’t another choice in the off-white range.
That’s right, keep things simple and seamless; let the shift in sheens do the work for you. Even if this color is more yellow than you want, you can’t always get what you want when you have cream cabinets. If there were a BETTER CHOICE – I’d tell you, I promise. You can TRY lightening your cabinet color by 25% to get a slightly lighter look. It won’t make your cabinets look less yellow, and if it were me, I’d stick with the same color.
HOW DO I MAKE MY CREAM CABINETS OR TRIM LOOK LESS YELLOW?
When it comes to cream cabinets, it’s not about making them look less yellow – they ARE a yellow hue paint colour. And if this is your concern, it’s more about not making them look MORE yellow.
It’s hard to turn cream into something it’s not – and it’s not white. Of course, you have a WAY better chance of a muted look if your cream color has a high LRV (which we’ll learn about shortly). However, short of that, you HAVE cream-yellow trim.
1. DON’T USE AN OFF-WHITE THAT ISN’T AN EXACT MATCH TO YOUR CABINETS
An off-white or light-depth paint color that’s the same depth or lighter than your cream cabinets will make your cabinets or trim LOOK MORE YELLOW…
2. AVOID COOL COLOURS
Walls painted in a cool paint color (i.e., gray or blue-green) will make your cream cabinets or trim LOOK MORE YELLOW in comparison…
Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray – BEAUTIFUL combo, but that yellow sure lights up!
The same applies to greige and taupe. While these are warm paint colors, they’re ‘cooler than’ cream.
3. PAINT YOUR WALLS THE SAME CREAM COLOR AS YOUR CABINETS OR TRIM
This is a tricky one, as the flow to adjoining rooms with WHITE trim can be tricky, but sometimes you can’t hit EVERY need with one color. When it comes to paint colors and design in general, you have to do what suits the room itself first and then work out from there.
Sometimes soft and simple is best – Benjamin Moore Navajo White
In this next example, my clients have Sherwin Williams Antique White cabinets…with a glaze on them. The glaze makes it SUPER TRICKY to work with as it tweaks the original color and intensity.
Their original goal was to find a warm white, but it just wouldn’t work with these cabinets. By eliminating other potential options (i.e., beige), we landed on Antique White, 25% lighter, which is as CLOSE to white as we’ll get! Even though the match isn’t 100% and varies from one side of the wall to the other, they got the brighter look they were going for!
Sometimes when the ideal world doesn’t exist (the ‘ideal world’ usually being white cabinets), it’s about finding the NEXT best thing.
This next kitchen has VERY creamy-yellow cabinets, and the best solution is cream walls. This being said, while cream cabinets are often the best choice for particular granite countertops, if starting from scratch, we’d choose a cream with less yellow in it…
4. STICK WITH WARM, MUTED NEUTRALS
Neutrals in a light-medium to medium depth are your BEST shot at reducing the look of your cream cabinets. But remember, cream cabinets ARE cream cabinets, and short of painting them a more flexible white, they are what they are!
This last point isn’t one my E-Design clients usually want to hear, but it works.
CAN I PAINT MY WALLS GRAY OR GREIGE IF I HAVE CREAM CABINETS OR TRIM?
YES! But let’s be honest; it’s never that straightforward…
Warm colors rarely love being partnered with COOLER colors that are the SAME DEPTH OR LIGHTER than them.
I want you to inscribe that on the annals of your soul (I’ve been made aware there are two ‘n’s in annal, duly noted). And while things change as warm colors get DARKER, if you’re anywhere in the white to medium range, tread carefully.
Warm colors will only tolerate colors that are COOLER than them if they’re DARKER than them.
And I’m talking about a good 20+ LRV points or more (it can vary depending on HOW YELLOW your cream is). By the way, I don’t mean just COOL colors; I’m talking about colors that are simply ‘not as warm as‘ the color they’re being partnered with. If you look at WARMER options for your walls, you can sometimes bump down to 15 LRV points difference.
Once you memorize that magical tip, your paint-pickin’ life will be SO…MUCH…EASIER (you’ll learn about LRV shortly).
This dining room has Sherwin Williams Creamy on the trim. Because Creamy is ALMOST a white paint color, it looks wicked gorgeous with Chelsea Gray walls. It also helps that Chelsea Gray is significantly darker than Creamy, so they don’t come close to competing in depth…
As shown in this next space, the walls are too cool and too light for the creamy off-white warmth of the trim and cabinets…
Even if the LRV were lower, this cool-toned paint color doesn’t SUIT the surrounding finishes. The above is a great example of someone who wanted a certain color on their walls, regardless of whether it made sense.
Pick paint colors for the home you HAVE, not the home you WISH you had.
Let’s look at cream cabinets (similar to Sherwin Williams Antique White) with Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray and Popular Gray. These two colors are 15 and 11 LRV points (respectively) lower than Antique White.
These weren’t options I loved, but my client wanted to try them, and sometimes you just don’t know until you try!
Notice how Worldly Gray (left) sits a BIT better than Popular Gray (right). HOWEVER, neither are any screamin’ glory. While Worldly Gray is ‘better,’ it’s still very questionable and makes the cabinets look darn warm in comparison. I’m always happy to humor clients when they want to TRY something like this, as sometimes they need to see for themselves why it doesn’t work.
In this next photo, my client had cream trim (colour unknown). LUCKILY, it wasn’t a super dark OR super yellow cream, meaning we had a bit more flexibility. Even then, we had to darken Edgecomb Gray by 25% just to increase the LRV between the two colors and get some kind of play between them…
What’s LRV & why do I need it?
If you’ve been drinkin’ my wine-spiked Koolaid for a while, you’ll know how IMPORTANT LRV is in the paint-picking process. Here’s the gist…
Every paint colour has an LRV number on a scale from 0-100.
0 is pure black, and 100 is pure white.
The closer a paint color’s LRV is to 0, the closer to black it is.
The closer a paint color’s LRV is to 100, the closer to white it is.
As it relates to the different depths, here are the approx. Ranges for our purposes here today…
- WHITE PAINT COLORS: 82 – 94
- OFF-WHITE PAINT COLORS: 74 – 81 (average cream cabinet depth is 72-78 LRV)
- LIGHT DEPTH PAINT COLORS: 55 – 73
- LIGHT-MEDIUM DEPTH PAINT COLORS: 40-54
If you’re unfamiliar with LRV, PLEASE take a few minutes to check out this article; it will be SO worth it and show you WHERE TO FIND the LRV of paint colors.
In this next kitchen, in between the cream/yellow hues of the cabinets, pink undertone in the countertop, and white window trim, it’s a TRICKY one. However, it has some beautiful bones!
HOW DOES KNOWING MY PAINT COLOR’S LRV HELP ME CHOOSE?
To find paint colors that look good with your cream cabinets or trim, you’ll want to start with colors approximately 20 LRV points LOWER than your cream colour (I said 15 earlier, but that’s a stretch). This is why it’s SO IMPORTANT to nail down which cream you’re dealing with (or as close as possible).
The closer the two paint colors are in depth, the more they’ll compete. You need APPROX. 20+ LRV points between your cream cabinets/trim and your wall color.
WHAT COLOR WALLS GO WITH CREAM OR OFF-WHITE CABINETS (OR TRIM)?
I swear, when I read online info, it’s like some advisors pull colors out of their…well, out of thin air. One site says, ‘blue, taupe, white, gray.’ Seriously, thanks – I’ll pass on pretty much all of those.
In reality, this is a HUGE topic. SO BIG that I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to it, which you can check out below…
CHECK OUT MY EXPERT ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING PACKAGES!