Two-tone kitchens – 8 ideas for cabinets and islands in two colors

Why choose one color, when you can have two? Our two-tone kitchens show how pairing shades and materials can double the design impact

Two-tone kitchen with grey and white cabinets
(Image credit: Second Nature)

Whether you're looking to do a full renovation or simply update your decor, two-tone kitchens are a simple yet effective way to breathe life into the space.

This design feature means you can incorporate a splash of bold color with a calmer one, as well as making it easier for you to choose between your favorite colors – simply include more than one on your kitchen ideas moodboard.

Two-tone kitchens – ideas, tips and design advice

If you are torn between two kitchen color ideas or looking to have a kitchen design with more depth and interest, a two-tone kitchen may be for you. 

You can try a second color on a focal point like the island cabinetry, bring in complementary tones from a similar palette or use contrasting colors for dramatic impact. There are more two-tone kitchen ideas here to inspire your design. Here, our experts give their insight on how to make a two-tone kitchen work best in your kitchen.

1. Balance bright colors for an uplifting effect

two tone kitchen with green and wood cabinetry and patterned splashback

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

Why choose between green kitchen ideas and wood kitchen cabinet ideas when you can have both?

Jess Piddock, founder of King Celia Studio, hand-made the tiles, and has since developed the brush mark pattern, called Pool Party, for textiles and prints.

'The rich green is a semi-transparent film that enables the grain of the plywood to shine through while providing a protective coating that’s easy to clean,' she adds. 'Bold tome tones benefit from a grounding shade. In this case, a warm terracotta adds depth and dimension to this otherwise small kitchen.'

2. Combine color with timber to create warmth

Two-tone kitchen with pink and timber cabinetry

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Use timber for one of your tones and enjoy a two-tone kitchen with natural beauty. 

'In this London kitchen we loved the warmth of the pink kitchen cabinets against the interesting terrazzo floor but wanted to add an element of muted masculinity and impact with wood wall cabinets,' explains Tiffany Duggan, founder and director of Studio Duggan and Trove

Tactile cement countertops and backsplashes bridge the top and base units, uniting the two shades with quiet style. 

3.  Choose a hand-painted design to future-proof your kitchen

Two-tone kitchen with grey cabinets and bright orange island

(Image credit: Middleton)

Painted kitchen ideas are your future. 'The beauty of a hand-painted kitchen is that in time, should tastes change, it’s simple to create a new look with painted kitchen ideas, especially if you restrict your bold choice to one unit, like an island or dresser,' says Jasper Middleton, design director, Middleton Bespoke

4. Use color-blocking for a more modern spin

Two tone kitchen with grey and white cabinetry and open shelving

(Image credit: Second Nature)

The two most popular ways to divide colors in two-tone kitchens is either a horizontal split – wall units versus base units – or a focal point split where just the island unit or dresser is a different shade. 

But there is a third way. Color blocking, as seen here, corrals contrasting colors into distinct areas for a modular, almost freestanding look. 'Color blocking can make a simple two-tone kitchen feel much more dynamic. A high-contrast split will make the strongest impact. Tie the colors together using small details like cabinet handles and taps,' says Ashleigh Hanwell, senior designer, Second Nature Kitchens.

It can also help darker rooms successfully embrace deeper shades – so blue kitchen ideas can combine with white kitchen ideas to create a room that's dramatic but still bright and airy. 

5. Choose a tide-line effect to add character

Two-tone kitchen with yellow cabinets and white walls

(Image credit: British Standard)

The use of two colors doesn’t need to be limited to cabinetry – it can apply to walls also. Over at British Standard by Plain English, Adrian Bergman, Senior Designer, says the 'tide-line' effect is chic, easy and increasingly popular. 

He explains: 'One of our favorite effects is the ‘tideline’ – adding one color at eye level in a continuous line around the room – it is guaranteed to add character to a kitchen, with the welcome reassurance that it does not need to be a permanent design statement.

'This could be two differing colors or the same color in different finishes, eggshell and gloss for example.'

6. Go for a muted two-tone kitchen in a smaller space

Two-tone kitchen with neutral cabinets

(Image credit: Neptune)

If you are looking for small kitchen ideas, it is better to opt for a lighter shade instead of dark hues due to the minimal expanse of space. 

Graeme Smith, Head of Retail & Commercial Design at Life Kitchens, explains: 'Lighter colors will draw in natural light, illuminating dark corners and in turn make the space seem quite larger than it might be. Go for warm earthy tones or pastels if you still want to incorporate color into a small kitchen. Taking a more subtle approach to color will bring interest into the space without making the kitchen feel enclosed.'

7. Choose contrasting colors for drama

Two-tone kitchen with pink upper units and green tiled walls

(Image credit: deVOL)

If you're feeling bold, you can unleash your creative flair and opt for statement contrasting yet complementary colors for a joyful, engaging and maximalist look. 

In this kitchen by deVOL, decorating with green and pink – two shades from opposite sides of the color wheel – were chosen for dramatic effect, proving that design fortune really does favour the brave. 

8. Look out for natural materials

two-tone kitchen

(Image credit: deVOL)

'When thinking of going for a two-tone kitchen, look at using more natural materials for the floor like timber – the visual and textural appeal here can help draw attention away from the combined color and add some balance to the overall design,' suggests Graeme. 

What is a two-tone kitchen? 

Graeme Smith, Head of Retail & Commercial Design at Life Kitchens, explains: 'A two-tone kitchen is when a design incorporates two shades. This "dual color" approach is a popular and great way to enliven a space and add visual interest without being too overpowering – as well as allowing you to highlight specific areas of interest or difference.'

How do you do a two-tone kitchen?

You can create two-tone kitchens in various ways. The most obvious way is having two different colors of the base and upper cabinets. These two colors can be complementary or contrasting depending on the effect you are after. 

But the two-tone effect can be achieved in other ways too. You can use a neutral color for your cabinetry and use a bold, vibrant shade on your island, making it a focal point. 

You can also use different shades of the same color for visual interest. You can also use blocks of color to create a freestanding effect which is a very on-trend take on two-tone kitchens. 

The two-tone look is not limited to paint but also materials and finishes. Whatever you choose, it will bring a dynamism into your kitchen design.

Contributing Editor

As the Deputy Editor of Livingetc's print version, Busola Evans works across both the physical magazine and digital and specializes in kitchens, bathrooms and projects. She is an expert at explaining how to improve, extend and convert your home. Prior to her current role, she was Associate Editor on both Livingetc and Homes & Gardens, where she authored kitchen and bathroom articles. Busola has also written for The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine and Grazia, and was an interiors columnist for the London Evening Standard's ES Magazine.