5 designer tips for making gray kitchen cabinets feel classic and current

Gray kitchen cabinets, while classic, can begin to look dated as trends change, here's how to ensure they always remain timeless

(Image credit: Living with Lolo & Life Created/Brad Ramsey Interiors & Paige Rumore Photography/Davonport)

Gray interiors certainly had their moment. A dominant trend for decades, however, all-gray schemes have fallen out of favor in recent years, so rooms with a gray palette can feel dated and in need of a refresh. In some spaces, a lick of paint is an easy solution to banish the gray, but in the kitchen, it might not be so easy.

Gray kitchen cabinets in particular aren't the easiest of fixes. The largest component that makes up your kitchen design, removing them from your space means a rather large kitchen renovation, which is a big investment. Whether you're searching for gray kitchen ideas to rejuvenate your existing space with small updates or you're open to a minor makeover, there are plenty of ways to make gray cabinets feel classic without starting over.

Before you begin a demolition, consider the small-scale ways you can make your gray kitchen cabinets feel more current. Gray is a color that still has a place in our homes, just not in the same way it did in trends passed. If you're not sure how to elevate your gray cabinets, try one of these timeless ideas shared by leading interior designers.

5 designer tips for timeless gray kitchen cabinets

Gray kitchen cabinets aren't the end of the world and with a few simple fixes and thoughtful ideas, you can bring this shade back to life. From hardware updates to variations in tone, these kitchen cabinet ideas are sure to create a more classic take on gray designs.

1. Swap out the hardware

modern kitchen with white walls and gray cabinets and wooden flooring

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

One of the easiest ways to elevate you kitchen cabinets is to swap out the hardware. With the right style and finish, your handles and drawers can transform your kitchen cabinets from drab to stylish instantly.

'We recommend changing the hardware,' says Victoria Holly, principal and founder of Victoria Holly Interiors, explaining that 'elevating the look and feel of the hardware will immediately make a kitchen look more custom.'

Make sure you choose a finish and style that leans into the kitchen style you want to create. Are you leaning towards something that feels traditional, or do you prefer a space that feels more contemporary? 'For a classic look with gray cabinets, using fun vintage hardware that you love or a more modern profile in a brass finish would be solid hardware choices,' adds Patricia Knight, founder and principal designer at Zinnia Design Studio.

'Length and placement are key considerations. For example, using one long pull centered on the drawer offers a more streamlined contemporary aesthetic. I love to use a thick single pull on big kitchen drawers that hold heavy pots and pans. Make sure to measure so that the attachment points line up if you are switching hardware! Insider tip: if they don't, you can always use a backplate which many vendors offer.  It will hide any holes that you don't want to see and add a layer of polish to your gray kitchen cabinets!'

Patricia Knight
Patricia Knight

Patricia Knight is the Founder and Principal Designer behind Zinnia Design Studio. Zinnia was founded on her firm belief that design can empower and support us to live our best lives. She is on a mission to elevate everyday family living and designs spaces that are luxurious and functional. Her clients have a deep appreciation for family, art, culture and travel, and she infuses their personalities into spaces in a refined yet approachable way.

2. Opt for shades of greige

Gray kitchen with large island and white pendant lights

(Image credit: Brad Ramsey Interiors/Paige Rumore Photography)

Gray can often feel like quite a cold color, especially in larger rooms like a kitchen. But in recent years, the variety of grey tones has really expanded, with warmer shades that lean more into a neutral color palette proving popular and, more importantly, truly timeless.

'We've moved away from cooler grays in favor of greige kitchen cabinets,' says Joshua Smith, principal and founder of Joshua Smith Interior Design. 'These greiges and taupes bring in more warmth, richness, and complexity to color schemes while staying fresh.' 

These greige hues work beautifully on kitchen cabinets, instantly making your kitchen feel refreshed and current. 'Use these tones in a satin finish for kitchen cabinetry to get the crispness of a white kitchen with an overall warmer, elevated, and updated aesthetic,' he recommends.

3. Swap out upper cabinets for open shelves

Gray kitchen wih upper cabinets replaced with wooden open shelving

(Image credit: Living with Lolo/Life Created)

If your kitchen cabinets are a dominating feature in your kitchen, the gray color can feel overwhelming, especially if it's a tone that's starting to look dated. If you can relate, you might want to consider some alterations to make your gray kitchen cabinets feel like less of an overriding design feature.

'Consider replacing some upper cabinet doors with open kitchen shelves,' recommends Victoria Holly. 'This can create a more open and airy feel and allow you to display useful items.' Not only does this reduce the number of gray cabinets in your kitchen, but it will also introduce a balance of materials and textures to break up the gray. 

4. Consider the materials you pair with gray cabinets

gray kitchen with marble countertop and backsplash with warm neutral walls

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

Instead of focusing entirely on the gray kitchen cabinets, consider how the other materials and finishes in the kitchen can alter the appearance of the overall kitchen scheme.

'Complementing gray kitchen cabinets with natural materials such as marble and wood also achieves a warmer, color-contrasting effect that helps highlight their traditional nature,' says Artem Kropovinsky, founder and principal designer at Arsight.

As well as larger areas of the kitchen, like the kitchen countertops, you can also create a more classic feel to gray kitchen cabinets with tiles and backsplash options. 'For a stylish and classic kitchen layout, sketch out an easy backsplash which compliments the gray like herringbone or subway tile,' he adds.

Artem Kropovinsky headshot
Artem Kropovinsky

Founder of NYC-based interior design firm, Arsight, Artem Kropovinsky has a decade of extensive global design experience, connecting a cohesive, collaborative team of passionate professionals, who work on interior projects in the U.S. and worldwide. 

5. Embrace the gray

Kitchen with dark gray cabinetry and light gray island

(Image credit: Davonport)

Sometimes, the best route of action is to really embrace the color palette you're working with – in this case, gray. 'Two-colored kitchens can work just as well with shades of the same color, and one that works particularly well is gray. The result is a high-contrast scheme that feels both classic and current,' says Richard Davonport, Managing Director at Davonport.

'Choosing a lighter shade for your kitchen island will allow your island to steal the show, and by pairing your kitchen with a dark worktop, it will add layers of depth and even some drama to your kitchen.'

Gray kitchen cabinets can feel classic and current with a few adjustments. Small changes like hardware swaps can be made quickly and easily, and although they are only a detail, it really can make all the difference. 

So, regardless of the scale of changes you're willing to make, it's actually really simple to give your gray kitchen cabinets a timeless feel, it all just comes down to the materials, textures and finishes you pair them with.

Kitchens & Bathrooms Editor

I joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as the kitchens & bathrooms editor. My undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which I studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, I worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to timeless kitchen schemes and the best places to source pre-loved homeware.