Neutral kitchen ideas – 10 timeless, classic designs you will love forever
Choose neutral kitchens for its enduring style, versatility, and the color’s space-enhancing effect
If you're after the latest neutral kitchen ideas, then our curated selection of the best designs are here to inspire. For many years we were in love with all shades of beige, cream and magnolia – the color choices of property developers despite being the butt of many ‘discerning’ interior designer’s jokes.
However, now the tide has turned, and those once reviled neutrals have been brought up-to-date with a sophisticated gray, taupe and coffee palette. These are the new neutral kitchen color ideas and painted kitchen ideas that will happily blend with bold contemporary shades or complement stronger, deeper heritage tones.
Team neutral kitchen ideas with the latest wood finishes, and look at contrasting kitchen cabinet colors and textured materials. We show you how to create the perfect neutral living kitchen room scheme.
Neutral kitchen ideas
There is a whole range of neutral colors to choose from – from elegant, just-off-whites, such as ivory, chalk and alabaster, to gray-beiges, such as taupe and stone, and more earthy shades, like linen. For anyone who has dismissed neutral color schemes as a top option for their list of kitchen ideas, let us change your mind.
1. Paint with a subtle shade of green
From knocked-back olive to smoky sage, for many kitchen designers green is the new neutral. Rachel Halvorson Designs is behind this wonderfully textured scheme, featuring Farrow & Ball’s Treron shade on the cabinets, handles from Rocky Mountain Hardware and an original brick floor.
‘I wanted the cabinetry to be earthy yet elegant,’ says Rachel. ‘Softer greens are my favorite neutral paint color – I think green goes with everything. This green kitchen idea was all about playing off the old brick flooring and finding that balance between elegant and rustic.’
2. Set the scene in a neutral kitchen
A plain white backdrop will bring interesting materials into sharp relief. The striking grain of natural elm wood on this island really stands proud against the crisp white units behind. ‘White alone can look a touch stark. Pairing wood with white cabinetry brings warmth to this scheme, alongside texture and depth,’ explains Pluck’s co-founder Leila Touwen.
‘The warm timber also accentuates the subtle undertones that exist in all whites.’ It’s worth understanding how undertones work before committing to a white kitchen idea. Cool whites have hints of blue undertone, while warm whites have more yellow. Use this intel to help coordinate other materials and colors on your mood board.
3. Invest in honest materials
Reclaimed materials and raw finishes lend natural and earthy charm in this calming neutral kitchen space. Created by California-based designer Brad Krefman of BK Interior Design, a warm, neutral backdrop – Dulux’s Brave Ground is similar – tones serenely with unstained oak cabinet kitchen ideas.
Copper mesh brings a modern farmhouse kitchen vibe to wall cabinets, while the perimeter worktops in creamy precast concrete are a practical choice. A rugged slab of reclaimed oak links the bespoke cooker hood with the salvaged ceiling beams above, helping to achieve a smooth transition from new oak to ancient timber. On the island, delicately veined Taj Mahal quartzite adds subtle pattern to the mix
4. Shake up the shine
A neutral kitchen is effortlessly timeless and its beauty is that it can be modern or classic, whichever you desire.
Mix up paint sheen levels to create layers of interest without diluting the purity of a predominantly white palette. For this neutral kitchen idea, glazed zellige-style tiles on the kitchen backsplash catch and refract the light, providing a dynamic contrast against low-sheen painted cabinetry.
‘A glossy tiled backsplash also has the additional practicality of being easy to keep clean and looks fresh and hygienic,’ adds Stephanie Nix, kitchen designer at Neptune Wimbledon. ‘For work surfaces, you could opt for a cool polished marble for a sophisticated, contemporary feel.’ Additional shininess can be introduced via chrome or nickel taps, glass light pendants and polished steel appliances.
5. Take a tone on tone approach to decorating
The sage of Neptune’s Henley cabinetry continued onto the walls has a restful, serene effect. ‘The strong architectural elements, such as the beams, provided instant charm and interest so we decided not to compete with them, creating a simple, pared-back monochromatic scheme,’ says Simon Temprell, interior design manager at Neptune. ‘A light-oak countertop with black-bronze hardware enhances the vintage feel and the result is one of calm, understated elegance.’
6. Let the light dictate your color palette
Using similar neutral tones for the kitchen countertops and cabinetry provides a modern, modular look that’s particularly effective with a handleless design like Roundhouse’s Urbo range.
‘Most homeowners appreciate the benefits of testing paint colors in location but, with whites and other neutrals, it is crucial as they can be altered beyond recognition by light and shadow,’ says Ben Hawkswell, senior designer at Roundhouse. ‘Here on the cabinets we used Hardwick White by Farrow & Ball, which is a clean off-white that can look like a traditional grey in some lights. But it has chalky undertones that, in a sun-filled room like this, appear much brighter and more contemporary.’
7. Introduce subtle hints of color
The beauty of a neutral kitchen is that it works with pretty much all colors – the sign of a great neutral. If you love cream kitchen ideas but feel they will be too stark in your kitchen then consider teaming white with pastel accents, which will create a subtly layered look.
Top-to-toe neutrals make a great blank canvas. ‘Add small elements to entice the eye, and use a variety of materials,’ says Richard Moore of Martin Moore.
8. Nod to the past
Wood kitchen cabinet ideas and stoneware, two of the oldest and most sustainable materials, are used in harmony in this neutral kitchen.
Here warm, natural materials, antique pieces and a balance of neutral tones have been brought together to create a timeless look. Reclaimed materials have a great sense of history – for instance, display shelves made from reclaimed wood might have grooves, stamp markings or nail marks, which will add character to your kitchen.
9. Chase the light
'The impact of sunlight levels on paint colors is well documented and I’m often asked which shades work best in north-facing kitchens with colder light levels,' says Anna Haines, director, Anna Haines Design.
'One approach is to seek out neutrals with yellow undertones that will knock back cooler northern light. I also love the warmth of pink, but nothing too sugary. Dirty pinks resonate well in moodier light – try Plain English’s Mash, which is a warm, creamy hue with a hint of pink that is just the right side of muddy. Mix in copper and aged brass accents for extra warmth.
Another favorite approach is to work with the poor light and go for cosseting dark shades. In my own neutral kitchen, the cabinets and window frames are in Farrow & Ball’s Railings, a deep inky blue. Paired with pure white on the walls, it feels enveloping and cozy.’
10. Put the focus on the details
Neutral kitchen ideas need not be dull. The impact comes from layering in this design, with gorgeous brass hardware combined with superb detailing on the cabinetry. ‘We had the pleasure of designing every last detail of this kitchen with our client who was very open to the idea of adding textural touches – reeded paneling on the top doors and fluted detailing at the back of the kitchen cabinet ideas – combined with the quest for the perfect green,’ says interior designer Irene Gunter, founder, Gunter & Co. Interiors. ‘It took three attempts by the painters to get the shade just so.'
How do you style a neutral kitchen?
Neutral kitchens are ripe for styling. First think about which colors go best with neutrals. Unsurprisingly, natural, earthy colors go best with most neutral kitchen ideas. At the most neutral end of the spectrum, that includes white, gray, browns and blacks – and you can include everything from marble to wood to slate within that color spectrum.
In terms of styling, take inspiration from the outdoors by introducing flora and fauna in delicate tones. Dried flowers are a lovely way to bring the beauty of nature into your kitchen all year round. Dried flowers are everlasting and will bring joy to interiors month after month without having to be continually refreshed, making them a sustainable way of decorating with flowers.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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