A divisive color, gray has emerged rather unscathed from its dominating popularity in the 2010s (well, apart from the TikTok-coined phrase 'Millennial Gray' but we won't mention that). Still beloved by interior designers and color experts in 2024, in the kitchen, gray offers a sleek, sophisticated, and endlessly versatile canvas to pair with a range of accent colors.
Its neutral and timeless appeal allows even your boldest kitchen ideas to come to fruition. From barely-there light grays to the moodiest of charcoals, gray kitchen cabinets can be styled with a myriad of tones ranging from the subdued to the bold.
Whether you're looking to upgrade your kitchen cabinets to a new gray hue or are searching for a complementary wall or accent color to take your existing gray scheme a step further, we've consulted the experts to uncover the 5 best tried-and-tested colors that go with gray kitchen cabinets.
Are Gray Kitchens Still In Style?
Ca’ Pietra's Grazzia Wilson says: 'Gray has been such a popular color in interiors as it is a versatile color that can act as a neutral backdrop and can make a bold statement. Which camp it falls into is dependent on the colors it is paired with,' she adds.
'Gray has perhaps been overused without imagination in recent years, but it remains one of our staple colors when used confidently and relevantly to the overall space,' agrees Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English Design.
Color trends may evolve, but gray's timelessness and adaptability to suit various design styles, from sleek modern aesthetics to classic traditional settings, ensures its continued relevance. It's a neutral canvas, making it a smart and stylish choice for those seeking a kitchen that withstands the test of time and trends.
What Colors Work Best With Gray Kitchens?
So, what colors complement gray kitchen cabinets? The neutrality of gray provides a foundation for personalization, giving you plenty of opportunities to experiment with color in your kitchen – from the choice of flooring, work surfaces, walls, and backsplashes to the accessories on display.
While gray has a reputation for being cold and clinical, as Luis Carmona, owner and interior designer at Verde, suggests 'when using gray, or more specifically too much gray, it is important to use complementary colors that help balance the space.'
By choosing a complementary scheme (colors that sit closely to each other on the color wheel), you can create a calming effect that turns up the heat on this cool tone. Alternatively, contrasting colors like pinks and reds can add energy to a gray room, letting you put your personal touch on the kitchen.
Charlotte Cosby, creative director at Farrow & Ball, finds that 'gray can be surprisingly versatile and will happily layer with many colors such as inky blues, like Inchyra Blue, smoky greens like Green Smoke, and rose pinks like Sulking Room Pink. However, if you want to keep the palette more monochromatic, you can still add depth by layering different shades of gray to create a hushed and calming feel.'
'When introducing color accents to grays in a kitchen space, think about the undertones of the pairing first and then the contrast you wish to achieve. For example, Ammonite, a soft stony grey, will team beautifully with blues and greens as both have the gentle undertones of nature. For a darker gray like Down Pipe, a deep and dramatic neutral, combine with pops of pinks to reduce its intensity.;'
If you're looking for some inspiration, discover the best color schemes loved by the experts below.
5 Colors To Pair With Gray Kitchen Cabinets
When it comes to choosing a vibrant color to pair with gray, nothing is as cheerful as decorating with yellow. Injecting a burst of warmth into the kitchen, whether it's a soft buttery hue or bold mustard shade, the contrast with gray will create a lively focal point in the heart of your home.
Annie Sloan, inventor of the revolutionary furniture chalk paint brand by the same name, advises adding 'a vibrant contrast by incorporating accents of bright colors such as English Yellow from Annie Sloan for an energized space.'
'Remember, it's your space, and there are no strict rules concerning art or color choices. Trust your instincts and go with what makes you feel good when you walk into a room. Happy painting!' adds Annie.
2. Deep blues or greens
For a kitchen that makes a statement, consider introducing bold and vibrant accent hues to complement your gray cabinets. Deep blues, rich greens, or even a pop of unexpected red can provide a striking contrast against gray to reenergize the space.
It's about finding the right balance to create a captivating visual impact without overshadowing the gray tones.
'I love moody schemes and so would saturate the wall with dark colors, such as deep blueish green hues,' says Grazzie Wilson, head of creative at Proper Good Paint and Ca’ Pietra. 'It would make it a timeless finish, as well as stopping the gray feeling too cold and clinical – which it can do in the wrong hands. Together, it would create the perfect backdrop to accessorize your kitchen with warm woods, white crockery, and brushed nickel accents,' she adds.
Helen Shaw, director of marketing at Benjamin Moore, looks towards a similar palette. 'The beauty of the neutral, minimal characteristics of gray is that it can work well with most other colors,' she explains. 'Rich, jewel-inspired tones such as Regent Green from Benjamin Moore and Hale Navy from Benjamin Moore can be married with a mid-gray to enhance its glamorous characteristics and create a sophisticated, classic scheme.'
'This combination of versatile gray with more saturated tones is great for a kitchen as it creates a dramatic, statement setting as well as something that is inviting and atmospheric for kitchen dining,' adds Helen.
Helen Shaw is a color expert and Director of Marketing (International) at Benjamin Moore. Helen and her husband Craig were also founders of Shaw Paints, acquired by Benjamin Moore in 2020.
Embracing a monochromatic color scheme, pairing gray kitchen cabinets with either the exact same wall shade or varying tones of gray creates an illusion of space. Particularly great for a small kitchen as all the elements blend together for a seamless look with no harsh contrasts or transitions.
Merlin Wright of Plain English Design, who designed the gray-on-gray kitchen above, calls this trick a 'color wash'. 'Deep moody grays with warmer undertones can be used for walls and cupboards using a combination of matt and gloss finishes, with added texture from flooring and worktops allowing for accents of color to be added with furniture, objects, and lighting,' he explains.
'We call the application of the same color on walls and cabinets in a kitchen a ‘color wash’, and we find as light moves during the course of the day, wonderful depth is created with shadows,' says Merlin. 'Adding a central island in a contrasting color creates a focal piece,' he advises.
'Gray-on-gray is the perfect introduction to adding an accent - layering grays together will add an element of dimension as it stops the scheme from looking flat in the room,' adds Helen Moore. 'It’s surprising how effective the combination of darker grays paired with lighter grays can be in carrying our eye around a room – an analogous color scheme doesn't have to be boring,' she adds.
Plain English was started in 1992 by Katie Fontana and Tony Niblock, and Merlin Wright joined their team almost 20 years ago after someone at a party suggested he might be interested in a job at Plain English. He is currently presiding as the Design Director.
Pink kitchen ideas prove time and time again to be a chic companion to gray. It brings a sense of romance and modernity to the kitchen, creating a balance between warmth and coolness.
'Approach your kitchen with the mindset that fortune favors the brave, and choose a pink pairing,' advises Grazzie Wilson. 'Pink and gray are a classic combination and work so well together as they balance each other out. Pink can warm up a gray without clashing against the cooler undertones of the gray. You can choose to use pink through paint or by choosing pink kitchen tiles and using them as a splashback. To add some visual interest and texture to your kitchen design, consider using patterned tiles in combination with light gray kitchen units,' she adds.
Nigel Hunt, head of design studio Huntreay and creator of the cozy kitchen seen above, says: 'A drab pink is a brilliant neutral to base a room scheme; warm, playful, and so much more interesting beige. Stay on the brown end of the scale to avoid the saccharine and sugary, and it will elevate a room instantly,' advises Nigel. 'And for an added bit of drama, team it with a red-tinged charcoal. The stage is set!'
Grazzie Wilson is head of creative at Ca'Pietra, a luxury stone and tile brand based in the UK.
5. Warm neutrals
A failsafe kitchen color combination is neutral tones such as whites, creams, and beiges with gray. Adding soft contrast for depth without overwhelming the space, warm neutrals are an ideal choice for those seeking a traditional kitchen design.
'Gray just might be my favorite neutral because it blends beautifully with cool tones and contrasts beautifully with warm ones,' says designer Kathy Kuo. 'In a kitchen space, I love the idea of contrasting dark gray cabinets with a really luxe warm white or sand color. The mix of light earth tones with the gray creates a striking contrast and the perfect framework for making any pops of color in the wall art, rugs, or dishware stand out in a really special way,' she observes.
'A classic combination is gray and white kitchens,' explains Richard Davonport of Davonport Kitchens. 'An excellent choice if you favor decorating with neutrals, this color pairing uses shade and light to create interest rather than bold contrast. Two-tone kitchen cabinets in different gray shades help to create further interest,' he adds.
'Pairing with softer hues such as Pristine from Benjamin Moore can be used to soften the gray, creating an airy, minimalist feel,' adds Helen Moore.
Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry.
Learn all about how to decorate with color in your home with this Farrow & Ball book, filled with inspirational images of different styles of homes.
As trends evolve, one thing remains constant – neutral kitchens will always endure, offering a timeless scheme that adapts to various design preferences. There are so many wonderful color combinations when it comes to gray kitchens, with palettes ranging from muted to bright and beautiful. Whether you're ready to take on darker hues, accents of cheery yellow, or embrace gray-on-gray, each color scheme brings its unique character to the neutral facade of a gray kitchen.
Sign up to the Homes & Gardens newsletter
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
Charlotte is content editor at Homes and Gardens, having joined the team the week before Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she found herself working at many women's glossy magazines including: Grazia, Stylist and Hello and most recently working as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with Charlotte's passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome
10 smart ways to source building materials for less
Use these clever ideas from home renovation experts to save money and keep your remodeling budget on track
By Alison Jones Published
CB2’s new selection of floor lamps are timeless – and they’re all under $1,500
I’ve been searching for a modern floor lamp, and I found that CB2 nails this style effortlessly. Here are the best floor lamps from CB2’s new collectio
By Nikhita Mahtani Published