The kitchen is the heart of your home — a cozy place to prepare delicious meals and gather family and friends. And the cabinets are the heart of your kitchen. As the most visible feature, choose custom kitchen cabinet doors carefully to create the warmth, feel, and overall impact you want to achieve.

When helping people plan kitchen renovations in Ottawa, I’m often asked, “Should I go for dark or light kitchen cabinets?” There’s no single right answer — it depends on your tastes and kitchen design style. To help you decide, I’ll walk you through the factors I discuss with my clients.

Pros and Cons of Light Cabinets

Light kitchen cabinetry tends to have a more casual feel and a simpler cabinet door style. Light or white cabinets are excellent for brightening and visually expanding a dark, cramped kitchen.

Typical light cabinet colours: White, off-white, beige, pale grey, light natural wood tones.

Light Cabinets Are Timeless

Colour trends come and go, but light cabinets are always a favourite. Opt for perennially popular light shades when you’re planning to upgrade your kitchen and sell your home within a few years. They give your kitchen a trend-proof look and tend to boost resale value.

They’re Versatile

Light-hued cabinets are flexible and versatile. They adapt to a wide range of kitchen design styles and play nicely with any colour, subdued or bold. If you are looking for something to pair with bright red kitchen countertops, choose light cabinets.

Light Reflects Light

Your light-coloured cabinet doors will reflect the lighting you install in your new kitchen, as well as any natural light. The happy effect? Your kitchen will appear larger, airier, and more open, making light colours the right choice to visually enlarge a small space.

Cleanliness Counts

A major disadvantage to consider is that light cabinetry highlights grime, stains, and fingerprints. You’ll have to invest a lot more time in cleanup. Your light cabinets will also show discolouration or wear and tear more readily.

Pros and Cons of Dark Cabinets

When done well, dark kitchens and kitchen cabinets can be gorgeous — distinct, individual, and ultra welcoming. However, they do require more design skill.

Typical dark cabinet colours: Brown, black, navy blue, rich grey, deep wood tones.

Create a Rich Atmosphere

Dark cabinets are formal and elegant, imbuing your kitchen with a sophisticated sense of luxury. They combine well with more ornate cabinet door styles.

More Colour Options Available

You can find dark kitchen cabinets in a surprisingly wide range of colours, including offbeat (but beautiful) tones like emerald green or orange. Alternatively, use a dark cabinet finish to enhance the grain of natural wood.

They Hide Wear and Tear

Dark cabinet shades are more forgiving than light. If you splash a little as you cook or the kids leave a dent or two, they’ll obligingly conceal the evidence.

Dark Cabinets Can Feel Heavy

In a smaller space, dark cabinetry can create a heavy, even oppressive atmosphere, especially if the lighting is dim. On the other hand, dark colours often do a wonderful job warming up an extra-large kitchen, which would feel sterile with wall-to-wall white.

They’re Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

As a fan of dark cabinets, you could be surprised to learn that not everyone appreciates them as you do. And dark colours are tough to cover up. If you’re thinking of selling in the foreseeable future, be reminded that dark cabinetry doesn’t universally appeal to everyone.

Contrast Dark and Light Elements to Achieve Balance

When you really can’t decide between light or dark kitchen cabinets, consider including both shades in your renovation plan. Or, create a harmonious sense of balance by installing light cabinets with a dark floor, for example.

Still Having Trouble Deciding?

Have other questions? Not sure which is best – prefab or custom cabinets?

For expert help choosing the best colours and design for your kitchen, consult an experienced kitchen designer. We’ll help you decide and avoid common kitchen design mistakes. Any one of the designers at Laurysen Kitchens can help you create the style, taste, and feel you’ll love for years to come.