Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Choose the Best Paint Colors to Open Up Your Small Kitchen

Gabriela Connell
4 minute read

If you have a small kitchen, you know that every square inch counts when it comes to making the space feel open and airy. The right paint colors can work wonders at opening up a small kitchen visually, creating the illusion of a larger, brighter room.

Paint has a huge impact on the ambiance of a kitchen. Cool tones tend to recede, making walls appear farther away, while warm tones advance and draw the eyes in. Darker colors can overwhelm a tiny kitchen, whereas light colors reflect more light to enlarge the feel of the room. You also want to consider how paint colors complement your cabinetry, countertops and other architectural elements.

Most Recommended Paint Colors for Small Kitchens

Certain tried-and-true paint colors are tailor-made for small kitchen spaces. Here are some of the best choices for opening up a kitchen and making it appear more spacious.

best cabinet colors for small kitchens

Timeless White

It’s no surprise white remains one of the most popular colors for kitchen cabinets. Crisp white reflects light extremely well, brightening up small spaces. White kitchens have a clean, fresh look that matches any style of decor from modern to traditional farmhouse.

The downside of white cabinets is that they show dirt, dust and grime more readily and can feel sterile if not balanced out with warmth from wood accents or fixtures. But overall, white cabinetry makes a small kitchen appear larger and more inviting.

Inviting Gray

For a similar brightening effect with slightly more visual interest, gray is a sophisticated neutral shade for small kitchen cabinets. The range of tones from light silvery grays to charcoal gray allows you to tailor the look from contemporary to traditional.

Cool-toned grays feel especially airy and spacious. Be sure to pick a gray with enough contrast from your wall color so that cabinets stand out. Gray kitchens feel comfortably modern yet still cozy thanks to the inherent softness of the neutral color.

Airy Blues

Soft powder blues can make a small kitchen feel expansive, mimicking the openness of a blue sky. Navy blue kitchen cabinets make a dramatic style statement. Blue has a universally relaxing effect that translates well to kitchens.

Lighter shades of blue complement stainless steel appliances better than darker navy. Stay away from primary colors like royal blue, instead opting for muted sky blue. Make sure to sample blues at different times of day since they take on different casts in morning, noon or evening light.

Nature-Inspired Greens

Earthy greens are another natural choice for small kitchens aiming for a sense of expanded space. The color green inherently relaxes and renews. Dark jewel-tone greens have a traditional luxurious feel, while pale sage greens read as more contemporary and bright.

If going for green kitchen cabinets, stick to muted earthy forest greens. Avoid neon or lime greens, which can feel too bold and overwhelming. Green can work especially well against a backdrop of cream-colored walls to keep things feeling light and neutral.

Accent Colors to Consider

Rather than paint an entire small kitchen a bold accent color, use it selectively for a splash of cheer. Here are some ways to effectively incorporate an accent hue.

Yellow as an Accent

While potentially overwhelming on all four walls, sunshine yellow makes a happy accent when used sparingly. Try it on the back of open shelving or cabinets to perk things up. Yellow evokes optimism and infuses warmth into a small space.

Unexpected Pops of Color

Paint the inside backs of glass-front upper cabinets an unexpected color like emerald green or burnt orange. Alternatively, use a vibrant hue on one wall or the kitchen island for drama. Just be sure to anchor it with mostly neutral cabinetry.

Essential Paint Finish Considerations

Choosing the right paint finish is key to making your small kitchen colors look flawless.

Sheen Matters, Especially for Cabinets

Flat paint hides imperfections like dents and bumps but lacks durability. High-gloss shows every smudge and defect. Satin or eggshell finishes offer the happy medium – a subtle sheen that still masks flaws.

Darker Cabinets Call for Lighter Walls

If your small kitchen has dark stained cabinets or painted cabinets in a deep tone like navy, be sure to balance it with soft creamy white or light gray walls. This prevents a closed-in feeling and keeps things bright.

Sample Paint Swatches

Never choose a paint color based on tiny swatches alone. Get samples and paint posterboard panels to hang in your kitchen and view at different times of day before committing.

Final Steps for a Flawless Paint Job

Achieving the perfect painted kitchen requires diligent prep and care. Here are some final tips.

Proper Prep Work

Thoroughly clean walls and cabinets, sand glossy surfaces, fill holes and prime before painting for best adhesion. Degrease cabinets to avoid bleed-through.

While painting walls is reasonably DIY-friendly, professionals are best for achieving an immaculate finish on kitchen cabinets. Their experience also helps identify and fix any underlying issues.

With smart color choices and proper techniques, you can enjoy a kitchen that looks freshly spacious, cheerful and inviting. Experiment with mixing up accessories and décor while protecting your new paint for the long haul.