Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Choose the Perfect Paint Colors to Make Your Oak Cabinets Shine

Gabriela Connell
4 minute read

If you have an older kitchen with warm, golden oak cabinets, you may feel stuck in a design rut. Oak was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s, but can now look dated and dark. The good news is that a fresh coat of paint can transform the entire look and feel of your kitchen! Strategically selecting wall colors that complement or contrast the oak tones can help modernize the space. Read on for expert advice on choosing paint schemes that allow those oak cabinets to shine.

No need to tear out and replace perfectly good wood cabinets. With the right colors, you can reimagine your kitchen in an afternoon for a fraction of the cost. Whether you prefer accentuating the wood’s natural warmth or making it pop with contrast, there are easy do-it-yourself solutions.

Why Neutral Paint Colors Complement Oak Beautifully

One approach that looks beautiful with golden oak is to choose neutral wall colors in soft whites, warm tans, or lighter grays. These muted, subtle backdrops allow the bolder oak cabinets to take center stage and stand out.

Neutral paint colors create an open, airy look in the kitchen. Soft whites like Benjamin Moore White Dove, Sherwin Williams Alabaster, or Behr Silver Drop brighten up the space. For a cozier effect, try warmer natural tones like Valspar Fieldstone, Behr Khaki White, or Benjamin Moore Gray Owl.

Recommended Neutral Paint Colors

kitchen color schemes with oak cabinets

These hues don’t compete with the oak finish, but rather frame and support the cabinets as an intentional design choice. The result is an open, airy look and feel that spotlights those wood grains.

Using Blue and Green Hues to Contrast Oak

While soft neutrals complement oak’s natural colors, bolder blues and greens offer lively contrast. The key is choosing cooler-toned shades with hints of gray rather than bright jewel tones.

Colors like Sherwin Williams Sea Salt (blue-gray), Benjamin Moore Hale Navy (deep blue), or Benjamin Moore Sage Green (muted gray-green) pop against oak’s warmth. Avoid going too vibrant or intense – you want sophisticated contrast, not a jarring color clash.

Blue and Green Paint Suggestions

Colors in the blue and green families can bring life to an oak kitchen in a refined way. Just steer clear of bright jewel tones and instead opt for these cooler, gray-tinted choices.

Warm Paint Colors That Harmonize With Oak

On the other hand, warm paint colors with yellow or orange undertones mirror and enhance oak’s natural tone. Choosing terracotta, peach, sunny yellow, or mossy green hues creates a welcoming, harmonious kitchen.

Try rich colors like Benjamin Moore Canyon Clay, Pittsburgh Paints Prairie Grass, or Behr Cinnamon Toast. Neutral-warm tones like Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige and Valspar Butter Cream also coordinate beautifully with oak.

Recommended Warm Paint Colors

Choosing wall colors with yellow and orange hints matching the oak cabinets results in a pulled-together, cohesive look. The tones play off each other for visual harmony.

Add Pops of Color With Bold Accents

Want to incorporate vibrant shades like teal, crimson or bright white? The key is using them strategically as accents against the oak.

Paint just an island, single wall, or bottom cabinets in the bold color. Keeping it minimal prevents an overwhelming sense of color clash. Specific impactful shades to try are Sherwin Williams Peppercorn, Behr Blueprint, or Benjamin Moore Waterbury Green.

Color Suggestions for Bold Accents

Vibrant accents work best when offset by neutral walls and oak cabinets. The color combinations keep the look feeling tailored and elegant.

Tie It Together With Countertops & Backsplash

An impactful way to tie your whole kitchen color scheme together is choosing countertop and backsplash materials that complement the oak cabinets.

For countertops, natural stone surfaces like granite, quartz, or travertine in beige, brown, or gray tones usually pair well with oak. Or pick out a color from the wall paint for the backsplash tile. A coordinated look elevates the whole space.

Updating the look of a kitchen with dated golden oak cabinets may seem challenging. But the right color scheme can transform the space from drab and dark to light and contemporary. Neutral backdrops allow the wood finish to shine, while bold blues, greens and accents inject life.

Strategically painting walls, islands, or cabinets to complement or contrast the existing oak offers an easy, inexpensive kitchen makeover. With smart color combinations, you can reimagine and revitalize your kitchen while still celebrating those quality wood cabinets.