Gray is not the most exciting color. In fact, it’s very bland, boring and monotonous, often being associated with the coldness and roughness of concrete or with the color of the cloudy sky on a rainy and depressing day. All of that is true but, despite everything, gray is also a very surprising color. Sure, sometimes it’s boring and not at all attractive but sometimes it stands out in exciting ways. Interior designers know that all too well.
The same things that make gray seem cold and bland also allow it to be a very calming color, one that can help you achieve the relaxing ambiance and modern decor you always wanted. This brings us to another defining characteristic of gray as a color: its versatility. Because it’s a neutral characterized by emotional absence and a lack of energy overall, gray is an excellent background color and a suitable option for every space and style. In the kitchen, it can actually look very chic.
Gray kitchen cabinets are a suitable option for modern, contemporary, traditional and even rustic homes. They can look futuristic, simple or full of charm, depending on the design direction you choose. You could say that gray is the color of compromise given how it’s the combination between black and white, two totally contrasting tones. However, that’s just one of the directions you can take.
Because of its quiet and detached nature, gray can help you create a pleasant and relaxing ambiance in the kitchen, the bedroom and every other room of the house. The kitchen is an interesting case because this is usually where you need a lot of storage and where the decor becomes complex and less minimalist because of all the appliances, utensils and all the things on display.
You can use your gray kitchen cabinets as a neutral canvas which you can then complement with all sorts of colorful and contrasting features. Don’t think of gray as a conservative color but rather as the color that can help you highlight the things that matter the most without looking totally impersonal and austere. In a way, gray is a less conventional alternative to white.
In certain environments, gray can have a strong industrial or gothic allure. It can also look cool and futuristic and it can even make a decor look more sophisticated and mysterious. It’s also a strong and resilient color and this makes it a perfect match for the kitchen. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of shades of gray to choose from.
Popular kitchen cabinet types
Before actually worrying about the perfect color for your kitchen cabinets, it would be best to focus on the actual type of cabinets that you want to include in your design. There’s a few common options to choose from and, of course, you can mix and match or come up with new and original combinations and configurations.
- Shaker-style cabinets
A lot of the differences between the different types of cabinets are aesthetic ones. The Shaker-style cabinets are some of the most common and popular ones. You can easily recognize them by their iconic design which consists of five pieces of flat panel, four of which create a frame and the fifth one which is the flat center panel. This gives cabinet fronts a simple and classic look.
- Flat-panel cabinets
When it comes to cabinet doors or fronts, the flat-panel or slab ones are highly appreciated for their simplicity. The lack of any intricate details, frames or ornaments gives these cabinets a very clean and modern look and makes them ideal for minimalist kitchens. Flat-panel kitchen cabinets are also easy to clean and less expensive than other types but they can also be customized in lots of different ways.
- Inset-style cabinets
The idea here, as the name suggests, is that the door on this sort of kitchen cabinet is inset into the frame rather than placed on the outside. This makes installation more difficult and tricky and the measurements in this case have to be very precise. The look however is a very distinctive one and these cabinets have a lot of personality.
- Louvered cabinets
You can recognize louvered kitchen cabinets by the fact that they feature these horizontal wooden slats which create a nice pattern on the front. It’s a design that’s reminiscent of window shutters and, like those, they have small spaces between the slats which provides ventilation. This can be a very useful feature in certain cases.
- Beadboard cabinets
Speaking of patterns on kitchen cabinets, this is also a very popular style. Beadboard cabinets have a classic aesthetic and their doors consist of rows of vertical planks with indentations or ridges also known as beads. This is a nice look for a retro, farmhouse or cottage-style kitchen. Keep in mind however that all these indentations can trap dirt and make cleaning more difficult.
- Thermofoil cabinets
Thermofoil cabinets are inexpensive compared to other types and are easily recognizable as well. They’re made of medium-density fiberboard or MDF for short and wrapped in plastic coating then sealed under intense heat. They’re generally quite durable are moisture-resistant but they’re not usually heat-resistant which can be a problem if installed near a heat source such as an oven for instance.
Common materials used for kitchen cabinets
Besides the style and appearance of your kitchen cabinets, there’s another important decision that needs to be made in the early stages: what material the cabinets should be made of. There’s quite a few options that you can choose from but generally it’s all reduced to a few common ones which we’re going to discuss below. Solid wood is not one of them because, even though it’s a sought-after material, it’s not the best for kitchens given that it expands and contracts and it’s also expensive.
MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is a material made from recycled wood fibers and resin. It’s heavy and dense and it’s very popular for kitchen cabinets and furniture in general. MDF cabinets are appreciated for their durability. They don’t crack or peel easily, they have a smooth and simple aesthetic, they’re easy to clean and to recondition and they’re very versatile.
Plywood kitchen cabinets are also highly popular. They’re low-cost and similar to MDF cabinets but, compared to those, they have the advantage of being a bit more resistant to moisture. Each plywood board is made of layers of wood piles glued on top of one another. The exposed surfaces are then coated covered with wood veneer or thermofoil for added protection.
Unlike MDF or plywood, particleboard kitchen cabinets are not known for their durability. That’s because the material itself is not designed to be strong. Particleboard consists of wood chips and particles combined with adhesive and then formed into panels. These cabinets are inexpensive but they also don’t last long.
- Stainless steel
Moving away from wood-based materials, kitchen cabinets nowadays can also be made from stainless steel. This is actually the most common material found in professional kitchens. It’s the most durable but also quite expensive. Unlike wood, stainless steel doesn’t expand or contract and it’s perfect for moisture-rich environments.
Stylish marble accents
Because grey is a very neutral color, using it exclusively in the design of a kitchen can make this space look and feel boring. This is especially true when the design of the kitchen is a very simple one as well, with flat panel cabinets, minimalist details and so on. Introducing an accent color or materials can prevent that. Here’s a beautiful use of white marble in a design by studio OOOOX.
Another good way of making sure your kitchen doesn’t look bland even if you’re using neutral colors in its design is by opting for a variety of different finishes and textures as opposed to just one. This modern kitchen design by interior designer Ifat Mentesh is a nice example which you can surely find inspiration in.
Interesting accent pieces
Although simple and subtle in nature, light grey can be a nice accent color. Pair it with white in a kitchen to create a stylish, airy and modern design and add interesting to it through accent pieces such as the lighting fixtures, the backsplash, the chairs and so on. Here’s another beautiful design by Ifat Mentesh for more inspiration.
Wood is a very common material often used for making furniture. However, it can also be a really nice accent material and you can use its aesthetic to add warmth and contrast to your kitchen design. Take for instance this contemporary and minimalist kitchen design by ORKO Studio. The wood is a perfect companion for these flat and simple grey cabinets.
Different shades of the same color
Another interesting and subtle way in which you can make your grey kitchen cabinets look more natural is by pairing them with other furniture pieces and surfaces that have similar colors. In fact, using different shades of grey in a design combined with different textures and finishes adds enough diversity while still keeping the color palette very simple and neutral. This apartment interior by QUADRUM STUDIO is a nice example in this sense.
You can use contrasting materials, colors and finishes in your kitchen’s design without making these elements clash with one another. Creating a smooth transition between them helps the space look harmonious and to feel inviting and comfortable. In this case the grey cabinets match the walls very well as well as part of the floor which seamlessly transitions into a wooden floor. This is a design by olga paliychuk.
The contrast between the light grey and the white surfaces is very subtle here but still enough to diversify the kitchen design. Combined with the Shaker-style cabinets, the grey looks very soothing and gives this space an inviting feel. At the same time, the white backsplash tiles and countertops give the kitchen a clean and modern vibe. This is a project by Newmark Homes
Dark grey accents
Dark grey kitchen cabinets can look wonderful too and here they’re paired with black countertops and wooden accents which creates a super welcoming and cozy ambiance. It’s a look that suits this fairly narrow kitchen designed by studio Tom Bassett-Dilley. The white subway tiles have a classic aesthetic and unify the room.
What immediately stands out when looking at this contemporary kitchen is how airy and open it feels. There’s a combination of factors at work here such as the high ceiling, the large windows, the light-colored floor but also the glossy finish on these beautiful grey cabinets. This is a project by architecture studio California at Home.