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How to Choose a Paint Color to Compliment Cherry Cabinets

Want to brighten your kitchen with cherry cabinets without painting over all the wood? Paint the island! Here’s how to find the best color for your home.

When we built our home in 2005, Tuscan-styled kitchens were the big trend with cherry cabinets, dark granite counters, and rich gold-colored walls.

I loved the look of cherry cabinets but chose a light-colored stain and less elaborate carvings and details.

But I went all-in on the dark granite and gold wall color.

About 8 years ago I decided it was time to brighten things up, so we painted the walls of our downstairs Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore.

It’s a wonderful warm greige that changes colors depending on the time of day.

A few years later, I made the massive mistake of installing a glass mosaic tile backsplash.

Maybe if the counters weren’t so busy it would’ve looked good?

But here’s how it’s looked…

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and dark Baltic brown counters with a glass mosaic tile backsplash and black appliances. Kitchen island has two pendant lights with small frosted shades and three wrought iron counter stools with white seat cushions Floors are prefinished Bruce white oak with high gloss and gunstock stain that has faded to orange.

I lived with not liking it for years, planning for a dream kitchen when we downsized.

But.

My husband and I decided that we weren’t going to move when the kids left for college, and along with that, we decided to give this kitchen a much-needed update!

I shared all my big plans almost 8 months ago

One thing I knew for sure, I didn’t want to paint over all my cherry cabinets, so I found other ways to brighten up my cherry kitchen.

We ran into some major supply chain issues that slowed our roll.

Plus real life is busy, especially around the holidays!

But we’re in the home stretch now.

We removed the mosaic tile backsplash.

The Baltic brown granite was replaced with Cambria’s Dovestone quartz.

We added trim and table legs to the kitchen island.

Which meant some of my cherry cabinets would get painted.

Tips for Choosing a Paint Color for a Kitchen Island

There are lots of designers who specialize in color theory who can give you all kinds of tips for choosing colors.

I searched a lot and read nearly every article I could find about paint colors with cherry cabinets!

The big takeaway: cherry cabinets have red undertones and you need to decide whether you want to emphasize those undertones or reduce them.

If you look at a color wheel, red and green are complementary colors, so if you choose a green then the red is gonna pop.

But.

Choosing the best color for your home depends on so many other factors!

Stacked Benjamin Moore paint chip samples to choose a color for a paint project

The other finishes in your home can make colors look so different!

So I decided to start with a color I knew I liked in my home and then look for other colors that paired well with it.

My entire downstairs is painted Revere Pewter (except my husband’s office that’s Hokie orange…)

I knew it looked good with my cherry cabinets and the other finishes in my home.

At one point, I really considered picking a fun shade of green, but I don’t love painting and didn’t want to have to repaint the island if I got tired of it!

Three color sample cans and a paint brush on top of a kitchen island

I brought home a bunch of paint chips and so many of them went straight into recycling.

Even colors that are supposed to look good with cherry cabinets and Revere Pewter.

I narrowed it down to three colors I thought could work.

But.

Seeing a color on a little square of paper is waaaaayyyy different from seeing it painted on your cabinets (or walls)!

Trust me on this.

You need to get samples, get them onto whatever you’re planning to paint, and then evaluate them in all the different lighting you have in your room.

How to Test Paint Samples on Kitchen Cabinets

You can order sample swatches online from places like Samplize, or you can go to your paint store and have them mix up samples for you.

Mom tip: Be sure to use the same brand of paint you plan to buy when mixing your sample! Every brand’s base is a little different.

Three paint can lids lined up on top of a Dovestone quartz counter to choose a cabinet color

I sampled three Benjamin Moore colors:

  • Gray Mirage 2142-50
  • November Rain 2142-60
  • Revere Pewter HC-172 mixed 50% lighter

When I painted my game room, I used Revere Pewter mixed 50% lighter.

That room is one of the darkest in my house, so mixing the color with more white added to the base made a huge difference, so I decided to do the same thing for the island.

Based on the paint chips and all my research, I was pretty sure I was going to choose Gray Mirage.

How to Test Colors in Your Home

The finishes in your home like your flooring, carpeting, counters, and backsplashes can really affect the way a paint color looks by drawing out the color’s undertones.

So can lighting.

The same color can look completely different in a north-facing room compared to a south-facing room.

Or east-facing.

Oh, or west-facing.

Not to mention how much light comes into the space.

And the color temperature of your lightbulbs.

Lighting is crucial!

So before you spend time (and money) painting, check to see how you actually like the color in your home.

Kitchen with cherry cabinets & white quartz counters. The island is being painted with 3 different color swatches to choose
Top: November Rain | Middle: Revere Pewter | Bottom: Gray Mirage

Once the island had two coats of oil-based primer, it was time for the samples!

Please ignore the cringey rough-looking finish in this picture. I painted the samples before doing the final sanding on the primer coat.

I painted the sample colors on three sides of the island so I could really see how each color looked.

Kitchen with cherry cabinets & white quartz counters. The island is being painted with 3 different color swatches to choose
Left: November Rain | Middle: Gray Mirage | Right: Revere Pewter

After painting the samples, I pulled up most of the drop cloths so I could see how the colors looked with the floors.

I also painted one of the table legs with gray mirage since that was the color I was leaning towards. That way I could see the color closer to the counters.

The colors were a little splotchy as they dried but they looked more even by the next day.

Kitchen with cherry cabinets & white quartz counters. The island is being painted with 3 different color swatches to choose
Leg: November Rain | Left Side: Revere Pewter | Right Side: Gray Mirage

I snapped pictures of all three sides because sometimes I feel like the camera “sees” color more accurately than my eyes.

Then I lived with the samples for a few days.

It was amazing how different the colors looked in different lighting and on different sides of the island.

Kitchen with cherry cabinets & white quartz counters. The island is being painted with 3 different color swatches to choose
Left: November Rain | Middle: Gray Mirage | Right: Revere Pewter

One of my primary objectives with this makeover was to make my kitchen look brighter, even with the cherry cabinets and darker wood flooring.

While the gray mirage looked great on the brighter sides of the island during the day, it really looked kind of dark on the far side and at night.

Ultimately, I decided to paint the island Revere Pewter.

When I went to the paint store, I showed my photos to the woman who owns the store who is also a designer and really good with color.

She suggested I mix the paint 75% lighter for even more contrast and she’s never steered me wrong!

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and white quartz counters. The island is being painted with drop cloths on the floor.

I absolutely love how it turned out!

The Revere Pewter is a great greige color and it looks like a creamy parchment when mixed 75% lighter.

Cambria Dovestone quartz counters with lightened Revere Pewter island and cherry kitchen cabinets

Our quartz is described as having parchment undertones so they work really well together.

Painting the island really brightened the space and also helped to break up all the wood.

Kitchen with cherry cabinets and white quartz counters and Revere Pewter island with legs

Adding the trim and table legs, plus painting the island gives it the look of a piece of furniture instead of more cabinetry.

Before and After Making Over the Island

Side by side comparison kitchen island with cherry cabinetry makeover with trim and paint

And since everyone loves a good before and after, here’s how the island started and how it looks after adding the custom trim and paint.

What do you think?

There are a few more projects left to finish, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the final reveal!

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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Hazel Avery

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Great ideas! I am wanting to get my cabinet painting for my kitchen remodel done soon. Thank you for this insightful article.

Anne

Wednesday 27th of April 2022

Thanks Hazel! Good luck with your remodel!