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…
I lived with not liking it for years, planning for a dream kitchen when we downsized.
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.
Choosing the best color for your home depends on so many other factors!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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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Saturday 6th of May 2023
Hi, and you did an amazing job question I have the same color cabinets question I have granite countertops and I wanna paint my walls lighter color. I have yellow now, but I’m done with that help.
Sunday 7th of May 2023
Hi Michell! Thanks so much for checking out our post. If your goal is to brighten up your space you've got lots of great options. I'll start with some options that aren't white. Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore works with cherry cabinetry and so does Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray. These are both "greige" colors that straddle the line between beige and gray. Sherwin Williams Natural Linen and Benjamin Moore Pale Oak are nice beiges that are a little warm without being yellow. Rainwashed is an option that will really bring out the pink/red undertones of your cabinets while still keeping the room bright. If you really want to brighten up your kitchen, then white is the way to go! But you need to be mindful that whites all have undertones so you need to pick the right white! Balboa Mist and White Dove by Benjamin Moore, and Heron Plume and Casa Blanca by Sherwin Williams all look gorgeous with cherry. I definitely recommend getting paint samples either to paint on your walls or the peel and stick samples from Samplize to see which color plays best with your cabinets based on the other colors in your room (backsplash, floors) and the color of the light coming through your windows. I hope that helps!
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
The kitchen turned out beautifully, Anne. Like you, I have lovely cherry cabinets, which I wouldn't think of painting.But also like you, I've decided to paint the island and repaint the walls a lighter white. Fingers crossed it comes out as nice as your kitchen!
Thursday 19th of January 2023
Anne's kitchen looks amazing with the updates she made. We'd love to see how your kitchen turns out if you'd like to send us a photo when you're done? Let us know if you have any questions about your makeover. Good luck! It will be amazing!!
Thursday 22nd of December 2022
What quarts do you have? I’m redoing my kitchen me keeping my Cherry cabinets and also have RP on my walls.
Thursday 29th of December 2022
Hey Darci! Thanks for checking out my kitchen project. We went with Dovestone quartz by Cambria. It's got a nice mix of parchment and gray veining which works really well with the Revere Pewter.
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.
Wednesday 27th of April 2022
Thanks Hazel! Good luck with your remodel!