Out Of Curiosity:: Painted Or Stained Kitchen Cabinets?

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, there are so many options when it comes to the color of your cabinets.  The styles are endless, then there’s the choice between hundreds of stain colors or thousands of paint colors…or even a combination of the two.

Stained kitchen cabinets will never go out of style (although certain stain colors may rise and fall in popularity).  Stained cabinets are classic, and can be used in just about any style of kitchen, from traditional and transitional…

 Kitchen designed by Buckingham Interiors and Design


Kitchen designed by Vanessa DeLeon Associates


Kitchen designed by Von Lowen Design


 …to even the most contemporary kitchens…

Kitchen designed by Buckingham Interiors and Design


Kitchen designed by Jennifer Hoey Interior Design


I can certainly appreciate a kitchen with beautifully stained cabinets, but my personal preference is definitely a kitchen with painted cabinets.  (I’m sure my teal kitchen cabinet and green hallway cabinets made my preference for painted cabinets in general pretty obvious.)


When it comes to painted cabinets, white is the clear favorite.  White cabinets are another classic that will never go out of style.

Kitchen designed by Giannetti Home


But I have to admit, I tend to prefer color, and just about any color will do for me.  I like anything from subtle green in a French country style kitchen, to a bold red or vibrant green.

Via House Beautiful


Kitchen by Kara Paslay Designs


Via This Old House


Via Apartment Therapy


And then, of course, any of the above options can be beautifully combined in one kitchen–painted cabinets with a stained island, stained cabinets with a painted island, painted cabinets with a feature stained cabinet…the options are endless.

 Kitchen designed by Martins Buka Design & Build


Kitchen designed by Artistic Designs For Living


So when it comes to kitchen cabinets, what do you prefer? Stained? Painted? Or perhaps a combination of the two? And if you prefer painted cabinets, do you lean towards the more neutral colors, or do you like your cabinets with a bolder color?

Want more kitchen design inspiration? Some of the kitchen photos above, plus many, many more, can be found in the A2D Kitchen Gallery.

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  1. If I had to choose between white painted or stained, I would go white painted, but why limit yourself. There are so many beautiful colors out there. I say have some fun! It makes such an impact when you go with a fun color. People are just not expecting it.

  2. We just remodeled our kitchen and I picked neutral hickory cabinets. But I painted the walls Home Depot Orange! I have always loved hickory wood, I love all the different colors and knots. Painted cabinets are nice too.

  3. 3 years ago when I remodeled my kitchen my preference was stained… now I really wish I had white painted cabinets but my husband would so not be ok with me painting our cabinets!! Maybe someday… 🙂

  4. What a good question!! When we bought our house last year, the small kitchen had beautiful cherry cabinets that we loved. After our house fire in June, we decided to re-use the cabinets – but we’d have to paint them to seal up any potential smoke smell. Heartbreak! We had them finished in white, and MAN I’m glad we did. They make the kitchen look so much bigger! We incorporated color with a sparkly black countertop and sea-glass subway tile backsplash.

    I think you’re right – while stained cabinets will always look good, particular stains can look dated (golden oak, anyone?) as they fall in and out of fashion.

    1. I like golden oak and don’t give a hang whether its in fashion or not. The golden oak in my house has darkened over the years and is nice.

  5. I have had both stained and painted. I currently have a painted island and stained cabinets, but that’s only because it’s winter and I can’t get outside to paint the cabinet doors! They will be white and I will be soooo happy. Although I did contemplate a light gray color, but landed with white.

  6. Kristi,
    I love your blog! Gonna follow you from now on 🙂
    Isn’t it interesting that this debate over kitchen cabinets could go on forever?!

  7. I prefer painted. I think it gives a kitchen such a clean look. My husband thinks it’s a crime to paint wood. We are currently “fighting” over this in our bathroom. I want to paint the cabinetry and he wants to stain it. I would soooo much easier to paint it.

  8. Mine are painted, but a mix. I have Antique White uppers, hand waxed (and yes my shoulder almost fell off, I have a big kitchen), and the Island and lower cabs are all black and waxed. I love the Black White look. I had builder standard Maple underneath. Not my taste. If I had some really beautiful hardwood cabinets though, I would probably paint all the cabinets and leave the Island stained. I like a mix.

  9. I prefer white painted just wish it didn’t have to be oil based lol My kitchen is currently a hot mess half the cabinets don’t have doors and the counters are “temporary” but I will get there one day I hope even if not fancy just finished (and painted)

  10. I might be soo-o boring to choose painted white high gloss kitchen. I’m just simple like the color and finishing. It is a surroundings I enjoy to cook.

  11. Is this a trick question? 😉 Can we not have paint that changes mood at the flick of an eye? hehe

    I, like you love colour but unless I want to redecorate every season I tend to go to play it safe and go with a bright, cheery colour (interpret Country Cream or such) for this kind of project. I LOVE that green rustic kitchen though. Love it!


  12. I personally like stained cabinets preferably a dark stain, but recently I have noticed a few painted cabinets that are really beautiful.

  13. The pictures of the combined stained/painted cabinets look really great. I hadn’t noticed it until you pointed it out, but I’m sure I’ve seen pictures of kitchens like that a hundred times.

    I think my preference is: modern/contemporary = stained; traditional/transitional/country: painted. I think the stained looks best without all that busy trim — just a sleek wood face.

  14. I’ve always liked the idea of a French Country or Traditional white kitchen. I’m into a clean and light look for a kitchen. We lived in a very nice apartment before we bought our home and the kitchen was super tiny, but it had white cabinets with dark granite counters. I loved that look and the white cabinets really made the kitchen feel larger and brighter. I can’t wait to paint our kitchen cabinets. Our kitchen feels dark, clostrophobic, and outdated with the oak -colored cabinets.

  15. Came across your site while looking for ideas on how to dress up plain homemade kitchen cabinets. I’m moving – Jan. 4th – into a beautiful old 1900 home – 9′ ceilings etc. Kitchen is only 10 X 10 and the cabinets are hidious. Home made, stained that awful honey colour. My plan is to add some light trim to dress up the fronts, new handles and paint them. The counter is a black/green and since I’m on a very limited budget I can’t afford to change it. So I’m thinking of going with a green paint on the bottom cabinets that will compliment it and an off white on the upper cabinets. Two questions, one, what do you think of having two different colours in a small kitchen like that – should I just stick with white? Second, what colour should I do the walls? If I have the green cabinets should I go with a complimentary white for the walls or if I go with white cabinets would I be okay going green walls? Thanks for your input. Really like your site and have now tagged it as a favourite.
    Happy New Year

    1. I personally think it’s just fine to do one color on the top and another color on the bottom in a small kitchen. Honestly, I wish I could do mine over again and use the teal just on the bottom cabinets, and white on the top. But there’s no way in heck I’m redoing my kitchen at this point. 🙂

      Have you considered painting your countertop? You didn’t mention what it’s made of, but there are some fantastic products out now that are specifically for painting countertops. That way you’re not locked into using green.

  16. The counter tops are in good shape and almost black so I’ll live with them. I’ve had friends that have painted their countertops and honestly I don’t like the results. I like greens, yellows, etc so I’m okay with green and there are some great historic colours I can use. What about the walls? Complimentary colour or too small a space to have too many colours?

    1. I’ve lived with my white cabinets for almost 20 years. They no longer come clean! I’ve cleaned them to the point that in some places the paint is missing! I have an awful shade of pink corian counter top, which at this point I can’t afford to replace, and have black appliances, and all red counter top appliances. My top choices right now are black on the bottom red on the top, or all grey, but recently saw picture of lime green cabinets! Loved them. The room gets lots of light, and the light lime green looked good with the red appliances sitting on top of them. I want COLOR in there one way or another. I have white floors too. I need color!

  17. I have very old but beautiful knotty pine cabinets.They have been without handles for longer than i care to say(waiting on a go ahead on redo)I love the wood and my husband has all but demanded i not paint over them.Is there any way to bring them into this century cheaply without completely losing the grain?Maybe a colored pickling process?They are so dark.Help!