White or Wood Cabinets – Which is the Better Choice For Your Kitchen?


Follow my 50 – 50 White To Warm Balance Method to create the most visually appealing look for your kitchen.

In this post:

How To Achieve The Right Balance of Wood Tones To White Tones In your Kitchen

In trying to decide whether you want to go with white or wood cabinets, you want to step back and first consider your overall desired look. This is more important than simply choosing wood or white cabinets.

Do you have a desired direction you want to go with your flooring already? Are you already set on your perfect countertop? Are you a fan of white walls or going for a pop of color on the walls? These things are equally important to consider when making that decision of wood or white cabinets.

Achieving the 50 – 50 White To Warm Balance in Your Kitchen

To create a beautiful and cohesive look to your kitchen, consider working towards making your color and material choices to get you close to a 50 – 50 balance of white to warm/color tones in your kitchen.

There are 4 main components to the materials in a kitchen:

  4. WALLS (backsplash & paint)

In your selections of these 4 materials, work towards selecting 2 of the 4 white and 2 of the 4 warm. This will give you the most visually appealing and timeless look to your room.

Here are some examples:


All of these combinations will create the same overall balanced and inviting look to your kitchen. So, if there is one feature you are most set on, let that be your guide to start from and then select the other 3 main features to the room to work towards creating a 50 – 50 balance.

Consider Avoiding Grey Toned Wood Floors

I use the term ‘warm wood floors’ above. That can mean a wide range from very light, natural wood tones to darker tones. What I do not recommend for flooring are grey wood tones. This is for a couple reasons:

  • Grey toned wood flooring is highly trendy.
    • I feel this trend will pass soon and create a very dated look to a room that will be hard to adjust down the road. While other wood tones also ebb and flow in their popularity, generally speaking, more natural tones will hold up better through the years. They will also be easier to work with when you want to make other updates to the room in the future. Grey flooring will really limit you as it will clash with anything with a warm tone.
  • Grey toned floors have a very narrow window of what they will coordinate with.
    • They would generally need to be paired with white cabinets or a painted cabinet. A cool toned or white wall color will work, and a white counter. But, with this type of palette it becomes increasingly difficult to add any other type of wood tone in the room without it really clashing.
  • Grey Toned floors tend to make it hard to achieve the 50 – 50 balance of white to warm materials in the kitchen.
    • This is an issue I see with a lot of kitchens that have used grey flooring. Everything has to be very neutral and cool toned to coordinate, so the room takes on a look of living in a black and white 50’s television show. While this look may seem nice in a few Instagram photos, generally it is not a look that feels very livable and inviting. Keep an eye on that as you work to create your overall look.


Whether you are looking to update an existing kitchen or you are designing a brand new kitchen makes a big difference as to how much consideration you may give to wood or white cabinets. If you are you starting from scratch on a new kitchen, then you can work through my 50 – 50 Warm To White Balance Method discussed above. If you are looking to update an existing kitchen, then you will want to consider what really needs to be replaced and what you want to try to work with.

NEW KITCHEN – Wood or White Cabinets?

If you have a blank slate and are designing a brand new kitchen, first thing…enjoy the process and take your time! How much time do we spend in our kitchens thinking about what we would like to change, what annoys us, and sometimes just ‘what were they thinking?’ This is your chance to do it your way, pick what makes you happy, and works with your family’s needs.

Start by looking at some inspiration kitchens and see what you are drawn to. Are there certain specific elements that you continually are drawn to, like cabinet color, wall color, certain style of backsplash, etc.? If there is, then start your 50 – 50 White to Warm Method there.

If the element you are most drawn to is the cabinet tone, then there is your decision on white or wood. Next, pick one of the 3 remaining elements (flooring, wall, or countertops) and try to do the opposite to achieve the balance for your room. So, if you picked your top item as white cabinets, then go to another element and do that in a warm tone. For example, the flooring you may pick a warm wood tone flooring.

Again, as I said earlier in this post, when I say warm wood tone this can mean anything from very light clear coated oak to a darker tone stain. What I suggest to avoid is grey tone flooring.

KITCHEN REMODEL – Wood or White Cabinets?

Here is the before of our kitchen. Click image to see details to our remodel.

If you are doing a kitchen remodel, start by narrowing in on what has got to go and what you can work with.

For example, is the floor heavily damaged and needs replaced? Is it outdated linoleum that’s 25 years old and has to go?

Is the finish on the cabinets wearing off? Figure out what things are damaged and need addresses versus what issues are cosmetic and may be able to be worked with.

Consider Not Painting Your Wood Cabinets

If you cabinets are wood and are in decent condition, I would suggest to consider keeping them and not painting them. This would be especially true if they are good quality solid wood cabinets. Yes, even if they are honey oak! Honey oak can be beautiful in a kitchen, it is all about finding the right balance to work within the space in an updated way. I would use that as the first warm element in the 50 – 50 Warm To White Balance Method.

Definitely consider updating your cabinet hardware. This can make a huge impact to your cabinets and the overall look in your kitchen. Mine already did have these simple flat black knobs, so I kept them, but check out some of these great options you can get from Amazon on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS – HOME DECOR PAGE.


Then, consider the other three elements of floors, walls, and counters. Again, figure what you are budgeting to replace and what you need to work with, but find one of the elements that you can go white to create the first contrasting element to the cabinets.

From there finalize the last 2 elements, ideally picking 2 white elements and 2 warm elements.


Do I Have To Have 2 White & 2 Warm Elements In My Kitchen?

Of course not! Use this as a guide. It is still possible to achieve a pleasing balance even if you can not get to a 50 – 50 Warm To White Balance in the kitchen. This happened in my kitchen in the house we bought. I started with warm wood (honey oak) cabinets, warm oak floors, and warm toned granite counters. In addition, there was a warm wood island table and a sage green color on the walls. So, I started with 100 warm to 0 white!

I was not going to paint the cabinets as they are a great quality wood cabinet that looked brand new. I was not changing the wood flooring that is on almost our entire 1st floor, and I was not changing the granite counters. So, I really had to do some thinking.

Keeping the granite, the cabinets, and the floors, I had to find ways to balance & update the look.

Additional Ways To Balance The Wood & White Elements In Your Kitchen

I spent a lot of time searching for a black splash that would transform the kitchen. And, I also researched to find a paint color that would downplay the orange tone to the cabinets. I received some great suggestions from the Sherwin-Williams customer service on their website. I let them know what I was trying to do and they really gave me 3 great suggestions to consider.

So, that got me to 75 warm and 25 white. The only white was the walls at this point and I needed more. Next, we resurfaced the existing island that had a wood top to a white quartz. This is the center of the kitchen, so had a really big impact on bringing a contrast to all the wood.

Resurfacing the wood top table to a white quartz really helped to balance the wood to white ratio in the kitchen.

Finally, there was an exposed cabinet side that was a big area of very visible wood. I knew if I could change that, it would also have a big visual impact on creating more balance to the room in terms of warm to whites. So, I came up with a super easy method where I put a removable shiplap on them. I loved that this added the look I wanted, but did not require any holes in the side of the cabinet in case I want to change it at some point.

BEFORE: The wood exposed cabinet kept the room out of balance & needed lightened up.
AFTER: Adding the removable shiplap (no glue or nails & not wallpaper!) made a big impact to creating a cohesive balance in the wood to white tones in the room.)

Other ways you can add balance if you are struggling with too much wood tones in your kitchen:

  • Add white décor. Really think about what items you have on your counters and update those to white.
  • Add some wreaths on a couple cabinets, although it isn’t white, it still visually tones down some of the wood.
  • Change out your dishes to simple white dishware with clean lines.
  • Consider painting a wood island to create a better warm to white balance.



Above are a couple pictures of my completed kitchen. The combination of the light, neutral wall color, the cream 3×12 tile backsplash, the white quartz island addition, and the removable shiplap on the exposed cabinet on the right side helped to create the right balance of white to warm tones in the room.

View my entire kitchen remodel project and detailed recommendations for updating a kitchen with oak cabinets HERE.


Above, Kristen from LIFEMADESIMPLEBLOG did an amazing job remodeling her kitchen. I’m not sure what the counters were originally, but even without counting that, she had 75 warm when considering my 50 – 50 White to Warm Method…so the room was out of balance. The cabinets, floors, and back splash were all warm toned. More white toned elements were needed.

Kristen also had issues with the condition of her cabinets and had to do some work to restore them, so if that is your case be sure to check out her post to see how to do that.

Adding the light counters and subway tile backsplash gave the room the perfect 50 – 50 White to Warm Balance.


Mary-Cathryn knocked it out of the park with her renovation on her kitchen. Often people don’t think they can work with such heavily grained oak cabinets, but she did it perfectly and I just love the result! Her look follows my 50 – 50 Warm to White Balance Method beautifully. White walls and white counters and warm cabinets and floors. This allows the beauty of the cabinets to be highlighted rather than being to busy or dark.



Sarah at SARAHJOYBLOG recently moved from a fixer upper she did countless DIY projects on to a new construction house she bought that was nearly completed when they purchased the house. The house was built with dark hardwood floors, which she had changed to the light ones you see in these pics.

You can see how she created balance to the White/Warm ratio in the room by having light warm toned floors, a wood accent on her stove hood, wood beams added to ceiling, wood décor on the counter, and wood toned window blinds in the breakfast nook.

Sarah has a genuine & fun personality and is a joy to follow on Instagram, be sure to check out her page.


Janna from YELLOWPRAIRIEINTERIORS.COM strikes the perfect balance in the Warm To White department in her kitchen! Janna & her husband did an amazing renovation to this old farmhouse and her kitchen is perfect. It hits the mark being so light and bright, yet is so warm and cozy, too! Janna used white counters and walls with a light/medium toned flooring. She split her cabinets doing the main cabinets in white and then creating a beautiful centerpiece to her kitchen with her wood island.

Other wood tones in her pendant lights, barn wood door, and oven hood accent all complete the look to perfection. Janna is such a delight to follow if you are on Instagram, she is just as warm and inviting and this kitchen implies.


Jess at CARCARBAROAD.COM also is a fantastic example of balancing wood to white tones to create a warm, welcoming, comfortable kitchen that is still so light, bright, and airy that you just would love to stay there all day!

She has white walls and counter tops and then light wood floors. The other 25% of the room she split between wood and white with her cabinets, chairs, open shelving, and stove hood. The result is stunning!

Jess is another lovely (and fun!) person to follow on Instagram. She does some amazing DIYs…has so much patience for little details and I love how she just dives into her projects.



backsplash tile

Check out my favorite backsplash tile choices from Amazon:


Tara Foster

Hi! I'm Tara, half of the Growit Buildit duo. I am a frugal DIY enthusiast!! My professional background is in education and counseling, but have spent the last few years as a stay at home mom, which has given me the opportunity to explore my passions that have been put aside for so long. I gravitate towards what I'd consider modern farmhouse style, with a little boho mixed in. I have planned remodels for larger projects, like our kitchen, as well as many smaller DIY projects around our house. In addition, I create a lot of smaller craft projects. I am currently a maker for a local retail boutique in our area called 6ix North. I hope my posts provide you with some useful information for your DIY projects.

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