What Are The Best Kitchen Colors With Oak Cabinets?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

One of the most difficult parts of redoing a kitchen is choosing the appropriate shade of paint. While this may seem like an easy task compared to tearing out walls and moving electrical wires, the color you choose will make the first impression.

If you happen to have the honey oak kitchen cabinets that were popular in the 80s, 90s, and even the early 2000s, the job can be especially difficult. Whether you love the stain or hate it (there usually is no middle ground), it’s hard to find a color that won’t look dingy next to this yellow-orange tone. However, it is much easier to paint the walls a new color than it is to change the stain on your cabinets.

So, what are the best kitchen colors to go with oak cabinets?

If you want to give your kitchen that timeless appeal, regardless of the stain on your oak cabinets, you have two options. You can choose colors that will accent your cabinets, or colors that tone down the stain. Some colors that complement oak cabinets are gray, goldenrod, and green. The colors you want to avoid are pink-beiges and grays with true blue undertones.

Let’s take a look at some shades of paint that will catch your eye (in a good way) when combined with oak cabinets.

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What Are The Best Colors To Pair With Oak Cabinets?

When you choose the paint for the walls of your kitchen, you have to keep in mind all the features that are going to remain. What works for one particular kitchen won’t work with another. If you are leaving the stain of your cabinets as-is, a lot of your color choices will be dependent on the color of your stain. So, let’s take a look at the colors that will bring your kitchen to life.

1. Warm White

If there was ever a wall color (or kitchen color) that would be considered truly timeless, it’s white. White goes with just about anything and also brightens up a room, and makes your kitchen look a lot larger than it really is. However, you’ll find that there is no simple “white” at a paint store. You can pick from cool whites, off-whites, creams, and warm whites. Also, they will most likely all have cute names that don’t really tell you a lot. Where is the white that’s named: “Goes Good with Honey Oak,” because that is what we want to choose.

Since a color swatch won’t straight up tell you, we’ll fill in the gap. Warm whites or creams will usually look the best next to honey oak. Since the honey oak brings in its own yellow tint, using a warm white will work with the stain of your cabinets instead of against it. Especially if you have black or stainless steel appliances, this will be a perfect choice. A warm white can brighten up your kitchen and is one of the safest options you can choose.

2. Mint Green

Mint green offers a new take on a pastel color palette. This type of green is a unique color to find in a kitchen, which is why you never have to worry about it being dated or hackneyed. Since it’s a lighter color, it also opens up the room a bit and helps bring in the light a little more. This makes it an ideal pick for smaller kitchens.

Here, the designer contrasted the oak with the dark mahogany floors. The mint green works well with both these colors and helps the two different stains work together. The end result is a bright and fresh-looking kitchen.

3. Warm Gray

The color gray is definitely “in” right now in current trends. One of the reasons it’s a top choice on almost every HGTV show is because it is a neutral color and will go with virtually any other color. This includes going with something as bold as a honey oak.

This kitchen shows how warm gray paint can help tone down the overly yellow tones of oak wood to make the cabinets recede. You’re left with a clean and sophisticated vibe. We’re totally digging this look! Find your favorite warm-gray paint and get started. You won’t regret it.

4. Stone Beige

Stone beige is both a texture and a color. It’s the look of bricks that have been painted with a German schmear (also known as a light coat of whitewash). This textured wall combines warm gray tones with beige and works well with the color of the cabinets. The end result is something that feels pointedly old world without it being overdone. We’re a fan of this oak wood stain against a beige backdrop.

This kitchen looks like it is straight from an older kitchen in Europe. It’s easy to see the allure, don’t you think?

5. Blue Gray

Blue-grays are one of those color families that people often ignore when they’re working with a kitchen, but shouldn’t. This color combination is modern and trendy but also helps tone down the boldness of the yellow undertones in the oak. It also gives the kitchen a seafaring vibe.

With that said, this color combination is not for everyone. Some people might find it to be a little too “17th-century lighthouse keeper” for their taste. It’s up to you to figure out whether or not it’s the right type of “bluetral” for you.

6. Goldenrod

With most of the colors on our menu so far, we’ve worked pretty hard to try to balance out the sometimes-shocking look of oak cabinets. It’s a very bold color, after all. Goldenrod, like this one here, is a good way to actually bring out the pretty gold look of high quality oak. If you can’t beat it, embrace it! These yellow tones actually can help spark hunger and make your kitchen feel more inviting.

This is a little more traditional compared to a lot of the other options we’ve discussed. However, it can make your kitchen look bright and cheery.

7. Black + White

Black is a no-nonsense color that makes a bold statement in an oak-dominated kitchen. The result is a super modern look that can breathe fresh life into a decades-old kitchen. The reason why it works so well is the contrast and element of surprise. No one expects to see black cabinets and stainless steel accessories in an oaky kitchen, yet this kitchen goes against the grain. We think it looks fantastic!

Black and white is an edgy way to modernize your kitchen without having to paint your cabinets. Since both colors are true neutrals, they also work with any other fixtures that you want to add to your kitchen.

8. Beige

Beige is one of those colors that you will either love or hate when it comes to working with oak cabinetry. Many people feel like this look has run its course during the 2000s and find it to be hackneyed. Of course, not all of us feel this way. The slightly warm color of beige works beautifully with oak’s yellowness.

The truth is that beige has a certain inviting look to it that makes it a perfect match for a room that’s as entertainment-heavy as oak. Since it’s such a homey color, you can add in contemporary decorations to make your room pop.

9. Lime Green

Looking for a little more of a tropical vibe? Maybe you’re a fan of 70s decor, and want to have a throwback? Believe it or not, a little lime won’t be a total disaster here. The yellow undertones in lime’s color work well with oak, all while giving you a retro, coastal appearance to your home that looks pretty darn snazzy.

If you want to go for this look, be forewarned. It’s very easy to make this wall color go south if you don’t have a way to modernize your kitchen. And above all? Don’t go full 70s and pair it with harvest yellow!

10. Light Peach

Light peach is a surprisingly versatile color for a kitchen wall, especially when you’re working with oak cabinets. The lightness of the color helps keep your home looking bright, while the rosiness of the peach gives your room a warmer appearance. The yellow of the oak matches with the golden undertones of peach, making it a doubly awesome pick for your kitchen.

Much like lime green, light peach has a tropical vibe to it in most situations. However, that doesn’t mean you have to keep it tropical. You can do it up in an Italian or Mediterranean way in a pinch, as long as you have the right decorations for the job.

11. Red

Red is not the type of color that most people assume will work with oak, but hear us out. If you have a lighter oak finish like the one in the photo above, it can be a great color. This kind of red is provocative, bold, and yes, works well with the look of oak stains that are light. It offers up a nice contrast against the wood stain, too.

With that said, red isn’t exactly the best color for small kitchens. If used incorrectly, it can make your kitchen feel cramped or even downright tiny.

Choose Paint Colors that Match Your Appliances

Stainless Steel

When your kitchen is outfitted with oak cabinets and stainless-steel appliances, the wall paint choices are nearly endless. Though, here’s some examples to help inspire your kitchen design:

Moss Green Paint and Stainless Steel Appliances

Try a moss green for your oak cabinets and stainless-steel appliances. The earthy tone of this shade pairs well with the orange-brown hue of oak cabinets. These lighter green colors always pair well in kitchens, especially with darker color oaks.

Pale Gray and Stainless Steel Appliances

When you blend gray with beige you get this wonderful pale gray hue, or ‘greige.’ This color has a nice cool undertone that makes the warm wood pop, especially with oak cabinets that have reddish undertones.

Kitchen Paint Colors for Oak Cabinets and Black Appliances

Black appliances can also be paired with oak cabinets. Though, they create a much bolder look in kitchen, which you can choose to tone down or capitalize on with your choice in paint.

Stay Neutral with White Paint and Black Appliances

Shades like white, off-white, and beige pair well with oak cabinets and black appliances. Consider opting for a shade that has a warm undertone to match the natural look of the cabinets.

By choosing a light, neutral tone, you don’t have to worry about drawing attention away from the bold, appealing look of the black appliances. This kitchen space in the photo above has great contrast and instead of competing with each other, the colors balance well.

Go Bold with Slate Gray Paint and Black Appliances

Your other option for pairing a paint color with these oak cabinets and black appliances is to play off of the boldness of the appliances. Consider a tone like the slate gray pictured above for an elegant, modern design. A nice, rich shade of gray can work well with a wide range of contrasting materials.

For best results, install brushed brass hardware in your kitchen for some added visual interest.

Kitchen Paint Colors for Oak Cabinets and White Appliances

What about oak cabinets and white appliances? This combination alone offers unique contrast. When it comes to kitchen paint colors, consider these two sources of inspiration:

Dusty Blue Paint and White Appliances

This open-style kitchen features a combination of honey oak cabinets and white appliances. The choice in paint color is a dark blue shade by Behr, called Starless Night PPU14-20.

While the colors of the cabinets, appliances, and the wall are all different but the result is striking. With such a deep wall paint color, the outdated visual of both the cabinets and the appliances are erased.

Creamy Beige and White Appliances

If you’d prefer not to go too bold, you can choose a lovely beige color for your kitchen with oak cabinets and white appliances. This paint color choice can actually help tone down the bright look of the appliances. Opt for a creamy beige hue with hints of orange that will tie beautifully into the natural wood of the cabinets, regardless of the undertone.

How to Choose the Best Color for Oak Cabinets

Are Oak Cabinets Outdated?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that they have a stigma for being a bit old fashioned, but that they can be paired with the right kitchen design to keep them modern. The stigma of being “so 80s” or even “so early 2000s” is why a lot of people tend to want to pay someone to have their cabinets replaced or painted.

Should You Paint Your Oak Cabinets?

Many purists like to keep a wood-look intact. However, if you just can’t warm up to this warm-colored stain, you can restain it or paint it. Honey oak cabinets are very hard to pair with most colors and even harder to “modernize.” Even interior designers have difficulty working with this wood finish in a contemporary setting.

If you choose to paint your cabinetry, you have a lot of colors to choose from. And, whenever you get bored of a certain color, you can always change things up with a new layer of paint. If you like to change up your decor often, white is usually a safe choice because it’s a timeless look that goes with everything. However, going with a bold paint choice can show off your personality to those who enter your home.

Are There Any Alternatives To Painting Oak Cabinets?

If you don’t want to cover up your wood, you can stain it a different color to neutralize those golden tones. You can change up your stain by getting a gel stain to apply on your cabinets. This can turn your cabinets into a darker hue, often in a bluer shade.

Gel stains are easy to use, dry fast, and also come in a wide range of different colors. If you’re looking for a way to modernize the wood look and also keep the wood’s patterns in the forefront, this is a great way to do it.

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How to Clean Oak Cabinets

A regular wood cleaner will be more than enough to clean most messes off your oak cabinets. If you ran out of wood cleaner and need to wipe down your cabinets, make a mixture of one part water and one part white distilled vinegar. Dip a rag in this, and wipe down your cabinets. This will usually be strong enough to remove stains without actually harming the finish.

It’s worth noting that a 50/50 water/vinegar mixture can be used to clean almost any type of wood, not just oak. It’s a good thing to have around.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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