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10 Paint Colors and Trends for Small Kitchens

Color, when done right, can make your small kitchen feel larger. A pro shares trending kitchen colors and how to use them for big effect.

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Kitchen with bright blue paint above the shelvesDrazen_/Getty Images

Look Up

Yes, bold colors can overwhelm smaller spaces. But if your ceilings are tall, you’re in luck! Try adding color above your cabinets, or to the ceiling itself. It’s a great way to draw the eye upward — and to go bold without making your kitchen look small.

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Matching green cabinets and wallsArtjafara/Getty Images

Get Matchy-Matchy

If your kitchen is really small, consider painting your walls the same color as your cabinets. When you visually blend multiple surfaces with the same color, you remove any focal points so your eye isn’t drawn to any specific area. This is a great way to make small spaces look and feel larger.

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Kitchen with semi-transparent gray stained cabinetsSheraleeS/Getty Images

Try a Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

If you can’t choose between wood and color, consider a wood grain with a semi-transparent stain. It’s a trending look now, especially for contemporary kitchens. Plus, the direction of the grain can make your smaller space look wider if you run it horizontally, or taller if the grain runs vertically.

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Blue and gray kitchenNelleG/Getty Images

Feeling Blue

It’s probably no surprise that gray is the number one trending color for kitchen cabinets. It’s a great option for those looking to shake things up but leery of stepping too far out of their comfort zone. Gray goes well with all kinds of flooring and counter surfaces.

A close second: blue — royal and navy, specifically. They work great on a contrasting island or base cabinets.

Love the idea of combining blue and gray? Consider the color and placement of your appliances. Coordinating your cabinet and appliance color allows the latter to blend with the former, making you space feel larger. Black appliances work well with navy cabinets, and stainless steel works great with cool gray colors.

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Small kitchen with a patterned floorin4mal/Getty Images

Don’t Forget the Floor

Painting your floor is a great way to refresh your space on a budget. Plus, an inspired floor pattern can make your space feel larger because it covers one of the room’s largest surfaces.

Do material-specific research — there are many painting techniques available, depending on your flooring. Be sure to use the correct primer and properly prepare the surface.

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Small kitchen with a blue backsplashEric Hernandez/Getty Images

Bold Backsplash

Smaller kitchens often have smaller, isolated wall surface areas, so adding a bold color can look choppy. The exception: The backsplash. Whether a continuous section or horizontal band, it’s the perfect place for high-impact color. If your cabinets are white, a backsplash with any bold and bright color will work. Use a durable paint with a gloss or semi-gloss finish.

Pro tip: Add under-cabinet lighting to make your color choice even brighter.

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Cabinets with painted frontsScovad/Getty Images

Mix It Up

If you have stained wood cabinets, consider just painting the doors and drawer fronts. This works well with smaller kitchens because you get to control the amount of color, so as not to overwhelm your space.

The trick is to find a color that contrasts with the wood tone, rather than matching it. Consider the underlying tones of your wood. Cherry and walnut wood tones work well with blues. Oak, maple and pine work well with greens.

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Cohesive kitchen with gray cabinets and white walls2creativecrew/Getty Images

Pair Cabinet and Wall Color Well

Choosing a subtle wall color that coordinates nicely with your cabinetry helps your small kitchen feel bigger.

If your cabinets are wood-stained, use something similarly warm toned on your walls, such as golden cream. If your cabinets are white, using pale tints of green, blue or gray on your walls brings in a little color without creating a sharp space-shrinking contrast.

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If White Feels Right

It’s a tried-and-true tactic: Basic white cabinets make your kitchen feel open and airy. If your kitchen is exceptionally tight, this may be the way to go.

Consider a high-gloss lacquer finish, which will reflect light and blur the lines of your cabinets, taking their appearance as an overwhelming solid chunk down a notch. And instead of applying white to both cabinets and walls, which is too often inconsistent, consider a pale gray on the walls. It creates subtle contrast that doesn’t try to match.

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Small kitchen with a yellow accent wallRichman21/Getty Images

Accent Walls

If your small kitchen is blessed with a solid section of wall, consider painting it in a bold accent wall color, such as orange or teal. This creates a colorful attention-stealing focal point that visually enlarges your space.

If your kitchen is long and narrow kitchen, apply your bold color to the short wall, if possible. This will draw that wall forward, helping the side walls recede, effectively “squaring up” your space.

Carrie Oesmann Bailiwick Interior Design
Carrie Oesmann, ASID, AKBD, CLIPP, has transformed hundreds of homes in her 20-year career as an award-winning interior designer. Carrie's company,, is an online, virtual, interior design platform, based in Bethlehem, PA. Her work has appeared in numerous publications such as Design NJ, New York Spaces, and Distinctive Kitchens. Oesmann shares her design insights through her blog which features articles on every aspect of home design and remodeling, including the complete renovation of her own 1905 historic home. Follow her daily tips on Instagram @bailiwickdesign.

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