by Sam Ferris
White and dark kitchen cabinets in Corpus Christi
Photo courtesy of Emser Tile.
​Light versus dark is a battle as ancient as the art of cooking. This debate may not be another installment of good versus evil, but the stakes are just as high. Your kitchen cabinet color can affect your mood, your home’s resale value, and the way you clean. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before you choose a bright white paint or deep dark stain. Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits – and drawbacks – of white and dark cabinets. 
Cost is a tricky subject. It’s all about the details – whether you’re buying custom or pre-fabricated cabinets, whether your cabinets are painted or stained, and where you’re buying your cabinets.

When it comes to pre-fabricated cabinets, paints, i.e. white cabinets, normally cost more than stains but this can ultimately hinge on the cabinet manufacturer and the painting/staining techniques they use.

Certain stains may also cost more than some paints. If you’re adding a glaze to your paint and stain, pricing becomes more difficult to predict.

If you’re planning to re-stain or re-paint your cabinets, re-staining will often cost more due to the labor involved (sanding, etc.).

If you’re choosing between a light and a dark paint, pricing may be the same. Again, it will boil down to the cabinet manufacturer’s pricing. 
Resale Value
White kitchen cabinets with good resale value
Photo courtesy of Wellborn Cabinet.
Even if you’re not selling your home in the near future, there’s a good chance you’re planning for it when you’re picking a color for your cabinets.

So, what do homebuyers like when it comes to cabinet color? The lighter, the better, according to Houzz. While that doesn’t necessarily mean white (medium-toned wood cabinets are also a huge draw), it’s a clear advantage that white cabinets will have over dark cabinets.

The problem with dark cabinets is that they can make your kitchen feel like a cavern. Homeowners like to cook and eat in upbeat, open spaces.

Lighter cabinets – especially white cabinets – keep your kitchen space on the lighter side and can even allow the space to feel more open. Homebuyers generally love open, airy kitchen spaces.

White cabinets are also timeless. Dark cabinets, whether they’re stained or painted, are more likely to be trend-based.

This doesn’t mean your home won’t sell with dark cabinets. They can be just as stylish as white cabinets with the right design. But white cabinets will have the upper-hand when it comes to resale value. 
Dark kitchen cabinets in ranch-style kitchen
Photo courtesy of Wellborn Cabinet.
Less time spent on upkeep and cleaning is always a perk. A dark stained cabinet probably affords homeowners the least amount of maintenance.

Both white and dark cabinets have their pitfalls. White cabinets will show virtually any colored food stain, while it isn’t hard to spot dust and dirt on dark cabinets.

However, dark stained cabinets better hide stains and splatters and are also easier to touch up, especially if they’re a wood species like oak or hickory that features grains.

Scratches are a quick fix. Just find a touch up marker that has a similar color and color over the scratches. It’s difficult to tell when stained cabinets have been touched up.

It isn’t so easy with white cabinets. White cabinets are painted, and it’s much harder to touch up a painted cabinet because of the way paints are applied by cabinet makers. It’s easier to notice when a white cabinet has been touched up.  
Aesthetics and atmosphere
White and grey kitchen cabinets
Photo courtesy of Cambria USA.
White and dark cabinets each affect the way your kitchen looks and feels.

White cabinets can open up just about any kitchen space. They’re clean, airy, and light, which makes cooking enjoyable. Don’t underestimate the ability of white cabinets to make your kitchen feel larger than it is.

On the other hand, white cabinets can create a cold and sterile atmosphere in some kitchens. Many homeowners prefer cabinets that bring warmth and character to their kitchen space, such as a medium or dark-toned wood species. 

Simply put, dark cabinets bring an air of luxury to your kitchen. They’re sleek, mysterious, and high-end in appearance. They’re a sure-fire way to nab a designer edge.  

But like we mentioned when we discussed resale value, dark cabinets can create a depressing kitchen space at times. Homeowners like to cook in positive, upbeat spaces that feel warm and inviting, and that isn’t always the case with dark cabinets.  
Other variables
You’re likely wondering about factors such as longevity and quality.

The problem is, it’s impossible to determine how long white vs. dark cabinets last and how well made they are. It all depends on who’s making the cabinets and how they’re made.

Just remember: you always get what you pay for. It doesn’t matter if your cabinets are white or dark – if they’re cheap and poorly made, they won’t last long.

Always ask about warranties, whether you’re buying custom or prefabricated cabinets. 

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