Dark kitchen ideas – 10 designs to make you rethink white units

It’s time to be brave and take on the dark side – grey, black, green and blue all make a strong style statement

Kitchen with black cabinetry, wooden floors, large island and bar stools
(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

If you’re looking to update your kitchen, then dark shades will make an instant impact, especially if you currently have an all-white kitchen. How deep you go with your dark kitchen ideas will depends on several factors, from how much light your kitchen has to its size… and of course, how brave you are. 

There's a way to integrate dark kitchen ideas into most spaces, varying from a single hero dark island unit to wall-to-wall dark. Opting for kitchen ideas with dark cabinets is the most simple way to introduce a new kitchen colour scheme, and ideal for a quick update if your units are showing signs of wear and tear. If you are worried that an all-dark kitchen would be too much, then why not paint base units or just the island (if you have one). 

Dark kitchens are a growing trend, as Matt Siberry, Head of Home at Pinterest UK, explains, ‘With monochrome minimalism taking a back seat, the same is taking place in the kitchen, with all-white being swapped for darker colours. On Pinterest we’ve specifically seen a search increase for ‘deep blue kitchen’ (90% YoY), alongside a spike in ‘dark green kitchen ideas’ (40%). Keen to avoid it feeling too enclosed, we’re also seeing an uplift in brass and gold cabinet doorknobs and handles to help brighten the darker furnishings.’

‘It’s a misconception that dark kitchens make the room feel smaller,’ adds Al Bruce, founder of Olive & Barr. Embracing a warm cocooning colour can make the space feel welcoming and considered. The trick is to balance the dark cabinets with light worktops to create balance and contrast, while helping to bounce the light around the room.’

Dark kitchen ideas

From inky blue to jet black, warm aubergine to rich green, there’s plenty of colour choice when looking for dark kitchen ideas. Start by finding darker schemes you are drawn to, then see how you can either adapt your existing kitchen or chat with a designer to plan how to integrate your new kitchen ideas with dark cabinets.

1. Go for ink blue

Navy kitchen utility room with Belfast sink, wicker basket storage and patterned tiled floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Give a modern country kitchen a touch of drama with inky blue painted kitchen cabinets. Moulded doors and neat brushed chrome knobs keep the dark kitchen ideas look smart. Continue the inky blue shade on to panelling and a peg rail, perfect for hanging contrasting wicker pieces against.

With a wall of dark inky blue units, keep the floor and remaining walls light. Wooden worktop and a large white sink stop this dark kitchen from dominating the space.

2. Reveal a dark side

Kitchen with dark blue-green island and wooden built in pantry cupboard

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Craig)

Take your dark kitchen ideas onto your island, choosing a dark blue shade. This will make a real centrepiece of your kitchen; a space for all to congregate – going for contrast, is a great kitchen island idea. Team with white wall and base cabinetry around the island unit, helping to maintain that focal point. 

Surprise with a dark interior for a larder cupboard, providing a sharp, modern twist. Storage jars and baskets will really pop against the richness of the wood finish.

3. Freshen up a dark green

Kitchen with botanical wallpaper, panelled booth and green walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

With green dark kitchen ideas gaining in popularity recently, make yours stand out from the crowd by teaming with a statement wallpaper. Go a shade or two lighter than your cabinetry for your choice of green pattern, leading the eye upwards.

Tan brown is a great partner for dark green kitchens – they are found together in nature. Try a wooden table and leather chairs and benches, helping to create a cosy, inviting kitchen-diner space.

4. Go for a perfect plum

Kitchen with plum island and granite worksurface

(Image credit: Future PLC/Caroline Foster)

Looking for something different to dark green, grey or blue? What about a rich plum shade for your Shaker-style kitchen cabinets? It’s ideal for breaking up a large kitchen, working as an accent colour. Here, the colour accentuates the curved lines of the space.

Need an idea for painting your dresser using dark kitchen ideas? Try a two-colour kitchen cabinetry look, with a darker colour on the base, and a lighter neutral on top. This will avoid a large piece from dominating.

5. Use different shades of the same colour

Green kitchen with breakfast bar

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

With a painted kitchen, you have plenty of flexibility to highlight features by subtly using a darker shade of your cabinetry paint. Here, a darker shade highlights the raised butcher’s block breakfast bar. This dark teal is also used on the skirting board, leading the eye around the room. 

Silver-grey metro tiles and marble provide the perfect finishing touch to dark kitchen ideas– a pure white would provide too sharp a contrast with the warm teal paint.

6. Keep it simple

Kitchen with black cabinetry and white walls and open shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Pair black-grained base units with a soft white splashback and worktop for a modern kitchen idea. Choosing cabinet fronts with grained detailing stops the base units from being too dark and light absorbing – it’s a great way of adding texture to a simple monochrome scheme.

A floating shelf provides storage for day-to-day essentials, with wooden kitchenware echoing the graining of the cabinets. 

7. Choose grey slab fronted units

Grey kitchen with large island, pendant lighting and exposed brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Give your kitchen an industrial look with handless doors and deep drawers in mid grey. Simple in style, this is a hardworking grey kitchen idea, being easy to clean and with plenty of storage. Pay attention to the detailing of such a modern-look kitchen, using a lighter shade of grey, white or brushed chrome on the carcass frame, which remains visible thanks to a gap between the island’s drawers.

Warm up a grey kitchen, while playing to the industrial vibe, with an exposed brick wall and a trio of pendant lights above any island or dining table.

8. Add a metallic

Kitchen with black cabinetry, wooden floors, large island and bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Give a dark kitchen shine, with bronze-effect cabinetry, adding interest to sleek charcoal slab-style doors. Use on the side of your island unit that faces an open-plan room, continuing to a bank of wall units on the back wall – this clever repetition, or two-tone kitchen idea, makes the kitchen area appear bigger, visually pushing that back wall away.

Look for dark detailing on your choice of furniture, like these black and pale wood stools, which pop against the bronze island unit, while working with the dark palette perfectly.

9. Use a dark shade on the island

White kitchen with black island and bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

In a large open-plan family kitchen, the island is often the silent workhorse, being the space where people eat, socialise, prep food and even work. A dark shade of blue, black, grey or green will give it the visual recognition it deserves. It’s a great way of adding colour to an all-white kitchen.

Bring life to a monochrome kitchen with fresh foliage and houseplants. A large vase of seasonal branches helps unite light and dark.

10. Add colour in surprising places

Black kitchen with green details and pink tiled splashback

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When designing kitchen ideas with dark cabinets, look for areas where you can add colour or shine, such as a copper-effect splashback or punchy jade ceiling, giving a charcoal kitchen personality.

Choose handles that stand out against dark cabinetry; chrome or copper will add a touch of luxe, especially if shapely or unusual designs.

What’s the best colour for a dark kitchen?

‘Your choice of dark cabinetry should be chosen not by trend, but to the colour you feel most drawn towards,’ says Al from Olive and Barr. 'Steering away from trends will ensure you’ll continue to love your kitchen for years to come. 

Those looking for a timeless blue colour for their dark kitchen ideas could consider Railings from Farrow & Ball or Basalt from Little Greene; these two colours give depth without overpowering the kitchen. Green is also another popular choice, the rich and earthy tones of either an olive or forest green work best over more vibrant shades that can be a little jarring. Ho Ho Green from Little Greene, Studio Green or Castle Grey from Farrow & Ball are two brilliant choices.

Are dark kitchen cabinets hard to keep clean?

‘Unlike white kitchens, kitchen ideas with dark cabinets are more forgiving when it comes to keeping them clean,' points out Al from Olive and Barr.

'Of course, when the sunlight is streaming in, any obvious marks will show up more prominently, but generally a darker kitchen is a safer option to keep clean.'

Will dark cabinets make my kitchen look smaller? 

‘You may need to be wary when looking to incorporate dark colours into a small kitchen as using too much in rooms with less light can make the space feel moody – and even smaller,’ says Dawn Filkins, Head of Creative, Smile Kitchens

‘If you still want to use dark kitchen ideas without sacrificing the feeling of space and openness, opt for a lighter colour higher up on your walls and incorporate the darker colours lower down,’ suggests Dawn. ‘For example, use dual colours in the kitchen by making the wall cabinets white and base cabinets navy to avoid any space minimising effects.’

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan is an award-winning editor, writer and stylist, with over 25 years’ experience writing, styling and editing home interest magazines. Jennifer was the deputy editor of Ideal Home from 2008-2010, before launching Ideal Home’s sister title, Style at Home in 2010. Jennifer went on to launch several craft magazines and websites, before going freelance in 2016, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Dunlem and Nordic House. Today, she writes for Ideal Home, Real Homes, Waitrose, Woman & Home, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Homes & Gardens. But it was during lockdown that Jennifer realised her dream of publishing her own magazine – Simply Scandi.