Beyond the White Cabinet: Alternative Colour Choices for Your Built-Ins


It’s true what they say, old habits die hard! In the world of home decor, defaulting to white when making paint selections for built-in cabinetry is a prime example. Sometimes, clients choose white because they’re afraid of making a costly error while other times, it’s simply because they never thought to consider any other colour! Cabinetry in and of itself is typically not the most exciting feature in a room. Functional? Yes. Useful? Absolutely! But stunning? It can be!

Built-in cabinetry is a common storage solution due to its clean and streamline nature but when it’s painted white in the wrong setting, it tends to stick out like a sore thumb. Contrary to what one might think, painting cabinets a “neutral” white can have an adverse effect on the aesthetics of the room. The ultimate goal is to have your cabinets go with the flow of the room so that they look like they belong. Painting them a stark white will often make them look no better than a powder-coated storage unit from Staples. 

In three of our recent projects, we selected unexpected paint colours for our clients’ custom built-in cabinets to achieve storage solutions that are just as visually striking as they are practical. Here are three colour families you may want to consider when the time comes to select paints for your built-ins…


The goal for this bedroom was to achieve a colourful but soft, Mediterranean ambience. The bed frame and linens had already been selected and the walls were painted Benjamin Moore’s dreamy ‘Harbour Haze’ but we still hadn’t made a decision on the cabinets. Our initial inclination was to match it to the trim (painted with Benjamin’s Moore’s ‘Oyster’) but we felt that it wouldn’t look right with the gorgeous, Missoni fabric lining. Alternatively, painting them the colour of the walls would just look odd. The key was to find a different colour for a subtle contrast that would do justice to the beautiful custom craftsmanship of the cabinetry and also compliment the fabric. 

If you happen to own a blue purse, you’ll know that blue is a surprisingly neutral colour! You can wear a blue purse with just about anything, even if you’re wearing another shade of blue. From the woven Missoni fabric, we pulled a shade of blue that spoke to us and matched it to Benjamin Moore’s ‘Province Blue’ and suddenly, it all came together. What could have looked like just another necessary storage element became a stunning feature in this luxuriously serene bedroom.


More often than not, living and family room cabinetry fails to contribute visually but rather becomes a necessary evil for storing things. In our client’s living room featured above, the aim was to make the custom cabinetry an elegant feature in the room instead of a mere solution for hiding clutter. From shaker to louvered, cabinets come in several different styles and when you select one that has some dimension to it, you give yourself the opportunity to play with colour… and that’s just what we did! The cabinets’ rails and stiles were painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Plummett’ architectural gray and a complimentary gray (F&B’s ‘Manor House Gray’) was used to paint the panels. Then, as a contrast in between, we used Farrow & Ball’s ‘India Yellow’ which, in spite of its name, actually comes across as gold when used with the gray paints! The result is a beautiful series of cabinets that compliment the stonework and decor and elevate the entire room.


When it comes to master bedrooms, our clients usually want us to help them achieve a look that is chic and stylish but also calming. To create your own personal oasis, it’s nice to add some soft colours to balance things out. In our clients’ bedroom above, we had already selected Farrow & Ball’s ‘Lotus’ wallcovering but painting the cabinetry white would have contrasted too strongly with the paper and make it feel overly bold and graphic for a bedroom. So instead, we opted for this gorgeous hue with an incredibly appropriate name, ‘After the Rain’ by Benjamin Moore. When you look at this colour, you can almost smell the unmistakable fragrance of lilacs. Tantalizingly soft, it plays beautifully next to Art Nouveau-inspired blooms and invites you to open the drawers and see what treasure lay within!