Mixing white uppers with wood lowers

jacyMay 16, 2009


I'm doing a budget renovation of my urban original post-war built-ins kitchen, with an eye toward maximizing storage space (e.g., ripping out soffit for 42" uppers.)

Kitchen is 11x11 with two outside walls featuring lots of windows, on which there can be no cabinetry. One wall is essentially nothing but window and faces west; it's quite bright in the late afternoon, especially during seasons when the mature trees are bare. The other wall has a 36" wide window in the corner adjacent the picture window wall. To say it is a naturally well-lit room is an understatement; every speck of dirt and dust mote always seem to be highlighted.

The other two walls form the cabinetry L, with the corner being broken by a doorway into the living room. The sink run is 72" inches, barely, and the stove/fridge run is 86". At the opposite end of that run are 4 steps down to the entry door.

Not much to work with for cabinet space. On the plus side, it'll keep my costs down, and I think I can probably get some nice overruns for backsplash and counter if I'm patient.

I prefer an eclectic style, cannot stand matched sets or too much symmetry in anything.

All that said, how lame is my idea to put some form of white cabinets in for uppers, with wood lowers, with styling on the lowers maximizing the 'furniture' look. I think all white would be more than I can stand in this room but I do like the thought of an off-white or glazed white somewhere. This room is a major thoroughfare through the house and my kids beat the crap out of everything, so I think white on the lowers would look beat in a matter of months.

Stove and fridge will be stainless, dishwasher to be paneled to match the lowers so the stainless doesn't overwhelm. Right now only the fridge and dw will be purchased, I have to live with the stove for a while until it breaks or I find a really good deal on the desired new one.

I am completely undecided about the counter surface and wall color. All I know is it won't be Corian-like. What little backsplash I have will be some sort of neutral in the beige family, to coordinate with wall tile already in place in the adjacent doorway area.

Any thoughts on mixing? I'm seeing it done on cabinets and islands all the time and really like the look but I've no space for an island [sigh]. I worry if it'll look dated too quickly. I also wonder about what color for the lowers, and if I would/should go with a dark natural or painted finish.

Thanks for any thoughts!

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did you see the kitchen this month on the house beautiful website, june 09 issue?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 10:44AM
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I did the stain bottoms and painted 42" uppers. I wanted an off white but the cabinets only came in "vanilla" which turned out to be more yellow. I was presently surprised. If I could do it over, I would probably really mix it up instead of just tops one color and bottom another. This is an old photo that shows top and bottom....

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 11:23AM
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I guess if it's good enough for HB, it's good enough for me, hmmm?

I'm not New England and I'm certainly not nautical but I really do like that look. A lot. I think it transitions well from the white upper to dark lower, through the tile and granite, and I'd been wondering about handling that myself.

I think I could go with a wood panel on the dishwasher and a white fridge but I'm kind of stuck on the stove. Would it be heinous to have a white fridge, which ties into the white upper cabs, with a stainless range? The sink would be stainless, and all the metal finishes brushed nickel, so I'm thinking that wouldn't be too terriblly mix-and-match on top of the already-mixed cabinets wonder what conventional wisdom says.

Thanks again for the link!
Mixed cabs on HB

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 11:47AM
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Sduck, thanks for the photo, it looks great! Love your sink, but I have NO space for that. What do you mean, you'd mix it up even more?

Speaking of yellow, my 18-year-old Amana white fridge is a bit yellowed, when I stand back and compare it to my nearby white stove, which is still brilliant. The fridge has that textured finish and I wonder if that's partially to blame for the discoloration. Maybe it was the wrong cleaning products over the years, or maybe just all those afternoon UV rays, I don't know, but inevitable yellowing at different rates is a concern I have about mixing different bright white surfaces.

The fridge is on its last legs and I'm just praying it keeps working until I've made my replacement decision.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 12:58PM
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I think it will work and keep down costs in your kitchen. Just plan the right space for the new stove and you'll be fine.
Nice to know HB is showing it. It's the only idea I'm using from the original KD we were working with...I didn't like much else of that plan!
I'm planning one mixed wall b/c I am painting and reusing my upper glass front cabinets. They will be BM dove white, the lowers will be midrange not super dark and counter will be beech. I'm doing feet and corbels on one section to look like a hutch. The other section is a counter height message center with a stool to slide under the 18" deep counters. It's in a part of the kitchen with limited natural light so I wanted to keep it light.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 1:23PM
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Definitely do stain on the bottom rather than paint. The stain is much more durable and the bottom is where you will get the wear. We did ours almost 4 years ago and I was worried that I would get sick of the look, but I still love it. I see it every now and then in magazines, but not enough to be a trendy look that will date quickly.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 2:46PM
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I just want to say thanks for inspiring another idea for my kitchen. Now I'm toying with the idea of painted uppers with quartersawn red oak lowers & island. I love quartersawn oak but I was afraid that a full kitchen of quartersawn oak with flat sawn red oak floors might be too much wood for me, even though we'd stain them different colors. This is a way for me to mix it up, getting the warmth of wood and the brightness of white/cream painted cabinetry.

Do you think I can paint my uppers in a soft beige, such as BM's Hush instead of a white? I have white fridge, DW, will get SS cooktop (mid-tone granite), and probably will get white oven & MW. We have white painted woodwork, which is a different color than our white appliances. I don't want to go as start a white as my appliances. Dang, my head hurts - too many decisions and I've barely started!

budge1, what color are your white cabs?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 1:34PM
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Oooh, I did a search and found another thread on this topic with a link to this gorgeous kitchen. The uppers are definitely not white but a light beige, just like I was considering.

Here is a link that might be useful: aktillery's Kitchen

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 1:55PM
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lisa, I've wanted to do two tones for the longest time. But, my white appliances always hold me back. We're still tossing the idea around (mostly because I've had a pic of budge's kitchen on my desktop for over a yr, lol)
I worry about the look with the appliances, then trying to mix in white uppers. Then, there's the backspash, another white..either bead board, or subway.
We've gone from all white. To doing lower black, upper white. To lower green, upper white. Then moved on to all black, lol. But, again..those darn appliances!
Yesterday, I was at...leave horrid golden oak cabs as they are, and give up on painting/staining. Then dh found some new mags I rotated in the bathroom (tmi, I know) and he's set again on painting the cabs. Sigh!
Hopefully someone will post an example with white appliances!!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 1:58PM
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Here's more on the subject. This style might not be everyone's cup of tea but I'm used to marching to a slightly different drummer so it doesn't bother me. I figure if it's a big deal when we sell (10-15 years down the road), we can reface the uppers to match the lowers. By that time, the kitchen will need freshening up anyway.

Here is a link that might be useful: 'Calling All Light Uppers / Dark Lowers' - Kitchen Cabinet Co

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 2:03PM
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my problem is, we plan to sell in just a few yrs.
so, resale is always in the back of my head. that being said, i want to enjoy this house to the fullest why i'm here.
just found this, oh my..how cute is this is kitchen!?!
it's more my style. the "cottage" look. which obviously isn't for everyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: adorable two toned kitchen

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 2:40PM
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I found these instructions helpful. I am using scotch brite pads to lightly scuff the cabinets before applying the liquid sand. Honestly, not a lot of extra work but helpful to the process.

Wow! Several posters have found great inspiration kitchens. It sure has kept me on task. Thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful: how to paint cabinets

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 4:16PM
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I live ia 40's era apartment with built in place painted white lipped cabinetry and while I love opaque finishes I would never have white lowers again - they are pain to keep clean. I think painted uppers or full height cabinetry with no countertop over it is great but on lowers with countertop over it stained wood is the only way to go IMO. I also think it looks good, particularly if you can break up the horizontal bands with a hutch or pantry in one or the other finish somewhere in the space. Planning on doing it in the kitchen I am working on now including changing the doors style from oak shaker on the bottom to painted raised panel on the uppers.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 4:57PM
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momto4boys, I missed your post above about white appliances. I'm in the same boat and I go back and forth about whether it was a good decision or not to stick with white. On one hand, I'm glad we stuck with white. It's so much easier to keep clean, I like it's brightness and its non-commercial style (I really don't want my kitchen to resemble a restaurant's kitchen). It's also cheaper to purchase white than SS. On the other hand, there are times when I wish we'd gone SS like almost everyone else. There are many more inspirational kitchens to compare to, plus there are more appliance options. Each time I zero in on a wall oven, I learn it's only offered in SS. It's starting to tick me off.

That is a cute kitchen you posted. I like the look of open cupboards but it's not for me. My first thought when I see these kitchens is "ack, more places to dust and keep neat!" aktillery's kitchen is more my style.

caryscott, I've been concerned about wear and tear on painted lowers but I think it has a lot to do with how well the cabs are painted and what kind of top coat is applied, as well as how many topcoats are applied. I've never lived with painted cabinets before so I hope that's correct.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 7:45PM
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momto4boys, I absolutely love LOVE LOVE that kitchen you linked! I love those colors! We actually are going with BOTH white and stainless in our kitchen. We have a white FD fridge, cooktop, and microwave, but a stainless wall oven, warming drawer, and hood. I call the stainless "a little jewelry" in my kitchen. I think white and silver look great together.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:59PM
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I was going to do exactly that (white painted uppers with dark stained lower cabinets) when we began planning our kitchen remodel over a year ago. Of course, I began second-guessing my choice immediately and totally changed my mind! I actually changed my mind many times and probably drove our poor cabinet maker crazy. But the primary reason I changed was the fact that I also REALLY want very dark hardwood floors, so thought the dark lower cabinets would be too much and they would blend right into the floor. I've now compromised by having all white perimiter cabinets with a dark stained island :) So...you might just want to consider your floor color when making the decision, but otherwise I think the look of mixing painted with stained is great!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 1:35PM
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There is a really pretty kitchen on the website of kitchen designer Jean Stoffer. If you google her name it should pop right up. If memory serves me correctly the uppers are stained and the base cabinets are creamy white. I think you will find some pretty kitchens on her website.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 1:51PM
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OMG, I love her kitchens! There are several that I would happily claim as my own (do you think the owners would mind?).

I recognized two of them right away. The "Emerald Isle" kitchen is featured in Great American Kitchens magazine. 'Textural Tudor" is featured in another mag I've picked up recently but danged if I can remember which one.

Thanks for posting, michellemarie!

Here is a link that might be useful: Hint of mint

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 3:06PM
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here's a link to a cool PINK kitchen (ok, not my style..but love the cabinets) with two toned cabs.

and some of the pics I've saved lately. including one of budge's :)

Here is a link that might be useful: pink kitchen

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 3:49PM
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momto4boys,( and if your moniker is true, I don't when you find time to even look at kitchen photos let alone do your own) it is so cool to have someone use my kitchen as inspiration. Even cooler that two of the kitchen photos you posted were in my inspiration album when I was planning.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 6:41PM
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I love your idea of wood and white.
Here are a few more I have in my favorites.
They are mostly islands that are darker
but maybe you can see how nicely it would

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 10:10PM
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watch the food network if you can. giada has a show..."giada at home" and i find her kitchen to be eclectic. maybe more on the modern side but she has white uppers and dark brown lowers......

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 11:30AM
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Thanks, boxerpups! You are the best at finding photos to show an idea in use. I'm going to start a new post about our kitchen instead of taking over jacy's thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mixing cabinet finishes

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 5:45PM
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Wow, this languished for a day or two and then really popped -- thanks! I LOVE all of these photos and am so glad to see such support. Pleased to see it even spawned. :P

I now have a Thomasville quote from HD. (I know, but for a single mom with a limited budget and a tiny kitchen, it works.) I've got a warm-and-fuzzy from the KD and I'm enjoying this phase of the project, which I'd been dreading as something akin to buying a new car. In the past I've been put off by condescending or patronizing KDs so life's good. He's also steered me to a local installer (about whom I'd already heard good things elsewhere) rather than the HD outfit.

I'm going for Cottage doors with white painted birch uppers and chocolate cherry lowers.

Scoping out local granite yards this weekend, hoping to find something largely white (bianca something) with reddish brown.

Decided on supergloss white-painted beadboard for the backsplash to tide me over for now.

I'm with you on the appliance challenge with this mix.

I plan to panel the dishwasher as my sink run is only 72" and stares you in the face when you enter the room so I don't want to break it up with an appliance, no matter what the finish.

Decided my stove will be my splurge, a stainless dual-fuel slide-in.

Leaning toward an over-the-stove stainless microwave
so the vertical look over the stove will be conistent; plus, my white microwave yellowed and that'll look like crap in white cabinets.

Totally torn with the fridge. Hoping for divine inspiration or at the very least a good slap upside the head. I like stainless, don't like its maintenance; the KD suggested a new finish that mimics stainless but isn't? Can't imagine it but I guess I'll look into it, otherwise I'll probably end up with white.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:45PM
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jacy - love the ideas you have so far. I have that fridge that mimics stainless but isn't - it's awesome. I have the Samsung FD.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 10:21PM
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Thanks, krissd, can't wait for it to all come together.

I presume your other appliances are stainless -- how well does the faux-stainless fridge match?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 7:21PM
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Jacy, we also did the mismatched appliances. We replaced the DW in the picture with a panelled one (love our ASKO), because our lowers are black we went with black range and OTR. Our fridge is in a small bank of all white cabs, so we just kept our old white fridge. Believe it or not, it all works really together.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 7:51PM
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