Are White Kitchens Timeless or Trendy?

Pros & Cons of an All-White Kitchen Look 

White kitchen coffee nook with black countertops and grey walls
Crisp white cabinets and grey walls make this white kitchen coffee nook an all-around classic style. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Over the course of the past year, we’ve all spent more time than ever before in our homes. And that means that some of the most popular design choices in recent times have been called into question. Is the fiddle leaf fig really still the “it” plant? Are graphic floor tiles really for me? And of course, the big one: Are all-white kitchens timeless or trendy?

So today, we’re diving into the world of kitchens because this last question has been circulating quite a lot recently. After all, the general color trend has been moving into warmer and more saturated-color territory. So you may be thinking that white kitchens are totally trendy. But the truth is that they’ve been around since the 1920s and 1930s (in fact, white was the only color offered at that time!). So it’s not really a surprise that white kitchens do still remain popular. 

White kitchen from the 1920s with white cabinets, white walls
A 1920s-era kitchen offered little in the way of color; white walls, white cabinetry, and white backsplashes were the norm.

Whichever way you lean, it’s definitely a hot debate, and you won’t want to miss it. Read on – it’s your turn to be the judge!

Related: Best Greige Paint Colors – Our Top Grey/Beige Shades for your Home

Argument #1: White Kitchens are Totally Timeless

When it comes to the “timeless” stance on white kitchens, practicality reigns supreme. Typically, opting for a neutral palette as your base in your home is actually the smartest choice for longevity. No ultra-permanent commitments to a whimsical wallpaper or a shockingly-bold floor tile. No frustration at having to re-paint your cabinets yet again as soon as the latest mint/sage/blue/pink (or fill in the blank) color trend shifts. 

Easy to Re-Style

White is, arguably, a classic color. And by using it as a base, you can easily change up your style via all of the surrounding kitchen decor. Tired of a too-traditional look? Update your hardware pulls or light fixtures. Ready to make red your color pop du jour? Pick up a few ceramic bowls and a new teakettle to re-style your kitchen. The possibilities never end. White simply allows you to play with your room’s aesthetic. And for people who get tired of trends easily, it’s a safe bet for your own kitchen.

Crisp & Clean

Beyond the functional elements of white kitchens, they’re also beloved simply because of their crisp and clean appearance. Ever walk into a too-bold or cluttered kitchen? Automatically feel closed in or unsure where to stand? That’s precisely our point. All-white kitchens feel inherently collected and visually simple. No matter what type of spread or cooking mess is out in full view on the counter, a white room manages to seem intentional and show-stopping.

White kitchen with stainless steel appliances and chrome faucet
Despite a countertop and sink filled with ingredients for dinner, this white kitchen still feels clean and uncluttered thanks to its neutral aesthetic and spacious vibe. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
White kitchen with spacious kitchen island and brushed nickel accents
The creamy whites in this renovated kitchen pair perfectly with a mix of greys, brushed nickel, and streamlined engineered wood flooring. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
White Kitchen with Grey Kitchen Island and antique bronze hardware pulls
With accents of antique bronze in the cabinet hardware pulls and light fixtures, this warm and inviting white kitchen is inherently timeless. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Argument #2: White Kitchens are OUT

Then again, the camp that believes that white kitchens are a trend that’s heading out the door has some solid points in its column, too. Not only are we seeing a bucking of the typical all-white look, but we’re seeing more and more of its exact opposite: bold and unapologetic color palettes. Rich jewel tones, soft pastels, textured backsplashes, and more are making debuts left and right. And while that can feel trendy, it seems that it’s actually a reflection of more and more people embracing their personal styles and an overall vibe of comfort.

Practicality

To bring it back to the question of practicality, too, white kitchens are, admittedly, more prone to scuffs and dirt. And if you’ve got kiddos, you know exactly what we mean. Darker cabinets do tend to hide the more pressing stains and fingertip smudges. 

Ready for Something New

Beyond this, though, white hit a major stride a few years back. This means it’s a wave that people have been riding ever since. You know the look – white walls and cabinets paired with brushed brass hardware and subway tile backsplashes. And while it’s actually quite a stylish look, it’s definitely one you see just about everywhere you go – including commercial spaces. So the whole white and neutral kitchen look seems to feel, well, a little tired overall. And with people spending so much time at home these days, it does beg the question whether or not the look actually brings people joy, or just feels like a repetition of a Pinterest-popular trend. 

Lake House Kitchen with Charcoal Cabinets and wood flooring
While white still makes an appearance in this open kitchen via the countertops, subway tile backsplash, and wall paint, the deep charcoal cabinetry anchors the room in a saturated color that feels fresh and different (yet still neutral). (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Best Greige Paint Colors

large and open kitchen with dark stained cabinets and a white backsplash
Using a dark-stained wood for the cabinets in this kitchen allows it to bring a warm and inviting aesthetic to the space, moving away from the bright and stark whites of recent years. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
White subway tile backsplash and black kitchenette cabinets, wood floors, open shelving
A hint of white in the subway tile backsplash and countertops keeps this kitchenette feeling bright, yet the black cabinetry gives it a modern and trend-setting twist. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Argument #3: There IS a Middle Ground

But just because white kitchens are being argued over like mad these days, it doesn’t mean you have to either ditch them completely or fight to the bitter end over their value. In fact, there is a happy middle ground that is easily achievable. As far as the color white itself, there are endless variations. And if you love the simplicity and crispness of a white kitchen, but are ready for something a little different than we’ve typically seen, simply stick to those creamy and warm whites instead. That way, you get a soft and neutral white as your base, but your kitchen feels undoubtedly less bright. This allows you to change with the trends in a simple, yet impactful, way. 

Warm It Up

Another great way to keep your white kitchen while adding some warmth and color is to simply update your decor pieces. Bring in hints of wood or woven elements for an inviting and contrasting look. And don’t be afraid to pepper in a few hints of color here and there. You’d be surprised at how something as simple as a new piece of artwork, rug, or a vase filled with flowers can totally transform your space.

woven rattan kitchen island pendants above white oak kitchen island
With unique woven rattan kitchen island pendants and wicker counter stools, this all-white kitchen gets a dose of warmth and contemporary style. The kitchen island is white oak, too, which acts like a furniture piece and adds a layer of contrast to the space. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Neutral Paint Colors We Love!

modern white kitchen with spacious charcoal kitchen island and brushed brass pendants
White cabinets surround the perimeter of this open kitchen, yet paired with a charcoal island and strategically-placed wood accents, it feels balanced and colorful, avoiding the typical white kitchen look popularized in recent times. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

So, what’s your verdict? Are white kitchens still fabulous enough to rave about for years to come? Or are you firmly convinced that it’s time to shelf the trend? Let us know your vote in the comments below!

OH! And don’t forget to UNLOCK YOUR PERSONAL DESIGN STYLE with our fun and FREE QUIZ!

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

10 Responses

  1. Oh boy – it is a debate. Love all your white kitchen examples but the all-charcoal kitchen is gorgeous too! And doing the combo with both is such a great middle ground and still ultimately neutral. I admire the folks doing the super bold color choices but I do wonder about resale? Great post

  2. The versatility of white is timeless! Accessorizing with natural warm textured hues is a current popular trend that can give a tired white kitchen a nice boost of warmth! Also, bringing in a bit of color with a beautiful picture, or better yet a colorful carpet runner is on trend and can be a gorgeous addition!!

  3. Gosh, I love an all white kitchen. It IS classic, timeless! …but yet, I wonder about going over to the dark side…which all explains why MY project is not yet off the ground. The plight of a designer (haha)!

  4. I absolutely think a white kitchen is timeless, but love the addition of wood and color accents to warm it up. I’m a big advocate for staying in neutral/classic territory with things that are expensive or messy to change, and personalizing with things that are not so permanent. For myself, I’m contemplating/daydreaming about a black kitchen – neutral color, but dramatic. And I’d lighten it up with backsplash and counter choices and warm metal finishes in the mix

  5. Great post! Every example you gave is on point. Especially when mixed with white, as you discuss and show,..every combination feels fresh and current. It give people looking to do their kitchen great examples of each look.

  6. That’s a great way to dissect the white and/or dark dilemma. You’re absolutely right about the pros and cons of whites. I lived with a white kitchen for many years. I’m not so sure it will ever really go out of favor. Lots of pros!

  7. I loved seeing how you expressed your words in images of your own kitchen design work for your clients, Carla. Such beautiful examples of your points.

    And re: an all white kitchen? I will always love it, but I think adding in touches of warmth and color + art that can be changed out is an important element to making it feel joyful and personalized.

    And that way, when a client is ready to sell [ if that’s a consideration ], then those personal touches can easily be taken out, to give new potential homeowners space for imagining it with THEIR things.

  8. The eye candy alone in here is worth the read! Putting the images aside, you have made really great points on both sides.

    Where I live, we’re still seeing a huge pull to white kitchens however islands, they are a different story! We are designing a lot of islands a different colour or using a wood tone (or real wood). I love when we get the opportunity to add a little pizazz to a space and when clients are bold to step away from and entirely white kitchen.

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Choose your paint colors with confidence

Hi I’m Carla

carla-bast-interior-designer-and-blogger

I’m glad you’re here! You are in the right place if you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of embarking on a remodeling or interior design project. Living with and outdated 90s era home and don’t know where to start? I’ve helped families like yours update their home and create spaces that reflect what’s important to them for over 25 years.

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Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

 

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