Many interior designers and homeowners alike tout a gleaming, all-white kitchen as a timeless classic. But should they?
Houzz’s 2021 Kitchen Trends report shows that of homeowners planning to upgrade or update their kitchen cabinetry, white still holds the top spot for color choice (41%). Before you start perusing paint chips or shopping for new storage for your chef, consider the practical side of the matter.
We spoke with several homeowners about white kitchens. Here are five reasons white kitchens can cause big problems:
It's Hard to Keep White Cabinets Looking Nice
White kitchens mean a lot of maintenance, especially with wood. With regular wood cabinets, you wipe off the grime and move along your merry way. With cabinets that are painted white, you take a little bit of that look with you with each wipe. Jamie Margolis and her family live in an older home in Massachusetts that had an all-white update before they moved in.
“My 100-year-old house has beautiful, original craftsman styling throughout—and a remodeled kitchen with white painted cabinets,” she said. “It's lovely until you look closely. Not only are they a hassle to keep clean, but they also used some paint that peels and scratches, and it shows so easily! Around each knob is a growing circle of paint.”
Plan on regular touch-ups in order to keep cabinets looking fresh. If you are fortunate enough to have a kitchen that captures a lot of sunlight, you’ll also be contending with uneven fading where the light strikes.
White Kitchens Can Feel Cold
Many people go the monochrome route because their space does not get a lot of light, or the space is small. Keeping it stark and bright is a way to give an illusion of space and luminosity. A large all-white kitchen is too much of a good thing.
Creating a vast expanse of color-free cabinets, counters and fixtures can easily make the heart of your home look more like a doctor’s exam room or a manufacturing clean room. Neither of those give off a warm and welcoming vibe, especially for a space that generally serves as a beacon for gathering during family meals and larger celebrations.
White Kitchens Are Tough to Keep Clean
The most obvious issue with a white kitchen is keeping it clean, not just over time but day to day. “Depending on how you cook and what you drink, white counters can be a bear to keep clean,” said Tennessee homeowner Valerie Castanon. “From red wine, pomegranate, cherries, cranberries, chili powder, the list goes on and on.” Even with a top-notch cleaning agent or constant care, chances are your kitchen will never look as sparkling as you had imagined.
“I like the look of white cabinets and counters, but I just always see dirt or a dinginess when other people say they don't see the same thing,” said Texas homeowner Lisa Wyatt Roe. “It might just be my eyes, but white countertops seldom look entirely clean to me, even when I scrub them. Sinks, too.”
And if your meal plans feature frying up bacon or boiling a tomato-based sauce with any regularity, you will find that food flies into places you would never imagine.
Choosing the Right Shade of White Can Be Tedious
Even the phrase “all-white kitchen” is problematic. Just as you can find dozens of shades of blues, greens and even tan, white comes in many colors. A sink or backsplash that looks like it will match your vision in the store can actually throw your plans off in reality. If your counters and cabinets are a little off, and the floors just a bit brighter, the sleek look comes off as thrown together and out of date.
This is especially an issue when replacing an appliance or doing a refresh. If you insist on staying with one tone, look at your options in the proper light that mimics the light in your home and double-check the shade against existing materials.
White Kitchens May Not Be 'Timeless' for Much Longer
Yes, going with all white is a timeless look, and for that reason, many homeowners lean into the trend when the remodel, not just because they are drawn to it but because they hope it stands the test of time when it comes time to sell.
Don’t take that to the bank just yet. According to the 2020 Ashton Woods National Homebuyer Survey, white kitchens are falling out of favor with Millenials and Gen Z, two groups that make up a big chunk of potential homebuyers. With so many models and existing homes sticking with this trend, remodeling with white in order to stand out actually has the opposite effect. Homebuyers have seen it time and again and are moving on to bolder looks.
Of course, as with any style, in any room, the best choice is to stick with what you love and what works for your family. And looking at the end result from all angles and points of view will help make that decision a sound one.