Black Kitchen Cabinets The Ugly Truth

Decorating mistakes happen and sometimes I have to admit I’m wrong. True, it happens. You see, I had wanted my cabinets black for a long time. When I first saw the kitchen of Layla from The Lettered Cottage years ago I wanted to try black kitchen cabinets in my own home.

Last Spring I painted my cabinets as part of the One Room Challenge 6 week room makeover. I decided on a two tone look with the bottom cabinets black. I’m writing this post, black kitchen cabinets the ugly truth as my 18 month review.

UPDATE: we have updated our kitchen and you can see the full DIY kitchen makeover reveal NOW!


Find out why I regret painting all my lower kitchen cabinets black. Click over to read!

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The UGLY truth behind Black Painted Cabinets

First, I really do love black painted furniture in home decor. The TV cabinet in my living room is painted black and it looks amazing. It’s a free standing piece with lots of light color around it so it holds its own well.

Secondly, this chalky finish paint I used on my cabinets has held up really well. I use it all the time on painted projects.

Now for the reasons I think my choice to use black in the kitchen was awful…

1. Makes my space look smaller

You know how in fashion black is slimming?

Well it’s true for black painted cabinets in my kitchen as well. The way my kitchen is designed I have lots of light by the breakfast table as you can see here. The big window and the white wood planked walls help.

One Room Challenge Eclectic Kitchen Makeover Reveal

The ceiling is vaulted and carries great light. When you turn around and face the kitchen area of this space the ceiling drops down to the same height as the rest of my house, nine feet.

This is what you see.

Black Painted Kitchen Cabinets / a review

Black Kitchen Cabinets the ugly truth

It does look pretty but you can see how the lower cabinets almost disappear. These photos were taken on a very bright day but you can imagine how dark it looks at night and on cloudy days. I spend so much time in this space that it sort of brings me down.

I think this is the one time when slimming black is a bad thing. In home decor I usually strive for making a space feel larger not smaller.

2. Always Look Dirty

The other and most annoying thing about the black in my kitchen is how dirty they always look.

Have you ever owned a black car? Well, I have and this is the same idea. I know that I can wipe my cabinets down but I don’t want to do that every time I cook. . All the neat freaks just gasped, lol.

They look dirty all the time. Food and dust show up easily.

I am about to get real here and show you some true life unedited photos I took today with my iPhone. You can see what I have to look at on a daily bases.

Black Painted Cabinets One year later

One year review Black Painted Cabinets

It looks terrible, I know.

Black Painted Cabinets Year review

I have lived with this long enough and I am ready to go back lighter.

The cabinets were antique white with glaze before the black and I am currently trying to decide on true white or a creamy white. You can see them HERE and HERE.

NEWEST UPDATE: DIY Kitchen Makeover Reveal 

I’d love to hear what you think about black cabinets. Leave me a comment.



  1. Can you try and rub them with a dryer sheet? I know it works on my trim work but they are lighter. Dust just doesn’t stick as well. I don’t know if it will leave a residue or not on a darker cabinet. It might be worth a try.

  2. I painted my solid cherry island cabinets black and I love them! Yes – it is a task to keep clean but that’s to be expected in a kitchen that gets used. I love the elegance black brings to any room. By the way – my creme painted/distressed vanity requires the same amount of maintenance do to hairspray, makeup, etc… if you live in you’re gonna have to clean it – you might as well enjoy it!!

  3. I only did my doors and countertops black. The rest of the cabinets are creamy white – I love them! Just enough of each color.

  4. I have two sets of built-in and my master bath cabinets, all painted black. They were painted by the previous owner. They do look wonderful from a distance, but up close, you can see every spec of dust. I’m thinking of trying to dry brush them with a lighter color to try and “hide” the dirt??

  5. I LOVED your black cabinet choice. I have not however been brave enough to paint my ugly 1990 oak yet. I was just going to do my island black and the rest white. I’m so glad you published this article. I have a tiny kitchen it is about a 12×12 space with a sliding glass door but not connected to any other rooms. I can’t do dirty and with your description this would not have been a good choice for me. So Thank You Thank You Thank You for posting this!!!!!

  6. Yes, dark cabinets always show EVERYTHING. I cannot keep my cognac cabinets clean to save my life. Water, dust, lint, etc shows up all the time, not to mention the messes the kids make in their morning rush out the door for school….or the messes while on break! I am thinking of going lighter but the hubby loves the cognac stain over the cherry wood.

  7. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. I learned about the down-sides of dark cabinets when I bought my first house years ago. The dark cherry cabinets were gorgeous when I went to the open house. Keeping them that clean? Impossible! Even just minutes after cleaning, you could see dust motes on them! With two kids, two cats, and two dogs? No. Possible. Way! (In my opinion you should paint them back to match the uppers and call it a learning experience.)

  8. Good Morning, I too decided about 3 years ago to paint my kitchen cabinets black, plus I painted the doors to the pantry , bathroom,. ,mudroom also black. I agree they always look dirty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want so badly to paint them white, I used Benjamin Moore Advance Paint to paint my cabinets, have had some chipping, did all the prep, I understand !!!!!

  9. I glad you posted & shared this idea on blk cabinets in your kitchen. Sorry that it didn’t go well for you. I think maybe you may want to try Navy blue instead w light gray & smokey grey. Don’t forget some beautiful antique white. Good luck and if u decided post plz.

  10. I have black cabinets and I love them!! I’ve never cared for white or cream cabinets in the kitchen, so when I had the opportunity to paint our new cabinets 12 years ago, I went with black and have never regretted it.

  11. This is true for black counter tops as well. I had a dark black polished granite for years and we switched it out for white marble a few years ago — it is so much easier to keep clean looking. I had to dust my counters daily, so I can imagine the cabinets are a dirt/dust/spill magnet as well. Black always looks stunning when clean but it’s a hassle!

  12. My island is chocolate brown and I have the same issue … no matter how much I clean it, it ALWAYS.LOOKS.DIRTY. Painting it is near the top of the list. Picking a color is always the hardest. Glad to see I’m not the only one!

  13. I’m so glad I am not alone! I will be repainting and I will be sharing all the details on the blog. I do not plan to strip them but I have to put some thought into it because of the soft varnish. I’ll definitely share!

  14. Since you have lived with them and have the experience I can understand why you are ready to lighten up the black cabinets. But it does look pretty.

  15. OH! OH! OH! I am so so so glad to see this post! I have black cabinets and I agree 100%. I painted them myself and now they show every speck of dust and dirt and I’m DONE!!! BUT – I thought I was stuck with them forever. Are you saying that I can paint them again? Are you going to strip your cabinets first?! PLEASE do a post on this because short of redoing the whole kitchen, I could use the HOPE! 🙂

  16. Agree on the dust issue, they show everything! I don’t mind just my island being black but don’t think I would like any more than that. My white cabinets are probably just as dirty but at least it doesn’t show! 😉

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