Black Kitchen Cabinets The Ugly Truth

The ugly truth of having black kitchen cabinets isn’t always talked about. Sharing from my experience the pros and cons of having black cabinets in your home.

If you aren’t familiar with me, I’m a huge fan of Sherwin Williams black magic and have it painted around our home. Our bathroom makeover with black painted walls is still my favorite a few years.

Decorating mistakes happen and sometimes I have to admit I’m wrong. I painted my cabinets black as part of the One Room Challenge 6 week room makeover. I decided on a two tone look with the bottom cabinets black.

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

Affiliate links are provided in this post, see full disclosure here.

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…

Makes my space look smaller

This one is tricky for me because black paint doesn’t make rooms look smaller but it can depending on the window placement. In our black bathroom, the space feels larger. There is a perfect balance of contrast and the window draws your eye outside.

The way the 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. But when you turn around to the black cabinets there is no window.

I thought by painting the cabinets lighter on top it would work but that didn’t work for me.

One Room Challenge Eclectic Kitchen Makeover Reveal
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 but not in a good way how a window brings the outside in. 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.

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. Kitchens do get messy and need cleaning no matter the color but the black just draws your eye to it much more.

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. Our DIY beverage bar doesn’t get dirty like this so it works to be painted black.

Black Painted Cabinets Year review

Too many different visuals for the eye

The black color alone isn’t the reason it didn’t work. There are too many places for the eye to fall. Two different ceiling heights, too many different paint colors, textures and finishes also played a role.

Even though I love black paint and the way it can make a space feel, it needs to be carefully considered for the space it is going in.

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. I will be using this painted kitchen cabinets tutorial again myself.

NEWEST UPDATE: DIY Kitchen Makeover Reveal 

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



  1. Your kitchen sounds amazing! I have black in lots of others place around our home and I love it. Classy is exactly the best way to describe it.

  2. I have recently made the cabinets in my kitchen black. I love my kitchen BUT my kitchen is huge with lots of natural lighting. It has one window, two doors that open to 2 different balconies and leads to an open dining room that has a huge window. So it doesn’t make the space look small one bit. And looks classy AF. As for the dirt, you are right. They always show dust on them. Even fingerprints. If i am baking with my daughter (2yrs) it is as if an explosion took place. I have had this kitchen for a year now, so far I still like it. Dont know if I will be tired from it a few years down the line.

  3. The kitchen looks pretty. I’ve had both colors. Yes, dust and white specks show on the black, especially matte black, but white cabinets get so filthy and dingy looking.

  4. Personally I love what you have done here, it is cozy and inviting. I love it, it has character!!!

  5. I love the look of black cabinets like everyone else. But any reputable painter, designer or cabinet company should warn their clients on the dirt issue. My painter told a story on how he tried to talk his client out of using black because he knew what a problem black is ESPECIALLY if you have animals!!! I saw it first hand in my nieceโ€™s kitchen. Dog hair, dust and smudge all over the cabinets. And if you have sunlight in your kitchen, it looks even worse. Beware.

  6. I painted all the doors, just the doors, to all my kitchen cabinets aqua blue and the surrounding wood high gloss blank. ‘Tis quite elegant I think and so I’ve been told by others.

    When those cabinets doors accumulate gunk, I just run a roller of aqua blue over them. This requires less work than cleaning with anything. I paint over dirt routinely. Never a problem.

    Kitchen cabinets in casita will be black as well as the ceiling. Black recedes. With a black ceiling, flat paint, one cannot see where the ceiling ends – it just goes up forever.

  7. Thanks for reaching out and leaving a comment. I’m glad this post was helpful to you. You can never go wrong with a light color.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I’m getting my kitchen cabinets redone in a few weeks, and I was planning on choosing a black paint color until I started researching it more. I’ve seen so many kitchens on Pinterest using White Dove by Benjamin Moore, so now I’m leaning more towards that color.

  9. In my humble opinion, it’s really not the black cabinets as much as the too many colors and materials/textures next to one another. The black cabinets look great until you look up at the counter + backsplash + different color of cabinets on top.

  10. It seems like black wasn’t going to be a good color to begin with. Your style seems more 90s tuscany with your tumbled stone backsplash and brown? speckled countertops. Black is great in modern or contemporary clean designs. I think it’s your cabinet face design that wasn’t ready for it, along with the cream, brown, tuscany color palette you have.

  11. I just finished painting them and will have the reveal here soon. In the meantime, go to my Instagram and see the saved Kitchen stories in my highlights.

  12. Hi…did you paint over your black bottom kitchen cabinets-canโ€™t seem to find, if you did? Our floor colors look similar- I want to paint my cabinets white and try and possibly keep our grayish/green Corian countertop for now, to save money.
    โ€ขI would love to share a photo -and get your opinion ?Mary Frances

  13. That’s a great question, I’m not really sure BUT I have dark counters with black and brown in them and they do show a little dust in the corner that doesn’t get wiped as often.

  14. I wonder if the same would be true with (oiled) soapstone counters? Does dust show up as much on them as a polished, black granite?

  15. can u post a picture of that and message me???? im painting very soon and that sounds like a great idea!!! my email is [email protected] or im on facebook Janet Pietranduono,,,thank you so much

  16. Love the table and chairs!
    Can you tell where they are from?

  17. I used DecoArt Chalk paint but when I repaint mine I will go back latex paint. I don’t want to have to seal or wax them. I do find black cabinets to be beautiful in decor.

  18. What kind of paint did you use ? Iโ€™m really sold on the black ccabinets

  19. I painted my cabinets black which I do like. I am trying to figure a color for my island. It is a gray blue. Any ideas I want to keep yellow walls.

  20. I am a professional interior designer and while my work is not in kitchen and baths I do know that a “chalk paint” on a cabinet is going to give you a matte finish which is going to be terrible difficult to keep clean in such a high use area. But as has already been mentioned, regardless of the color, kitchen cabinets get dirty. Satin, gloss or semi-gloss will give you much improved results with cleanability.

  21. You said it yourself – like having a black car, everything shows. You’d think it be the opposite, but it’s not. Don’t look at something you hate a minute more! There’s no shame in changing it the first time or again this time. A favorite saying ‘where there is light, there can be no darkness’. Best of luck!

  22. I’m redoing my kitchen now and i’m definitely going with Black cabinets. They bring class, elegance, and coziness to any room. I see a lot of people saying that dust / dirt show on them, which I am absolutely expecting. But I’m surprised by the people who want to go lighter so they don’t have to clean their kitchens and cabinets as much. The same amount of dirt, dust, food, etc will collect on the cabinets and countertops regardless of color. I’d rather take a few minutes each day to wipe/dust down my kitchen than cook in a dirty one. Seems to me people are taking a lazy approach by going white so they purposefully don’t have to clean because dust doesn’t show. Trust me, it’s still there. Gross.

  23. The issues that you pointed out with the dirt/dust are the very reasons that you don’t want lighter cabinets. Your cabinets look really good; if they seem to disappear, it may be because you have black appliances. I get that it may be less expensive to paint over changing appliances but the cabinets look very nice…

  24. I went back and painted the bottoms to match the top for the time being. I am hoping for a kitchen remodel in the near future. ~Sonya

  25. I’ve recently done up my kitchen, ripping out a ’60s’ wall of cupboards and replacing it with a pantry and lowerdrawers instead. The drawers are black with silver handles, the benchtop is a motley mix of grey, white and black flecks (barely shows any marks/dirt) and my walls are white (tile to about .8m, then paint above). I went with a mid grey for the pantry doors, window sills and the outer frame, with white on the inner frame. The grey hides the dust really well! The kitchen looks huge now. I am about to do the floor and was considering a wood-look like pine, but I don’t think that works so well with the black so will likely go for a grey wood look which should pick it up even more. I think it’s just getting the mix of colours right, and not too many colours in one area. I really like my black/grey/white mix. We’ve added spots of red, ie, the jug and tea, coffee, sugar canisters.

  26. Mine were black up until a month ago. I was sick of them! Yes they looked filthy all the time,and made my kitchen gloomy. I repainted them white and they look so clean and bright and open up my kitchen so much! So glad I changed.

  27. I have black cabinets and I LOVE them. Yes, they get dusty and dirty, but so do white ones and I’d rather see the dirt and clean it than just have it hidden. I just wipe the cabinets here and there when I’m doing dishes. Not that big of a deal. I don’t regret mine at all.

  28. Black in a kithen has never been a choice I would make for the reasons you have mentioned. I have also noticed the modern houses that have black kitchens don’t resale very easily and have dropped the their prices.

  29. There is ugly truth in everything we do and everything we use and that ugly truth is: ” YOU HAVE TO CLEAN OR ELSE” and we have all seen the ‘WHAT ELSE AFFECT”. So black doesn’t requireno more cleaning than your toilet does; simple because it is black. It is a good color. a good choice and it will always be a classy color / choice when done right and maintained right….anything thrives if iti is kept up. Which is why the black chaulk / chalk paint is the best color you could ever use on kitchen cabinets, fireplace and doors any color chalk paint not just black….looks great and professional. So don’t be discouraged into not using black . Her kitchen is gorgeous but, remember.. she is looking at her kitchen thru her own eyes, and we are ususal our own worse critics. I love her kitchen but as the saying goes: ” If you use it on a regular basis, you have to clean it on a regular basis”.

  30. What did you go with and is there an updated post? I want to paint my kitchen cabinets white white, but concerned about protective coats yellowing over time!

  31. Thank you so much!

    I surfed in to read your excellent tutorial on glazing cabinets, and have followed the “cabinet saga” around the blog.

    Last week I impulsively had my contractor tear out the bottom cabinets (1970’s era, yuck) and yesterday painted the uppers white. I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to have all the space back…even if the family is tired of eating cereal or hummus for almost every meal, lol. But I was considering black kitchen islands to replace the cabinets, and I cannot imagine giving myself more cleaning issues (having just had the joy of cleaning under installed cabinets, a traumatic experience) or making the space look smaller. So I thank you so much, for your clear, useful, and friendly blog.

  32. I agree I hate my black cabinets I did an island and above my cooktop and they look like crap all the time they show everything and do not wear well. Mine were done by the cabinet maker. BAD finish in them.

  33. Thank u so much. I already had my Rustinoleum tinted black . I am just now taking the cabenets down. I was having doubts. You’re comment eased sime of my anxiety. Thank you.

  34. Did you use Annie Sloan Soft Wax too? Or just the Artisan Enhancement clear finish?

  35. I agree with you! We started off with black cabinets without knobs, that was a big nightmare staring at everyday! So we got knobs, they are still look dirty all the time! So done with black!

  36. I am so glad to have come across this blog!! We are just about to remodel a kitchen from scratch in a house we are purchasing. Plan is to go all white but I’ve considered doing a Navy blue on the island. Your post about the dilemma of white and black has really helped!! THanks!!

  37. Call me crazy but I love the look of the black cabinets. I totally understand the seeing all dirt thing, I have a black vehicle, trust me I get it. I feel as though if the back splash were gray instead of beige/tan, it would allow the eye to slowly move down to the cabinets. Something about Black and Tan with me, I feel they don’t play off each other well. Either the black makes everything seem tiny, or the beige seems darker than anticipated, or the black stands out like a sore thumb because it’s the only dark color in the room. I currently have cream cabinets (previous homeowner painted them) and I hate them! Every single thing that may have some kind of red in it stands out. Fuzz, sauce, wood grain, tile, I don’t see cream, I only see the red. I also have a dark colored flooring and counter too (previous homeowner as well), which I also hate.

  38. I wonder if this is true for a dark, not black, stained wood. I would like to hear about white too- we are building and I’m trying to convince my husband to go with white but he keeps mentioning the dirt factor. I don’t like “wood color” (haha) so dark seemed to be his compromise.

  39. It really is to bad, the black is so dramatic! I personally don’t care for the white and glazed, those look dirty to me. The crisp white is definitely a winner!

  40. I feel the same way about all white cabinets!

  41. I am a big fan of white and would have never considered black cabinets but they were very nice. They looked smaller than he above cabinets. I did not care for the mix of colors. Top and bottom cabinets should have been black and the brown at the ceiling could have been white but red would have been better. The mixture of the black, white and brown is to much color scheme for me.

  42. I love the black cabinets. However, i dont think the cream cupboards work well with the black cupboards…all needs to be black. Your kitchen would look great if you incorporated an island bench similar in colour/materials to your dining table and then using black bar stools to blend it all together. Also an island bench gives depth to a room. You have more than likely re painted by now though…hope its all worked out!! ?

  43. Did you get around to repainting your cabinets? I have the same kitchen colors as you, but with birch cabinets and I’d love to see what you decided on!

  44. I painted ours black (lowers) and I love mine, too! They are so elegant. I never noticed a dust problem, but I do wipe things down a lot. (-probably too much!)

  45. I totally agree! I made the same mistake and am now painting my cabinets light grey.

  46. Black has limited use range in lots of places. Difficult to keep clean&light. Open and/or well illuminated areas are welcome though.

  47. I absolutely LOVE mine : ) I did a satin finish and they still look great! I did choose a warmer white with my black..BM TIMID! Ihave had no issues yet!! But BOTTOM line YOU have to be happy ; ) I know for me personally as a DIY’er..I will get bored before the cabinets give
    GOOD LUCK with your next kitchen adventure!! Cant wait to see what you do!!!

  48. Yep, pretty much the same problem I’m having. Just moved into a house with black cabinets and I hate them. And boy did this lady love black. Black mantelpiece over the fireplace and even our master bath is painted black yep ( on the walls, blech). But my kitchen is where I spend the most time so I really want to paint them like ASAP. Anyways, enough about me I think you should paint them white or cream it would look lovely.

  49. Personally I don’t like dark kitchen cabinets but your black cabinets look pretty in the picture. However, I don’t love the black/white 2-tones cabinets, they just don’t seem to go together for some reason….maybe it’s just me.

  50. You don’t have to strip them. I just repainted my lowers with a lighter color: Aqua. I used DIY chalk paint, covers well!

  51. My permeter cabinets are Antiqued Black, which softens things. I also have a section with open shelves and some with glass fronts and a copper sink. Light granite counter top. My large island is antiqued white cabinets with black granite. My kitchen looks huge and I receive so many complements. Six years later I still love it. I looked at your pictures and have to admit that I don’t like the black on the bottom and white on top. Too much contrast. And I prefer my antiqued black to solid black. Which happens to be my signature finish for my company products so a little biased! Lol. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  52. You’re absolutely right. Black doesn’t work!!
    I was going to do the same but my cabinet maker said “You don’t want to do that” & he suggested this beautiful natural wood on my island & stove area… the rest are white shaker. It’s stunning. Hope this helped for next time ?

  53. I painted my lower cabs, pantry door, and built in shelves and mantel in the adjoining family room in BM Eclipse, a darkish-gray with blue tones. It’s gorgeous with the white upper cabs and trim, and white walls. I had worked in a place with black countertops back in the 80s and knew that black would show every speck; the gray doesn’t unless it’s quite large. Don’t know what your plans for repainting are, but it would think it would be easier to go for a mid-tone over the dark than trying to go to white.

  54. After 30 years in design and trying to convince owners NOT to paint all white, a mistake that most regret soon, I love a kitchen with color. I think the fact that you have short wall cabs and five colors on those walls do not help. White crown, break with what looks like a greige, break with another version of white, break with tile and finally, the black cabs. It’s a lot for the eyes to take in. First think you’re taught in design school, too many vertical breaks confuse the eye. I’m on house #6, all of them with black kitchen cabs and loving it! Although, I never use pure white on trim or walls, finding the right shade of paints to work with the cabs is a must. As for the cleaning issue, I would rather wipe down the cabs in question as I wipe down the counters. Too many times you see dirty cabs because the owner “thinks” you can’t see the problem. Even on white, or light wood, you must wipe them down. Dirt always shows, it’s part of it’s dirty nature! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love the plank wall!

  55. I painted my 80’s kitchen cabinets with Annie Sloan chalk paint in Graphite. They were sealed with Artisan Enhancements clear finish. They have held up very well even with a house full of grandkids. I wipe them down with a Clorox wipe about once a week. I love the richness of the color! Very happy with my decision?

  56. Thanks so much for the advice. I think lighting is an issue but more so because the area above the breakfast table is vaulted leaving that side of the room really bright, which I love. I think I made the other side darker by adding dark cabinets to the lower ceiling. It is well lit with artificial light. Congrats on getting your blog going! No judging from me, it’s a constant learning curve for sure. ~Sonya

  57. I have almost black cabinets in my kitchen. They were like this when I bought the house so I can’t say exactly what the kitchen would look like with white or lighter colored cabinets, but your logic makes since of course. I really like my dark cabinets even though I have always wanted a white kitchen. (too many other things I liked about our house not to buy it because the kitchen wasn’t all white) Anyway, I do intend on changing my backsplash to white subway tile or white marble tile of some sort to brighten the kitchen up, but I love the cozy feel of the darker cabinets. One thing I’m not certain about from your pictures is lighting. I have several recessed lights in my kitchen and under the cabinet lights, which I definitely think helps, so if you don’t have this extra lighting maybe adding some is an option and maybe easier than painting again. (I’m not sure because I’ve never installed lighting.) Of course this idea won’t help with clean up ๐Ÿ™
    You can see my kitchen on my blog (I’m a a newbie blogger so please don’t judge my site, I’m not completely finished getting out the kinks or the look.) All in all I like your kitchen, especially since the upper and lower cabinets are different. I would love to incorporate that someday in mine.

    P.S. I really appreciate when bloggers share some of their uncertainties like you have here. I wanted a chalkboard wall forever and finally painted one in my breakfast area not even a year ago and now I’ve decided it’s totally not my thing and I’m about the repaint it. LOL

  58. Yes, that is my thought! I have samples right now for a stone/tan color. I’ll keep you all posted on what I decide. Sorry to disappoint you. ~Sonya

  59. Uuuggghhh…. I had finally decided on black kitchen cabinets and was pinning a picture of your kitchen because it looks so much like mine! After reading this, I am re-thinking! Maybe a warm, rich greige to match the granite???

  60. 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.

  61. 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!!

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

  63. 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??

  64. 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!!!!!

  65. 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.

  66. 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.)

  67. 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 !!!!!

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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!

  71. 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!

  72. 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!

  73. 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.

  74. 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

  75. 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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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