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. 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!)

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

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

  4. 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!!!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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 ?

  10. 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.

  11. 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! 😉 Love the plank wall!

  12. 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?

  13. 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

  14. 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 🙁
    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

  15. 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

  16. 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???

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