5 Ways to Make Gray Kitchen Cabinets Feel More Modern and Stylish

Stale gray kitchen cabinets can feel fresh once more with these helpful design ideas

Gray kitchen with matching cabinets
(Image credit: @miacucinafl / Instagram)

Neutrals have a reputation for being a reliable palette, but they're not immune to looking bland. If you've selected subtler tones for your cooking space, making gray kitchen cabinets feel modern is easier said than done.

You might be feeling trapped by the current set of cabinets that were smugly waiting for you when you moved in or dealing with choice paralysis in trying to select cupboards for a brand-new kitchen. Regardless, lackluster gray cabinets can bring down a kitchen and completely deplete it of any modernity. To refrain from falling into the sad cabinet doldrums, there are tactics and design decisions that wholly change the game.

For the most modern cabinets, follow the lead of the experts we talked to who have plenty of thoughtful ideas and inspiration for converting gray kitchens into the star foundational structure of a modern cooking space.

1. Try Floor-to-Ceiling Gray

Tall gray kitchen cabinets

(Image credit: @wyethrayinteriors / Instagram)

Whitney Ray, principal and founder of Wyeth Ray Interiors, notes that size, sheen, material, and shade all come into play when modernizing gray kitchen cabinets. She created a fresh combination in this modern kitchen. 'The sheen of the modern lacquer balances the oak cabinetry,' she explains, adding that she believes 'mixing materials is key to keeping a kitchen fresh and from becoming one note.'

Undertones shouldn't be forgotten either. The color temperature will influence how cabinets show up in a space. 'The tone of gray used is very important,' says Ray. 'I tend to lean towards a warm undertone to keep a gray kitchen from being too sterile.'

2. Minimize Cabinet Hardware

Gray kitchen with matching cabinets

(Image credit: @miacucinafl / Instagram)

Intricate and modernity rarely ever go hand-in-hand. Minimalism and simplicity are far more cutting-edge in a modern kitchen than something that's convoluted and highly detailed, and that goes for kitchen hardware trends, too.

Laura Chappetto, owner and lead designer of Element Design Network, says to keep your pulls and knobs simple. 'Ornate hardware is not going to work in a modern kitchen,' she explains. 'Keep your hardware simple and sleek.' She suggests a long thin pull. Other styles could be rounded, matte knobs or a squiggly line pull for a little extra fun. Just make sure they match.

3. Maintain Gray but Change the Texture

Gray kitchen stovetop and cabinets

(Image credit: @wyethrayinteriors / Instagram)

Although cabinets may be your main focus, it's important to consider how these will fit in with the rest of the kitchen's features and structural elements. One way to ensure cohesiveness is to choose materials for kitchen countertops and other surfaces that match the cabinets. 'I love to select bold stone options for countertops in modern kitchens,' says Ray. 'High contrast marble feels like an abstract, modern painting to me.' With this creative viewpoint in mind and aiming to find art-reminiscent materials, you can't go wrong when you're shopping around.

4. Contrast Colors and Stick to Minimalism

Light gray kitchen cabinets

(Image credit: Kitchen designer: John Starck / Interior designer: Annie Mandelkern / Photography: Tim Cree/Creepwalk Media)

White had its moment, but as CEO of Showcase Kitchens and kitchen designer John Starck notes there has been a movement toward neutrals like gray nowadays. To follow this trend but maintain a modern-feeling kitchen, Starck says that 'cabinet doors should have clean lines,' which could include styles like flat panel or Shaker. In addition to this, selecting two contrasting colors can look nice, too. Starck suggests a gold and black combination and infusing the space with contemporary decor and accents.

5. Go Heavy on a Monochrome Palette

Gray open kitchen shelving

(Image credit: Laura Chappetto of Element Design Network / Jared Powell Photography)

When in doubt, aim for monochrome. 'If your gray cabinets are not feeling as modern as you’d like, try incorporating other gray-toned items,' says Chappetto. 'Having a monochromatic look can help you achieve a modern aesthetic.'

Gray cabinets in, say, a white or blue kitchen can still feel modern, but it's much harder to do than if you're incorporating elements all in the same color family. This can include countertops, appliances, kitchen backsplashes, and small decorative objects.

Sleek Accents for Modern Gray Kitchen Cabinets

Melissa Epifano Varley

Melissa Epifano Varley is a freelance writer and editor who has covered interiors for a variety of publications. Most recently, she served as the global editor-in-chief for Real Homes. She has also contributed to Forbes, Apartment Therapy, The Spruce, People, InStyle, and more. When it comes to design, she covers trends, advice, house tours, and how-tos. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in journalism and spends her free time writing, reading, and traveling.