When I face a similar question from clients and friends four times in one month, it’s definitely time to put fingers to keyboard. The question? What cabinets should you choose when remodeling your kitchen so as to help (or not hurt) resale values? Should they be white, or wood?
While I had my own answers, I decided to ask a few real estate agents and a professional home stager for their take on the subject, and was pleasantly surprised by their answers.
From Mary Sanders, with Real Estate Partners in Chattanooga:
“On something like kitchen cabinets and counters, I firmly believe homeowners should choose something to their tastes so they will have that sense of pride and comfort when they walk into their kitchen. Items such as kitchen cabinets, counter tops and flooring have trends that come and go and you can never tell what is going to appeal to someone. I had a beautiful listing with a totally white kitchen—cabinets, counter tops, flooring—everything white. Some buyers came in and hated it and others came in and fell in love with the kitchen. The family that bought the house were neutral on the color of the kitchen but have kept everything white, brought color into it with accessories and she changes out the accessories with the seasons and says now she absolutely loves her white kitchen and feels like she has a new kitchen with each season. I would encourage people to choose what they like and enjoy their home.”
Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist, Nashville TN:
“Good quality but simple is always the best choice. Anything overly stylized or taste-specific can be a big problem when marketing a house – especially in kitchens. I find that painted (white or off-white) wood cabinetry is always superior when selling a house. It always makes the kitchen appear larger and brighter to buyers. I rarely encourage glazing on cabinets, because that gets a bit too taste-specific and can look “dirty” to some people. Simple lines, like a shaker style cabinet is universally pleasing. Rounded edges look a bit dated and formal, so I always encourage the more timeless squared-off edge to cabinetry and countertops. Oh, cabinets to the ceiling if possible – cabinets to the ceiling make the ceilings appear higher and take advantage of the otherwise wasted space and general dust-collecting above shorter cabinets.”
And Martha Smith, VIP Realty, Ft. Myers, FL:
“Cabinet image is easy to change and less costly than countertops – it is more important to pick a great counter. As I write this I can tell you when we were doing our remodel on the place we are moving to we opted for granite and a Class I as it was sort of non-descript …and I now think back on it wishing we had splurged for something with character. But we chose white cabinets so all in all still something anyone could change. A door can be either re-surfaced or changed out completely. I don’t think it would stop someone from buying a place unless it was competing with a great location. I always say buy location.”
For myself – and I think everyone above would agree – I don’t think there’s a completely pat answer. The first persons to ask me this were clients, building their dream home. All three of us had gravitated to an unusual door color – they went to it like a magnet, and the second I saw it as one of their narrowed down selections, I knew it was right for their home. Still, the question of resale came up. In this case, I said to evaluate how long they expected to be in the home (at least ten years), and said they would love those cabinets for at least that long. Why get something else you don’t love as much? The other point, was these cabinets were beyond perfect for the house – it’s on a wooded lot, and the house design itself is elegant and rustic at the same time. (the below is the color, not the style chosen)
What about painting cabinets a color? In the second case, the cabinets were from the 1950s – flat panel, no embellishment save for the scalloped trim over the kitchen sink, currently painted white. Since the old cabinets were solid wood, it’s likely that a thrifty buyer will simply replace the cabinet doors, some would paint them a color and love them for what they are, and still another buyer would tear them out and remodel the entire kitchen to suit their needs and taste. It was also hard to say how long the client would be in the home – since a sale wasn’t imminent, we chose Newburyport Blue (Benjamin Moore) to play with the tile and wall colors in the home – and because it would look absolutely fabulous with the polished chrome hardware and give it new life. The client loves red and so a few touches of it in the space would just be stunning. I can’t wait to see them!
But you can see here, a retro kitchen in white is still beautiful:
While my last kitchen wasn’t white, it is still very much loved by its new owner and pretty hotly collecting “digs” on Zillow. We were there for five years, and the color and door style were right for the home.
Some other amazing painted cabinet kitchens:
I also agree with Kristie in that white kitchens will always hold a special place in our hearts. They look clean, and as Mary’s buyer pointed out, it’s easy to reaccessorize and change the look. My current kitchen cabinets (sorry, no photos as we aren’t finished with it) are a soft white. We don’t plan on being here for more than 18 months… otherwise I’d be painting them Ralph Lauren’s Palm Leaf (a lovely shade of green!).
Yet another recent question was posed regarding glazing on white cabinets. I think subtle glazing is fine – but do also take into account the style of your home. If you are a die-hard Shabby Chic, or French Country, or even Traditional or Colonial – go for it. But keeping the effect light will help prevent it from being dated too quickly.
What about mixing of colors and styles? You see this from time to time – and my answer is “in moderation” – I have seen some kitchens with cabinets sporting three or even four different colors, and at that point, it’s getting busy. Keep it to two, and use the darker or lighter contrast as the piece you want to draw attention to: an island, a particularly pretty cabinet section at the end of a wall, or to break up a big wall of cabinetry, etc.
My final take on this issue? It’s your home. Don’t live your every day, or model your home, after a buyer whom you don’t know will even like the “safe” option you pick. You should love your home, and if you know you will be living there for at least 2 years, then enjoy your home. Make it yours.
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