While they're durable and reliable kitchen fixtures, oak cabinets tend to appear a little dated. The good news is you can update your oak cabinets by adding a fresh coat of paint to your backsplash! But what colors should you choose? We've consulted interior design experts to give you the best options.
Oak cabinets have intense warmth with their honey or reddish-brown tones, so it's best to pair them with either neutral or cool backsplash colors. Neutral hues will help establish a consistent, grounded look, while cool hues will create attention-grabbing contrast.
Not sure what color to pick yet? We've got a rundown of the best color choices for your backsplash to pair with oak cabinets, so keep reading! We'll also answer more of your questions about oak cabinets and kitchen design.
Backsplash Colors That Go Well With Oak Cabinets
The '80s and '90s saw a meteoric rise in the popularity of oak cabinets. Consequently, many homes from this era still have them even after modern trends have long decided they're outdated in style.
But don't worry. Oak cabinets are still a good choice! After all, oak is among the most durable hardwoods that can last for years when well-maintained. The key to making their style as long-lasting as their material is to ensure your backsplash colors give them a contemporary look!
Here are a few of the best backsplash color options that go well with oak cabinets:
Fan of the classics? Want a clean look for your kitchen? White is the perfect choice for your backsplash either way! It highlights the warmth and detail of your oak cabinets while balancing out their strong features with a plain, clean appearance.
This is also perfect if you want to add more decorations or accent colors to your kitchen. A white backsplash makes the perfect plain backdrop against which your bolder and more eye-catching decorations can stand out.
For a stylish monochromatic color palette, choose a lighter or darker shade of brown to go with your oak cabinets. Like beige, it helps augment the warmth of oak in either a richer or more muted tone, depending on your choice of shade.
Brown does have a tendency to look dull, especially when paired with wood like oak, so a good trick to avoid this is by using bricks for your backsplash. This is ideal for a modern take on rustic, farmhouse, or cottage kitchen styles.
The perfect color to blend in with your oak cabinets! Beige matches well with oak's yellow undertones, bringing a more subdued warmth to it to balance out its saturation.
Together, beige and oak will create a warm and cohesive color palette that helps create an intimate and inviting aura in your kitchen. This color combination is best for those who want their space to feel more relaxed and homey.
See these beige peel-and-stick backsplash tiles on Amazon.
While technically not a neutral color, orange functions as a neutral when paired with oak due to their similarities in hue - particularly for honey oak. Muted shades of orange and oak create a monochromatic color palette with a vibrant warmth that's still a bit toned down.
Pro Tip: a backsplash with orange subway tiles will help create contrast as it features clean lines to balance out the texture of wood, so the space won't look too flat.
A backsplash in gray brings a hint of modern elegance to your kitchen, toning down the intensity of oak cabinets without completely undermining the warm and cozy feel they bring to the space.
Better yet, a gray backsplash helps bring together stainless-steel appliances and materials with your oak cabinets. It serves as a transition between the traditional and contemporary, giving you the best of both worlds.
For a more moody and dramatic look, choose black for your backsplash! Not only will this help modernize the appearance of your oak cabinets, but it will also conceal dirt and debris in your kitchen, so it won't be as high-maintenance as lighter backsplash colors.
Black will also help highlight the natural look of your oak cabinets without allowing them to overwhelm the space. This way, your cabinets can serve as a focal point while being balanced out by the dark hues surrounding them.
Add an element of surprise to your kitchen with a blue backsplash! Paired with oak cabinets, this hue will help establish a contrasting color scheme that creates visual interest and amps up the creativity in your space.
Light tones of blue will pair well with light shades of oak, offering a calming and refreshing effect. For darker shades of oak, darker blue tones can help match its dramatic aura while providing a striking contrast that upgrades the look of the cabinets.
Green and wood tones together are always evocative of imagery from nature, instantly making you feel at ease and reinvigorated. Incorporating this color combination into your kitchen with oak cabinets and a green backsplash can revitalize your space and make cooking and dining even more delightful.
Because they're both earth tones with vastly different undertones and temperatures, green and oak complement each other. Use darker shades such as olive or forest green for a more elegant feel and lighter, more muted shades for a fresh yet contemporary look.
This unexpected color combination is sure to make a statement in your kitchen! A purple backsplash livens up oak cabinets with its cool tones and unique look, injecting fun and personality into the space. This is perfect for those with eclectic tastes or a preference for maximalist styles.
Pro Tip: purple hues with bluish undertones pair best with red oak. These colors will complement each other, creating contrast while maintaining aesthetically pleasing cohesion.
Can't decide on which color to choose for your backsplash? Go for multiple colors! Not only will they add exciting visuals to the overall aesthetic of your kitchen, but they can also help make oak cabinets look more upbeat and less uninspired.
A backsplash with tiles in different colors and intricate patterns is ideal for luxurious bohemian or art deco styles. If you want a more contemporary aesthetic, go for geometric patterns!
Check out these multi-colored mosaic tiles on Amazon.
How do you make oak cabinets look modern?
Pairing your oak cabinets with the right backsplash colors isn't the only way to update your oak cabinets! Here are a few other ways to accomplish this:
- Paint or stain your cabinets.
- Pair your cabinets with modern hardware and other new fixtures.
- Add sleek yet colorful accents.
- Choose copper or metallic light fixtures.
- Convert your oak cabinets to open shelving.
Is it better to stain or paint oak cabinets?
In general, it's better to stain oak cabinets since staining enhances their moisture resistance and durability. Staining is also cheaper than painting, especially since it's easy to DIY.
Plus, it's also much easier to touch up when needed since finding the exact color match is less difficult than when you paint wood.
However, the downside is that staining comes with a limited number of color options. It also doesn't conceal the natural grain and texture of oak, which may be a disadvantage for those who want a clean look for their cabinets.
What kind of paint do you use on oak cabinets?
Acrylic enamel, oil, and latex paint work best on oak cabinets. They conceal the grain well and add pops of color to your oak cabinets, helping you tie them in seamlessly with the rest of the kitchen and upgrade their look.
Among the most recommended products for oak cabinets are the Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo, the Pittsburgh Paints Breakthrough, and the DecoArt Satin Enamels paints.
See the DecoArt Satin Enamels Paint on Amazon.
Remember to prime your cabinets before painting to allow the paint to fill in the wood grain and give the paint coat a smooth, even surface. Another great tip to give your oak cabinets a professional-level paint job with a flawless finish is to use High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint sprayer.
See this HVLP spray gun on Amazon.
Should backsplash be lighter or darker than cabinets?
This depends on what type of look you're going for. If you want to add more depth and contrast to your space, choose darker shades for your backsplash.
For an open and airy feel in your kitchen, go for lighter shades. This is also preferable if you have a small kitchen and want to make the space look and feel bigger.
The right backsplash color can work wonders in upgrading oak cabinets and giving them a fresh, chic look. Make sure to choose a hue that fits in well with the rest of your kitchen's color scheme for a consistent, gorgeously cohesive aesthetic that'll completely transform your kitchen!
Looking for more backsplash ideas? Check out these posts:
11 Stunning Kitchen Backsplash Ideas With Granite Countertops