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How do you brighten a kitchen with cherry cabinets?

Kitchens with dark cherry cabinets can end up feeling too dark or closed in. The rich, reddish-brown hue of cherry wood has a warm, elegant look but can make a kitchen seem dark if the rest of the space isn’t bright enough. Fortunately, there are several ways to brighten up a kitchen with cherry cabinets and prevent it from feeling too somber or heavy.

Use Light Countertops

One of the best ways to brighten a kitchen with dark cherry cabinets is to use light-colored countertops. Countertops make up a significant portion of the surfaces in a kitchen, so going with a light neutral color like white, off-white, light gray or beige can offset the darkness of the cherry cabinetry. Quartz, granite, laminate, or solid surface materials like Corian in light hues work very well. Butcher block countertops also provide a lighter look that pairs nicely with the richness of cherry.

Go for Lighter Backsplashes

In addition to lighter countertops, backsplashes in pale neutrals or soft pastels can make the space seem less heavy. Good options include:

  • White subway tile
  • Light gray or beige stone like marble or travertine
  • Pastel glass, ceramic or stone mosaic tiles

Avoid darker backsplashes like brown, black or dark red, which will make a cherry-cabinet kitchen feel overly heavy.

Use Lighting Strategically

The right lighting design is key to making sure a cherry kitchen doesn’t end up feeling too dim. Ideas include:

  • Lots of recessed can lights in the ceiling to wash the space with brightness.
  • Pendant lights over islands and counters to direct light where it’s most needed.
  • Under cabinet lighting to illuminate countertops and work areas.
  • Natural light from ample windows, if available.

Aim for a mix of lighting that keeps every area of the kitchen bright and avoids shadows in corners.

Go for Bright White on Walls

Painting walls bright white reflects light around the room, making the space feel more open and airy. The clean white backdrop also accentuates the richness of the cherry cabinetry without allowing the space to feel too weighed down.

Add Mirrors to Reflect Light

Mirrors are another great way to bounce light around and give the illusion of a larger, brighter space. Consider placing mirrors:

  • On backsplashes behind sinks.
  • On accent walls.
  • On cabinet doors for a glamorous look.
  • Behind open shelving.

Avoid dark frames, which can negate the brightening effect of the mirror itself.

Use Glass Cabinet Doors

Swapping some solid cherry cabinet doors for glass ones is an easy way to make a cherry kitchen brighter. Glass doors allow light to pass through and make open shelving inside visible. Using glass panes in cabinet doors pairs nicely with the richness of cherry and prevents closed cabinets from making the kitchen feel too heavy. For privacy or a softening effect, opt for frosted or textured glass.

Incorporate Lighter Wood Tones

Combining cherry cabinets with accents in lighter woods can keep things from going too dark. Good options include:

  • Maple – Has a light tan, blonde tone
  • Birch – Offers a light-medium tan color
  • Oak – Contributes an attractive, pale yellow hue
  • Ash – Has a light brown/tan appearance

Using these lighter woods on open shelves, kitchen islands, floors or ceilings can balance out the look of rich cherry cabinetry.

Use Bright, Warm Metal Finishes

Warmer metal finishes provide shine and brightness to contrast with dark cherry cabinets nicely. Good options include:

  • Polished nickel
  • Satin nickel
  • Antique brass
  • Oil-rubbed bronze

Incorporate these finishes on lighting fixtures, cabinet hardware, taps and other features for brightness.

Add Touches of Color

Pops of brighter, cheerful colors can help keep a cherry kitchen from feeling too somber. Try adding:

  • Colorful appliances like retro turquoise or bright red.
  • Vibrant tile backsplashes or murals.
  • Bold patterned fabrics on window treatments.
  • Cheerful kitchenware and accessories in primary colors.

Just take care not to go overboard with brightly colored accents or the look can become chaotic and overwhelming.

Let In Natural Light

Nothing brightens a kitchen like ample natural sunlight. If possible, include design features like:

  • Large windows
  • Skylights
  • Window boxes
  • Bay windows
  • A breakfast nook with window seating

Position windows strategically so sunlight reaches all areas of the kitchen, not just one part. This will prevent overly dark corners or shadows.


With a strategic design approach, it’s easy to brighten up a kitchen with rich cherry wood cabinets. Lighter countertops, backsplashes and walls prevent heaviness. Smart lighting choices banish shadows and glass cabinetry allows light to penetrate. Touches of lighter woods, metal finishes or colors liven up the look. And maximizing natural light keeps the space fresh and vibrant. With the right balance of elements, cherry cabinets can anchor a kitchen with warmth without making it feel too dark.

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