Paint Colors for Honey Oak Trim & Cabinets – Six More Sherwin-Williams Colors

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Every week, I receive emails and comments from people who need help picking paint colors to work with their honey oak trim and cabinetry. A few years ago, I wrote a post on how to go about choosing paint colors for honey oak trim, but I didn’t provide any specific paint colors.

So far in this series, I wrote about five light neutrals from Benjamin Moore that look beautiful with honey oak trim and six light beige neutrals from Sherwin-Williams that work well with medium to light honey oak trim, cabinetry, and flooring. In part three of this series, I am sharing three light grays from Sherwin-Williams and three pale yellow-green neutrals.

Here in Des Moines, there are thousands of homes built anywhere from the 80s through the early 2000s that still have honey oak trim, built-ins, paneling, and cabinetry. Sometimes, we will paint them white, but often it can be cost prohibitive. And sometimes, my clients like the natural wood oak, because it can be very beautiful, so we keep it.

As in the previous two posts, I chose the same two spots in our home that still have honey oak trim or cabinetry and photographed large swatches of the five colors next to the wood. These photos might not be very exciting, but they demonstrate these five colors in different exposures with varying shades of honey oak.

The set of photos taken by our kitchen cabinetry get northern light, and the set taken by our stair railing get more southern light. I took these photos around 9:00 in the morning here in Iowa. In the set of photos by the cabinetry, I also included a small piece of oak trim with a light stain for another variation on honey oak.

All of my walls and trim are painted Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-17, so that is the background you see behind the paint swatches. White Dove has a touch of cream and a touch of gray. I think it looks beautiful with honey oak if you have the right home for white walls.

Skyline Steel SW 1050

Sherwin-Williams Skyline Steel is a warm light gray found in the Timeless section of the Sherwin-Williams paint deck, and so it is easily overlooked when searching for colors to test.

It’s on a strip with other gray paint colors that aren’t the same hue, so it’s undertone isn’t easily understood at first glance. After comparing it to some other other popular Sherwin-Williams light grays, I concluded that it’s more green than Agreeable Gray and less green than Useful Gray, which can go quite green in the right light.

For lightness, it’s somewhere between the first color on the strip and the second.

Sherwin-Williams Skyline Steel SW 1015 with Honey Oak
SW 1015 Skyline Steel in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Skyline Steel SW 1015 with Honey Oak
SW 1015 Skyline Steel in Southern Morning Light

Agreeable Gray SW 7029

Agreeable Gray is a very popular Sherwin-Williams light gray, the lightest color on its strip. It’s a good substitute for the ever popular Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.

Anew Gray is one shade darker. In my Winston Circle project, we used Anew Gray in the master bedroom and Agreeable Gray in the master bathroom. We used Anew Gray on the whole lower level. 

Agreeable Gray has warm bronzey undertones that complement the yellow orange in the oak. If you must pair your honey oak with gray walls, Agreeable Gray is a good place to start.

Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray in Southern Morning Light

Useful Gray SW 7050

Useful Gray definitely has a green undertone. If you compare it to the strip with Agreeable Gray, it’s even more obvious that it leans more strongly towards green while Agreeable Gray leans more strongly towards yellow.

I think your lighting situation and the particular tone of your honey oak will affect whether or not Useful Gray is a good choice.

Sherwin-Williams Useful Gray SW 7050 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Useful Gray in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Useful Gray SW 7050 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Useful Gray in Southern Morning Light

Dirty Martini SW 9119

The next three colors all look better with honey oak than the previous three. So many people email me asking for gray paint colors that look good with honey oak, but the best wall colors for honey oak are not gray.

First up, Dirty Martini. I love the name as this is my cocktail of choice, preferably with blue cheese olives and made by my dad. You can find this color on the next strip over from Ramie and Rice Grain, which I covered in my last post.

Dirty Martini is the lightest color on the strip. It’s a really pretty light yellow with a drop of green and a drop of gray, which makes it read more neutral than a true yellow. I can imagine that it would make a room feel like it was glowing and look beautiful with creamy whites.

Sherwin-Williams Dirty Martini SW 9119 with Honey Oark
Sherwin-Williams Dirty Martini in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Dirty Martini SW 9119 with Honey Oark
Sherwin-Williams Dirty Martini in Southern Morning Light

Cargo Pants sW 7738

Cargo Pants is a greenish beige that is on a strip in the Timeless section with a selection of other greens. I mention the location of the colors in the deck because the bulk of the Sherwin-Williams deck is organized by undertone. Most of the strips are organized from lightest to darkest gradations on the same hue.

The Timeless section is not organized this way and so it can be harder to understand the properties of the colors when they are in this section.

I loved Cargo Pants next to the honey oak. I thought it felt very harmonious, natural, and fresh.

Sherwin-Williams Cargo Pants SW 7738 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Cargo Pants in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Cargo Pants SW 7738 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Cargo Pants in Southern Morning Light

Polar Bear SW 7564

My last color selection for this post is Polar Bear. Polar Bear is located on a strip in the Whites and Pastels section, and it is a very light shade of yellow with a touch of gray. In my photos, you can see that it’s only a little deeper than the Benjamin Moore White Dove on the walls.

Incidentally, if you had trim or cabinetry painted White Dove, this would be an amazing color to choose for an all white look that didn’t feel cool and gave you a little bit of contrast.

Sherwin-Williams Polar Bear SW 7564 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Polar Bear in Northern Morning Light
Sherwin-Williams Polar Bear SW 7564 with Honey Oak
Sherwin-Williams Polar Bear in Southern Morning Light

For these six colors, I put together a comparison chart with both the northern and southern exposures so you could easily see how they compare. I think it’s also more noticeable how different conditions affect the light when you see them together.

Comparison of Sherwin-Williams Light Neutral Paint Colors with Oak
Comparison in North Facing Light
Comparison of Sherwin-Williams Light Neutral Paint Colors with Oak
Comparison in South Facing Light

In these comparison photos, I think you can see how much better the warmer neutrals look with the honey oak than the gray. If you have honey oak trim, you should embrace it and not fight it or try to make it work with the all gray trend.

Remember, this post only addressed how these colors work with the wood tone. You still need to consider any other fixed elements in the room such as tile, countertops, stone, or any upholstery, drapery, or rugs that you don’t plan to replace.

Get the Free PDF Guide

All eighteen of the best wall colors for honey oak trim in one handy PDF guide.

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63 thoughts on “Paint Colors for Honey Oak Trim & Cabinets – Six More Sherwin-Williams Colors

  1. Totally spot on, Jillian – and what a great display of what a difference the light makes in our perception of color!

    1. I used agreeable grey in my kitchen next to oak cabinets. And a new grey in my bedroom. Took a long time to find a grey that works. Glad to see my color selection was spot on. I dislike honey oak cause it seems so dated. This color will work till I get the courage to paint or restain the cabinets.

      1. It can seem dated, but choosing the right color instead of trying to fight it can let its natural beauty shine through. I’m glad Agreeable Gray worked for you!

        1. What are your thoughts on sherwin William modern gray color with honey oak woodwork and hardwood floors? I am having such a hard time choosing a color. My new furniture coming In is a light gray. Store Showroom had it up against a wall in castle beige by Baer paint and it looks really nice

  2. Jillian: What a useful post! I don’t have honey oak cabinets, but many friends do, and I can 100% see how the warmer neutrals like Polar Bear or Cargo Pants would be a *best* choice.

    Your comparison graphics are great!

    Thanks for this.

  3. Thank you for this post!

    1. You’re welcome!

  4. Love this!! I love the comparisons and how you clearly demonstrate that grey is NOT the way to go.

    1. Definitely not my first choice!

  5. With so much honey oak in the world, this is a perfect post to let people make a sustainable choice and still freshen up their home.

    1. Thank you, Lisa! Yes, keeping what you already have is the #1 way to embrace sustainability in your remodeling project.

  6. You explained how light affects color so well. It’s good to see it in pictures where it makes so much sense.

    1. Thank you, Christina! It’s so important to remember that color is relative and drastically affected by light. Even by the view outside. I once had a client complain that Benjamin Moore Classic Gray went really green. I didn’t know what she meant until I looked at the room and saw her large boxwoods outside the window were reflecting into the room. Yes, it definitely seemed green!

  7. Wonderful post Jillian!

    1. Thank you, Linda!

  8. These are such fresh and current colors! Talk about creating an updated look!

    1. Thank you, Heather!

  9. I never could wrap my like around gray. I much prefer a “warm” color having reside in N. California. Sherwin Williams Bagel suits me fine !

    1. I’ll have to check that color out! I agree that the grays can be too cool.

  10. What a great idea for a series!

    1. Thank you! Totally inspired by readers asking me for colors over the years.

  11. Thank you so much for the info. I’ve struggled for years trying to find just the right color to coordinate with the oak cabinets. Maybe if I wait long enough they will come back in style! My choice is Polar Bear for a sunny southeastern kitchen.

    1. I think that could be a great choice depending upon your countertops and other fixed materials. Let me know how it goes!

  12. What a fabulous post, Jillian. I love the way you show how each colour relates to the honey oak.

    I also loved how you reminded the readers that it just isn’t the honey oak you need to consider. Great, great tips!!

    1. Thank you, Sheri! Yes, you can’t just pick any of these colors. You really need to consider everything else – especially countertops and flooring.

  13. I used universal khaki with my honey oak and love it.

  14. what a relevant and useful post for tons of homeowners wanting to say bye bye to those outdated oak cabinets! Your examples are so valuable!

  15. I’m loving the Polar Bear with the oak! Good point to remember the other elements in the room before choosing your color!

  16. Thank you for this post. I have golden oak floors and baseboards in my living room and am struggling to find a color that isn’t too dark. I want to paint over the current Ecru color. The room faces north, and is an L shape starting in the entry going into the connecting living room and dining room so some areas are quite dark while others the lighting is soft.

    1. Hi Corrin, many of the colors I shared in the series on honey oak are quite light, the lightest color on the strip in many cases. These would be good colors to start with.

  17. This is so incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for writing it!

    Between this (the third part) and the second part in the series, which colors would look best if we changed to white trim someday? Finding a color that is light enough for oak trim but dark enough for white trim appears to leave very little margin for error. Is it even possible?

    1. Alex, I think any of these would look great with white trim particularly a softer white like BM White Dove or Sherwin Williams Alabaster. SW Pure White is also a good option.

  18. We are purchasing our new house and it has A LOT Honey oak trims, moldings every time I look at the picture I think “ omg what color are we going to paint 🤨” it’s a ranch style house with lots of honey oak doors. This post is confirming to stay away from grays! I hope I find the perfect color bc there is no way we would paint allllll the wood white ( maybe one day but not anytime soon)

    1. Hi Vanessa, some of the colors I shared are grays, but I really do think the other options look better with honey oak.

  19. Thank you for this helpful advice! I recently had my honey oak cabinets refinished by a local wood refinishing company and they did a great job, but the stain I chose for the cabinets didn’t quite go with the walls or the decor of the room. Rather than getting the cabinets refinished again, I decided to paint the walls in my kitchen with the Useful Gray color. I never would have picked this color if it weren’t for this post, but I’m so glad I did because it was the perfect color for my kitchen and I’m happy with the results!

  20. How do you feel these colors would work with dark espresso cabinets and travertine floors? SW Consultant strongly pushed Accessible Beige and it’s so dull and drab. Now saying to try Skyline Steele, and I’m not a gray fan. Love the look of the Cargo pants and Dirty Martini and sense that may be what I’m aiming for. Thoughts? BTW, have trim painted Extra White.

    1. You have to be really careful with the travertine as it can go pink beige. Many of these colors might not work with travertine because they lean towards the yellows and greens.

  21. Polar bear it is! Thank you – great post with the lighting difference.

    1. You’re welcome! Let me know how it turns out.

  22. What color would you choose for a bathroom with dark honey oak, almond fixtures and tan tile? I feel like the whole room is some shade of tan and needs a contrast or color but I dont know what direction to go!

  23. I have honey oak cabinets and floors. Seems like an enormous job to change it all but if we repaint walls using one of your sUggestions and paint the island some darker shade of blue, how would that work? Thank you.

    1. Barbara, that’s exactly why I wrote these posts. Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to paint it all out or replace it. One of these colors will help you create a fresher lighter feeling. A blue island could be really pretty!

  24. Thank you for a wonderful post on color selection. You have helped me narrow down my choices. My bedroom has honey oak floors, doors and trim with northern morning light. I painted my 1950’s dressers and night stand a metallic pewter with sterling drawers and pewter hardware. It is a beautiful transformation but so hard to select a color for the walls. I was excited about painting & transforming the furniture and neglected to consider all the honey oak! Right now I’m leaning toward the polar bear.

    1. Penny, let me know how it turns out!

  25. Jillian,
    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. I decided to paint my kitchen walls with dirty martini, and I love the color against my honey oak cabinets. I’m thinking I could use Alabaster as a trim, you agree? I’ll share photos once I receive my new stainless steel refrigerator (the white fridge does the paint scheme no justice!) I also purchased new hardware to replace the old scrolled, twisted and totally old fashioned bronze colored hardware.
    Your advice triggered me to make changes that I so desperately (but was too scared) to make!

    1. Hi Kathy, that is wonderful to hear! And, I would love to see some photos when you are ready. Yes, Alabaster is one of my favorite whites, especially with oak. I painted my whole house BM White Dove, which is really close to Alabaster, and we left our oak doors and oak cabinets unpainted. They work really well together.

  26. You are a godsend. Can’t afford a personal designer but reading your suggestions for colors to use with golden oak trim has really given me inspiration. Our home has all the golden oak trim, doors and Golden oak laminated kitchen floor while the cabinets are a laminated white panel with honey gold trim. My husband and I laugh when we see old movies with our kitchen cabinets in the background. As we are old, we want to update the kitchen cabinets, countertops, etc. to make the house easier to sell when we are gone. What colors would you suggest for new cabinets, countertops and flooring. We are overwhelmed with all the choices and the costs. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

    1. You’re not asking me but my advice is not to worry about ease of sale after you’re gone. You’re here. Enjoy your space. Get what you like. Predicting an unknown person’s preference is an unnecessary stress. Design for yourself!

      1. I totally agree…most of the time.

  27. I was thinking of painting my walls White Dove, but your post has me considering Polar Bear now. We moved into a new home with all honey oak cabinets and trim. Our living room furniture is all dark brown and the carpet is kind of a muted sage green. What do you think between White Dove and Polar Bear?

  28. Hi Jillian,
    I also have honey oak throughout my house and am unable to paint it right now. I also have dark brown carpet and recently purchased dark brown furniture in my family room which has a southern exposure with lots of windows, Can I still use SW Polar Bear ?
    Thanks for your expertise – until I can convince my husband to paint the oak I need other option:)

  29. I have black appliances, a slate tile look a like & honey Oak cabinets (a ton of them) & trim. Can you recommend a color? I am just undecided with the black appliances.

  30. We have a very small bathroom with no windows. Trim and vanity cabinets is golden oak with creme toilet , shower , and countertop. It’s too bland. But I have no idea what color to paint the walls . Because the creme color and golden oak.

  31. Cannot thank you enough for this post!!! We just bought a 1995 house with oak floors, cabinets, trim, chair rails, oak EVERYWHERE. I cannot visualize anything without actually seeing it and am always frustrated by how different paint colors look on a swatch vs. in an actual room. My fiance loves the oak but wanted to paint everything grey. This post was a lifesaver for both of us to get a better idea of what neutral colors we should be looking for and how they will ACTUALLY look in our rooms with northern light.

  32. SW Site White also looks great in North/South sunlight against honey oak!

  33. What suggestions are there for a red birch floor and alder cabinets? The trim is SW Manchester Tan and the walls are SW Latte, so I have the warmth and brightness of the birch floor, but the gray undertones of the cabinets and walls, and the green of the MT. I want to paint the cupboards and walls, because I feel like everything is fighting everything right now. I can’t land on a good wall color, and I want to find the right gray-blue for the cabinets.

  34. Lovely selections. I, unfortunately, have honey oak cabinets. SW Popular Gray 6071 seems to make them less obnoxious.

  35. Thank you for the suggestions. On the other side of the spectrum, which light green or light blue shades would you suggest to go with honey oak?

    1. SW Sea Salt or Comfort Gray might be good options.

  36. Thanks for this article! Any suggestions that match honey oak floors and trims that are not beige? I’m not so into the grey trend, or beige.

    We just move to a suburb in Chicago from LA. We’re musicians and love a combo of modern (clean lines, airy spaces, bright colors, but love wood) with boho elements.

    I found SW Creamy for our living room, family room and office, SW Denim for an accent wall in the living room, and SW Mauve Finery + Thistle for the bedroom… but don’t know what colors to pick for the foajé and grey dining room/kitchen which has Mexican tile floors, and the dark connecting stairway between the floors.

  37. Hi,
    I am painting a rec room that has golden oak trim as well as golden oak furniture and a brown sofa. I am struggling with a paint color because there is next to no natural light that comes in. Do you recommend a lighter warm color such as Polar Bear or a little more color, such as Cargo Pants. Any help is appreciated!!

  38. This is a great post. I’ve been fretting about and collecting samples of colors for months now.
    So thoughtful to picture morning light from north and south. This is very helpful and glad I happened upon it.

  39. I also have honey oak cabinets, trim, closet doors EVERYTHING!!! Not into gray..HELP??

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Interior Designer Des Moines Jillian Lare

About Jillian

Welcome! I’m a Des Moines based interior designer, boy mom to one, avid reader and always aspiring artist. I started this blog when I moved to Iowa in 2008. Currently, I write about life in Iowa, personal development, and my creative journey.

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