Please Excuse the Dust


After 100+ years, the floors in my house have settled to a series of gentle (and a few not-so-gentle) undulations. So when I built and installed the kitchen cabinets, I set each on a separate base to make it easier to level the run. It still wasn’t easy; one base had a 1/2″ differential from side to side.

The time has now come to cover up my “cheat” with a proper-looking toe kick. While the construction will be a snap (3/4″ poplar with mitered corners, simply nailed to the plywood bases), I can’t decide if it should be black or white – and I have to paint before the install.

toekicksI’m leaning toward black, not only to match the bases of the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher, but to better blend with the dust and cat hair that inevitably collects beneath the cabinets.

But I wonder if a dark band will pull the eye down too much…thereby drawing more notice to said dust.

All but one of the many images in my “inspiration kitchens” folder, however, show a white toe kick when the base cabinets – like mine – don’t feature furniture-style feet. All of the many images in my “inspiration kitchens” folder, however, look as if they’re from from houses where there might well be live-in help with the cleaning.

So: Black or white? If you have white kitchen cabinets (and like me clean your floors no more than twice a month), do me a favor and take a look at your baseboards. Then let me know what you think.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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32 Responses to Please Excuse the Dust

  1. mysticcarver says:

    I say black due to the fact it looks like shadow when glanced at and will not show off the dust and hairs. I have cats and know of what I speak 🙂

  2. richmondp says:

    We typically nail on some birch ply rips, mitered at the corners, painted whatever the cabinet color is, along with some shoe, often finished to complement the floor. No one looks too closely at the woodwork down there, at least not in the middle income houses we work in, but I would bet that black might make more of a visual statement than you’d care to make. (besides, black might be a bit too reminiscent of commercial vinyl “mop board.”) My opinion only. Thank God, we all have different tastes and sensibilities.

    • fitz says:

      Oh man…didn’t think of that. That heinous vinyl mop board that was used previously was one of the things I hated most in the old kitchen, where it was used also for the baseboards.

      • richmondp says:

        In a previous life I once had a job installing black mop board in a very low budget non profit organization’s building. When they ran out of money for even mop board, we started simulating it with quarter inch Masonite which we spray painted black and glued, imperfectly, to the plaster walls with Liquid Nails. The faux mop board soon developed warps and wows as the eight foot lengths of Masonite reacted to changes in humidity (it was being mopped, after all), falling away from the wall here and there. As a consequence I have somewhat negative associations with black stripes down by the floor and should probably recuse myself from further comment.

  3. freonguy says:

    We have white cupboards and toe kicks. Dust and dirt is accentuated with that combo. I agree with the shadow theory.
    Why not mock up a section in cardboard and paint it rattle can (1) white and then (2) black?? Easy peasy.
    Best of luck!
    Dave B

  4. Paul says:

    scuffs from the toes of shoes show up less on black

  5. Tom Dickey says:

    Most of the kitchens we install now have toe kick that matches the cabinets. The white ones always look dirty to me. Have oak cabinets at home with black kicks, never notice the dirt, and I only clean once a month!

  6. Goerge says:

    My 2 cents: two thumbs up for the cardboard try outs!

    Black will highlight the white cabinets, for lack of a better word ‘elevate’ them to some degree. Go for something matte for the most prominent effect.
    White would make the cabinets look like sitting on a base, more solid and connected to the floor.

    If that doesn’t give you an absolute preference according to your intended design, base your descision on the room you have the kitchen in (and the ones surrounding it if the doors are always open / opening views into the kitchen):

    The black base works best if you have smaller rooms, as it will give a lighter overall impression. A white base will be more block-like, and look better if the room is bigger and you can look at the kitchen from rather far away. Black would then seem out of place.

    I remember the floor plan of the kitchen, I’d go for black, while I do not know what room / seating situation is right behind the door.

  7. toolnut says:

    Take a pic and photoshop the colors.

    Usually the kick matches the cabinet.

    Black might look nice because it appears your appliances have a black base. Everything would “vanish”.

    Some people even continue the floor up as the toe-kick. Got any extra cork?

    I know you love my links so here’s a link if you don’t want to photoshop.

  8. Why not whatever color your baseboard is?

    • fitz says:

      The baseboards are white. But I ran 8″-wide baseboards with an ogee profile to match the original ones that are (almost) everywhere else in the house. So, the toe kicks won’t really flow into the baseboards, no matter what color they are.

  9. Kagushokunin says:

    I’ve built too many white toe-kicks to count. They look great on installation day but after a few vaccum and broom sessions, not so much. I’m guessing that all your Pinterest (“inspirational”) pictures are professional photoshoots done on brand new stuff.

    Nothing says that you have to do either colour though. You can try any intermediate tone or even a natural wood clear-coated. In any case, I agree that the good ole cardboard mock-up or Photoshop are your friends.

    Me? I’d probably stay away from white.

    • Kagushokunin says:

      Sorry, in my haste to answer I forgot to add:

      I’ve done stainless steel to match the appliances. It looks great and is tough. Very easy to do, just glue it up to plywood with PL adhesive or similar.

      • fitz says:

        Interesting idea on the stainless — but I have to use something thick enough to cover the 1/4″ expansion gaps for the cork floor.

        • Kagushokunin says:

          Sorry Megan, maybe I wasn’t too clear in my last post.

          Stainless is never installed freely, it would flop too much. It is always glued up onto 3/4” or similar plywood with construction adhesive. That should cover the cork expansion joint. Also, to make it easier to scribe, you can leave a 1/2” to 1” of bare plywood strip at the top. It will be easy to trim to shape and be invisible under the cabinet overhang.

          Hope this helps making it a bit more understandable.

          • fitz says:

            Oh I see…I was thinking it could simply be applied to the cabinet bases as a means of avoiding making a toe kick 🙂

            I’ll likely go with a painted wood of some kind though, just to be more in keeping with the age of the house.

  10. ctregan says:

    You could add black lights under the kicks for a different effect. I call it the “space ship” effect. Great for when company comes by.

  11. bsrlee says:

    I’d stay away from absolute white or even black. Something like ‘charcoal’ or ‘Payne’s Grey’ will give much the same light value but will be even better than dead black at hiding those little ‘oopsies’, much as a cream or other off-white is easier to keep clean as well as being easier on the eyes first thing in the day.

  12. dave says:

    Go with white. Black is tacky looking.

  13. Russell Pitner says:

    Don’t forget you plan to market the house, and which ever you choose it want suit a prospective buyer any way. Go with which is easier.

  14. Potomacker says:

    Generally painting the baseboard the same color as the flooring creates a visual sense of having a larger room. I suggest that you paint the toekicks similar to chestnut brown of the floor tiles and consider doing the same to the baseboards.

  15. bbrazil69 says:

    It seems like either white or black would show dust and scuffs. You might want to try something grey or cream. Those would also look more shadowy and not draw attention to themselves.

  16. steveschafer says:

    Start with a shade of brown that’s between the color of the floor and the color of the walls (something close to the color of your Ikea countertops might work), then move towards gray ( i.e., desaturate the color somewhat). It might work to move very slightly towards green as well, although it’s hard to say from just photos.

  17. Jeff H. says:

    Go for white. I think the black would make your cabinets seem eerily levitating.

  18. rondennis303 says:


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