Mad About . . .

Monday Inspiration: Colour Drenched Kitchens

1st November 2021
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A new week and a new month – how tidy is that? – and a bit of a kitchen dive for you today so let’s go with some colour. I have been writing about interiors for some 20 years now and in that time white has consistently been the most popular colour for a kitchen. I just did a quick google and it seems that’s still the case – despite what we see on instagram, which, is, after all, a minuscule percentage of the real world. So I’m going to put the case for some of the other shades.

tonal kitchen kitchen design by @jakearnold architect @xbeltranarchitects and contractor @rfreinis shot by @michaelcliffordphotography

tonal kitchen kitchen design by @jakearnold architect @xbeltranarchitects and contractor @rfreinis shot by @michaelcliffordphotography

I mean I get it. You don’t want to be redoing your kitchen every 10 minutes. Possibly not even every 10 years, so you choose a sensible colour that you are fairly confident you won’t go off or tire of and that might not deter any future buyers. But that colour is never going to make your heart sing and as someone whose love of cooking (never exactly a burning passion in the first place although by God I love eating) has been dulled by years of cooking for small/fussy children, this is a room that needs to FIRE YOU UP BABY! Ok calming down, but this is a room, not just because it’s the fabled heart of the home, that needs to welcome you in, make you want to spend time in it and possibly even light the creative cooking juices. So unless white or grey does that for you, take a moment to think about the colours you love (back to the wardrobe) and see how you might incorporate them into your own kitchens.

And what these pictures will show you is that it doesn’t have to be a uniform heavy matching colour all over. OK ready?

kitchen design by @jakearnold architect @xbeltranarchitects and contractor @rfreinis shot by @michaelcliffordphotography

tonal kitchen kitchen design by @jakearnold architect @xbeltranarchitects and contractor @rfreinis shot by @michaelcliffordphotography

So this beauty above. Ignore the wooden beams as most of us won’t have them. Unless you do in which case be inspired by how they can add interest to a room. Natural wooden cupboards below with all that lovely grain visible. You can look for reclaimed doors or you can buy modern ones. The floral curtain softens and lightens the look (not for everyone but this is all about picking and choosing the parts you like) while the marble worktop and backsplash will lighten any scheme.

But it’s the wall cabinets to note and there are three important points to make here. 1: They don’t need to match the lower cupboards. 2: Glass fronts will make it all feel lighter on the wall and less heavy, which is good if you have chosen a strong colour. If you’re worried about tidiness then use fluted glass which will still bounce light around but will hide any mess inside. Or, you know, declutter and tidy. 3: While painting your wall cabinets to match the wall will make them recede into the wall and thus make the space feel larger and emptier, you can also paint them a darker version of the wall colour. They still don’t have to match the bottom units but it’s such a clever effect to do this and it’s so pretty.

madaboutthehouse.com shot by mark anthony fox

madaboutthehouse.com shot by mark anthony fox

I have just painted my kitchen (Ferdinand by Little Greene on the walls, while the cupboards remain Farrow & Ball Tanners Brown) and actually while I have experimented with painting the back of the open shelves in a soft pink, which somehow wasn’t quite right, I now think the answer is to leave the walls in the warm creamy pink that is Ferdinand and paint the shelves themselves in pink. I shall now ponder this… I sense The Mad Husband flexing his veto muscle but it would look amazing. You could do the same thing in shades of green or blue or even a creamy wall with a hint of yellow and a strong yellow set of cupboards. And don’t forget if you want to match top and bottom you can do that too.

We’ll just pop out of the kitchen for a second to this dining room, which I included as it was a deeper shade of the kitchen above and, while they’re not in the same house, it’s a good example of a red thread. You can use one version of a colour in one room and deepen it for another. In this case I like the idea of a pale kitchen and darker dining room – you could do this in an open plan kitchen diner to zone the space too. And while all this fancy panelling and plasterwork is lovely it still works if you don’t have it.

If you are worried about low ceilings then paint the skirting board to match the dark wall which will make the walls look taller and, therefore, the ceiling higher.

Beautiful bespoke kitchen by @colombe_studio made by @coucoucabinets

Beautiful bespoke kitchen by @colombe_studio made by @coucoucabinets

Staying for a second with the rich chocolate shades but this time it’s a deep dark gloss. We’ve had the glossy Ikea kitchen phase, which then swung back to matt but we haven’t yet seen full gloss painted units and while it would be a nightmare to DIY the effect is pretty sexy non? And, in a small room, you can see how it catches the light and throws it back out again which is always good with a dark colour or in a dark room.

And I mentioned above toning the walls to the cupboards and you can see here how the yellow cupboard gives the cream walls a richer, deeper tone and makes the room feel warmer. The gold picture frame does the same job. Painting the cupboard pink would have the same warming effect but with pink undertones rather than yellow – statement of the bleeding obvious I know but the point I’m making is that you can stick to cream walls and use the cupboards to do the reflecting if you don’t actually want to paint your walls with a hint of blue, green, pink or yellow.

textile artist Jessie Cutts of @cuttsandsons image by @townley_terrace

textile artist Jessie Cutts of @cuttsandsons image by @townley_terrace 

Before we swing to full green – to give our green-hating a reader a chance to close her computer – here’s a neutral kitchen for those of you who aren’t ready to embrace full saturated colour in the kitchen. Here textile designer Jessie Cutts has stuck to a warm creamish background and brought in colour via the jute rug and checked tablecloth with a set of mismatched chairs (if that isn’t a tautology, which I think it might be). The effect is warm and inviting and you can imagine wanting to be in here drinking coffee (or wine) while someone cooks. Or even cooking yourself.

kitchen by @discinteriors shot by @samfroststudio

kitchen by @discinteriors shot by @samfroststudio

So, now the coast is clear, taking the green chairs and building on that with these two green kitchens (other colours are available). Firstly, note how the cupboards have been taken up to the ceiling so you don’t have a dust trap on top. And yes, in this case top and bottom do match but the island is a different colour. The combinations and possibilities are endless  – all you have to do is take the time to think through what is right for you. You could have paler green on the top or contrasting pink. Glass fronts or solid or exactly as this is.

The point I wanted to make though, is look at that marble. I mean I know Cararra’s a classic but it’s also quite grey and, well classic. This, though, what a showstopper. Now I would never get bored with this but I love a statement, you might feel it’s a bit much. But then again, maybe you would make a different statement – with tiles for example. The point being don’t settle for something safe because you will get bored and want to change it. True of relationships true of interior design. Never settle.

And, of course, if you worry that green (or another dark colour) may be too much top and bottom then you can always have a bit of blank wall with tiles or shelves or hooks on. See below where, by the way, painting the plinths to match the cupboards would make them seem taller and the room feel calmer and less “outlined”. In a small kitchen you could replace a wooden kickboard with mirror to make the floor look larger and the cupboards appear to float.

green kitchen via @historisakhem photo @fboukari Styling: @copparstadinterior

green kitchen via @historiskahem photo @fboukari Styling: @copparstadinterior

Like I say. there are many options. All I’m doing is pointing them out. All you have to do is have a little think about them.


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  • Michele Titchen 4th November 2021 at 9:35 am

    I’d never have considered pink in the kitchen as I’m just NOT a pink person but the top kitchen is my favourite. That just works so beautifully with the wood. Lovely photography too!

  • Gill 1st November 2021 at 10:09 pm

    Do you know what colours the walls and tonal cupboards are in the first pic?

  • Pia 1st November 2021 at 2:57 pm

    The second green kitchen is my favorite! In our cabin I have a dark green kitchen. We only have lower cabinets and only wooden shelves above on white square tiles. The tiles should go to the ceiling like the tiles in the picture once I get around to tiling again. It is such a boring job so I don’t want to do that but some day I will and it will be as beautiful as that picture.

  • Monica Gibson 1st November 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Love this article. Love your kitchen and I always look at your before and after pictures to remind me how cool the transformation went. It is so clever. the first kitchen you brought here is amazing and now i’m looking at mine thinking how can i make it in my own house. thank you Kate.

  • Allison 1st November 2021 at 10:19 am

    Kate, I have always really liked your kitchen, but looking at it in this context I do think you should paint the upper shelves. I think it would transform it and feel so light and fresh and big. The dark shelves are graphic, but somehow they do bring things down and in – they define the edges. Anyway, very excited to see what you decide to do!

    • Allison 1st November 2021 at 4:03 pm

      …and what about Castell Pink in the same LG Stone family as Ferdinand?

  • Lenore Taylor 1st November 2021 at 7:56 am

    These are all great kitchens, but the first one is perfection to me. I wouldn’t change a thing. Those upper cabinets are like warm clay, just waiting for me to dig my fingers in. Cheers from Canada!

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