ISSUE 24  |  Scandi Midsummer

Temperature Check: Color in the Kitchen

June 20, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Remodelista Team

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Do you prefer warm hues or cool colors in the kitchen? We asked a few members of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory for their strategies when it comes to choosing color. 

Portland, Oregon-based designer Carole Magness of Magness Interiors responded to the question with more questions: “Are we in the woods? At the sea? In the city? Does your kitchen have a nice amount of natural light on its own, or not so much?” Magness then set us straight: “Whether to go with warm tones or cool really depends on the setting.” Here are successful kitchens at opposite ends of the color spectrum, plus some paint suggestions for both approaches.

Cool Tones

Above: Located in a 1920s house in Portland, Oregon, this kitchen remodel by architect Michael Howells of Howells Architecture + Design in Oregon features a dark blue, white, and black color palette–one that isn’t commonly used in kitchens. It works because the bold blue is offset by English scullery details like beadboard that the architect injected, creating an overall look that’s cool but far from cold. Photo by Anna M. Campbell

Above: “The kitchen is light and bright and bold, which really helps keep things cheerful in the gray Portland climate,” says Howells. For a full tour of the design (including before shots), see Rehab Diaries: An Oregon Kitchen with a Dose of Downton Abbey.  

On the subject of pale kitchens, Magness notes: “The dark time zone and cold climate in Scandinavia are the very reason so many interiors there are light and clean and bright–white finishes are possibly one of the cleverest ways to keep people upbeat when it gets dark at 3:30 pm in winter.” In terms of paint colors, Magness advises: “It’s nice to split the difference in a kitchen–so it doesn’t feel like a laboratory, but also isn’t so busy with color that it doesn’t feel as clean as we’d like.”

Above: Here are two cool colors to consider for a kitchen: Valspar Royal Gray (L), and Benjamin Moore’s Super White (R). For more paint recommendations, see Palette & Paints: Coastline-Inspired Blues and Remodeling 101: Best Colors for Urban Kitchens.

Above: An example of a GE Monogram kitchen that makes use of a cool color palette. 

Warm Tones

Above: In this project by Jonathan Feldman of Feldman Architecture in San Francisco, the intent was to balance crisp modernism elements with natural materials. Says the architect: “We typically like the primary surfaces (floors, walls, counters, and cabinets) to be subtle, so that they recede and don’t call too much attention to themselves.” Photo by Paul Dyer

Above: As for Feldman’s color strategy, he says: “We don’t think of kitchen colors any differently than we think of colors in general; we almost always prefer to keep them muted. We also worry that our client might get tired of a bold color over time, so we add color with furniture and art.” His favorite colors for the kitchen are grays, whites, and light and dark woods that aren’t too yellow, orange, or red.

Learn all the details about the kitchen in The Architect Is In: A Kitchen Expert Answers Your Queries

Above: “There should be a combination of cool and warm colors in the kitchen,” says Jayne Michaels of NYC-based 2Michaels Design. “A sterile kitchen is lifeless and unappealing, and a cluttered, dark kitchen is unappetizing.” Here are two warm shades to consider. Above L: Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath is a complex gray that Carole Magness used in her own farmhouse kitchen. Above R: Pratt & Lambert’s Seed Pearl is a creamy white singled out as a favorite for small kitchens by Lake | Flato Architects. For more paint colors, see Remodeling 101: Best Colors for Urban Kitchens.

Above: Even though the walls of this GE Monogram kitchen are dark blue-green, the space is warmed by wood.