The all-white kitchen, the reigning trophy room of the American home, is not going away anytime soon.
But change is afoot: Color is tiptoeing back into the kitchen. A growing number of consumers are looking to add some friendliness and warmth to the often cold, clinical white-and-gray cooking spaces that have dominated the last decade. Cobalt blue, pale pink and pumpkin are among the colors that are seeping into cabinets, islands, and even sinks and faucets.
"White is people's comfort zone," says Elle H-Millard, industry relations manager for the National Kitchen and Bath Association. "White is all about safety and cleanliness. It's the feeling of purity we all want in the kitchen. White offers uncluttered, visual simplicity in a room where many of us spend a lot of our time."
Color, she adds, provides emotion and personality.
"We are seeing more color confidence as the economy does better," says Wendy Mushow Werner, a Corian Design spokeswoman. "People are choosing more color, and the brighter and bolder colors are trending upward."
According to a 2018 National Kitchen and Bath Association trends report, white and gray continue their dominance in kitchen color schemes, with 90 percent and 89 percent of respondents selecting them as "hot" choices, but today, "more people are willing to take a risk," says H-Millard, "especially millennials."
You can inject color with new mint cabinets or a lipstick-red stove. But it can also be done with salmon leather bar stools. Or color can come in a smaller, lower-risk detail, such as a yellow toaster or an emerald-green glass pendant lamp. You could simply paint your white walls grass green or peony pink.
Manufacturers are dishing up kitchen options in a new rainbow of hues. Here are some of our favorites.
Appliances. Want to make one big color statement? Get a major appliance in an unexpected hue, something fans of Aga and Lacanche luxury ranges have been doing for decades. The Italian company Smeg popularized Italian retro style in the 1990s with its pastel and candy-colored fridges, which are still sold today for about $2,000. And appliance manufacturer Big Chill has been offering color in the kitchen for 15 years. The color palette for the Retro line, which includes turquoise, Jadite Green and Pink Lemonade, is inspired by 1950s cars and kitchens. The starting price for a fridge is about $2,400. "People are nervous about putting an entire red kitchen in their house, but they may get a red refrigerator, "says Orion Creamer, Big Chill co-founder.
Counters. More designers are using two colors for kitchen surfaces, one for the island and one for the perimeter. Shades of white and gray are still the most dominant colors for kitchen counters, according to Werner. (Of the 181 Corian solid surface colors available, 33 are white, and 47 are gray; there are only two reds, eight greens and one orange.) But brighter colors are becoming more popular, in small doses. In small kitchens, Werner says, the same color can be used on several surfaces — perhaps some open shelving or a small cabinet door — to unify the space.
Cabinets. "Paint can transform a kitchen for a very small cost," designer Christie Leu of Christie Leu Interiors in Chevy Chase, Md. If you want to paint your own cabinets, you'll want a hard, durable finish, Leu says. She suggests Advance by Benjamin Moore or Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel by Sherwin-Williams. Her advice to clients who want different colors on upper and lower cabinets is to always put the darker color on the bottom; otherwise, she says, it looks "top-heavy."
Furniture. Washington designer Caryn Cramer was delighted that her Bethesda, Md., client decided to channel the look of a charming French country kitchen with Old World maple cabinets and an oak floor. The centerpiece of the space is a marble-topped oval wooden table that serves as a free-standing island. Its base is painted a traditional Provençal green (Parsley Snips by Benjamin Moore). "An island is a good way to bring color into a kitchen, as it's easy to change out or repaint," Cramer says. The shade coordinates with the pale green BlueStar French door oven and gas range they chose to complete the room.
Sinks. A sink may be an unexpected place to add color, but it can turn into a focal point of a kitchen. Fireclay farmhouse kitchen sinks by Bocchi ($650-$2,188) are available in nine colors that include Sapphire Blue (but not yet the red and purple that are available in the brand's European line). The apron-front style lets the color show through more in the room. The Elkay brand recently rolled out stainless farmhouse sinks with interchangeable apron fronts in several colors ($750-$1,149; aprons $250-$449). Using color on a sink, says H-Millard, gives it the ability to become a design element instead of just a fixture.