Cook up a color-happy kitchen

07/25/2014 7:00 AM

07/22/2014 10:37 AM

Kitchens in traditional and vintage homes often are dressed in conservative garb: neutral hues, stainless steel, white-on-white or beige-on-beige.

Historically, however, kitchens were actually pretty peppy, according to Deborah Baldwin, articles editor of This Old House magazine.

“Pastel greens, blues, creams and peaches reigned until the early 1930s, when casual, built-in eating areas were painted kelly green, red and even black,” she says.

“We have readers who are introducing brightly colored cabinets and appliances in tomato, pumpkin and daisy.”

At this spring’s Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York, manufacturers were showing lots of vibrantly hued kitchen equipment.

Bertazzoni’s Arancio range comes in orange, burgundy and yellow. Big Chill displayed a wall full of paint-box hues, including jadeite (a milky green), cherry and pink.

AGA’s signature line of beefy, professional-grade ranges comes in intriguing colors, such as aubergine, duck-egg blue, heather, pistachio, claret and British racing green.

Fans of metallics might go for Blue Star’s dramatic collection of ranges, wall ovens and hoods in copper, gold and a chocolatey ginger, as well as several hundred other colors and finishes.

Kitchens of any vintage can look great with colorful walls. Pumpkin, cobalt and deep Prussian blue enhance all kinds of woods, whether you’re working with 19th-century pine, Craftsman-era oak or midcentury walnut.

Or consider the ceiling. In a small galley kitchen, bold color on the ceiling creates a “jewel box” effect. Deep hues like eggplant, navy, magenta or carmine complement white cabinetry in a large kitchen and look great in both natural and artificial light.

New York designer Gideon Mendelson applied a pea-green gingham canvas cloth to the ceiling of a country house kitchen and painted the island in a similar shade. With a collection of vintage baskets displayed along the tops of snowy wood cabinetry, the vibe is relaxed, fresh and contemporary.

Meg Caswell, a designer and host on HGTV’s “Great Rooms,” loves to add color to kitchens. She used a backsplash of crisp, blue-and-green-fused glass tiles as a counterpoint to a rustic, Old World-style metal and wooden kitchen island, glossy black cabinetry and citrine wallpaper in an art deco-era home.

In another home she mixed sleek teal-and-white glass with farmhouse blue cabinets.

Baldwin advises painting upper and base cabinets different colors or painting an island or hutch in a contrasting shade.

“This helps reinforce their freestanding furniture look, which harks back to 18th- and 19th-century kitchens,” she says.

“Painting the floor — either one color or in a pattern like checkerboard — can reinforce the vintage look, too,” she notes.

Options include graphic designs, stencils or illustrated rug motifs. Better Homes & Gardens’ website has lots of ideas.

If you’re in a rental with limited decorating options, go for color accents like Fiestaware, rag rugs, a couple of snazzy stools and counter appliances in candy hues.


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