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Beyond the All-White Kitchen

Beyond the All-White Kitchen

There’s nothing wrong with sleek-surfaced, all-white (or mostly white) kitchens. They’re typically bright and airy, and they give the impression of being sanitary and practical. Let’s face it, though: They can sometimes be a tad dull and clinical. 

On the other hand, many people find an overly colorful kitchen to feel busy, distracting, and cramped. In search of a happy medium, we gathered inspiration from several designers who have incorporated unexpected materials and colors to take kitchens beyond basic white. 

If you’re not ready to tackle a significant kitchen reno, you can still brighten your kitchen with a few smaller, more affordable updates:

• Augment your plain tableware with some colorful patterns dishes or glasses. (Miranda Kerr Home’s Friendship collection and the Wonderlust assortment from Wedgwood are instant pick-me-ups.)

• Replace nondescript lighting. A petite chandelier, a star-shape flush mount, a classic lantern pendant in not-so-classic coral or green—go for it!

• Swap out drawer pulls and handles. Instant refresh!

• Add a rug or a runner. Low-maintenance indoor/outdoor styles allow you to simply wipe or hose off any spills. Just be sure to use a rug pad to minimize slipping. 

• Never underestimate the power of a beautiful tea towel hanging over an oven handle. 

Sprightly green and floral tiles add joie de vivre to this kitchen’s white subway tiles, and because they’re used as an accent, they don’t overwhelm the space. Design by Madcap Cottage. Photo by Tony Vu.

Sprightly green and floral tiles add joie de vivre to this kitchen’s white subway tiles, and because they’re used as an accent, they don’t overwhelm the space. Design by Madcap Cottage. Photo by Tony Vu.

“This look started with an idea about restoring and emphasizing some of the historic elements of the original 1863 house while creating a more modern, functional, and beautiful kitchen,” says Mindy O’Connor of Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors. “Start with one or two dominating features. Here, the refinished American walnut-and-glass cabinet and the soapstone countertops and sink are the stars.” While the cabinets are finished in a neutral hue, it’s one that’s softer and less in-your-face than white would be here. “Mixing natural materials like wood and dark stone complements almost any color choice,” Mindy notes, “and adds warm and natural touches to the space.” Photo by Wendy Concannon Photography.

“This look started with an idea about restoring and emphasizing some of the historic elements of the original 1863 house while creating a more modern, functional, and beautiful kitchen,” says Mindy O’Connor of Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors. “Start with one or two dominating features. Here, the refinished American walnut-and-glass cabinet and the soapstone countertops and sink are the stars.” While the cabinets are finished in a neutral hue, it’s one that’s softer and less in-your-face than white would be here. “Mixing natural materials like wood and dark stone complements almost any color choice,” Mindy notes, “and adds warm and natural touches to the space.” Photo by Wendy Concannon Photography.

“I find that most of my clients want a light, bright, and airy room, so cladding a kitchen in a heavier color or dark tones needs to be offset with tons of natural light and an open floor plan or higher ceilings,” says Karen Wolf of Karen B. Wolf Interiors. The gleaming brass hardware and fixtures provide a bright contrast to the black. Opting for a matte finish on the island also dials down the intensity of the black. Photo courtesy of Karen B. Wolf.

“I find that most of my clients want a light, bright, and airy room, so cladding a kitchen in a heavier color or dark tones needs to be offset with tons of natural light and an open floor plan or higher ceilings,” says Karen Wolf of Karen B. Wolf Interiors. The gleaming brass hardware and fixtures provide a bright contrast to the black. Opting for a matte finish on the island also dials down the intensity of the black. Photo courtesy of Karen B. Wolf.

While the La Cornue oven is the star of this kitchen, designer Jenny Wolf had the cabinets painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon to ensure that the appliance didn’t overpower its surroundings: “The whole apartment has an ethereal quality to it with all the natural light and tall ceilings and air. I just wanted to keep it feeling fresh, clean, and calm.” Photo by Tony Vu.

While the La Cornue oven is the star of this kitchen, designer Jenny Wolf had the cabinets painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon to ensure that the appliance didn’t overpower its surroundings: “The whole apartment has an ethereal quality to it with all the natural light and tall ceilings and air. I just wanted to keep it feeling fresh, clean, and calm.” Photo by Tony Vu.

Andrea Granger of Hunt & Scavenge opted for plum cabinets to rev up this kitchen. The use of open shelving and pale neutrals above the counters keeps the room light and bright. Find the rattan chandelier here.

Andrea Granger of Hunt & Scavenge opted for plum cabinets to rev up this kitchen. The use of open shelving and pale neutrals above the counters keeps the room light and bright. Find the rattan chandelier here.

“Integrating color doesn’t have to mean forgoing the open and airy quality so many seek with all-white kitchens,” says Jamie Copeland of Hudson Design. “I like to use natural wood cabinetry with open shelving, seating, light fixtures, and even grout in darker colors like black and gray to incorporate warmth, texture, and dimension. All contribute a clean and minimalist aesthetic but lend a homier feel all-white kitchens can sometimes lack, which so many are craving today.” Find similar lighting pendants here. Photo courtesy of Hudson Design.

“Integrating color doesn’t have to mean forgoing the open and airy quality so many seek with all-white kitchens,” says Jamie Copeland of Hudson Design. “I like to use natural wood cabinetry with open shelving, seating, light fixtures, and even grout in darker colors like black and gray to incorporate warmth, texture, and dimension. All contribute a clean and minimalist aesthetic but lend a homier feel all-white kitchens can sometimes lack, which so many are craving today.” Find similar lighting pendants here. Photo courtesy of Hudson Design.

Creating a gallery wall above the sink and counter lets you introduce your choice of colors and themes without having to commit to a major investment. If you’re worried about water or grease splatters, opt for framed prints protected by easy-to-clean glass or plexiglass. Design by Karen Harautuneian of Hub of the House Studio. Photo by Karen Millet.

Creating a gallery wall above the sink and counter lets you introduce your choice of colors and themes without having to commit to a major investment. If you’re worried about water or grease splatters, opt for framed prints protected by easy-to-clean glass or plexiglass. Design by Karen Harautuneian of Hub of the House Studio. Photo by Karen Millet.

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