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Kitchen color ideas that go beyond white and grey

Get inspiration for adding color to your kitchen.

Sage green kitchen cabinets white subway tile backsplash

Adding color on cabinets, islands or backsplashes can achieve a big aesthetic impact in the kitchen. The 2010s saw bright whites and light grays take over kitchen design, with the modern farmhouse style that embraced white on white designs, rustic hardware details and organic fiber materials. But in the 2020s homeowners are beginning to experiment with hues, such as pinks, greens and blues, to create kitchens that reflect their unique style and personality. However, loving the look of a colorful kitchen is different than executing one. To help, we dissected some of our favorite colorful kitchens to reveal the secrets of pulling off this striking style.

Planning a kitchen remodel project: think holistically.

With any interior design project, start by evaluating the space and the materials to be used in it as a whole. If a bold or saturated color is on the plan, carefully consider the lighting. Does the space have enough natural light sources to help new colors appear true? Skylights bring in twice the amount of natural light as windows and could help your colorful plan really pop.

For color, create a mood-board to see how the colors you like complement each other. Kelly Mindell, the design blogger behind Studio DIY, for example, pulls both digital images and physical objects together for inspiration in color, texture and overall palette.

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Photo credit: Jeff Mindell

Knowing they wanted to use unexpected colors in the space, Mindell and her husband Jeff added two skylights to the kitchen, previously the darkest room in the home. The natural light from the skylights provide a diffuse, even light that eliminates dark corners and creates an airy, harmonizing effect. Having abundant natural light helped the couple make the final color selection for the kitchen cabinets. After seeing their original choice, mustard yellow, in the space they realized it clashed with the wood floors. They viewed a variety of pinks in the kitchen and found a light, dusty rose that flows with Kelly’s design aesthetic in the rest of the home.

The resulting pink kitchen feels like a natural extension of Kelly’s design style and personality. Check out the effect of natural light from above on the paint colors and backsplash tile texture in the photos below: The first photo shows the skylight blinds open, which reveals the subtle texture of the backsplash tiles.

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Photo credit: Jeff Mindell

The room darkening skylight blinds are closed to block the light in the photo below. Notice how less light makes the colors duller and textures less apparent.

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Photo credit: Jeff Mindell

Planning for light and texture is crucial for dark color palettes, too. In this blue and black kitchen, the homeowner knew plentiful access to natural light would be key to pulling off her dream color palette. Without natural light from above, the space would feel closed in, and the details would be lost in dark corners. The quartz countertops, brushed gold hardware and wood accents add visual texture and further complement the dark color palette, increasing the sense of depth provided by ample natural light. The overall effect is a warm sense of materiality with a perfect balance of light and dark.

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Consider color as an alternative neutral in the kitchen.

We typically look to earthy tones as neutral, impartial backdrops for interior decor. However, a muted, dusty or pale hue of a bold color, such as green or pink, can actually provide the same service as a more traditional white or beige while creating a more striking look.

Emily Henderson tackles the bold kitchen cabinet trend with a dusty sage green. The dark hue plays beautifully with the green glimmers in the white marble counter tops and natural wood floors. Windows and overhead skylights in the vaulted ceiling fill the space with natural light, preventing the darker color from becoming too overbearing. By pairing the earthy tone of green with a creamy white, the colorful cabinets stay in step with her signature interpretation of sophisticated Scandinavian design, too.

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On the lighter side, pink may evoke memories of kitschy, 1950s bubblegum kitchens, but playing by the rules of earthy neutrals, Kelly Mindell of Studio DIY chose a hue with enough white that it’s more reminiscent of pink Himalayan salt or soft morning light than candy. Under abundant natural light from skylights, the bright whites, light wood floor and pale pink flow together, suggesting a tonal or monochromatic palette. The result is a distinct, fun and still sophisticated kitchen that works perfectly with Mindell’s quirky interior style.

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Photo credit: Jeff Mindell

Open up the walls so the kitchen backsplash works harder.

To maximize storage, many kitchens have cabinets covering wall space from corner to window. For bolder colors, that much real estate in the kitchen may feel overwhelming. To find balance, consider removing some of the cabinets and replacing them with open shelving for a more modern, minimalist storage option. The benefits are two-fold: it opens up the wall for a more expansive, lighter feel and it allows for more personalization with a decorative backsplash.

In the pink Studio DIY kitchen, Mindell finds flow with her pink cabinets and wood floors by keeping the backsplash white, but opts for tile that has some variation to its tones and shape that adds depth.

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Photo credit: Jeff Mindell

Alternatively, consider leaning into the color palette. In this black and blue kitchen, the deep blue tile backsplash becomes a neutral backdrop for other design elements such as the black detailing on the window, gold hardware and wooden shelves. Adding skylights overhead brings in abundant natural light that keeps these elements from blending together in the shadows.

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If pursuing a more maximalist look, consider a patterned tile with similar and complementary colors to the cabinets. Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow pairs complementary colors orange and blue, using a true orange grounded by a muted slate blue. With many design elements at play, more natural light helps the eye differentiate the patterns and, as an added bonus, allows plants to thrive.

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Whether minimalist or maximalist, light or dark, using non-traditional colors in the kitchen is on the rise. With a little planning, ample natural light and the addition of natural materials, you too can achieve this look.

Interested in how natural light from skylights can make your colorful creations sing? Sign up for a virtual design consultation with one of our daylight designers to learn about skylights from the comfort of your own home.

Next: 3 Interior Design Lessons from Emily Henderson’s Mountain House

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