Kitchens in traditional and vintage houses 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, 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.
Today’s kitchens are becoming more colorful once again.
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“We have readers who are introducing brightly colored cabinets and appliances in tomato, pumpkin and daisy,” Baldwin says.
At this spring’s Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York, manufacturers were showing lots of vibrantly hued kitchen equipment.
Big Chill displayed a wall full of paint-box hues including jadite (a milky green), cherry and pink. AGA’s beefy, professional-grade ranges come in intriguing colors such as aubergine, duck-egg blue, heather, pistachio, claret and British racing green (www.bigchill.com; www.aga-ranges.com).
Fans of metallics might go for Blue Star’s dramatic collection of ranges, wall ovens and hoods in copper, gold and a chocolate-y ginger, as well as several hundred other colors and finishes (www.bluestarcooking.com).
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 such as eggplant, navy, magenta or carmine compliment white cabinetry in a large kitchen and look great in both natural and artificial light.
Meg Caswell, a designer and host on HGTV’s “Great Rooms,” loves to add color to kitchens. In one Art Deco house, she used a backsplash of crisp blue and green fused-glass tiles as a counterpoint to a rustic, Old World-style metal and wood kitchen island. The cabinets are a glossy black, the wallpaper citrine. In another home, she mixed sleek teal-and-white glass with farmhouse blue cabinets (www.megcaswell.com; www.hgtv.com).
Baldwin, of This Old House, 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 or stencils, or illustrated rug motifs. Better Homes & Gardens’ website has lots of ideas (www.bhg.com/kitchen).
If you’re in a rental with limited decorating options, go for color accents such as Fiesta ware, rag rugs, a couple of snazzy stools, and counter appliances in candy hues.