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Make a Splash with Color in Your Kitchen and Bath

It’s often said that the easiest and least expensive way to make a big change in a space is to paint the walls. And that’s very true. But, it’s also very true that selecting colors can be an enormously daunting challenge. And these challenges are doubled in the kitchen and bath, where there is so much else going on–from cabinetry to appliances, backsplashes to flooring. These are our most expensive rooms and many of us find color selections to be the hardest in these spaces. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s start with the bathroom. Conventional wisdom says that a small room should be painted a light color to make it look larger. I disagree. A small powder room is the perfect place to try something bold! A dark red or blue wall color, combined with white fixtures, would make for a snappy little space. Add in some sparkling nickel or chrome faucets and a big mirror and you’re on your way to creating a bold and dramatic place that perfectly welcomes guests. Remember that a small powder room/guest bathroom is used for a very limited purpose and usually folks aren’t spending much time in there. A great reason to go bold!

The family bathroom or master bath is a bit different, however. These are really working spaces–shaving, makeup applications, and doing one’s hair all require a brighter, well-lit space. What is the mood you wish to set? If you are looking for a very clean, crisp feeling space, then clear blues and greens are a great choice. Think of the colors of sea glass. That tumbled clarity provides just the right sense of freshness. Paired with snowy white fixtures and sparkling faucets and you’ll virtually feel the cool breeze passing through!

Perhaps a soothing spa like space is your goal? Neutrals such as creams and sand colors, and mid-toned browns and grays will help set that mood. These neutral palettes will work wonderfully with white, cream, or black bath fixtures or millwork. A beautiful matte faucet set will be an elegant addition to this space.

Trickier than colorizing one’s bathroom is the challenge of selecting the color palette in the kitchen. There are so many choices to make if you are designing your kitchen from scratch. From the wood or paint color on the cabinets to the backsplash tile and counter material, to the floor–the kitchen is the most complete floor-to-ceiling project in the home. Of course, not everyone is going to tackle a floor-to-ceiling kitchen design project, so for these purposes, we’ll assume that the cabinets, counter, backsplash, and floors are already in place.

Did you know that colors can create mood and even affect our bodies? Have you ever wondered why surgeons wear blue scrubs? It’s to counter-balance the effect the color of blood has on their eyes. Red is a very stimulating color and in some cases, can even raise one’s blood pressure. The blue of surgical scrubs helps to relax the surgical team, thus allowing them to work longer with less fatigue. So, it makes sense that stimulating colors such as red, orange, and deep pinks are commonly used in restaurants and bars. When you’re stimulated, you might eat and drink more. Red has long been a popular color in kitchens and dining rooms because red tones can make most foods look better and they make skin tones look healthier. Reds also work well with many wood finishes, making it easier to coordinate with cabinetry and counters. Even though it is not officially a neutral color, it functions like one since it works with other colors, like whtes, golds, and blacks. Yellows and golds are another popular choice for kitchens. The sunny yellow kitchen evokes a nice image of country fresh bread and apple pie. Gold tones are somewhat more sophisticated and can work with darker hues such as black cabinetry or granite counter tops.

However, yellow/gold tones are often harder to coordinate with the woodwork and cabinetry in a kitchen. Natural or stained woods have definite colors to them–cherry reds or yellow pines are popular woods in a kitchen. If you are looking at colors in the yellow family, be sure to take the woods and finishes in the space into consideration when selecting the specific hue. Greens are also a popular kitchen color, although generally in soft, muted shades such as celery green or gray green. And again, woods can often hold a green undertone, so paying attention to how your potential wall color interacts with the tone of the wood is very important. Of course, the avocado green of 1970s still evokes a strong and generally negative reaction. Ultimately, it was not a very flattering color to either food or face! Less popular in the kitchen are shades of blue or purple. I think blues are less popular because it’s a “cool” color and most people feel instinctually that the kitchen should be “warm.” And shades of purple seem frivolous, which doesn’t sync well with the expensive nature of a kitchen project. However, I would certainly say that, if you love it, a blue or purple painted wall is an inexpensive change should you grow tired of it.