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, 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,” she adds.
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Kitchen-equipment manufacturers are painting the marketplace in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues.
Bertazzoni’s Arancio range comes in orange, burgundy and yellow. Big Chill’s paint-box hues include jadeite (a milky green), cherry and pink. AGA’s Signature line of beefy, professional-grade ranges comes in intriguing colors like 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 chocolate-y ginger, as well as several hundred other colors and finishes.
Kitchens of any vintage can look fresh 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.
In a small galley kitchen, a bold color on the ceiling can create a “jewel box” effect. Deep hues like eggplant, navy, magenta or carmine compliment white cabinetry in a large kitchen, and look great in both natural and artificial light.
New York designer Gideon Mendelson has 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 Cawell, a designer and host on HGTV’s “Great Rooms,” says she loves to add color to kitchens. She recently used a backsplash of blue and green fused-glass tiles as a counterpoint to a rustic, Old World-style metal and wood 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 free-standing 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 says. Options include graphic designs or stencils, or illustrated rug motifs.
Those who are renting their homes and have limited decorating options can try color accents like Fiesta ware, rag rugs, a couple of stylish stools, and counter appliances in candy hues.