Wood stained cabinets or painted? Which one is right for you? Follow my 5 simple steps to design a kitchen you’ll love forever.
I’ll start with the espresso brown kitchen cabinet trend as it’s still going strong here in 2009:
The following is an anonymous comment that I have heard many times since the brown trend started.
By the way–a little insider advice—designers are always seeing and looking for what’s new and what’s next. We quickly get tired of a trend when it becomes common and seen everywhere, from restaurants to your best friend’s kitchen!
Naturally, since we are in the design industry this is normal. It is what we do (It’s the same for you inside your own industry).
But this comment [below] I had to write about immediately in case anyone else is about to make the same mistakes:
“Our house is almost built but I am not excited. I have listened to the advice of a colour consultant that was provided by our builder so now I have cortina brown kitchen floor tiles with natural finish knotty alder cabinet (mission style) and countertop in beige (santa cecilia granite).
The color combination is just blah. In the bathrooms, I have the natural finish knotty alder cabinet with tropical brown granite countertop time. They are called ridgeview warm green by daltile and the color looks too muddy for me (looks like camo green to me).
To be frank, I am quite depressed and not looking forward to living in this house. The floors look too dark and muddy for my taste. I am getting a new dining room and living room furniture (I just dont know what colors to choose). I have medium beige wall color throughout the house. What can I do to make all this color combination much more pleasing to the eye?”
Colours to bring this much [above photo] brown to life are orange, yellow, pale blues/ turquoise, fresh greens [including the kelly green above] and certainly red but the combination of brown and red can be too masculine depending on how much of it you are using—context is everything when it comes to colour.
I have seen way to many dark cave-like kitchens created by using too much brown which is why my advice is about balancing them with creams, etc.
Personally, at this stage of the brown trend (it’s been about 7 years) and trends tend to last about 10 years, I would not specify an espresso brown kitchen. Two weeks ago, I was surprised when I walked into the condo of one of my new clients to see that he had forest green countertops and backsplash in a unit that was only 9 years old. This happens when builders work on spec, without designers, unaware that a trend [hello 80’s?] is long over!
Here’s another kitchen with creamy cabinets and chocolate brown stone counters with the brown continuing on the backsplash. Please, what ever you do, do not paint your cabinets screaming white if you are going for a brown counter and backsplash, it will [almost] look like a white 90’s kitchen with new brown granite. Your cabinets must be cream or beige with this much brown. White with brown is way too stark!
White goes with black [above] but cream goes with brown:
If you choose brown cabinets [above] I recommend a light backsplash and counter, otherwise your kitchen will simply get too dark!
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5 Steps to a Kitchen Design You Love
Here are 5 steps to make sure you love your kitchen when it’s installed:
Step 1: Research
Do your homework to determine which look you want for your kitchen. Basically your choices are a wood stained cabinet or a painted cabinet. Make sure you see enough kitchens when doing your research [reading design magazines and blogs] that you start to see a pattern in the kitchen that truly speaks to you. [If you have been reading this blog you already know which kitchen I prefer and a small side note—95% of every high end home I have seen has painted cabinets rather than wood stained cabinets] Once you define it [the one you love], do not let yourself be talked out of it by your kitchen designer or builder. Which leads me to my next point.
Step 2: Get Professional Advice
I often tell my clients, ‘Good design advice from an experienced professional makes sense even if you are far from being an expert yourself’. If the advice you are getting does not ring true for you, do your research and pay for another consultation. The design of any project is the most important piece so if you do not like the advice you’ve just paid for, find another designer and pay for new advice—again. It’s still going to be worth it in the long run.
Working with creative people can be a crapshoot, it’s not like buying a gallon of paint, you see it, you know what it is, what it will do and it’s not a surprise. Obviously referrals then become the best way to hire a designer and these days a blog written by a professional is like getting a referral because you can get a real sense of the personality and expertise of the person writing the blog. The following is for Laurie who asked:
“I’d appreciate a post on how to find a color specialist in my area. What accreditation should I look for? What are questions I should ask when talking to a color specialist about working together? I once hired a designer for assistance in selecting colors and just as you described in your post, “The Three Most Important Words in A Color Consultation”, all I ended up with is a bunch of colors. I’m moving into a new home soon and I’m beginning the search for someone to help me pull everything together. Can you provide some tips for finding the right person to work with?”
The best advice I can give here is this; look for years of experience and be willing to pay for experience.
It takes years of various courses and exposure to a lot of different spaces and design styles, to be able to walk into [any] home and select colours for a home owner working with existing and often dated finishes and/or be able to define–what about the space– from a decorating perspective, needs to change as well.
In the 4 years that I worked at store level, I conducted over 1,000 consultations, that is an average of 5 calls a week. It’s the best crash course in colour and design ever because it’s experiential [which is the best training for any industry].
An experienced colour designer will be asking themselves (and/or you) questions like:
a) What should we ignore here?
b) What do we need to work with?
c) Does the colour in this room need to be light or dark?
d) Can we inject some colour into this house or does it have to be more neutral (based on existing finishes)?
e) Is my client looking for ‘neutrals’ or ‘colour’?
e) What kind of design advice does my client need that will take them in the right direction inside their renovations or in decorating their home?
f) Which room is it important to move forward inside of current trends vs. choosing something that goes with something dated but not being replaced anytime soon.
g) Bottom line, an experienced designer will explain why their recommendation works or validate the choices you have already made with an explanation as well. You are buying the ‘because’ make sure you get it!
Step 3: Remember, the Cost of One Mistake Pays for the Designer
For the spouse that does not think a designer is required. Do not say to your partner, “What’s the problem honey, why can’t you just pick a colour?” or “Where is that tile, we need it? or “We don’t need a designer, we can do it ourselves!” Women are quite often way more affected by colour and aesthetics than men are [generally speaking] so unless you are willing to listen to years of complaints about how the backsplash ended up too busy, or pinky beige and your countertops are yellow beige, go for it.
One more thing, she’s not asking you why you are not doing the plumbing or electrical yourself, decorating is a skill just like any other profession, which in many cases requires a professional to get it right.
A designer is a bargain, especially because this is their business—it’s not yours! If you are on a strict budget you have no budget to waste on mistakes!
Step 4: Never Buy the Tile without Testing the Sample in your Home
Selecting tile is much harder than it might seem. I have seen tile in a store that I would swear has a green undertone go pinky beige when it’s installed—eeek! Choosing the wrong grout colour can also give you that effect because now you are visually comparing the minute differences in beige’s which when paired incorrectly change the colour of the tile right before your eyes. Never buy tile without taking it home and looking at it in the lighting of your bathroom or kitchen. And if you don’t have that luxury because you are building and the lighting will not be installed until after the tile? You might still be surprised when everything is complete.
A note about undertones: Don’t get upset if it’s difficult for you to distinguish them. I make it sound obvious and easy but it’s taken me years of working with large colour samples, to be able to see the undertone of a countertop or sofa from a mile away. And even then I’ll tell you which finishes can be tricky when defining an undertone. Carpet; sometimes I have to hold up a few paint samples to see whether it’s pink beige or green beige as both can get grayish and hard to distinguish.
Step 5: Be Sure to Coordinate Flooring with your Existing Finishes
The days of defining spaces with flooring are over [above]. We are now installing hardwood throughout the kitchen as well. If you are in an older house and have existing hardwood but do not have it in your kitchen, consider cork flooring in a tone that coordinates with your existing floors (if it’s too painful to try and find matching wood to install in your kitchen). If you still want tile for ultimate durability consider a larger size than 12 x 12 which (depending on the tile) can take you right back to the 90s, instead of moving fresher/forward.
Here’s the 5 step recap to a kitchen design you’ll love:
- Do your homework to distinguish the look you think you’ll be the most happy with.
- If you are not an expert, hire one.
- Unless you are a designer, it’s best to hire one even if it’s just for a 2 hour consultation to make sure the finishes that are about to be installed are going to work in your home. Have a selection for the designer to eliminate.
- Tile/stone is not easy to choose, go back to step number 2.
- Choose flooring that works with your existing finishes and keep it current.
If you need help choosing your kitchen colours and finishes, check out my ‘Create a Classic Kitchen’ eDesign package here.