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5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love!

By 09/28/2009February 1st, 202177 Comments

Wood stained cabinets or painted? Which one is right for you? Follow my 5 simple steps to design a kitchen you’ll love forever. 

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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:

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“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?”

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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:

  1. Do your homework to distinguish the look you think you’ll be the most happy with.
  2. If you are not an expert, hire one.
  3. 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.
  4. Tile/stone is not easy to choose, go back to step number 2.
  5. 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.

Related posts:

Colour is Context
Selecting your kitchen or bath backsplash; Accent tile or NOT?
What everyone should know about Beige

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  • Things That Inspire says:

    Great post – of course, now I know about how you name your posts and this name certainly caught my attention!

    The kitchen above point 1 is by James Michael Howard – and I had the great pleasure of getting a personal tour of this home yesterday, by Jim himself. It is a beautiful, beautiful home. Jim is such a talent. The bedroom in this home is indescribably beautiful!

    Back to kitchens, given that every picture where I am the source is a white kitchen, I think you can tell what I like!

    P.S. – The kitchen with the blue backsplash is by Suzanne Kasler. I love this kitchen – so perfect for a beach house.

  • Candied Fabrics says:

    Whoa! What an awesome post – so much glorious kitchen eye candy all in one place, and some excellent advice too!

  • Michelle says:

    I'm in eye-candy-overload! We rent our apt so my kitchen is stuck the way it is but I'm loving all these tips, putting them in the back of my head for the future!

  • Jessica Hills says:

    Thank you so much for putting all the time into this post – it is so helpful! I am definitely going to take notes for when we buy our house.

  • Sedona @ MyDivineDelights says:

    Ohhing and aaahhhing over here. I have a kitchen to redo in the house we are selling, a kitchen I don't like here in my rent house that I'm learning to work around and a kitchen in my next house to think about! Great great post!! Thanks so much! Loving the different light colors cabinets! Pale yellow, beige, cream…love 'em!

  • yodafatkitty says:

    Once again, I am awe struck. I'm also thankful that I'm NOT further along in the decision making process for the back splashes in my 1960's retro styled kitchen.
    Awesome…and just truly inspiring!

    Thanx so much!

  • Marlo says:

    Great advice – once again!

    I passed this one along to my sister who is planning to gut her kitchen and start anew.

  • Annie@A View On Design says:

    Hey M, really good read, I hope you don't hate my future brown stone topped kitchen too much!! I'll try to put some colour in there somewhere for you, I promise!

  • Tammy@InStitches says:

    This is great advice, it's making me want to redo my kitchen !

  • Ideezine says:


    This is a great consultation piece of info to leave with a client during a initial meeting:

    1) It builds trust in client/designer with a grasp of project decisions to be made.
    2) Defines the critical meaning behind decisions for colors, textures, flooring, cabinet finishes, appliances, and lighting, in one of the most used spaces in our homes to date.



  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    A strict budget definately needs an expert. Good way to put it. Good post this morning!

  • London Calling says:

    Excellent advice. I will be refering back to. Thank you.

  • Karen at Nittany Inspirations says:

    I just redid my kitchen. The man at custom cabinet shop was just a salesman and not a designer. I did not go with his design.

  • Greet says:

    I definitely agree with your opinion about choosing the right kitchen.
    Working with some architects and other inerior designers together the past years, has given me more than once the thought that most of the clients really don't know what they really want and then the architects or interior designers feels that hesitation and immediately started to push their clients in a the direction of their(designers)opinion of the right kitchen.Sometimes the client does not dare to come out for his view on a kitchen and has not enough information about kitchen items as flooring, colours, tiles,…Afterwards (if the kitchen is placed) the client is not happy with it!
    And yes it is very important to choose and pay for a designer but the client must discuss with the designer about his needs and colours that he likes otherwise it is the designers kitchen and not his kitchen!
    So if the designers feels that his client does not know yet which kind of kitchen he really is looking for, he has to come with a lot of information to discover the taste of the client and not to push his client in a direction that maybe the client does not like to go!

    So as you said pay for an interior designer! It is important but I would also say choose the right designer!!


  • Design Esquire says:

    Great post!

  • Chic Coles (Cole Design) says:

    Thank you so much for all of the information about kitchens! I love all of the images you used and I have to say my favorite type of cabinets are lacquer painted cabinets. Thanks!

  • Lauren says:

    Awesome information as always!!!! I always ind myself sitting at attention when reading hyour posts!! 🙂 I have a kitchen consult tonight so this couldn't have been more perfect!!!

  • Jane Hall The Voice of Style says:

    Hi Maria, Great post. I totally agree wit you on painted of white kitchens. They are less limiting in what you can do in terms of colour choices. Wood has a colour, and chocolate brown is a large expanse of darkness. I also think hiring an expert in choosing all the components that go into designing a great kitchen ( not just the layout) but the back splash tile, the counter top, cabinet style flooring is the best money you can spend. Making the wrong decisions here can be costly.

  • Annie, bossy color says:

    What an excellent post, Maria – thank you! Love those pictures, too: white cabinets + zingy backsplash tile = wow. And you're right about the grout making a difference – that's a whole subject in and of itself!

    Thanks again for the thoughtful advice.

  • Velvet and Linen says:

    Kitchens are really expensive, so all of your advice is worth following! I always tell my clients to collect as many images as possible and stick post-its on them pointing out what details they like. This process is so helpful.


  • chanteusevca says:


    More and more you are helping me define what I love and don't love and how to determine what works best together. Your blog is so informative, fun and uplifting. So thrilled I found you!

    Victoria in Texas

  • Linda/"Mom" says:

    ***** I'm glad these FABTASTIC pics are of a kitchen, as I'm drooling, and I KNOW a napkin must be nearby!!!

    There are not only some WONNNDERFUL, BEAUTIFU & WORKABLE spaces here, but the important info you so generously SHARE is VERY THANKFULLY ACCEPTED!

    Blessings, Maria~
    Linda in AZ *

  • Renae says:

    I love coming by to see you and always look forward to what tidbit of info you pass on! Well done on another good one!

  • vicki archer says:

    A must read for anyone who is in the market for a new kitchen or renovating their old one. Fantastic tips, xv.

  • Donna says:

    Just found your blog, LOVE it!

  • Francine Gardner says:

    Great post…I tend to prefer light oak cabinetry or wonderful all white kitchens, but the choice of kitchen materails is relative to the space, the light etc… I would strongly urge to hire a designer or an architect before renovating or building a new kitchen. The cost of materials, appliances, lighting being so high, one must make sure that the layout and materials are perfect for one's space and functional. We always design custom kitchens for our clients and most design, drafting time is spent on kitchen and bathrooms where you cannot afford to make any mistake.
    Thanks for the great visuals of kitchens, as always….enjoyable post

  • Eliana Tomás says:

    Well, I've nothing more to add to your (always) fantastic article. You put everything so well.

    I personally love to design kitchens and all photographs on this post are extremely well coordinated to what you are talking about.

    Thank you again Maria for making our life (interior designers) to look exactly as it is.

  • CRICKET says:

    Your advice is so right on! When we bought our first house and we did not have a lot of money we had two colorists come for a consultation. The first one picked all these Tuscany colors and I just didn;t feel that was the direction I wanted for our 1940's house. So I hired another colorist and she helped us select the perfect colors.

  • House things I like says:

    I love that you mention the importance of "because" – knowing why something is suggested really grounds the entire advice.

  • Kelly@ColorSizzle says:

    These are beautiful photos, and great design and color ideas. Kitchen design is forever evolving, but we all want to keep up with the trends because our kitchens continue to be where we spend most of our time and entertain.

    I've used two colors in my kitchen {a deep plum and caramel} that I pulled from my tile backsplash. It's a very rustic Tuscan look that I love.

    Thanks for all of your great ideas!

  • Jenny says:

    Wow – what a terrific post! The first impression I had (when first reading one of your posts several months ago) was that of being blown away by the level of detail and thought that was evident throughout it. The same thought came to mind today when reading this one. Thank you for being so willing to share your expertise and advice!

  • Laura Trevey says:

    Fabulous post, and very helpful!!

    I love the kitchens with the lime greens and whites… Great color combination.

    xo Laura

  • Jess says:

    Love this. I was wondering about the flooring suggestion though. I have 30 yr old hardwood in my house and hideous tiles in the kitchen. I would like to put cork in, as the colour would blend nicely and I hear it is great on the feet. The big concern is durability, I have 3 kids and hate to invest in something that is going to get trashed, what do you think?

  • DesignTies says:

    Wow, that's a lot of info!!!I'm going to have to re-read a few times to make sure I absorb it all!!

    The advice in this post is especially timely for me, because I'm meeting with my first two clients on Friday and Monday 🙂



  • Launa says:

    Hi Maria,

    I am so happy to have found your website. I absolutely love it! I have 90's style maple kitchen cabinets in a honey colour. I want to paint them white, but my floors are also white tile. Could I have white cabinets with white tile? If so-should I do a creamy white or a true white? I also want to change my counters to to quartz. I am thinking of a chocolate brown.
    Thank you, Launa

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Launa,
    If you do chocolate brown stone with white cabinets and white 12 x 12 tile from the 90's your kitchen might look too much like "new countertops, old kitchen". Better to choose a colour that is not as trendy.
    I would probably not do white cabinets with white floors. Better to do the countertops white and paint the cabinets a linen colour.

    For a more personal view of what would work for you, I recommend a 1 hour consult. Email me for details of what that would look like.

  • VictoriaArt says:

    You make it all so clear, love that about your posts in general!
    I just browsed again through some of my favorite posts of yours and love this one very much as well!
    Glorious kitchens.

  • Diana says:

    Dear Maria, this was the first post I ever read from your blog, and I was hooked!

    Congratulations you were angel that God send me when I most needed someone like you to help me decide.


  • Lacey says:

    Once again, your advice is very valuable. My husband and I bought our first house last spring. We both hate the color/layout of the kitchen, but have been dumbfounded on where we should go from here. Your article has given us some ideas about what need to consider. Goodbye, baseline dark wood cabinets (without even any hardware!). Hello, cream paint and brushed nickel hardware!

  • Ladi says:

    Does anyone have experience with mineral (silicate based) paints? I have seen them in an application and liked the extremely matt texture they provide, but I've been told that they are difficult to work with if you're a DIYer as they dry very quickly. KEIM and BIOFA are two brands for the bases that are popular here in Belgium.

  • Sherry in Georgia says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE these photos and all your great tips, Maria! Of course, each time I read something, I go to the corresponding room in my house to 'assess' the current situation. But, I keep going back to the kitchen. All your example photos of white kitchens show furnishings in the espresso tones. Our floors are heart pine, and furniture is in same warm, golden tones. We painted the cabinets white (Sherwin Williams Dover White, which has yellow undertones, but they look white to the naked eye), countertops are black granite with charcoal/silver specks, and back splash is slate mosaic (which includes the browns and blacks previously mentioned). I'm wondering if the garden green on the walls or the cabinet colors need to change. The green is pretty w/the white, but may be too much confusion. Do you have any suggestions given what I just described, or is a photo in order?

    I'm thoroughly enjoying your blogs, and have marveled at your talent. You must be incredibly busy to be keeping a business afloat and producing such high quality blog content! Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    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?

    If your small bathroom is currently painted minty toothpaste green, you are better off making selections elsewhere. 🙂

    Take your samples to a spot with lighting similar to the lighting you will be installing – fluorescent of the proposed tint, halogen, incandescent, or natural. Drape a big white sheet down the walls and on the counter or floor as a background if the interior of that spot is not pale and neutral.

    A couple of gooseneck lamps that can take CFLs and halogen bulbs, and a shop light and a selection of color degree fluorescent bulbs is less expensive than a case of tile.

    The idea is not mine, I stole it from a designer I worked with.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Gardens,
    Thank you for your great contribution!! I love this idea!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love the lime green kitchen with the white cabinets..anyone know what color that is?

  • Bebe says:

    I'm new to your blog and love your design ideas. I'm trying to find a granite for my kitchen. I know you love the painted cabinets but could you show some ideas with natural wood…my cabinets are hickory and the hardwood flooring is red oak..I'm lost after reading your blogs!

  • Sue says:

    this blog is a god sent,,
    I've been struggling for ideas to replace my worn out dated pine cabinets,, the kitchen is very small so I wanted to go with the cream, white or light wood,,
    but I really love the cream kitchen, would it look ok with white appliance? my whole house has white trim also, neutral walls, beige's, light gold,,
    what do you suggest for the trim in the kitchen and wall colour


  • Joy says:

    just found your blog…great advice. i had a question. i've got country kitchen cabinetry being painted in Cloud White. And to save cost with the builder, I can only paint the main floor walls one colour (even the trim, picture frame moulding crown moulding, kitchen walls, living room, dining room). I want to pick yet another white. Do I just go with Cloud White again? Wouldn't that be bland? Or something like Simply White? Oxford White? Any suggestions anyone?

  • Anonymous says:

    You are absolutely right.

  • chanteusevca says:


    Your advice is always sound and comforting when going through the myriad of colors and especially whites. Who know there were so mnay whites. My husband thought white was white until I showed him differences that you talked about.

    I am wondering how you combine colors and whites when someone wants primarily white kitchen cabinets, but possibly a different island, say a painted gray or turquoise or even black with dark wood floors and a gray color on the walls? Do you look at the space first to determine if the space will work with two different cabinet colors and a different color on the walls, or does that even matter? Is it more what colors will work together in the light avaialble than the layout of the space?

  • jules says:

    Hi Maria,

    I was so thrilled to find your blog! Wonderful information. And you have validated my strong conviction that the 80's oak cabinets in our new home must be painted (sorry, hubby!).

    Question for you… Our oak is paired with a dark green/black uba tuba granite on BOTH the counter and the backsplash. If white/black and cream/brown are best bets, what goes with that dark green/black? And, I read your post on backsplashes. Would you try to change out at least the backsplash to lighten things up? Trying to save budget on the granite counters…

    Many thanks!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Jules,
    White with your granite and yes to taking out the backsplash, way too much! Maria

  • penny says:

    all these comments make me want to redo my kitchen…maybe this winter

  • mere says:

    hi love these kitchen. My kitchen is inspired by the color green and so i’ve gone ahead and painted my cabinets white. i love the look and i can’t wait to match up my dishes and cups with the wall. I also might need to retile, get some new tiling in and chuck away the oldies! thank you the ideas.

  • All these are sooo pretty! Love the apple green accent color in and near the white kitchen.

  • trish Berns says:

    My builder, and my husband tried and tried to talk me into brown cabinets. After a couple of months of this, I put my foot down and told them they would be white. End of conversation!
    I was so right!. white cabinets. titanium granite, white tile backsplash. Dark walnut floors. Gorgeous. Builder wants to do a write up in the paper about my kitchen. I think I taught him a thing or two.

  • Norma says:

    If you could only afford to paint the interior of your house one color .What color would you choose?

    • Maria Killam says:

      A light to mid-tone in the right undertone. So if the undertone in your house is green, you would go with greeny beige, if it’s yellow, then yellow beige, if it’s pink, then BM Muslin. To find out what yours is, read my ebook, it’s the easiest way. Maria

  • Darlene says:

    Do painted oak cabinets look good? Also are espresso kitchen cabinets a good idea or will they go out of style?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes and yes espresso is already dated. Maria

      • KK says:

        So what colour would you paint the honey oak cabinets …. can we leave the honey/oak cabinets with a black granite counter top and light beige floor tiles

  • lynn says:

    Hi Maria,
    Wondering if you could provide some advice, as I can;t seem to figure out what works with what. I’m about to choose my cabinets (shaker style with chrome handles) and island for our new home and I am debating between BM Ballet White (oc-9) vs Pratt and Lambert Off White for the cabinets. The island counter top I like is Zodiac, coarse pepper, and the back cabinet wall will have zodiac, antique pearl.

    1. The kitchen is south facing, open to the living room which has 2 storey windows, and therefore has a lot of natural light. Also, the hardwood will have a medium brown stain. I love the look of white cabinets with carrera marble, but not sure I could live with it, I need a little warmth, and in the same breath I’m fearful of ending up with something too creamy / yellow / cottage feel. What are your thoughts on these two colours, and what undertones do they have?
    2. Do you feel the colours work well with the counter top selections?
    3. What paint colour would look nice in the kitchen with either; a) BM Ballet white or b) PL Off White cabinets? I was debating revere pewter and my husband is thinking something lighter in a grey / neutral tone.
    4. What do you think I should use for trim? I was debating matching the cabinets, but then felt it may be too dull, or maybe go with White Dove or Cloud White.

    Thanks, and sorry to be so long winded.

  • elaine says:

    I am putting in white cabinets in my kitchen. Hopefully, made the right choice. I am installing formica countertops. What is the best color choice for this with white? The kitchen walls are a pale blue. I get confused looking at all those tiny samples.

  • Darlene says:

    Maria, I am in the process of trying to pick out a color for my cabinets in an off white or cream. I do not like the yellow under tones in many of the cream colors I have seen. So far I have pick out swiss coffee my BM. It is a nice off white with a brown under tone. My granite is a mix of different shades of brown and black. Do you think this color will look good? Will it be too white ? I will be having a cabinet maker paint new doors and I am going to paint the face of the cabinets so I can’t make a mistake. Help ! Thank you, Darlene

  • Sam says:

    Great post! I really dislike my butterscotch / maple toffee colored kitchen cabinets that I have right now and to make things worse there is a pinky beige back splash. Since painting the cabinets is not an option right now, will installing a white subway tile back splash help at all or will it be too stark against that rich of a wood stain color? Thanks!

  • Dawn says:

    I’d like to see an article on how to decorate a home for a night shifter! I have always worked nights for my entire adult life. Bright and airy colors keep me up during the day and I LIKE dark colors anyway. I need a home that promotes good sleep when I go to sleep at 8 or 9 in the morning and won’t blind me in light when I get up at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

    Come on. Don’t forget about the dark and broody vampires who read your articles. PLEASE!!

  • Vilma says:

    I once hired a design consultant who walked into my house and began her consultation noting the dominant colors that were already present. She confirmed my preferences and suggested ways to pull them together more artistically. it was the most informative and positive professional design experience that I’ve ever had and I still apply what I learned that day.

  • Laura says:

    I am ready to redo my kitchen and after looking at countless options Ive finally found exactly what Id like.
    It is the 11th picture down on this website and entitled
    Image from House of Turquoise. Everything is ready to order but I can not find this backsplash (dark blues/teals etc)in these subway tiles and these exact colors anywhere. I have worked for 8 years to save for a kitchen I REALLY like and this is the one! I dont wish to settle as for the backsplash so I’m holding back on ordering the countertop until I can find these tiles. Can you help me locate them?
    Once I saw this design and these colors nothing can compare to it. BEAUTIFUL!

  • Cindi says:

    You said: “95% of every high end home I have seen has painted cabinets over wood stained cabinets.” Can you clarify, did you mean painted cabinets “instead of” wood stained cabinets? Or did you mean painted uppers “over” wood lowers?

    Here in Hawaii almost all of the kitchen cabinets in high end homes are stained wood, usually tropical woods like sapelle. That was out of my budget, but I went with reddish-brown cherry for my vanity and admit it looks awesome. My kitchen has white cabinets which need replacing, and I do think the white is nice and bright, and fits the beachy feel. I have teak parqet floors. I’m thinking about keeping white for the outer cabinets (U shaped), but switching to wood for the island. I don’t have many upper cabinets, but maybe also wood for the double oven cabinet to bring it up the wall and tie them together. Make sense? It’s a bit scary because all the other nice homes have wood, but I’m trying to stay strong 😉

  • sarah says:

    Wow! Wish I had found your website 4 months ago, but then again it might be difficult in my rural area to find a designer with as much experience and as straight forward as you. I re-did my 20 yr old dated kitchen (without designer consultation) and am thrilled with everything EXCEPT the very expensive granite counter tops. I picked out my granite from a sample of “blue pearl – level 5” in the show room. Then drove to their bright sunny granite yard to pick my slab. Little did I know that when the slabs are upright (not horizontal as the countertop in the kitchen) with sun shining on them, you can’t really tell the true under-tones. When it was installed, I was practically in tears because what I thought was going to be a blue-gray color was now navy with green/brown under-hue installed in my kitchen. I hate it and have been fighting with the granite installers for over 3 months and getting no where (they said that is THE stone slab I picked out – and all stones vary from the show room samples). Wishing I had a designer like you with a keen eye to see the granite and all it nasty undertones before installation. Thank you for all your insight and sound advice. Now to read more of your website for more tips.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I’m sorry to hear about that! I wonder why more granite people don’t just tell people that in advance? They must encounter this often? Thanks for your comment. Maria

  • Diane says:

    I love this statement – You are buying the “because” – make sure you get it.

  • Maria, I’ve read your blog for a while now, for my own information and growth. With that said, I still love my kitchen which was renovated from the studs about 14 years ago. The floor is Brazilian Cherry, the cabinets are a warm cream with a pretty custom hood design that incorporates corbels. We fell in love with a granite slab that has both the warm tones of the flooring and the creamy cabinets but when it came to the backsplash I was frozen. What to choose? A delightful woman at the tile shop looked at everything I brought in (samples of the floor, granite, cabinets) and suggested a creamy tumbled marble which is in a subway layout from the counter upward (no granite 4″ up the wall). I loved it when it was suggested, brought it home and still loved it, and to this day I wouldn’t change a thing. The walls are SW Wise Owl (toned down by 1/2) and it all goes beautifully. One designer I consulted with suggested a red painted island (I would have run screaming to the hills if I had to face that each morning!). Needless to say I sought other advice.

    I am grateful for the help I received with this renovation and the time has come for my husband and I to design a new build for our retirement house in WA. I learned many things on this home that will provide knowledge for the next home but a good designer and color specialist will be called upon for sure.

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