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Ask Maria: Will Cream Look Dingy in My Dark Kitchen?

By 03/08/2013February 20th, 201724 Comments

Ask Maria

“What a great blog. We are downsizing and renovating a condo to go into. It has large creamy, beige and white marbled-looking porcelain tiles throughout the kitchen and main living areas. I am struggling with whether to go with white cabinets or a more creamy cabinet. Either work with the floor, but the cream has a softer look. The kitchen is a gallery kitchen and doesn’t have a lot of light. My kitchen accessories are blue and white. I am concerned that the the white cabinets will look stark and the cream cabinets will look dingy. Your advise when struggling between white or cream?”

You are absolutely correct. If your floors are primarily creamy/beige, white will definitely look too stark and cheap.

The exception to this might be this kitchen below. There is so much white repeated in absolutely everything else but the floor that it doesn’t look bad. Also there’s a heck of a lot of styling happening which always helps to distract from the design issues at hand.

However, what is apparent to me is it DOES look like the floors are being ignored.

Lamp in the Kitchen

If your kitchen seems too dark already then I would add more lighting. Going with the wrong shade of white is not the answer.

Table lamp on kitchen countertop

The easiest way to incorporate more lighting in a dark kitchen would be to add a little table lamp right underneath your upper cabinets on the countertop (above). I would have this light on all day long so that when I walked by the kitchen or into it, it wouldn’t feel like a dark dungeon.

My main bathroom is windowless has a small lamp that I have switched on all day so that it looks warm and inviting at all times. I am however, a lamp tramp, as you know!

Bottom line, always match the white of your cabinets to the existing white in your kitchen whether it’s found in your floor tile or your countertop.

Do you have a lamp in your kitchen?

If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, email me here. Please note that I will choose one every week or two to answer, so if you need colour help now, ask for my on-line or in-person rates.

Related posts:

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

Can you Paint your Cabinets the Same Colour as the Walls?

Can you Have White Cabinets in a Dark Room?

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  • Momlady says:

    I will be painting my kitchen cabinets soon and I’ve been looking at the same problem. Thanks for the post…it’s a very good reminder! And I agree… you can’t have enough flattering lighting. The overhead lights just don’t get it for adequate ambiance!

  • Julie S says:

    I rented a room from a lovely oil paint portraitist before I was married and her house was so well done. I don’t think she even thought much about decor per se – she was willing to spend money on nice things and her artist’s eye served her well. There were two lamps in that kitchen, a big one in the middle of the island and a small one under the upper cabinets, and I loved how they contributed so much to the atmosphere!

  • Mia Staysko says:

    I don’t have a lamp but I do have undercabinet lighting, pot lights, pendant lights, spot lights, all switched independently. I use my undercabinet lighting every day, especially in the winter. Love them. I’d do a decorative light in a heartbeat if I didn’t have them.

  • Meger Anski says:

    Have a floor lamp that is on almost all the time, and a little lamp on top of the fridge that is on 24 hours (serves as a sort of night light, too).

    The floor lamp’s shade is white, which allows the light to flow through, and produces a wonderful ambient light. the bulb is 3-way, clear.

    The fridge-top shade is black fabric — the light pools down in a very sweet way, and pools up, reflecting all over the ceiling and serving as an up light. The bulb is a 60 watt candle shaped.

    Then, the light over the stove, believe it or not, has two 40 watt soft light bulbs — gives enough light to keep an eye on the sauces, and is also a warm soft light that reaches pretty far and makes the space inviting.

    I mention the bulb type, as that can be as important as anything else.

    I never ever ever use the overhead light. The kitchen has ample lighting to prepare food, and is warm and inviting.

    p.s. always try to get a three-way if you can.

  • BillP says:

    Don’t forget above the cabinets. I added low voltage lighting above the kitchen cabinets in my windowless condo kitchen. The indirect light bounces off the ceiling and makes the room feel much warmer. A less expensive option would be a rope light- I have one over bookcases in my library and it adds a nice dimension to the room.

    • Fran says:

      Since my cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling, I added the rope lights above, and it gives off such a nice warm glow. I have undercounter lighting all the way around and pendant lights over the island. If I didn’t have the undercounter lights (which I leave on almost all the time, much to the chagrin of my husband), I would definitely use a small lamp or two on the countertop.

  • Donna Frasca says:

    The strange thing about adding white to a room if it’s too white it makes that other white look very dirty. Another reason I shy away from the white kitchen and just give it a nice warm color. Up lighting always helps to, especially if you have a crisp white ceiling.

  • Angela N says:

    Your posts are always so timely for me! We had a house built with Quality Cabinets and the finish color is Cashmere. All of the other trim in our house is a different white (builder white). I am so ready to repaint my trim color in the kitchen to match. It is making my cabinets look dirty!! Thankfully our kitchen in on the bright side and my walls are SW Rainwashed so that helps break up the whites. But I still notice it!

  • Cherie says:

    I have a lamp sitting on my kitchen counter in our coffee making area, and I keep it on all the time. It makes the kitchen warm and serves as a nightlight, too. The lamp is a black scrolly iron design (from Target, a great find!) and goes well with other black accents in our kitchen, including the charcoal gray streak in the granite. When the bulb goes out, I see right away that the warm glow is missing. I will always have a lamp under the cabinets even though I also have under the cabinet lighting. Lamps add a homey and comfortable feel just about anywhere you put them.

  • justlemmon says:

    I have two teens learning to cook in my kitchen, no way can I put a lamp in it. I did hang up a large mirror on the wall just to the left of my only window and that really brightened and opened up the space.

  • Franki says:

    Lamps in the kitchen make it so much more cozy and inviting…especially if you can HIDE THE CORDS! franki

  • mrsben says:

    IMHO, I feel artificial lighting plays a major role in most spaces. (Always am intriqued with Candice Olson and the way she works her magic with it!)

    To answer your question re a lamp in the kitchen, the answer is ‘no’. My mother always did though as the kitchen was the designated spot to read her early morning newspaper since it was away from upholstered furnishings yet still enabled her to read by the glow and warmth of a lamp. ☺

    P.S: For those that are interested in two very good DIY projects re converting and installing cordless lighting — do a web search View Along The Way LAMP HACK ‘How To Make Any Lamp Cordless’. Follow her link re the latter where she also adds the same LED lighting to a bookcase.

  • SandyCGC says:

    No lamps in my kitchen yet – lucky enough to have two windows at the corner sink (one south-facing and one west-facing onto the screened porch in addition to a patio door opening onto the screened porch plus a solar tube between 2 huge fluorescent fixtures (1 white tube, 1 pink tube) plus an over-the-sink light plus the over-the-stove light plus the breakfast area has an ugly old ceiling fan where a light could go, so my kitchen is quite bright during the day. But no under-the-cabinet lighting which is always helpful and no top-of-the cabinet up-lighting which I like, and, even with all of that, I love the idea of a lamp and will have one soon. Hate cords and there are never enough plugs where they need to be so thanks, MrsBen, for the link to making a lamp cordless. Will check it out. And another good post to add to my collection of white kitchen info, Maria, since I’m opting for such, somewhat French- or country-like, when I someday redo it.

    • mrsben says:

      @Sandy: You are more than welcome. ☺

      The post that you want is dated August 20th/2012. Also if you scroll down after the comment section follow the link under the title of ‘Trackbacks’. (Dec. 19th/How To Make a Shaded Lamp Cordless). Therein she addresses ‘how to’ for a lamp that uses a conventional type lampshade. -Brenda-

  • Momlady says:

    I have a question for you Maria. In the kitchen in the second picture ( your sister’s kitchen? ) I notice that the trim around the window (?) is white while the cabinets are a lovely soft creamy color. Is this on purpose or would it be more pleasing to the eye for the colors to be the same or at least more similar? I’m planning a big kitchen re-paint…walls, cabinets, trim, and ceiling. Since I can’t change the floor any time soon that will be the starting point for undertones…but I want to make sure(since I’m painting all of them) that I understand the degrees of importance as the surfaces relate to each other. Hope that made some sort of sense! lol

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes her trim is the wrong colour (she inherited it that way) but it would require that all of it be re-painted which will not happen for a while. It should definitely be creamier so that it relates better to the glazed cabinets.

  • I have a very sunny kitchen, but keep a small lamp (with incandescent bulbs) on the table. It really helps when reading the newspaper. The table is close to the wall on one end so the cord isn’t an issue. We love the soft warm light that glows at night. It’s very intimate, and creates a great atmosphere.

  • Jan Walton says:

    Hi Maria,
    I have a light cream colored countertop in my well lit bathroom. I was going to paint the cabinet the same as the white trim, baseboard and door. And then paint the walls a creamy color. But you recommend painting the cabinet the same as the countertop. Gee, did I have it wrong. Yes? So I should paint the cabinet cream. Yes?

  • Angela says:

    I love the idea of a lamp in the kitchen and I would love to know where to find a lamp small enough to fit under the cabinet! I haven’t turned up anything in my search online!

  • Anagha Comar says:

    With havin so much content do you ever run into
    any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but
    it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization.
    Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being ripped off?

    I’d definitely appreciate it.

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