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Colour Trends

Renovating around Bossy Colour Trends

By 09/23/2012January 28th, 201719 Comments

Because I consult with clients all over North America and they are all readers of my blog, I think I get into a bubble sometimes about design/colour and I start thinking it’s the same everywhere. Especially because clients who read my blog and then hire me to help them, do so because they resonate with my aesthetic.

In reality though, colour trends start first in Europe, then arrive in the East coast of America, then they move to the West and then towards the middle of the country.

Interior by Maria Killam

This blog will be four years old October 31, so I can count exactly when the gray trend started here in the West coast and that was three years ago because that’s when I started talking about it here.

When my first design website launched, I included photos of this brown master bedroom, (above) for example, in my portfolio back then, which I then deleted after my new website launched last year in September.

Backstage at the Design Show with Gabrielle Gaultier who was in charge of sound

By the way, I really enjoyed my first official speaking engagement to an audience of many more than the usual 15 – 20 I’m used to in my True Colour Expert Workshops!

I was fascinated to note that there were LOTS of kitchen manufacturers still showcasing espresso brown kitchens at the Calgary Home + Design show this weekend. It will be interesting to find out what the ratio is here at the Vancouver show coming up October 11 – 13.

After one of my presentations this weekend, I had a woman share with me that exactly three years ago, she tried to sell her Calgary house with a white kitchen. She even had several realtors tell her she should switch them out to brown, because her house would NOT sell.

Then, this year she put her house up on the market again and it sold instantly with her existing white kitchen intact.

So there’s something to be said for renovating your house at the beginning of a trend. If you are at the top of the 10 year trend cycle then it’s probably a smart idea to think about that when choosing whether your kitchen should be brown, gray or white?

However, installing a brown kitchen at the end of the trend NOW, will instantly make your kitchen look ten years old because that’s how long that trend has been around.

This is a conversation I would like to have with all the builders in Vancouver because they are still installing espresso kitchens all over the city!


Why is it that we’re so fascinated about what’s coming next and then at the same time we feel so bossed around by trends because, like it or not, we are.

I think it’s because it would be so fun to look into a crystal ball in our own life!

Related posts:

5 Steps to a Kitchen You’ll Love

Should You Surrender to the Temptation of a Trend?

Two Ways to Know Whether your Kitchen Should be White, Gray or Brown?


  • Yay for a successful speaking engagement! I know you were amazing!! Those were some lucky attendees. I love the story about the white kitchen selling the house!

  • Ginger says:

    I had the exterior of my house painted about five years ago. I chose dark brown because most of the houses on my street are very pale shades of tan, with the exception of one dark grey house and one blue house. I wanted my house to draw the eye, without standing out like a sore thumb. After we painted, several houses in our neighborhood chose a similar dark brown. I’m hoping the brown trend sticks a bit longer in my area, at least until I sell in a couple years.

  • Just wondering, do all colour trends start in Europe? Is that where our trends come from in Australia? I just go with colours that excite me..grey and yellow did a couple of years ago, now I love the little bits of fluro popping into pastel backgrounds and love the deeper blues coming up as well.

  • Donna Frasca says:

    Don’t you just love how the color trends differ? Brown kitchens? Yikes! Even here in Charlotte where we have VERY open floor plans and a lot of light – no brown kitchens! However, gray also has been holding it’s own for a good 3 years as well with gray blue coming in second. Love it all! 🙂

  • Suzanne Stimik says:

    I absolutely adore the warm brown bedrrom shown as the “passe” color. It invites, Roxbury Caramel is my go to color to create a cozy cocoon.

  • Beth says:

    I think the majority of my clients aren’t bossed by trends, and some aren’t aware of them! They just know they got stuck and after the 10th dab on the wall knew they needed help.

    I think geography (climate/iight/culture) is bossy too – that New England, the mid-Atlantic and southern states on the east coast lean to different colors, have and within those, there are exceptions – like Florida comparied to North Carolina. (This is a generalization!) “The Color of Cities – An International Perspective,” by Lois Swirnoff, is a beautiful book that looks at international urban color differences.

  • Design & Decor says:

    Very interesting read Maria, I can’t help but think it is personal preference. I recently designed cabinetry in a massive brand new house on a lake surrounded by beautiful pine trees. Pretty much in the middle of no where..My client has a white kitchen in her existing home in the City and opted to change to an espresso stained maple throughout her new home..I believe she tired of the white over the years and wanted something different..A new look! Dark she said make it dark!
    In comparison I still design more stained brown or otherwise wood kitchens than white or colours.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Maria, the info in this post and related ones about kitchens should definitely be one of your presentations at any show at which you are talking to the general public. I would definitely use tons of photos such as the ones you used in your “Two Ways to Know Whether Your Kitchen Should Be White, Gray or Brown”. The kitchen is the most permanent and most costly room we decorate in our homes, as you’ve pointed out before, and it’s so important to get it right. It’s pretty sad that the woman with her lovely white kitchen had to wait 3 years to sell her house. Donna’s Charlotte area and my Sun City West open airy floorplans would or do become claustrophobic closets with dark cabinets, and interestingly those houses don’t seem to sell as quickly as the pinky beige/pickled oak/white laminate kitchens (and not for a whole lot more money). Since you’re such a good teacher, dealing with color trends, particularly in the kitchen, could become a great course for the general public in your area and/or an online course, sort of like your “37 Days…”. You could even market to home builders and renovators. “Timeless or Trendy?” might be a good course title. Just an idea to kick around in your spare time – LOL.

    P.S. I think Beth’s comment about geography being bossy too is very significant.

  • teresa says:

    I still really like that first picture and could imagine it having golden toned metal interspersed with blue upholstery or painted finishes.They’re almost the colours of my MasterBR. I find it very serene for a bedroom. However, I also have a gray guest Br that was the first room to paint in my then new to me house. It took all these many years for everyone else to catch up!

  • Trends? Well where we live the “trend” is still back into the 80’s look! Ugh! Count yourself lucky that your builders are only 10 years behind in your area. 🙂

    When deciding which way to go, especially with kitchens, I tell my clients if they’re planning to stay in their home for at least another 7-10 years, do what they love now. If they’re planning to sell now or in less than 5 years, go with the trends. Of course if the trend is still “old” as it is here, it does make it a bit more difficult to figure out. Haha!

    Designing for “living in” verses “designing for resale” down the road rather soon, are two very different things. Hopefully the owner will know what’s the most important to them.

  • Gina says:

    I have been working in the cabinet industry in the San Francisco/ Bay Area for almost two decades. The company I work for provides cabinets for high-end home builders in both the production and custom markets.
    I have to say, don’t look to your high-end production home builder to be On-Trend. Their priority is budget, budget, budget. Most often, the people making the decisions (of what to show in a model) are not designers, they are Purchasing Agents who have a budget to meet. Although you probably won’t see Oak or even clear Maple in newly released model homes, you wont see a lot of paint either. High quality paint finishes tend to be more expensive. Contrastly, wood finishes (including Espresso) are more budget friendly. Add to that, people tend to buy what they see. Thus, entire neighborhoods of brown cabinets! It’s safe, it’s what the neighbors have,
    On the other hand, for the custom side of our company, its a lot of paint. Mostly whites and recently green grays. Also, much larger budgets.
    What I have seen is the extreme swing of the pendulum. Just before Espresso hit the scene, Natural Maple was all the rage. Before the recent green-gray trend, it was brightly colored islands. Contrasting finishes were popular for a minute, now, not so much.
    What is timeless? I think there will always be a market for white. I love white. That said, I think brown cabinets will remain timeless as well. Natural tones and Espresso tones seem to follow the trends but, medium tones do stand the test of time.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Loved your comment, the pendulum of colour swings is exactly what was in my talk at the show! Thanks for your insight straight from the industry! Maria

  • Amanda says:

    Thank you for your wonderful blog, Maria! You have taught me so much about color.
    As far as trends go, I heard some great advice once (was it here on your blog? I don’t remember…) to look at your wardrobe to inspire you with colors to decotate your home. These are the colors you are comfortable around.
    That’s why my home always ends up in soft, cool, light colors with splashes of black and gray- which is “in” right now, but my home and taste has not changed.
    I love this advice and couldn’t help but notice the colors you are wearing in the above photos- blue and yellow seem to be some of your decorating favorites as well. 🙂

  • Fran says:

    Glad you enjoyed your speaking engagement, Maria. Love your colorful outfit, especially the red pumps!

  • Shawna says:

    I think people should just do what they like unless they think they will sell their house in less than ten years. I would hate to decorate or remodel my home based on standard tastes.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I totally agree. Big difference between, ‘this is our forever house, vs. we are selling soon.’. Maria

  • Goldie says:

    I built my current home in 95′. My goal was to try and make design choices that reminded me of an estate built in 1910-1930. My kitchen is white with inset cabinets. The hardwood floors are stained very dark. It all still looks amazingly great. My appliances are stainless. We are building a new home, my choices will be similar, I will do marble countertops and the baths will be white marble tops with white marble mosaic flooring. I think trends on permanent surfaces can get you locked in to something that may soon be out of date. I think trends should be left to paints, easily changed..

  • I know what you are saying, but I still love my espresso cabinets, especially with having young children. I love white too, but don’t limit choices to just white for clients if they are craving the rich, dark brown. I recently consulted with clients who are building a new home and their heart was set on espresso and I’m confident it will all look fab once done! Great post, glad to hear you enjoyed yourself at the show!

  • Amber says:

    I keep “stumbling” across your blog and find it so helpful. I don’t have a designers eye by any stretch of the imagination and like most people have a very strict budget. What I’ve learned has helped me avoid some serious blunders. My home is a 1940 bungalow that has a lot ok orangey oak throughout and a lot of built ins. As much as I love the gray trend I haven’t ventured in because of fear that it will look odd with my woodwork. My kitchen has the original cabinets and when I bought the house the stain was a very deep brown that I can’t afford to change…so I think that is a case where you just have to buck the trend and focus on what works. At this point I will be thrilled just for the rooms to feel somewhat pulled together.

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