Top Kitchen Colour Trends from the Last 50 Years

Do you ever feel like there’s a rat race to install the next newest trend in kitchen design? Maybe you inherited a kitchen where the former homeowner installed the trendiest finishes from another decade? Well, you are not alone. Here’s my best advice for taking your dated kitchen from yesterday (whenever that was) to today.

And, I’m also sharing what I discovered about kitchens in other countries while traveling. There’s an interesting difference.

I once received an email with a photo from a couple who had just moved into an apartment with an existing 90s kitchen with black countertops.

How did I know the kitchen was 90s? 

The orange stained wood cabinets were a dead giveaway.

This couple went on to say that the wood cabinets were in good condition and their question was, “Can we keep them?”

And truly, this is when ignorance is bliss.

I mean this in the nicest possible way.

If you don’t know that your kitchen is dated, then you can spend your money on other things like:

  • decorating
  • giving your apartment a look and a feel (which by the way, is ALWAYS better than just painting dated cabinets)
  • saving your money for a dream trip to Italy
  • a new car, maybe?
  • insert _________ here (the options are endless)

Trying to keep up with your neighbours on updates is expensive.

And in North America (especially in the U.S.) more than anywhere else in the world, you can get your home decor SO. MUCH. CHEAPER. Thus, because it’s less expensive to renovate and decorate, we do it more often. And we get sucked into the newest trends.

Two years ago when Terreeia and I were in Paris, we rented a car for a two day trip to Normandy where we stayed in an old dreamy chateau built in the 1700s. 

Learn all about the colour of classic & timeless stone in Module 4 (total 15 modules) of my exterior masterclass here.

The road trip from Paris to Normandy was so beautiful. One experience they offered was a home-cooked dinner in the caretakers cottage, so we bought it.

The cottage was one of the outbuildings that faced this old courtyard (below).

It was totally charming. Here’s a glimpse of the kitchen from where we were sitting at the dining table (below).

Terra cotta tile, yellow beige walls that were lovely with the orange/pink tile, dark wood beams, a pony wall to define the kitchen area, no uppers, some upper shelving, macrame. 

How long would you guess that this kitchen has looked like this? 

Do you think the couple who live in this cottage are completely obsessed with their next renovation?

It’s unlikely.

In this particular trip, we started in Amsterdam, then Paris, then Normandy, then Terreeia went home while I flew to Finland to join my Mom (who had arrived two weeks early) for a trip through her native country.

Because I was in three different countries in one trip, plus many private homes in Finland as we visited friends and family, it was easier for me to notice a pattern.

In all three places, from the lovely Westin we stayed in at the Finnish airport on our way back home, to all the friends homes we visited during my three week trip, there was one thing that stood out out to me like a neon sign.

The tub/shower faucets (below).

Here in the Westin hotel at the airport in Helsinki, they even installed it with the bidet shower.

They were IDENTICAL. In every single home, hotel, airBNB we stayed in (in all three countries).

The sauna/shower room in Tampere

This makes design much prettier in general. 

When there are 200 or more faucets to choose from (like in this country) the chances of selecting one that is the correct style AND colour are a lot slimmer than if they are basically the same.

Just like the perfect, classic and timeless, lantern chandelier. Why do we need one hundred more traditional lantern chandelier designs when the best one is already here? 

I wrote this preamble because if you’re feeling discouraged that the trends have changed AGAIN, after you just installed a grey sofa or a grey kitchen for example, hear me when I say:

You are NOT alone.

Kitchens Then and Now

Here’s a brief history of kitchen colour trends and the finishes that accompanied them. 

When was your kitchen renovated?

I have written many posts over the years on how to update kitchens from each era starting with the 80s, so all you have to do is find your kitchen and read the links to see which post might help you get started.

1980s Kitchen

How to Choose Granite for your Kitchen Island

My Designer Secret for Updating Old Kitchen Cabinets

Best Backsplash Colour for Stained Wood Cabinets

How to Update an 80s Kitchen with Colour

Refreshing Oak Kitchen Cabinets: Should I Paint the Uppers and Lowers in Different Colours?

1990s Kitchen

Should you paint your dated cherry kitchen cabinets?

How to Update 90s Granite (and Make it Disappear)

Updated Painted Cherry Kitchen via eDesign; Before & After

eDesign Rustic Kitchen Makeover; Before & After

2000s Kitchen

How to Choose the Right White for Your Kitchen Cabinets

My Sister Elizabeth’s Fresh (But Still Tuscan) Kitchen Makeover

Mixing Metals: How to Update a Brown Kitchen by adding Brass

How to De-Tuscanize Your Home; Before and After

Will a White Kitchen Work with my Existing Countertops?

Why Does Travertine Backsplash Look Wrong in a White Kitchen (and how to fix it)

Which backsplash tile goes with granite?

Here’s How to Embrace your Cream Kitchen; Before & After

2010s Kitchen

Ask Maria: What if I Don’t Like the Grey Flooring That’s Everywhere?

Ask Maria: Help my Revere Pewter Cabinets look Purple!

A 10 Year Review of Accent Tile; Should you Install the Current Fad Tile?

Ask Maria: Help! I Don’t Want the Same Kitchen as Everyone Else!!

2020s Kitchen

How Soon Will My Farmhouse Kitchen Design Look Dated?

What’s next after the grey trend?

New Natural Wood Kitchens: Timeless or Trendy?

What IKEA Knows About a Black and White Kitchen (that you don’t)

Advice for ANY Kitchen Design Project

Before You Renovate or Decorate, Ask Yourself 2 Questions

Why White Kitchen Cabinets Make the Most Timeless Kitchen

5 Steps to a Kitchen Design you will Love

Hope this helps with your kitchen renovation! 

If you’d like my help creating a classic and timeless kitchen, you can purchase that package here.

PS. Please note we do not offer a stand alone single hard finish service. In my experience I find it is almost impossible to properly specify a countertop or tile or hardwood floor without weighing in on all the other items being installed.  I would not be doing a good job or being of service, to specify colours or finishes in isolation. Yes eDesign is currently in high demand everywhere, but all that aside, when a client purchases a complete package that covers everything and I can provide a more full service approach, they are much happier with the end result and advice.

PPS. In other news, I’m becoming a celebrity on Tik Tok, haha. Check out my one minute videos here.

Related posts:

Updated Painted Cherry Kitchen via eDesign; Before & After

More Time Does not Equal More Magical Colour Advice

eDesign Rustic Kitchen Makeover: Before & After

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  1. WOW!! what a great article –I love it when you link back to older posts!!
    It is amazing to look back and see those out of date styles that we thought were so great when they were fresh. when i redid my bathrooms I took your advice and made them white–that way when i do to sell no one will know exactly when they were done (I feel bad for everyone I see still doing gray kitchens, they will be looking out of date very soon!!)

  2. I love this gathering of trends for kitchens. Also, I love your TicToc videos! Very cute and fun! Just like you!!

  3. But you completely missed mentioning the grey trend in the 1980s. It was everywhere for over a decade. I installed a white kitchen in the mid-1980s, the knobs had a fine line of grey around the white. White countertops, appliances, and mostly white backsplash, that kitchen would still be fine today, including the flooring. And I think it was one reason our house sold within a few days.

    Six years later we moved to a home built in 1988, it had a bathroom with a grey tub, sink and vanity counter top.
    Then not long after, grey was totally out–the buyers of that home from us probably ripped it out. Only to have someone else buy the home ten years later and put the same thing back in, ha ha.
    Just pick what you like and happily live with it.

    • Actually Grey was in, late 80s, early 90s from what I recall but it’s still the oak kitchen and white kitchen with oak pulls that everyone had en masse. I have been in thousands of homes and oak was still the overpowering kitchen of that decade. Grey seemed to be a bathroom thing more than the kitchen. Thanks for your comment! Maria

      • Grey started in the early 1980s–lol I am older than you. In Canada anyhow. First put in grey with white and burgundy accents wallpaper in an apartment bathroom in 1982; easy to buy the grey towels to match, gosh it was beautiful. The apartment was from 1927 and had that nice hexagon black and white tile floor. We also got married that year and were given a teapot and mug set that was grey and white, still have it and are using that teapot every day. When we bought a house and re-did the original 1933 kitchen, in white with grey accents, the teapot fit right in.
        We went crazy for grey, painted the trim colour of the orange brick house in two shades of grey in 1985, did the study bedroom in grey paint, the bathroom in grey wallpaper, etc. I saw back then when picking the house colour that there was blue grey, green grey and purple grey.
        So I sure did not want any grey when it came back on trend. But my son has gone crazy for it in his apartment–sofa, drapes, dresser.
        And you are correct that most all kitchens then were oak, which I have always hated. Everyone thought I was weird went I told them I was doing my kitchen in white. But of course you add accent colours and it looks great.

  4. And don’t forget the mauve and powder blue country look from the 80’s. I wanted to update to those colors but fortunately could not afford to do so.

  5. That image of the ’90s sage green kitchen could have been my kitchen. And in my current home we’re undoing all of the travertine and dark brown furniture and installing white kitchen cabinets and black soapstone countertops. But what is so fascinating about this to me is that this whole time I thought I was bucking trends and just choosing things that I loved. I thought I was so original with my sage green formica countertop! So thank you for posts like these so we can be aware of the trends and then smarter about how we participate in them.

  6. I thought Yellow Beige and Pink Beige were a no no? Not throwing shade, love all your info, just curious your thoughts on this.
    Thanks!

    • I don’t think any color is in and of itself a “no no.” It’s how it relates to the undertones of surrounding surfaces. We have moved beyond designating any single color a “no no.” Makes it harder to choose but yields better (and less expensive) results. It means you can keep otherwise dated “pickled” high quality maple cabinets and if you find the undertone, you can use the right beige and the right white in surrounding surfaces and those maple cabinets look beautiful without painting or refinishing. I did that and am so glad!

  7. By reading your posts and purchasing your book on whites I was able to successfully (in my humble opinion!) restyle my kitchen which was built in the 1960s and previously remodeled (before us) in the 1990s with pinkish granite and pink beige tile. Ugh. It has Woodmode medium tone cabinets so we kept them; and fortunately it has a medium tone hardwood floor. But we painted the brick wall Cloud White and the tile backsplash with white epoxy, installed white quartz, new matte white Cafe appliances and changed up the hardware and light fixtures. A little decor added (yes, a table lamp on the peninsula!) and we think we have a kitchen that will last for quite a while. Thanks for all of your good advice!

    • Your kitchen sounds lovely and you have good taste pulling it all together! I, too, am staring at my pink beige tiled kitchen counters. So funny that I never saw how pink they were until I started following Maria and purchased her color wheel! We also have medium tone cabinets in a flat face Oak without hardware, which, for the 1980’s era, look surprisingly neutral and modern in an IKEA sort of way. We are keeping the Oak because they are in such good condition and look amazing with the right paint and appliances. My pink beige tile has got to GO! I’m looking forward to getting white quartz or white granite countertops this year. So exciting that we can make things work!

  8. Ah yes, kitchens through the ages. When we purchased our home new in 1989, 50 Shades of Beige were our only choices for everything. Bleh!! I rebelled and had the builder install that stock white 4×4 square tile in both bathrooms with white grout. All the builder would say was “That’s a lot of white!”. 32 years later, not a single crack, grout is still perfectly white. I love my white bathrooms! Wish I would’ve put white countertops in the kitchen, but I can easily do that now with quartz or white granite. Sometimes white or a complex cream is the answer to every color dilemma.

  9. Love your Tik Tok videos Maria! You look beautiful! I also love your wardrobe of eyeglasses! I’m very envious of the tortoise shell frames and the blue frames!

  10. I am starting a kitchen renovation. I have owned houses with natural wood and white kitchens neither of which were my personal taste. I like bohemian/ eclectic decor and love color. I planned on painting my cabinets green as the kitchen has a huge bay window overlooking my wooded backyard and my artwork (which is collected, not purchased specifically for each house) has a lot of green. So now suddenly green kitchens are a thing and I don’t want mine to scream 2021. Any suggestions?

  11. Maria, any chance you would do a post on choosing a kitchen table and chairs? I’ve been reading, and learning from you for several years. Thanks to you, I have a timeless white kitchen that brings me joy every day. For some reason, I am completely stuck at finishing the room with the table and chairs choice! My countertop is black quartz and I have wood flooring. Am I alone in this state of confusion?