5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love!

Wood stained cabinets or painted? Which one is right for you? Read on to find out.

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I’ll start with the espresso brown kitchen cabinet trend as it’s still going strong:
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 friends 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 in my opinion.
If you choose brown cabinets [above] I recommend a light backsplash and counter, otherwise your kitchen will simply get too dark!
Here are 5 steps to make sure you love your kitchen when it’s installed:
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1. ) 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:
2) 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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3) 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 counters are yellow beige, go for it.
On 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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4) 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 pinky beige or greeny beige as both can get grayish and hard to distinguish.

5) 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 90’s.

Here’s the 5 step recap:

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 would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

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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  1. 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!

  2. 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!!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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?
    Thanks

    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 😉

  6. 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.

    • 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