Natural Colors: Well-Seasoned Style

Rich springtime hues, borrowed from the outdoors, brighten this spacious kitchen.
Julia Hamilton and Robert Martin

Your garden and outside areas contain plenty of terrific visual ideas for paint colors, fabrics, and finishes to bring indoors. For instance, boughs of glossy green magnolia leaves or beds of butterfly yellow iris suggest palettes and patterns that are well worth a second glance. Reflect on some of these elements when decorating, and you'll create subtle connections between house and garden.

That's exactly the approach taken in Maureen and Jay McGowan's spacious kitchen. Residing in the President's Home at Louisville's Bellarmine University, the McGowans regularly entertain large groups. So a free-flowing, well-planned kitchen bathed in cheerful hues was very much in order. Also, because the home sits on an expansive, shady lawn where there's usually something in bloom, the couple always has a convenient source of inspiration.

Designed by architect Dan Preston, this upbeat cooking space was further outfitted by designers Walter Martin, Jr., and Amanda Moon. Not only did Walter and Amanda share the McGowans' regard for the outdoors, but they also saw the importance of relating the decor of the new kitchen back to the character of the existing house, which dates from the 1870s.

 

To complement Dan's cabinet design, which is based on original built-ins located in the adjacent butler's pantry, Walter and Amanda made clever paint choices. By selecting a dark green for the base cabinetry and island, they grounded the space with an appropriate connection to nature. Pale gold upper cabinets bring a welcomed lightness to the scheme. Interestingly, the units with glass-panel doors reveal that the same shade of green is used within, therefore completing the association with the lawn beyond.

A veritable farmers market is established by vegetable-motif artwork; leaf-print cafe curtains further embellish this space. But don't let the casual charm keep you from noticing the sophisticated elements too. For countertops, Walter and Amanda opted for granite to provide a seamless transition when paired with stainless steel appliances. These same materials and colors can be found in the adjoining butler's pantry. Here, along with additional storage and food preparation areas, an ice-maker and second dishwasher make entertaining easier.

 

Today, whether planning meals for just themselves or many guests, Maureen and Jay enjoy a kitchen that's as inviting and bright as a spring garden.

Tone It Down
Tone is based on intensity--how light or dark a color is in relation to other colors in a room. In her book Color Schemes for Every Room (Laurel Glen, $22.95), paint expert Annie Sloan gives a trick to check tonal balance in a room: "Half close your eyes and see if any color jumps out at you. Some tonal contrast is necessary, but if there is too much, the effect can be jarring, particularly in a room that is supposed to be restful." She also advises creating a tranquil effect "by using pale colors that are similar in tone or by using different tones of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel." For a dynamic feel, she suggests "a lot of variation in tone or a range of contrasting colors in similar tones."