Yellow, blue, and orange…oh, my! This kitchen is a colorful confection of design.
fresh fun kitchen
The wet bar area is separate from the main workspace to allow people to grab a glass without disturbing the cook.

In a perfect world, our kitchens would always smell of apple pie and pot roast. It's not a perfect world, and sometimes they smell like Play-Doh and Magic Markers. That's close enough to ideal for Sarah Frances Hardy. Her clever color choices and artistic innovations make plain white kitchens look like yesterday's leftovers.

Color-ic Intake
The color catalyst for Sarah Frances's Oxford, Mississippi, kitchen was a pale yellow 1953 Chambers oven that she had reconditioned. She and husband John each chose the same yellow, aqua, green, and royal blue tile backsplash pattern while separately thumbing through copies of the same magazine in a waiting room. Sometimes the universe lets you know when you're on the right track. She pulled a version of the aqua color in the tile for the remainder of the walls.

Even though the blue walls and the yellow stove are fairly subdued, when a lot of pastels get together, the look can seem pretty loud. So the richness of the tile helps to temper the effect; as do the concrete countertops. "They were poured in place," says Sarah Frances. "They're not perfect at all, but that's exactly what we like about them." We do too! The more natural tones of this surface give the kitchen the ideal balance between earthy and Easter egg.

Pastel colors don't lock you into a pale palette. Sarah Frances accents with vividly colored plates, bowls, and vases--not to mention a huge tiered cabinet in bright orange that she designed as a pantry. "I wanted to have a bold pop of color that was totally random," she says. Don't be scared of orange. You'll be amazed how often it works really well in small doses.

Finders Keepers
True enough, cool stuff can be found in gourmet kitchen stores. Of course, sometimes the side of the road is great too. Sarah Frances's sink is a curbside find that required only a coat of white epoxy paint to be better than new. The art pieces that flank the window are actually punched-tin cabinet doors. "My mother made them. They're from the house I grew up in," she says. "The house was being renovated, and she found them in the trash and fished them out." Children's paintings hang near the wet bar. Anything can be art, y'all. Experiment! No one has to know if it doesn't work out but you.

The retro stools were Internet discoveries picked up on the cheap. Remember this motto: A treasure a day can be found on eBay. It's not just for old things. This is a great example of how factory overruns or closeout items can be had for very little and may even arrive in their original packaging. Sarah Frances re-covered the seats of the stools in a superdurable marine-grade vinyl that coordinates with the wall color.

Sarah Frances sums it up: "My kitchen is used all the time. It feels happy, not at all serious." Well, it certainly made us happy, and we're completely serious.

"Fresh and Fun" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.