11 Ways to Phase Out a White Kitchen, According to Designers

Adding pops of color into your prep and eating space is easier than you think.

white kitchen with black pendant lights and bar stools
Photo: Brie Williams

Not into all white? That's all right! When redesigning your kitchen, the plain-vanilla approach may have universal appeal, but as designers reveal, it's much more fun to experiment with color.

"I find that people want a more unique and less cookie cutter approach," says Maritza Capiro, an interior designer in Marco Island, Florida. "They realize the sky is the limit and why not have a fully customized look that caters to their desired preferences." Here are some ways to incorporate color and style into your kitchen.

1. Consider Any Color

Creamy whites are finding themselves in competition with stronger shades of blue, green, and even brown. But if you fancy a particular hue, don't be afraid to give it a go. "Every color in the rainbow can be used in today's kitchen, as long as the paint used is high quality and washable," says Capiro.

2. Say It Subtly

If you aren't ready to commit to a full-on palette overhaul, try out a simple technique to make a noticeable difference. Catherine Fowlkes, an architect in Washington, D.C., likes to add color through stain rather than paint. "It's a great way to control tone on millwork," she says of the layered effect on cabinetry.

wood stain kitchen cabinets
Mekenzie Loli

3. Go Bold or Go Home

Ready to embrace a new hue? Concentrate on one key area or, if you're feeling adventurous, go for the whole enchilada. "If you want to go all in, paint the lower kitchen cabinets or the entire kitchen a fresh, new color," offers Edmond, Oklahoma-based Kirby Foster Hurd.

4. Rethink Your Backsplash

The often-overlooked space behind your stove or sink deserves some attention too. Transform your backsplash with a design that immediately draws the eye inward. Fairfax, Virginia, designer Andrea Olsen loves to add color and texture to the cooking area. She recommends "patterned mosaics around the hood, above the stove to the ceiling."

Or, as Hurd suggests, go natural with ceramic tiles or stones. "Both materials can vastly range in color tones, textures and patterns," she says.

5. Create Interest with Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets can serve as accent pieces in different shades. Fowlkes likes contrasting colors on a cabinet's interior and exterior, while Olsen suggests a light grey for perimeter cabinets. Along with white walls, "let the cabinets be the color in the room," she says.

6. Jazz Up Your Vent

Put the "fun" in this functional stove component by jazzing it up with some texture. "Try incorporating metal, stucco, plaster or reclaimed wood details to your vent hood to give it more of a custom feel," says Hurd.

7. Feature the Island

The workhorse of your kitchen, this hot spot doubles as a prep space and hangout, so why not give it special treatment? Charlotte, North Carolina, designer Lisa Sherry likes to distinguish this piece from the rest of the kitchen. "The island can act like a piece of furniture, so we may do an island in a different color than the perimeter cabinets," she says.

8. Add Whimsy with Wallpaper

Once reserved for the bedrooms and other living space, wallpaper has now earned a spot in the kitchen. Capiro likes vinyl wall coverings for their easy maintenance, while Hurd sees standard wallpaper as a backdrop for glass cabinet fronts.

black and white kitchen
Brandon Webster

9. Introduce Shelving

Floating shelves introduce visual contrast to walls while balancing out other millwork. Sherry and Olsen are fans of wood open shelving, which add warmth and texture to the layout.

10. Accessorize Appliances

Stainless-steel refrigerators, ranges, and microwaves may still reign supreme, but their look need not be so utilitarian. Dress up appliances with decorative accessories like brass knobs and colorful drawer pulls. And if that retro blue range is speaking to you, don't be afraid to answer the call.

"As rich colors and warm stained kitchen cabinets continue to gain momentum, we will continue to see more color-dominant appliances being used that complement the overall design," says Hurd.

11. Brighten with Budget-Friendly Pieces

If your kitchen renovation is already over budget, consider some less expensive mediums for adding color. "I am personally drawn to pulls with encrusted gemstones," says Capiro. "I think of these as jewelry for the cabinetry." And if you have glass cabinets, keep colorful cookware, glasses and plates front and center.

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