Onwards with your Design Dilemmas! This week we ponder what exactly is it that’s making Susan P.’s kitchen look unfinished, despite her and her husband’s sprucing efforts.
Susan P., Quesnel, BC: "We are in the process of remodelling our house and have become stuck in the kitchen on the cabinets. We have painted, replaced the counter-tops, redesigned the island, tiled the back-splash, and all window/door trims have been painted white to match the new, white interior doors. With all this work done the kitchen still seems unfinished, I am thinking we need to paint the cabinets a crisp white to brighten and update the kitchen. Currently our kitchen cabinets are a med oak, and of good quality but are passing the 25 year mark. Because we want to eventually resell our house, would this be a good choice?"
Elana: In a word, yes! I did it. BUT, I fear before we even tackle the cabinetry, you may have to reconsider the yellow. To be frank, while the notion to paint with a bright cheery colour is a common one when looking to spruce up a space, yellow – especially a bright, saturated yellow such as yours – can, and often does do the opposite.
In fact, you’ve chosen a colour known to the interior design industry as one of the most difficult colours to work with. It’s been proven that yellow, like the sun, if looked at for too long actually agitates the eye and fosters discontent. Conversely, if used in moderation as a pop colour, it can do exactly that which you are seeking – brighten.
Another problem with yellow is one I suspect to be behind why your kitchen seems unfinished: nothing matches with yellow (except for blue, and the ‘80s – with the ubiquitous blue and yellow gingham – pretty much clobbered that horse to death). Your eye is surfing the kitchen in search of balance, to no avail. You’ve crisp white trim, brulee-coloured tiles, cool beiges and mushroom tones in your counter and floor, and even more yellow in the traditional oak cabinetry. There are very few shared tones in all those surfaces to create that pleasing common thread that your eye is looking for.
Look at what a difference it makes when I replace the yellow with a light mushroom tone I pulled from the counter! The wood already looks better.
So, what I suggest is you paint the wall first, with a light mushroom tone. Bring home a few colour samples and hold them up in place of the yellow in daylight and electric light, to see which picks up the most colour in your counter and floor – you’ll know it when you see it. Once you’ve chosen and repainted – keep it light – reassess the cabinetry.
While I know that cabinetry very well, and agree that no love would be lost if it were painted out, the white may be too stark for the rest of your kitchen, especially with that backsplash tile. It may work – hard to tell from a few photos – but I would make that decision after getting rid of the yellow.
If you’re attached to the yellow, then painting the cabinetry is really the only way to go, but I fear again that the stark contrast between the yellow and the white may bee a bit brilliant for the eyes.
To paint the cabinetry any other colour will result in too-many-shades-overload. In any case, they’ll look better – either as is or in white – if the yellow is gone.
If possible, I would also modernize the cabinetry with hardware — works wonders!
Stick to brushed chrome and keep it simple. Anything with even slight detail will clash with the detail in the doors and draw attention to itself for no good reason. Something like this “Amerock” solid knob from Home Depot is perfect. It’s simple and contemporary, but still more traditional than the square modern fixtures with its oval shape.
Hope this helps!