Using Color in the Kitchen

Guest Post from Johnny Grey of Johnny Grey Studios

Art, paint and pattern: three spirit-raising tools that I use in every project. They exist in the kitchen as part of the fabric of the design. Can you have a happy or home environment without them? Color is their chief medium, albeit with texture and shape delivering their full presence.

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Color is not just an aid to beauty or style; it is also part of the designer's psychological toolbox, determining mood and conveying personality and self-expression, all with the goal of ensuring the comfort of the intended occupants. Here are a few tips on using color in your kitchen or other spaces:

• Paint is flexible and can be changed relatively easily, as your taste is sure to do as well. Over the last twenty years, my wife and I have been through four color schemes in our kitchen and we have loved them all. We watched each one go with regret and then enjoyed and fell in love with the new colors as they become the backdrop to our daily lives.

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• Color is a powerful mood enhancer. We know this from the exhaustive tests done by experts. It's analogous to how fashion, clothing and seasons can affect how you feel about yourself.

• You respond to irrational, non-logical forces when playing with color. Go with it. Listen to your inner responses.

• Paint plenty of sample patches in positions that have different light levels to make a judgement.

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Avoid bright and intense colors on walls unless the room is small and intended to be occupied at night or in small doses. They really hit your eyes hard, overtake everything else and shrink the size of the room. Go for an accent wall if you want to create a color blast for drama or mood. The exceptions are rooms with little character (usually modern and without quality architectural features) where you need to ramp them up or where there is little wall space. For example, a room with plentiful wall to ceiling windows or overdose of glass.

• Generally use lighter colors on walls where the above does not apply.

• Color is an excellent tool for counteracting overdoses in light-absorbent floor finishes, i.e. too much dark or light wood or stone of one particular persuasion.

• When using color in or on the furniture, we tend to avoid repeating the same color on more than two different pieces.

• If we use patterns, we confine them to bands or small panels so we can use more intense colors.

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• Religious, tribal, geometric or historically-derived patterns are a huge source of inspiration. Think of Persian carpets, Islamic tiles or Arabic plaster work. A facsimile edition of the Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones – one of my favorite books as a child – is must-have for your library. The range of patterns is simply mind boggling.

• Employ a real artist to sketch up and then paint the patterns for you, for instance on a roll of canvas. You simply glue it onto the surface of the furniture. At JG Studios, we make the canvas with ready made apertures or recesses or applied mouldings so the edges don’t show.

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• Be playful and experiment in your use of color. You can always repaint if it turns out weird. At least you will have tried and you will be more satisfied with the results than if you played it safe.

• For more on this topic, pick up a copy of Colour, an extraordinary tour de force of the history, geography and cultural significance of color. Author Victoria Finlay writes about topics ranging from George Washington’s obsession with green dining rooms to how yellow paint was made by force feeding mango leaves to cows in India. She also discusses how color doesn't really exist; it's actually just the human mind responding to waves and particles.

Johnny Grey revolutionized the design world in 1980 by developing the then-radical concept of an “unfitted kitchen.” This fresh way of thinking resulted in a new freedom and creativity for designing kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms without the built-in rigidity of continuous counters and wall-based units. Born in 1944, raised on a rustic farm in England, Johnny is the nephew of Elizabeth David, the doyen of British food writers, who had a significant impact on his choice of careers. He trained as an architect at the London Architectural Association School of Architecture. Since opening his UK studio in 1977, Johnny has worked with clients around the globe. He recently established a U.S. presence, with offices in San Francisco and New York.

Thank you for sharing, Johnny!

Visit Johnny's website:
Johnny Grey Studios
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(Images: Johnny Grey Studios)