Color in the Kitchen...On the Cheap

Guest Post from Susan Serra of The Kitchen Designer

You look at the kitchen and you immediately get groggy, with a big fly-catching yawn, and before you get totally cranky, you know something has to change. If change doesn't come, no court will convict you for your actions which follow as a direct result of a colorless existence. Here, just in time, pre-indictment, is color on the cheap! Yes you can!

Following are a number of ideas to add color to the kitchen. It's always a good idea to stand back, look at the space and devise a plan. Is one color theme a possible creative solution? A diversity of color? Pastels, brights, a combination of differing tones? What's the plan?

If several of these ideas are incorporated, look at balance throughout the space in terms of color size, volume, intensity, and hue. Think before you jump in.

Beware of color "clutter" — pieces of color can look great...or not. The "not" can occur when the pieces of color are too small to be a valuable asset, especially when used in a good-sized kitchen with a fair amount of medium/dark wood cabinetry, for example. The size of the kitchen needs to work proportionately with the color added — too little color, scattered, can look cluttered or messy, devoid of any singular design statement.

Let's go right to the list of how to add color on the fast and cheap (under $100, some well under):

TOP ROW

• 1 We all know how hardware gives a kitchen a fresh look. Brightly colored hardware will make you smile when you walk into the kitchen each day. It's a non toxic mood lifter.

• 2 You know those single color paintings at MOMA? You look at them and say "I could do that!" Go to the art supply store, get 1 or more canvasses, get paints in a few colors, a few brushes (or get a brush at Home Depot) express your innate creativity on a canvas with a brush, and hang your artwork in your kitchen. Three paintings in a row looks cool, but one will do too. I've dabbled briefly in painting after I impulsively purchased some supplies one day, and keep those early paintings in my home. I will paint again, and I also create abstract art with digital photography. Try it — one need not be an accomplished artist to hang artwork on the wall! If you haven't tried it, all you need for this project is positive thinking, a bit of inspiration, and the desire to enjoy the process. Source: Rothko Framed Prints at MoMA.

• 3 Get a white piece of pottery and colorful utensils. Simple/easy/happy. Source: Rachael Ray Orange Set at Target.

• 4 Get a colorful Swedish rag rug that's a living antique to add color and character. I have at least 3 of these rugs in my home. Buy one here (scroll down): Scandinavian Antique Furnishings.

• 5 Change out your chair cushions - it's time. You've already turned them over once. (I know from experience; I just replaced mine but I won't tell you how long they were in place!) Source: Pier 1.

MIDDLE ROW

• 6 Coordinate your outlet and switchplates with fun, modern colorful ones. Source: Funky Chicken Outlets and Switchplates.

• 7 Not into creating your own Picasso? Get a cool original oil painting from Etsy for a song. Source: A Fanciful Twist

• 8 Hang a towel rack on the end of the cabinet and add some fancy, colorful, retro tea towels. Source: Fancy Boutique.

• 9 I love square lattice. Use it as a utensil/pan holder on the wall or as a backing for a painting on canvas, a backsplash, and spray paint it any color. Source: Van Dyke's Restorers

• 10 Colorful dishes — often inexpensive, lots of bang for the buck. If you have glass doors, stand them up at the back of your shelves. If no glass doors, make an arrangement of dishes on the wall. Source: Pier 1.

BOTTOM ROW

• 11 Another idea for glass doors — whether you've just done a fabulous, expensive, kitchen renovation or you are renting your first small place, doesn't matter how expensive or not your cabinets are, gird your loins, get a can of paint and paint the inside of the cabinet. Too often we feel we cannot touch the interior — why, I don't know. The image shown is from my previous showroom: high end cabinetry painted raspberry on the inside in a casual, streaked way. For renters, line the inside of the cabinet behind the shelves with an (already painted) piece of veneer, tape it to the back gently, and install.

• 12 Depending on the number and placement of windows, a window treatment can be a colorful focal point. It's usually a prime location for a focus on color.

• Lucky #13 A can of paint for one or more walls almost goes without saying in this topic and can amazingly transform the feeling you get when you walk into your kitchen. This is a much broader topic, but it is briefly mentioned as one of the most dramatic and inexpensive design statements you can make. Think: hue, tone, volume, light/dark, shade, find a dose of courage and inspiration, and that's where you start. Looking at many images of painted kitchen walls in The Kitchn's archives is the NEXT place to start.

Sometimes you just have to jump in and try something new and fresh and different. Go outside of your comfort zone, but always do give it a little thought to coordinate new color ideas with your existing theme, then find the courage and go for it.

I followed my own advice in my own dining area. I trudged up a hill, found dead sapling branches and secured them to an empty interior wall. Very sculptural. The reaction from those who see this wall is one of delight, and I didn't even paint the branches! In fact, you could paint either the wall OR the branches (or both.)

Express your inner artist; find your inspiration (it's already there) and in most cases, if you don't like what you've done, change it — much has probably not been lost. But much can be gained by taking a chance on color and exploring your own personal creativity.

I'd love to hear your ideas on where you have used color in your kitchens/dining areas. Please share!

Thank you for sharing, Susan! We are looking forward to the rest of your posts on color in The Kitchn this week.

• Susan's previous color post: A Pinch of Sugar Color

Visit Susan Serra's weblog:
The Kitchen Designer

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