The Keys to Pulling Off a Colorful Kitchen

There’s something undeniably inviting—and exciting—about a colorful kitchen, as a quick flip through a design magazine or scroll through Instagram will prove. However, introducing a hue into a room that’s often associated with neutrals is not without its risks, and before taking the plunge, there are a few factors that even those who readily embrace color should pause to consider. Here, Saint Louis, Missouri-based designer Amie Corley shares expert recommendations for everything from selecting the perfect tone to choosing finishes and incorporating elements that will best complement your color of choice.

Rest assured that color plays well with most kitchen styles. As long as the design is executed in a thoughtful way, Corely believes you can pull off a colorful kitchen in any style. That said, she does have preferences. “I always use inset cabinet doors for a clean look and am currently loving a heavy dose of slab drawer fronts mixed with a more traditional door style for the “push/ pull” of modern and traditional,” she shares. The variation, she says, makes for a great balance and lends itself particularly well to color and bold hardware.

Consider your adjoining spaces. When advising clients on adding a punch of color to their kitchen, Corley’s first task is accessing the adjoining spaces and rooms. Are they colorful or neutral? How will the color of the kitchen be woven throughout those existing spaces in a way that pulls them all together? Once that’s been established, it’s time to select the cabinetry color. “If my clients want a colorful kitchen, the cabinet is something we’ll choose early in the process,” Corley says, noting that this is the decision that will affect all others.

 Know that you can’t go wrong with blue or green.  When choosing a color to paint your kitchen, Corely advises that shades of blue and green are your best bet, as they can act as a neutral and work well with so many other colors that they shouldn’t pose much of a problem in terms of relating to the adjacent rooms. When selecting a hue, “I always defer to the Farrow and Ball color deck when choosing cabinet colors,” she says. “They are all tried and true and have just the right amount of moodiness to keep them from looking too cheeky or trendy on cabinetry.” Some of her perennial favorites include Farrow and Ball’s De Nimes (the perfect slate blue), Black Blue (a midnight navy that doesn’t read preppy), Studio Green (a dark, saturated green), Stone Blue (a deep, dusty turquoise), and Benjamin Moore’s Normandy blue, which is shown in the kitchen above.

Add a heavy dose of classics. When designing a colorful kitchen, Corley advises her clients to stick with classic elements. It always looks timeless to mix in a handmade tile backsplash (like the terracotta Walker Zanger above) and marble countertops with lots of movement, and these elements keep a colorful kitchen from seeming too trendy. “I never want someone to walk into a kitchen and be able to guess the year I designed it,” she notes. One of her favorite design tricks is to add an unlacquered brass faucet (Waterworks is her favorite brand) and incorporate a contemporary jolt with bold lighting to keep things fresh. “It’s all about a balanced mix when it comes to kitchens,” she says.

Incorporate natural elements. Bringing in natural materials is a perfect way to break up a lot of color and soften the overall look. To that end, Corley suggests using open shelving or glass-front doors to showcase natural pottery or pretty dishes and glassware. Bar stools are another excellent opportunity to introduce nature into the design. “I’m a sucker for a natural material bar stool—something walnut, rush, rattan, wicker, or oak,” she says.

Follow a few tried and true rules. Corley claims she’s not much a rule follower, but when designing a kitchen, she does have a few tenets that she always sticks to, whether she’s creating a neutral or colorful space: inset cabinet doors are non-negotiable, cabinets must go to the ceiling, the sink is best at a window, the dishwasher should go to the right of the sink and trash to the left, and you should always go big with your range (she suggests an eye-catching La Cornue or La Canche). All of these ensure that your kitchen will look cohesive, grounded, and have a good flow.

Photography by Ashley Gieseking. TSG Tip 383 from Amie Corley of Amie Corley Interiors. Amie Corley Interiors is featured in The Scout Guide Saint Louis.