A New Recipe for Designing an All-White Kitchen
Churning out your grandmother's favorite recipes in an all-white kitchen is considered an especially rewarding proposition. A dark kitchen is immediately made bright with walls painted a crispy white semi-gloss. Add in a slab of white Calacatta marble for rolling pie dough, all-white hand-painted cabinets, a simple white subway tile backsplash, and a snappy lighting statement, and the quintessential, picture perfect white kitchen comes to mind. Yes? Maybe . . .
Calacatta Marble being polished in the Danby Quarry
I once bought a house with an all white kitchen that was less than awe-inspiring. The floor tile was installed with the widest grout joint I'd ever seen, the floor was made even more ghastly by the choice of black grout. The tile was worn to a permanent state of dirty grey haze, but that almost seemed right because it complemented the yellow haze surrounding each and every cabinet door. The kitchen had endured over twenty years of abuse and neglect, and I couldn't get the paint cans out fast enough. I managed to stave off the demolition for quite some time, but eventually that kitchen fell victim to my trusty twenty-pound sledgehammer. Here's a glimpse of my interim fix.
before and after
Three houses and lots of paint later, my best ever all-white kitchen here at the farm is essentially new but in need of an update. Trust me, there will be no sledgehammers involved! Still it's another example of an all-white kitchen design gone astray. The first issue is my lack of discipline about the white. For an all white kitchen to really look and feel fresh and clean--and all-white--the space needs to be carefully planned and very well edited. My colorful accessories, Bakelite hardware, dark wood floors, colorful range, and sometimes turquoise backsplash, are each making too big a color statement. This is an example of how a color-loving accessory hound interprets an all-white kitchen, and I believe it is less than successful.
I plan to remove or replace as much of this existing color as I can, knowing a more balanced all-white palette will get me where I want to go. To begin, I set up various color options using my collections to help me work though the myriad of white paint options. Before I get to work with color chips, I'll remove or cover up all the existing color distractions with white sheets or drop cloths, so I can get a truly accurate idea of how many shades of white will look best. Working out color combinations using "stuff" is a huge help. Love that black & white corn pot!
The second issue in my kitchen is that it is entirely overpowered by the sunlight. The kitchen occupies the most beguiling exposure in the house, the southwest corner. Solar gain is the holy grail of architects seeking to maximize the energy efficiency of a house. I get that part. But a super sunny kitchen can appear washed out, and super bright rooms will feel as if the walls rattle when the sunlight is too intense. A sunny room is rarely something to lament, but super, crazy bright needs to be managed. I suppose I could resort to preparing dinners in sunglasses, but painting the kitchen in a color that softens the light and enhances the surrounding white cabinets makes more sense.
This phenomenon is troubling in a kitchen, since complicated window treatments aren't as feasible a solution as they could be in a sunny living room or bedroom. This is where the grey range of color is indispensable, and I've decided a very neutral mid-toned grey will do a nice job of capturing the bright light, while contrasting the white cabinets. I just need to be sure a color of any sort on the wall won't once again blur the idea that what I'm after is an all-white kitchen.
Too much sun and too many color diversions are easy challenges to remedy--there's a palette for that! Since the adjoining hall spaces are now freshly painted I have a place to see my palette evolving. I'll make color changes to the kitchen which add black & white, mixed whites, and neutral grey.
Next time I'll show you how the new cabinet knobs that just arrived from Anthropologie will link my black+white bridge color in the kitchen, and I'll share all my final color picks for the white painted backsplash project I'll be working on. I'm not sure how many different shades of white I can squeeze into my design plans, but you can be sure there will be more than one!