Choosing the Best Color Scheme for Your Kitchen

Choosing the best color scheme for your kitchen is one of the first and most important elements that must be addressed in the course of every kitchen remodeling project.

The colors you choose for your home’s interior will affect your life every day. When meeting with my kitchen design clients for the first time, I typically address the client’s color preferences up front. The importance of color choices should not be underestimated when designing your kitchen because even if the technical aspects of your kitchen design are all correct, the wrong color scheme can spell disaster.

The best time to discuss the topic of your kitchen’s color scheme is during our initial meeting which, ideally, will take place in your home. When I can see your living spaces firsthand, I am able to understand your color preferences in terms of vibrancy, warmth or coolness, and neutrality.

As we discuss your kitchen’s design elements, I may ask if we can take a tour of your home. What rooms do you prefer over others? This allows our conversation to become even more interesting as we explore, together, your color preferences.

For a brief technical “color” starter course, let us consider what color truly is. Color is created by a unique reflection and absorption of light waves. The colors that we see every day are the visible parts of what scientists refer to as the “electromagnetic spectrum” (there are light waves that are invisible to us!) As Christopher Crockett explains in his EarthSky blog:

The electromagnetic waves your eyes detect – visible light – oscillates between 400 and 790 terahertz (THz). That’s several hundred trillion times a second. The wavelengths are roughly the size of a large virus: 390 – 750 nanometers (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter). Our brain interprets the various wavelengths of light as different colors. Red has the longest wavelength, and violet the shortest. When we pass sunlight through a prism, we see that it’s actually composed of many wavelengths of light. The prism creates a rainbow by redirecting each wavelength out a slightly different angle.

light spectrum

color hues, values and saturation
I think you would agree when you appreciate color from a technical standpoint above, we need to be well focused on this subject.

Now to complicate things further (and, hopefully, to clarify as well), each individual’s perception of color varies from one person to the next. In our eyes, we each possess rods and cones which perceive color differently. And further, it has been established that 1% of women and 8% of men are “color deficient”.

So what does this all mean? That color choices are complicated by your own genetic makeup. It is not simply your imagination when you perceive a color differently than your spouse or other people living in your home. However, color selections can become easier when you consider the following carefully before committing to the color scheme for your kitchen.

In a physical space, colors will appear differently depending upon several factors:

  • Time of day
  • Time of year
  • Weather outside (sunny, cloudy, snowy)
  • Color presence of one or more horizontal or vertical elements—floor, wall, or ceiling
  • Dominance of artificial lighting — LED, incandescent, fluorescent
  • Dominance of natural lighting
  • Other color elements in the room

All the items above create additional light waves that “crash” into each other to create a different color than the one perhaps intended! Therefore, if you consider all of the above, it is true: each kitchen’s color scheme is unique because no two spaces are exactly alike in their light spectrum’s variables.

So what do I advise?

First, think about your space in terms of the elements that will “dominate” spatially. Typically, these will be:

  1. Cabinetry
  2. Countertops
  3. Flooring
  4. Walls
  5. Lighting, to include natural daylight and artificial lighting.

Then, from the above list, choose what “must be”. As an example, let us say you want to have the most popular choice these days for cabinetry: painted. Allow me to share with you a dialogue I recently had with a client:

Sandra: “What color do you want your cabinetry to be?”
Client: “White.”
Sandra: “There are many tints and hues of white. Gray, yellow, blue, green, pink…”
Client: “I want a gray white”.
Sandra: “Do you want a blue gray, green gray, or purplish gray?” (This is said somewhat with exaggeration, but the truth is there are such types of “gray white”)
Client: “Are you serious?

Yes, I was serious. I cannot make this up. I live and breathe in the world of design, and I can see, before my client does, subtleties of color that will affect the outcome.

My discussion with my client above continued further for about another hour. We then discussed all of the elements impacting the final desired “color scheme” in her kitchen.

Color wheel
In summary, from my experience, the correct color decisions must be made early in your kitchen design in order to avoid a costly and disastrous end result that will leave you feeling miserable for years to come whenever you spend time in your kitchen.

All my life, I have always had a knack for color in all ways. Earlier this year I finally took the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test in a professional setting. My test results confirmed that I am well qualified to advise you on your color choices and that I am in the correct business: I scored 96%.

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