Color Coded

by Matt Cosentino | Mar 6, 2015
Color Coded …From the pages of House & Home…

The selection of colors for kitchen cabinets is endless.

The kitchen is often considered the most important room in the house for entertaining guests, but when it comes to the design of that space, the opinions of the homeowners should always come first. After all, they’re the ones who have to look at it every day, so it should certainly reflect their personality.

To accomplish that goal, more and more people are turning to color for inspiration—more specifically, to painted kitchen cabinetry.

Whether homeowners are seeking to add some pop to the kitchen, or they’re just tired of the traditional wood look, painted cabinetry can make a world of difference. And the selections are basically endless.

“The hardest part today in almost any industry, and certainly this one in particular, is [that] there are so many choices,” says Brian Gordon, president of Kitchen Expo, a cabinet and countertop retail center with several locations in New Jersey. “Every manufacturer that we deal with, you can bring in a Benjamin Moore paint wheel—which you almost need a fork lift to bring in, because it has thousands of colors—and the manufacturers will do cabinetry in any color you want.”

But just because almost every color is available doesn’t mean they’re all right for the space. We spoke with local experts to find out which hues to keep an eye on in 2015, and other factors to consider when introducing color to the kitchen.

Gray leading the way
Any discussion of the hottest colors of the moment inevitably comes back to one in particular.

“It’s like the book, Fifty Shades of Grey—that’s becoming very popular in cabinetry,” Gordon says. “It’s a trend that started more than a year ago, but when it starts in the high-end custom cabinets and it trickles down to the stock cabinet level, you know it’s a powerful trend. So manufacturers are doing a lot of different shades of gray, whether it’s a graphite gray or what Benjamin Moore would call dove gray, which is a very pale gray. That is the biggest color trend that we’re seeing.”

Dan DiFrancesco, CKD, the president of Bella Design Center in Wilmington, Del., has been in the industry for more than 40 years. He agrees that color is being used more prominently in today’s kitchens, and that gray is currently near the top of the list. “This past year, I’ve done two kitchens that were gray in color, almost like battleship gray,” he says. “I think gray is probably the hottest of the colors right now. You’re seeing it a lot everywhere: in accent pieces, tiles, even in other areas like paint colors, carpets and draperies.”

While nobody denies the emergence of gray, it hasn’t replaced what has been the No. 1 choice for many years. White remains popular, even if some designers aren’t crazy about it.

“Would I encourage people to go with a different color than white? Oh yeah. I’m so sick of looking at white,” says George Robert Platt, owner of GRP Handcrafted Furniture in Ephrata, Pa. “White is a timeless color, but in my opinion it’s not really practical for a kitchen that’s being used. But more people go with white than you can imagine—it’s a really big trend right now. The whites, the off-whites—everything in that realm is still very strong.”

Gordon agrees that homeowners love white, and he doesn’t see that trend going anywhere.

“White is an old mainstay, something that is timeless,” he says. “We’re seeing a lot of requests for white cabinetry, and in particular, what’s known in our industry as an inset product, where the door sits inside the frame. It’s a very classic, elegant look.”

But Gordon, who has been in business for close to three decades, also sees darker colors becoming more prevalent.

“The developers that we deal with, they’re doing major apartment projects in that espresso, dark chocolate color,” he says. “There are different variations of that, but it’s really all in the same family. It’s very popular today, and that’s really amazing. When I started this business almost 30 years ago, everything was dark and it was going lighter. Now we’re back to going darker in many cases.”

What makes you happy
Although gray, white and espresso seem to be the colors of the moment, some homeowners are not afraid to go with a bolder selection.

“A kitchen I did a few years ago was for a local business owner, and he wanted his kitchen to look like a retro soda fountain,” DiFrancesco says. “The seating area was relatively large, and he went with a horseshoe-shaped bar with 25 bar stools around it. The kitchen behind that was all bright purple cabinetry, and the countertops were black. That was probably the wildest one I’ve done lately.

“I did a kitchen one time that reminded me of Halloween—they had black cabinets with bright orange doors. I did another kitchen that had lemon-yellow doors and lime-green cabinet boxes. So I’ve done quite a bit of color through my years.”

Platt has also seen some unique choices. “I did one that is green and purple and it’s definitely an unusual kitchen. The purple is a plum purple, and the green is a fern green, so it’s a little bit softer than a forest green. It actually blends really well; I was surprised. The homeowner was the one that came up with that. I’ve learned that whatever people want to do, I’m going to do it. I’m not the one that has to live with it at the end of the day.”

And that’s really the best advice that designers can give: Don’t worry about what’s trendy, just choose what is aesthetically pleasing to you.

“I certainly recommend that if the people are staying in the house, they should pick what they want,” DiFrancesco says. “I do not try to deter them from using [color].

Personally, I get sick and tired of doing white kitchens and the typical light maple or light cherry kitchen. So anybody that wants to do something a little different, I’m all for it.”

Other helpful tips
Choosing the right colors for your kitchen isn’t the last step, however, as there are other factors to consider.

“If you are going to be introducing colors and you want to go with a dark-colored kitchen, you have to make sure you have a lot of light,” Platt says. “With the pastels, you don’t need as much. But your dark colors are going to absorb the light. So if you don’t have a whole lot of natural light, then you have to design light into the room.” Gordon advises that stain may be a better option than paint.

“Oak is coming back, and it’s coming back in the form of rift-cut oak, which is a different way that they cut the log to create a grainier look,” he says. “With that grainy texture, which people like, they are using … stains. They’re not paints necessarily; they’re stains, so when they get absorbed by the wood, you still get a feel for that texture. When you paint over something, it saturates the wood and it tends to hide some of the blemishes and texture. So when they use this paint stain, it’s more of a water base and it doesn’t have the thickness. It has the durability and the quality, but it allows for the grain to shine through.”

Finally, no matter which direction you are leaning in, it’s important to be thorough in your preparation. In all likelihood, you’re not going to get many chances at doing the kitchen over.

“My advice is that you must be happy with the end result,” Platt says. “A kitchen is something that most people do only once or twice in their lifetime. So when you’re deciding on a color, you really have to love it. You can’t have the idea that ‘I think it’s going to be OK.’ You’re going to have it for eight, nine or 10 years, so you better be sure.”


Bella Design Center
Wilmington, Del.
(302) 502-3600

GRP Handcrafted Cabinetry
Ephrata, Pa.
(717) 286-8053

Kitchen Expo
Locations in Edison, Fairfield, Flemington and Toms River, N.J.
(866) 462-3976

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 15, Issue 8 (February, 2015).
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Author: Matt Cosentino



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