Colorful Kitchens

By Lesley Myrick

How to incorporate color in your home without feeling crazy

When I was little, I was often told that I had a “colorful personality.” While I now understand that my middle school teachers, my mom’s friends and our elderly neighbors probably just meant I was loud, as a kid, I took this label to heart and really made it a part of who I was. Throughout my adolescence, I always had my eyes peeled for the biggest, brightest designs. Neon leopard, pastel polka dots, glitter graphic tees — I loved it all. I also couldn’t avoid it in the ’90s. Even today, my love of color guides my work as an interior designer.

But, I get it — color isn’t something that comes naturally for a lot of people, and for some, the idea of working color into their home design can be downright scary. Why risk accidentally turning your living room into a pop-art painting when you could just stick to neutrals and know everything will work out, right?

Well, here’s a fun secret for you: incorporating color into your home is actually quite simple.

You don’t need to know color theory, and you don’t have to figure out which patterns are okay to mix. All you need is an idea, a favorite color and a little bit of courage. And the kitchen, with its wide array of surfaces and appliances, is the perfect place to dip your toes into color.

If you are not in the habit of using color in your decorating, stick with one area to begin with. I love the look of brightly colored lower kitchen cabinets or a bold island. By applying color in just one well-defined area, you can feel safe, knowing that nothing will clash.

Personally, I am a huge fan of using unique backsplash tile. The backsplash is not a lot of square footage, and it is fairly easy to replace if you get tired of it. Plus, there’s so much more opportunity to elevate it beyond just a single color. Patterned Moroccan encaustic tile? A graphic, modern stripe? Hand-textured aqua subway tile? It’s all out there, easily available and completely different from that snooze-worthy tumbled travertine. Paired with neutral walls and flooring, a bold backsplash works well (and makes a great backdrop for the Instagram photos of your morning coffee).

Remember, color doesn’t have as many rules as you think. If you have been itching to try out a statement wall, the kitchen might be the best place to do so. It is less obvious than in the living room, and most kitchen walls tend to be rather covered anyway, so you don’t have to worry too much about overpowering the room. A bold, graphic wallpaper can bring life and pattern to make a ho-hum kitchen a showstopper.

If committing to tile, paint or wallpaper makes you cringe, incorporate a few colorful furnishings instead. Think upholstered barstools, curtains or a rug. Not only will these give you an easily exchangeable pop of color, but they’ll spice up your kitchen with some texture and pattern as well.

For a more gradual approach to getting into color, you could simply make a conscious effort to choose more colorful options when you are looking to replace or add new things to your kitchen. If you have open shelving, switch out any stained or cracked dishware for brighter pieces to create a daily display that makes you smile. Deciding to add more color into your kitchen might also be just the excuse you were looking for to finally invest in that mint green stand mixer.

At the very minimum, flowers, trays or vases can introduce smaller bursts of color that even the most die-hard neutral-lovers can get behind. I’m partial to a fresh bouquet of yellow alstroemeria on my kitchen table, and potted herbs are especially great since they are both pretty and useful. Hello, cilantro! I love a pop of color that I can later eat with my tacos.

If you’ve been sticking to plain ol’ white and light wood finishes in your kitchen because you are worried about messing up, then that’s not really living, is it? I would rather have to repaint an island than wish I had the courage to pick up a paintbrush. It took me years (decades, if I’m being honest) of trial and error to figure out which colors work best with each other, and you know what? I made some mistakes. And I still loved every single outfit and dorm room design I put together along the way.

So here’s the big takeaway: color is about having fun. It’s about living in a space that makes you and the people you love happy and energized.

And if that means being bold in your kitchen and mustering up the courage to pick up a paintbrush, then so be it! A bright blue island might be just what your kitchen — and your family — needs.

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