Interview with a Color Expert

Color expert and designer Gloria Daniels gives plenty of helpful tips on how to choose colors for kitchen walls, cabinets and more.

Q: Many kitchens today are open to the family room. How can color make the transition smooth? Should you paint the walls the same color as the adjoining room?

green kitchen walls transition into beige wall

    A: It isn't necessary to paint the walls the same color, but by carrying some of the same colors into both rooms, it makes a smooth transition. As you walk from one room to another, there should be one or two colors that are common to both rooms.

Q: Are there any colors or color combinations that shouldn’t be used in a kitchen?

    A: Color is such a personal thing that I hesitate to say one should never use certain colors in a kitchen. I will say that bright primary colors can be tiring when you have to look at them every day. Shades (black is added to tone it down) or tints (white is added to lighten the color) of a color are much easier on the eyes and nerves when you have to look at them constantly.

Q: Where would you say most people go wrong when picking out colors for their kitchen?

    A: I think a lot of people forget that wood has color. Yellow pine, red oak, white birch are just a few of the colors of wood. This if often overlooked and when the colors are chosen without taking the wood color into consideration, somehow the look they were expecting just isn't working and people don't know why this is so.

Q: What color schemes work best for different kitchen styles, like modern, country or cottage-style kitchens?

    A: Most contemporary kitchens seem to be done in either white, black, or neutral colors. However, if you love color and can work in a bold environment, this is one place where bright bold color works. I've seen scarlet red kitchens with black appliances, royal purple with lemon yellow appliances, and various other primary combinations.

    If you are decorating a country or cottage style kitchen, check out the paint samples in the Heritage or Colonial sections of the paint store. Cottage style is very popular right now and the paint companies are really putting effort into attracting this market. They have many great brochures with color suggestions for country and cottage style color schemes.

Q: An interior designer often pulls a color scheme from existing colors in a room, such as from accent pillows or upholstery fabric.

An existing kitchen has cabinets, appliances, countertops, flooring, and possibly a backsplash.

What’s the best way to “pull” a fresh, new wall color from this varied combination of things? Or are pale neutrals the best choice?

    A: Consider the largest color first. In my kitchen, I have hardwood flooring that runs from dark red to light beige. However, because the red is so strong and the flooring is the largest area of color in the room, that would be my starting point.

    If you have lots of cupboards that dominate your kitchen, consider the color of the wood and start there. Take pictures of all the various parts of your kitchen and start a storyboard. Paste them onto some formcore or cardboard to you can step back and see all the colors involved.

    Get some paint chips from your local home improvement center that match these pictures and colors. Then put them on your board. Use the whole chip for the largest color item. Cut the others according to the percentage of color in the room. Your floor or cupboards will be the whole chip, then perhaps your appliances will be half and countertops perhaps a quarter. This will give you some idea of the distribution of color in the room.

    This will give you a better view of all the colors you have to work with. Once you have a clear picture of what colors you actually have and how much of each color, you should have an easier time trying to pull everything together.

Q: Do you have any final words of advice that might help people choose a color scheme?

    A: One thing to remember is that color has temperature. Greens and blues, the colors of nature, are cool. Reds, yellows and oranges, the colors of fire, are warm.

    When choosing a color scheme decide if you want to have a cool, relaxing atmosphere or a warm welcoming feel to the kitchen. Consider the light in the room. Is the sun shining into the room making it hot during certain times of the day? Is it on the north side and always dark and chilly?

    Also take into consideration that warm colors advance and cool colors recede. If you want to give the impression of a large room be thinking of using cool colors. On the other hand, if intimate and cozy is your aim, then warm colors will give you that feeling.

    In the end, always remember that this is your kitchen. The only people you have to please are yourself and your family. Never mind the preferences of your mother-in-law or your boss. Don't think about experts, rules, or the opinion of your neighbors. This is your home, your sanctuary, and if it pleases you, all is well.

Kitchen Color Design

The Color Story of a Kitchen

Kitchen Wall Colors

Floor Colors for Kitchens

Ceiling Colors for Kitchens

Kitchen Appliance Colors

Kitchen Cabinet Colors

White Kitchens


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Thinking of remodeling?

Keep a notebook or scrapbook of notes, clippings and ideas.

Kitchen magazines are expensive - look through them in the grocery checkout line. If you see pix of a kitchen you really like, buy that magazine.

Stop in at home centers and pick up any free cabinet manufacturers' catalogs.