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Two-Toned

Photo by Laura Moss

If you're looking for a way to give the hub of your home a new look with maximum impact for minimum hassle, consider a double dose of color, as shown in the kitchens we've rounded up here. Apple green with mustard yellow. Tomato red with carbon black. Taupe gray and pistachio green. Deep plum and pale mint. And cream paired with vintage-mixing-bowl blue. "Paint allows you to put your personal stamp on cabinetry," says Brian Yahn of Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, whose clients often request a custom hue—or two. With upper cabinets in one shade and base cabinets in another, island and perimeter cabinets in contrasting colors, or simple pantry units painted to stand out like furniture, "it's not your mother's kitchen," he notes. Case in point: the mix at right. For more on this and other lively pairings, check out the rest of this gallery.

Shown: Carefully plotted fields of color, including citrus shades of yellow and green, define prep, storage, and lounging spaces—and guarantee an upbeat mood. Cabinets: Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry

Cooking Up Some Color

Photo by Laura Moss

A new kitchen is like a blank slate: You can color it any way you want. Just take a look at this kitchen-and-family-room addition at Bonnie and Jim Connors' house outside Chicago. The layout is pretty straightforward: The cooking area is flanked by small home-office and mudroom nooks; upper cabinets, prep space, and range are along one wall; windows, sink, and counters fill another; an island separates the cooking and family room areas.

But then things get interesting.

Working with architect Healy Rice and kitchen designer Kathy Walder, the couple stepped away from the traditional look of plain-vanilla boxes. "I've always loved color," says Bonnie, and that includes her favorite shade of green. To keep the look sophisticated, she also opted for black base cabinets with an aged patina, off-white marble countertops, and plenty of stainless steel.

For a similar look, try Valspar's Green Tea (upper cabinets) and Pitch Cobalt (lower cabinets).

Bold and Bright

Photo by Laura Moss

To get the right shade, she handed a piece of fabric to decorative painter Alex Stefanski, asking if he could replicate its zippy tone and soft texture. Using a bright green paint, umber-tinted glaze, and a specialty faux-finish brush to add texture, he covered the range wall's upper cabinets with a broad swath of color. Then he tackled a hutch made of cabinets and butcher block on the sink wall, using a similar blend of paint, glaze, and brushstrokes to create an antiqued mustard yellow.

For a similar look, try Valspar's Yellow Chimes (hutch).

Keeping a Balance

Photo by Laura Moss

Cabinets for the home office were ordered in a factory-applied yellow that echoes the hutch across the room. Grass-cloth wall covering adds a sophisticated note and warm neutral backdrop, while red accents provide punch.

The color choices may be courageous, but they were hardly random. "It took a lot of time to think about ways to use color and create a balanced look," says Walder. To help get it right, Bonnie made copies of the architectural elevations and used crayons to color them in a half-dozen different combinations.

Citrusy shades of yellow, green, and orange not only enliven the cooking space but also help give different areas of the addition distinct identities. More important, "the kitchen is really happy," says Bonnie. "People love to be in this room."

For a similar look, try Valspar's Golden Haze (office cabinets).

Lacquer Red and Black

Photo by Laura Moss

This bold accent wall, designed by Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, pairs colors of equal intensity, bright on top, dark below. To keep all that red from looking like a serving station in a Chinese restaurant, the company added carbon-black cabinets that would be at home in a formal dining room. Pale flooring, a stainless-steel countertop, and a red-and-white mosaic-tile backsplash also help bring the temperature down to a simmer.

For a similar look, try Benjamin Moore's Poppy (upper and side cabinets) and Midnight Zone (lower cabinets).

Taupe Gray and Pistachio Green

Photo by Bob Narod

Gray is fast becoming a popular choice for kitchen cabinets, and in this Washington, D.C., kitchen, designer Jennifer Gilmer and architect Jerry Harpole used it to define the cooking and cleanup areas. Then they had the custom cabinetmaker paint the island and a curved hutch a soft green picked up by the backsplash tile. The Costa Esmeralda granite countertops tie the two colors together with the stone's greenish-gray and grayish-green flecks.

For a similar look, try Glidden's Pistachio Ice Cream (island cabinets and curved hutch) and Smooth Stone (cabinets).

Plum and Mint

Photo by Bob Narod

The owners of this traditional-looking kitchen, in Alexandria, Virginia, liked the flavor that mint green would give their cabinets but realized that doing all of them in one color would be "too pastel-bright and monotonous," says their kitchen designer, Eric Lieberknecht. So they decided to add deep plum to two sets of upper cabinets and tone down both colors with brown-tinted glaze. Wire-and-pebbled-glass fronts add to the upper cabinets' distinction and make them focal points. Unifying the wood ceiling beams, stainless-steel appliances, and painted cabinets are brownish-green limestone countertops and mossy-brown painted shelves.

For a similar look, try Behr's June Vision (cabinets) and Enchanted Evening (upper glass-faced cabinets).

Periwinkle and White

Photo by Mark Lohman

The violet-tinged blue in this Conway, Arkansas, kitchen was matched to a set of vintage mixing bowls. Designer RaeLynn Callaway used it to create a blue-and-white-backdrop for hardworking appliances and white quartz countertops. But instead of arraying the colors in upper and lower cabinet rows, she used vertical columns of color to add an interesting rhythm as your eye travels around the room.

For a similar look, try Sherwin-Williams' Cosmos (glass-faced cabinets) and Extra White (beadboard range hood and island cabinets).