Dear Amy: Colors for Kitchens

I recently fielded a question at my Facebook Page about color choices in the kitchen.  It is a conversation I have with clients all the time and may be relevant to your own thinking about renovating your kitchen.  If you have your own questions, post a comment below and I'll get back to you!  Here's the question from business consultant Shalini Bahl in Amherst, MA: 

Hi Amy, 

Do you have suggestions for what color granite counters and floor tiles would go with cherry cabinets in the kitchen?

I think it is important to consider two functional aspects of tile and counter material before we even discuss color. Aesthetics are very important, but I like to figure out the "pretty" part within the context of good function, particularly in a kitchen.  The counter is the single most influential source of light (besides lighting fixtures) because it reflects light into your space from both natural and artificial sources. Therefore, I am a big proponent of lighter colored counters.  There has been a strong trend over the last 10 years toward dark stone and while I do think these are beautiful, at my age I hesitate to use them because I want/need more light to do my work. (I cook a lot and I am in my late 40's.)

I would also suggest you think about busyness in the pattern of the counters you choose. Will a very busy stone overwhelm your space? How will it feel to be chopping veggies or doing some kind of delicate work on a surface with lots of visual activity? These things are very personal...we all have to figure out where we are on this continuum of what we can tolerate with regard to sensory stimulation.  One of my decorating mantras is Decorate in the Color of Dirt. Very light floors and very dark floors should be avoided because they both show more dirt. I would suggest a mid-tone for floors, probably a few shades lighter than the cabinetry so the cherry really shines. Some kind of pattern is more forgiving than a solid field of color.

Now on to color!! What kind of colors do you have in your home now? If you are drawn to clean clear color, then an earthy colored counter/floor combo will not work as harmoniously in your environment. If you love earth tones, then warm earthy granites like Giallo Ornamental will fit right in.  There is an order one should follow when selecting materials in order to make life easier. We move from the elements with the fewest available options (usually cabinetry) to the elements that have the greatest number of options (paint colors, of which there are thousands). If you have your cabinets selected, move next to the stone. There will probably be only a dozen or so good options, while there will be a couple dozen suitable options for flooring.

So, that is a very long answer but I didn't tell you what color to choose, did I? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to you question. I hope that my discussion about function will help you rule out some possibilities and that as you think about your existing (or desired) color scheme, that your path becomes clearer. Oftentimes, our selections are made by process of elimination...deciding what we don't like, what doesn't give us enough function, what we can't afford or can't find, etc.

If I were doing a model home with cherry cabinets and I needed to select materials that would have the widest range of appeal and maximum flexibility with wall colors, I would likely use a light granite like Santa Cecelia (or an engineered quartz for even more durability and less maintenance!) and floor tile that replicated natural slate...blues and grays with a bit of rust to pull the cherry.

I hope this has inspired you to think about what you want and need in your own kitchen. Please keep me posted on your progress. Kitchens are not easy, but the payoff is big. Good luck!