As long as we have had real estate agents, they have admonished us with the same three words: “Resale, resale, resale.” When you buy a house, the agents tell you don’t forget that one day you will be selling it, so choose colors and features that nine out of 10 prospective buyers will want, not the one in 10 with unusual taste.
But these days, things are different.
Owners are throwing caution to the wind. They have concluded that they’re going to be in their house for the foreseeable future and they’ve stopped worrying about resale. Instead, they want to kick up and have fun, especially in their kitchens, the center of family life in most households.
“These days, all kitchens are not beige,” said McLean kitchen designer Jim Bingnear. “Owners want some self-expression and they’re not worried about resale. They say, ‘I want to enjoy my kitchen and have it the way I want.’ ” And this often means some to a lot of color.
In choosing colors for their kitchen walls, Bingnear said most owners want something lively, but they also want colors that complement the style in the rest of their house. If it’s contemporary with shades of white and gray, the kitchen will have this, too. If the house is more traditional, the range of color in the rest of the house will usually be broader, so they’ll have more choices for their kitchen. Artwork can also influence wall color selections, Bingnear said, as many households want to hang a piece of art in their kitchen eating area.
Generally, Bingnear suggests an accent wall with a more saturated color (it could be steel blue) and softer colors for the other walls (they could be sea foam, gray green or a soft mouse gray). Some owners want soft colors for all the walls and they add in saturated colors with fabrics for drapes and upholstery, he said.
With cabinetry, homeowners tend to be more conservative because it’s the biggest expense in any kitchen renovation and the costliest to change. They’re staying with neutral colors, but they don’t want a uniform look; they want a mix, Bingnear said. For example, the wall cabinets might be white or cream and some might have glass doors, while the base cabinets below would be maple, dark cherry or even walnut.
Granite is still the preferred countertop material in the Washington area, Bingnear said, but now owners want something unusual. Ten or 15 years ago, everyone wanted a stone that was consistent in its patterning and neutral in its coloration. Today, owners want a stone that’s colorful with red, blue or gold streaks and imperfections that add character. They’re willing to make a trip out to the stone yard, even if it’s 50 miles away to pick out “something that looks like art and not like everyone else’s house,” he said.
Backsplashes have become areas for experimentation because they’re a relatively small area in a kitchen and easy to tear out. In fact, Bingnear said, many homeowners are so eager for something jazzy they’re ready to compromise on their cabinetry choices in order to afford a full backsplash that runs from the counter to the underside of the wall cabinets.
Colorful handmade ceramic tiles from Italy and Mexico have been perennial backsplash favorites, but owners who are comfortable with bold aesthetic statements might consider Modono glass tiles, a new product I saw at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Chicago in April that has proved to be quite popular in two regions of the country with distinctly different tastes — Southern California and New England.
The tiles combine tradition and innovation to stunning effect. The glass is stamped or etched with geometric or irregular-looking organic patterns, using techniques that were developed more than 100 years ago. The brilliant, metallic colors are created by modifying a process that was used to coat the reflectors for halogen light bulbs, before that industry decamped for Asia. The unusual twist is that the colors change as you move around a kitchen work area. The changes in hue can be subtle (blue and teal green), distinctive (blue and purple) or bold (red and gold). Modono offers 22 patterns, each with five to 10 color combinations.
Homeowners with a contemporary-styled kitchen who want to make an even bolder statement with color might consider Parapan cabinet doors, another product I saw at KBIS. The doors are made with the same acrylic material used to make solid surface countertops, such as Dupont’s Corian, but to very different effect. The doors are polished to a highly reflective gloss and come in eye-popping red, kiwi green, turquoise and orange as well as 16 more restrained colors that range from tan to cobalt blue. The ¾-inch thick Parapan doors are hinged directly to the cabinet box. Parapan is manufactured in Austria and cut to specific door sizes in Charlotte, N.C., by Element Designs. The doors can be ordered through any kitchen cabinet dealer.
For homeowners who are not sure how far they want to go in adding color, David Bromstad, host of “HGTV Design Star” offered a practical suggestion: Cut large sheets of cardboard to the size of your proposed backsplashes or cabinets, paint them the colors you are considering and then tack them up in your kitchen to see how they look.
Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.katherinesalant.com