The latest cry is for hue, and kitchens go colorific

June 04, 1995|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

Something is causing a stir in the kitchen: a -- of spice in the form of color. Just as herbs and spices bring out the subtle flavors of a dish, so color can add a welcome zest to what is the heart of many homes.

In the kitchen, color can be the same catalyst it is in other rooms. It adds personality, style and feelings of comfort and warmth that may not make cooking easier, but might make it more fun.

In recent years, color hasn't been much of a story in kitchens. White has been the dominant choice in cabinets, interpreted in traditional styling or modern frameless fronts unadorned even with hardware. White is clean-looking. It's "safe." But for many people, white -- and almond, which preceded it in popularity -- seems bland.

These days there's no such thing as "kitchen colors." The range of colors runs from subtle to vibrant primaries, and any of the hues can be toned down or punched up.

There are many ways to add color to your kitchen, be it a -- or a splash. The easiest, and perhaps least expensive option, is to create a backdrop of color with paint.

After the kitchen walls, cabinets are the most obvious place to try color. Just how daring you are depends on what colors you choose. SieMatic's sassy chrome yellow cabinets might be they matched the walls, for example, but a quiet gray would present a striking foil.

What makes this particular cabinet choice dramatic is its high-gloss finish and simple lines. Large expanses of sunny yellow warm the high-tech outfitting of stainless appliances, teamed with gray granite. The SieMatic cabinets range from $18,000 to $30,000 for an average-size kitchen, 100 to 120 square feet.

Or you might go for something more subdued but with equal impact. Walls in a toasty sunshine yellow, for example, could create an inviting background for robin's-egg blue cabinets. A stain would keep the cabinet color subtle. You might try stenciling the fronts. Such a design would be sophisticated but relaxed.

Color is particularly suited -- but not restricted -- to country styles. Spicy red, low-sheen enamel cabinets from Plain & Fancy's New American Classics line would take on a modern flair with granite counter tops. Contrasting the red cabinets with white walls and matte black laminate counters and back splash would create a stylish impact in a variety of settings.

Plain & Fancy also offers a deep sink with a spillover apron, like an old-fashioned butler's model. Cabinet prices in the New American Classics line start at about $3,000.

If a lot of color is too much for you, try using it as an accent. A single painted or stained cabinet has the same effect as a piece of art or decorative pillow in another room.

Even furniture manufacturers are marketing some colorful armoires or cupboards with the suggestion that they can double freestanding pantries, storage units or even entertainment centers in the kitchen.

The idea reflects that of the "unfitted" kitchen for which Smallbone, an English manufacturer, is known. The Smallbone philosophy, which other manufacturers are adapting, is to construct kitchen cabinets like fine furniture, down to the finishing, detailing and layout. Styles are mixed, and built-ins combined with freestanding pieces provide a look very different from all-the-same cabinets of equal depth.

Plain & Fancy illustrates the unfitted philosophy with a freestanding country baking center in blue antique distressed finish on maple in a white kitchen. The center is quite a standout, with its arched top framing shelves for displaying pretty bowls. Fluting on its pilasters adds a nice but not overdone embellishment. A butcher block counter provides a surface for kneading and rolling out dough, and pigeonhole spice drawers are another handy feature.

A single colorful piece is especially effective when its color is echoed throughout the room. Plain & Fancy shows the same blue in the interiors of white cabinets surrounding the baking center, a thoughtful detail. A kitchen like this will start at $15,000, depending on the cabinets and accessory options.

Controlled doses of color need not be limited to accent cabinets. Kohler's Timberline sink in forest green, for example, could draw the eye in an otherwise quiet setting. Its gleaming brass faucets sparkle like jewelry. The green is especially effective against a buff-colored backdrop.

Or consider zeroing in on a major appliance as a color focal point. Commercial ranges designed for residential use are good candidates because they are such dominant pieces. Further, their design can be as distinguished as that of a luxury car or vintage steam engine.

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