/ The Editor

Ask the Editor: Kitchen Color Trends

A kitchen with soft natural shades

Courtesy of The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute

What Colors Are Being Used in New Kitchens?


Question: "My husband and I are going to start building a house within the next couple of months. What colors are being used in new kitchens? I want the kitchen to really 'pop'. I appreciate any advice you can give us."

Answer: To some extent, the style of your kitchen dictates color options: A rustic kitchen might call for warm, earthy tones; country would more likely allow for fresh yellows, greens and blues. Material selections will affect your color choices, too.


Cabinetry in Dark Brown and Black

When it comes to wood cabinetry, dark brown has been the buzz for the past few years. Jenny Owen, an interior designer with Kitchen & Bath Cottage in Shreveport, La., points to chocolate and black glazes. Java stains, ala Barbara Barry's collection for Baker Furniture, are another top choice, says Antoinette Fraser, founder of Saint Clair Kitchen & Home in South Orange, N.J.

Not that lighter colors don't have their place. "A lot of people are using cherry as the wood tone. It's not super-dark, more a medium-toned cherry with a matte finish," says Owen. Another option is to go with dark cabinetry on the perimeter and contrasting island cabinetry, perhaps in a lighter maple or painted white.


Red Goes Anywhere

If you're into contemporary Euro design, red-of the glossy, candy-apple or fire-engine sort-is a great choice for cabinets. If that's a bit much, consider bringing in red as an accent color, whether in a tile backsplash, pendant lighting or even a range hood.

When it comes to appliances, most homeowners are still getting them paneled to match the cabinetry or choosing stainless steel. But shades beyond white, black and biscuit are making a comeback as makers of pro-style appliances add glossy primary colors and subtler metallic finishes to their palettes.


Mixed Metal Accents and Trim

Mixing metals such as pewter and brass, says Fraser, is another important trend. That means switching up, rather than matching, your faucets, cabinetry hardware, and appliance handles and trim.

Consider applying the same concept to your counters. Owen suggests dark granite or another natural stone on the perimeter counters, with a butcher block top on the island. Fraser, a self-proclaimed Francophile, often works with white marble and Lagos blue limestone;  or their quartz-based equivalents, which stain less easily.


Paint in Soft Natural Shades

Of course, the least expensive way to add or change color, especially if you're apprehensive, is with paint. If you're afraid of going over the top, the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute recommends trying dusty shades of blue and lavender, as well as rosy browns. While found in nature, these colors offer more pizzazz than earth-toned neutrals.

Debbie Zimmer, color and decorating expert for the Paint Quality Institute, also suggests trying metallic paint as an accent option, and treating the ceiling with something more than a flat white paint. That could take the form of a glossier paint, a different or color or a different material and color-tin ceilings in an Old World or farmstyle kitchen, for example.


Ask the Editor: Project Schedule

A kitchen in the early stages of a remodel.

Where Can I Get a Project Plan for a Remodel?

Question: "Is there somewhere I can get a project plan for a remodel; i.e., an actual project plan in a format like a Gantt chart? It should have every possible item on it and what order it should be done in. Then I can pick and choose the items I am doing and see the order they should be completed in.

I know demo is first. But are floors next, or do you put cabinets in before floors? What if I don't have enough money for cabinets right now? Can I put floors in now and then put cabinets in? What if I change the configuration of the cabinets? Do I need to have enough flooring left over for if I change the cabinets a year from now? Is there a book that will give me this info? Why don't more construction people use project managers to keep on track?"


Answer: There are professional construction management software programs; Sage Master Builder and Sage Timberline are two that come to mind that work for custom homes or remodels.

Plenty of contractors do have project managers; but you will pay more for those companies' expertise and professionalism, just as you would pay more to work with a certified public accountant instead of a bookkeeper, or to see an ophthalmologist rather than get an eye exam at a retail store.

When remodeling, you can be flexible about the order in which you install cabinets and flooring to a certain extent. If you are replacing your flooring but not your cabinets, you can simply measure, cut and lay new flooring around the cabinets. You might not even have to pull up the old floor as long as it provides a decent substrate for the new flooring.

However, if you think you will be able to replace your cabinets in just a year, I would wait and replace both at the same time. Here's why:

Matching up the seams on existing and new vinyl or linoleum flooring can be a major challenge. With wood, the finish can be particularly difficult to match and likely will require re-sanding and -staining of the whole floor. And unless tile fits perfectly against the cabinets, the border tiles will probably be cut to fit. Which means that when the cabinets come up, you'll have to tear up the border tiles and then finish laying the rest of the floor.

Also, once the cabinets come out, you'll have a better idea of what is lurking underneath. An older home may have multiple layers of flooring-some of which didn't go under cabinets and appliances-in which case you will find significant variations in floor height that require removing some of those layers in order to make changing the layout possible.



Ask the Editor: Where to Spend

A kitchen with medium brown cabinetry and dark countertops

Where Should I Spend My Remodeling Dollars?


Question: "My husband and I just bought a house — a bit of a fixer — and we are planning on redoing the kitchen. Our kitchen is very outdated, but we are planning on gutting everything except the structure of the actual walls. The only appliance that we are keeping is the refrigerator. We are on a very limited budget. I was wondering what areas are the best areas to cut corners and go cheap and what are the areas that we should spend a little bit more of the budget on in order to get good quality?"


Answer: This is a good time to invest in your flooring and cabinetry. You're not likely to be eager to tear up your kitchen again anytime soon.

Eliminating professional design and installation from the budget may seem like an easy cut, but I'd suggest you think twice. For every beautifully done do-it-yourself kitchen I've seen, there's been at least one that is ill-proportioned, sloppy and downright dysfunctional-often requiring professionals to come to the rescue for more money than it would have cost to hire them upfront.


Affordable Flooring

While it is often possible to install a new floor over the existing floor, an older home may have so many layers of flooring that doors can't close properly. Or if additional layers didn't go under cabinets and appliances, you will find significant variations in floor height that make changing the kitchen layout impossible.

I would suggest tearing out the old flooring, making sure the floor joists are structurally sound and can bear the weight of your new kitchen (stone tiles are heavier than vinyl and a bigger range will weigh more than a smaller, for example), and checking to see that the subfloor is free of rot or mold.

As a high-moisture, high-traffic area, the kitchen requires a durable floor material. Carpeting and vinyl are your most affordable choices. You'll probably want to avoid carpeting, which doesn't stand up well to cooking spills and isn't in fashion for kitchens. Today's vinyl comes in multiple patterns, colors and textures, and can look and feel remarkably like natural stone. If you like the look of wood floors, laminate is a cheaper, easier-to-maintain alternative. Both vinyl and laminate floors are relatively easy to install.


Choose the Right Cabinetry

Cabinets usually make up the biggest portion of kitchen material costs. Not only do they take up a majority of the space, they have a huge impact on overall style and aesthetics. And designed properly, they can hold a lot of goods and gadgets that might currently be residing on your counters, or even in another room.

Stock cabinets — the standard box sizes, door styles, materials and finishes that a dealer or retailer would be expected to have on hand and deliver quickly — often are the cheapest option. Just make sure you look for quality construction details such as casework and shelves at least ½-inch thick, drawers that close smoothly and even finishes.

However, stock cabinets may not make the best use of space, especially in an older home or unusually shaped kitchen. In that case, you might want to look for a local business that builds custom cabinets. While custom cabinets can be extraordinarily expensive, using a local shop will avoid costly shipping charges. A smaller business will have less overhead to pass on to customers and might also allow you to save money by doing the staining yourself.

Chosen well, your cabinets can last for decades. Spending money on quality construction-thicker, stronger backs and shelves; wood or plywood (not particleboard) boxes; dovetailed drawers-will serve you well.

Save money by avoiding pricier woods, purchasing "aftermarket" storage accessories that you can install yourself, and searching for online deals on knobs and pulls.


Easy Upgrades:

Paint your walls now to save money. You can easily repaint later or add wallpaper, beadboard, molding or even a tile backsplash without much fuss.

Sinks and faucets always can be replaced with more decorative models. The expensive part is adding plumbing-say, if you want tadd a prep sink or dishwasher to the island down the road.

Appliances come in a few standard widths. You can get a sleek white or black 30-inch freestanding gas range with all the basic functions for $350 to $400 and a comparable 30-inch top-mount refrigerator for $450 to $500. You can exchange them for models with more features or in designer colors later on if you choose.

Counters are labor-intensive to switch out, but it can be done. Laminate counters are the equivalent of vinyl floors-an affordable, durable option with many colors, textures and patterns. Laminate can mimic metal for a modern look or stone for a traditional style. Tile is another affordable choice, but the uneven surface and grout's tendency to stain turn some cooks off. Granite, quartz, solid surface, metal and wood counters all cost significantly more.


Thrifty Shopping Solutions

If you have the time and patience, try searching online materials exchanges or brick-and-mortar salvage and reuse stores. Materials exchanges allow businesses, nonprofits and individuals to trade, sell and buy surplus or used products, including a full range of building supplies. eBay is an obvious example, but many nonprofit and/or building supply specialty sites exist, too.

Reuse stores serve the same purpose as exchanges. Some only allow low-income homeowners or nonprofit agencies to shop. Others allow anyone to purchase, and donate profits to organizations that support affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity has a national network of Habitat ReStores run by its local chapters. These materials might include anything from last season's appliance models to a kitchen's worth of barely used cabinets that a homeowner replaced in a remodel.

Salvage stores tend to feature reclaimed, architecturally significant items such as wood planks from old barns or antique sinks. These items often don't fall into the "cheap" category, but they might be cheaper than buying brand new.

One challenge with any of these methods, of course, is that the available materials may not meet your needs or tastes. You may be in for a long wait and a lot of browsing.



Ask the Editor: Remodeling a Small Kitchen

Layout/plan for a small kitchen

Photo: Beganik Design

Kitchen designed by Goldenwood Cabinetry, Becker, Minn.

Updating the Layout of an Old Kitchen


Question: "I just bought my house and the kitchen really needs to be remodeled. The problem is, every wall in this cube has a door, doorway or a window. And the window is too low to put a counter in front of. I do have a table right now in front of the window, but I can't open the refrigerator or my baker's rack all the way. This was a cottage built near the beginning of the 20th century, and I don't think the kitchen was made to entertain."



Answer: Like any remodeling project, you'll first have to ask yourself what you're willing to spend. The doors, hallways and long window all pose problems, and the best ways to make this kitchen more functional and entertaining-friendly involve structural changes, which can become expensive in a hurry.If cost isn't a big concern, consider eliminating the bathroom entrance into the kitchen."One of the first things I would look at is the possibility of closing the door off for the bathroom and moving that entrance someplace else, perhaps off the front hall," says Therese Kenney, a designer at Drury Design in Glen Ellyn, Ill. "That gives the homeowner another wall for cabinetry and countertops.""Moving the hallway entrance to the kitchen down to the opposite end," she adds, would give you the "L" kitchen shape, and you could put a table in the corner.If the hallway entrance cannot be shifted, Kenney suggests moving the living room entrance to the stove's current location to create another common kitchen layout."[Moving the living room entrance] would give you the opportunity to create a "U"-shaped kitchen opposite the bathroom, and keep the traffic flow out of the working area of the kitchen," she says.

If your goal is to make the space feel less boxed in, consider creating an open floor plan by knocking down the wall separating the kitchen and the living room. In this scenario, you could also add an island with a range in front of the sink, eliminating the need for a stove near the living room. Just remember that NKBA planning guidelines call for the island to be at least 42 inches from the front of the sink.

Even if structural changes are out of your budget (or if they will compromise the integrity of the home), an island behind the sink could still increase the functionality of your kitchen. It could either serve as a space for your range, or it could be used as a work station and a table. A two-tiered island can help you create separation between the cook's space and the guest's space. While this plan eliminates a traditional table from the room, the island seating area still allows you to entertain.



Ask the Editor: Mixing Finishes

A kitchen with a variety of finishes.

Finishes: To Mix or Not to Mix?


Question: "I am renovating a cottage and changing it into a log cabin. I have a newer stainless steel oven and refrigerator. I am putting in knotty pine cabinets, an earthy green counter, brown or green drywall on the walls. I would really like to use Tuscan bronze as the finish on the faucet, but will that work with the stainless appliances? Also, what kind of sink should I go with?" —Nancy L.


Answer: Don't worry about faucet or hardware finishes contrasting the stainless steel; people do it all the time. This kitchen remodel is one example, featuring stainless steel appliances paired with warmer finishes on the cabinetry hardware and sink faucet. You can expect to see even more warm-tone finishes in the coming year as the look gains favor among homeowners and designers.

A single-bowl farm sink with an apron front — either a white vitreous china or a metal — would be a good look. If that's too pricey or if you want two bowls, any kind of undermount sink would be less obtrusive. But remember: changing the size and installation method (apron and undermount sinks are both different from a basic drop-in sink) will require an appropriately fabricated countertop.



Ask the Editor: Colonial Colors

A kitchen with green cabinetry

Our attempt, using Valspar's online paint tool, to envision colors for your kitchen. Be aware when using online tools that colors always appear different in person than they do on the screen.

What Accent Color Will Pull My Kitchen Together?


Question: We are in the process of redoing our kitchen for our 1785 Colonial. We are going to have black granite countertops. The cabinets will be an antique white/canvas color. The upper half of the walls will be white. The wainscoting, trim and doors will be oxblood red. I have an old hutch I want to paint; but I'm not sure if I should go green or yellow. Also, what about color for other accent pieces? Dish linens? Curtains? -Janet H.



For advice on your accent colors, we turned to color consultant Kate Smith, principal of Sensational Color and chair of the Color Marketing Group's 2008 International Conference. "I think green would work better than yellow for her old hutch," Smith responded by email. She recommends a green with more yellow than blue, and a lighter shade rather than a darker, to offer more contrast to the oxblood red.

As an example, she pointed to this custom hutch by Crown Point Cabinetry, which used a brown glaze and green and black milk paints to create the distressed finish on the built-in hutch. Made for hundreds of years with milk protein, lime, clay, and pigments such as umber and iron oxide, milk paint is ideal for a true historical home such as yours. "The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company is a fun company that has colors from the period of her home," wrote Smith.

"As for accessories, she could pick up the yellow/gold she mentioned," Smith added, suggesting you look for modern dishware in a hue similar to that of yellowware, a type of clay pottery made in the 1700s and 1800s. "Alternately, she could use a brighter golden yellow. Looking at the historic colors from any paint brand can be a guide to finding a yellow or gold that will blend with the other two colors."

Examples include Valspar's Colonial Revival Colors, Behr's Colors of the 13 Colonies, Benjamin Moore's Neo Colonial palette, and Sherwin-Williams' Classical/Colonial Preservation Palette

For more color ideas, try Smith's blog, Color for Your Home. Click here for Valspar's online paint tool



Ask the Editor: A Timeless Finish

Cabinets with a medium brown finisn

A medium-brown cabinet finish never goes out of style.

What is the Safest Cabinet Choice?

Question: "We're getting a newly constructed home in a few months and will soon be selecting our kichen cabinet colors. There are three colors we like, and we're having a hard time deciding what we like best. The three colors are espresso, biscotti and caramel. We prefer maple or cherry wood with pulls rather than knobs. "Transitional" best describes our style. We plan to make this our long term home. As a result, we want our kitchen to be modern, but we're hoping that what we choose won't just be a short-lived trend and go out of style in a few years. What is your advice on the safest choice to go with?" —Carm and Coz, Canada

Answer: You're off to a good start. Wood cabinetry has broader appeal than cabinets made from other materials, and maple and cherry are the most popular species. According to a 2008 survey of cabinet manufacturers conducted by Kitchen + Bath Business magazine, maple accounts for 42 percent of the market for wood cabinets and cherry for 21 percent. Cherry wood typically costs about 20 percent more than maple, which can be an important factor in choosing between the two. Maple and cherry both work with transitional design styles and with all three of the finish choices you mentioned.

So, on to the finishes. Espresso, biscotti and caramel are all good, neutral choices, but I recommend caramel. A medium-brown stained finish never goes out of style. It works with light or dark countertops, flooring, paint and wall tile, too.

Espresso would be my second choice. This darker shade of brown has been fashionable for the past few years and therefore is more likely to "date" your home, in my opinion. Your color palette would be a little more limited as well, because dark cabinets require light-colored surfaces to keep the kitchen from becoming too gloomy.

As for biscotti, I ruled it out first simply because it is usually a painted and glazed finish, which is better suited to a country or a traditional style kitchen. Also, a glazed finish is always more expensive.