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Ask the Editor: Warm Paint Colors

A kitchen painted in warm colors

Photo: Dana Wheelock Photography

Designed by DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide.

What Paint Colors Will Achieve a Warm Look?


Question: "I have oak cabinets along with white floor tiles, white countertops and white walls. I'm not planning on changing the counters, the flooring or the cabinets, but I want to paint the walls to give the kitchen a warm and inviting look. What should I consider?"


Answer: Most designers agree that reds, yellows and oranges are generally considered to be the warm colors.

"Warm colors are inviting and appeal to the senses," says Doty Horn, the Director of Color and Design at Benjamin Moore says. "Usually the red- and yellow-based tones are selected for kitchens, since they convey a hospitality element."

Even by limiting yourself to reds, yellows and oranges, you'll still be opening up a Pandora's box of color options. To get started, Becky Ralich Spak, senior interior designer with the color marketing and design department at Sherwin-Williams, suggests looking for "mid-tone values — the colors in the middle of the strips — in warm color families."

Your oak cabinets will play a large role when trying to pinpoint specific colors.

"Oak cabinets usually have a yellow-based tone, unless stained," explains Horn. She and Ralich Spak both recommended looking at terra cotta reds, cork-colored yellows and yellow-based greens for your walls. Ralich Spak also suggested Sherman-Williams' Anjou pear color, as well as gold and copper hues.

Whatever colors you decide to investigate, picking up trial size paints is a good way to see how different shades will look in your home. Most paint companies sell sample packs of their colors that, after the application of primer, can easily be brushed over a small area.

For accent colors, remember that they don't necessarily have to come in the form of paint. Window treatments, placemats, hardware and other kitchen accessories can often be found in colors that can complement to your kitchen.

If you're planning to update your appliances, choosing a warm color instead of the standard white, black or stainless also can make your kitchen more inviting.

"The trend toward warm, bronzed metallic colors is adding flair in kitchen appliances," says Horn. "This will give consumers an opportunity to mix warm and cool colors. The warm metallic mixed with a medium to charcoal gray wall color and oak cabinets can provide a real contemporary twist."

One final point to consider: not all whites are the same. Many have undertones of another color. Glossy, matte or textured finishes also can differentiate white surfaces.

"People think anything goes with white, and for the most part it does, but don't forget to look at your existing finishes for help in determining color selection," says Ralich Spak.