As someone fairly opinionated about color, I love a good hue-related challenge—and the owner of this sweet little 3 bedroom, 1 bath house has certainly brought me several brainteasers over the years.
My exploits include helping change the home’s exterior colors from brown + white to deep red + banana cream + grey-blue (with a phase that required the old body color to work with the new trim paint).
The exterior paint consult was a follow-up to one where I suggested interior colors meant to help offset a prior owner’s choice of deep blue wall-to-wall carpet in the living room and hallway. [Nothing could really overpower Big Blue, alas, but I tried.]
Thankfully, the owner finally ripped out both Big Blue and some boring tan carpet in order to have the original oak floors redone. As my past paint picks still seemed good to go, I used the visit to marvel at how the home’s 1000 square feet felt a whole lot bigger and brighter. Credit where earned, though: that damn Blue wore like iron.
Yep, the mid-fifties beauty was looking good for its age. With one major exception, that is: the kitchen.
When I was tapped to join the makeover team the workspace was gutted, new renters were dialed in and waiting in the proverbial wings, and I had only a few nights and weekends to move the owner from options to purchases. Yee-haw!
From Mauve to Modernized: The Owner’s Stipulations
- Ignore the house’s cottage vibes and play up its mid-century ones
- Work with new deep brown “transitional” style cabinets + existing bright white appliances + existing light-colored laminate floor (and take neighboring oak floor into consideration)
- Weigh in on: a granite counter (from 2 pre-fab options); a backsplash; a treatment for the column wall; faucet, sink, and cabinet hardware choices
- Propose choices/directions as fast as possible and from in-stock items only
As I knew from observation and experience that backsplash options were endless and overwhelming, I started pitching ideas. The front-runner: a vertical running bond (here seen executed in spendy, gorgeously variegated tile):
Having viewed “my” two pre-fab granite slab options—a dark purplish brown with lots of movement or a lighter grey with much less going on—I voted for the grey and the owner committed to it.
At the time, it seemed the world was my oyster in terms of coordinating tile options. Ah, sweet ignorance!
Limited to tile that was no more than $5 square/foot and in-stock, the owner and I quickly found the road to vertical running bond was a dead end. Aside from echoing the rather…captivating…white appliances, the inexpensive shiny white selections did little for anything or anyone and competed with the highly reflective granite.
[Thus my preference for honed/satin finishes and/or relatively solid shades for counters....]
Searching for alternatives and coming up short, I proposed revisiting the vertical running bond inspiration photos from a new direction: the way all had a low-contrast ‘splash/counter color scheme.
The matte grey/glistening grey solution was chosen, and the walls were swathed in 6×12 rectangles set in a stacked bond pattern. Given that the tile’s linear striations added to the growing patternpalooza, I suggested a coordinating versus contrasting grout.
Hoping the owner had forgotten about making the column wall a major focal point, I proposed wrapping the jig-jag feature in the backsplash tile and calling it good. I mean given the movement/textural elements in the granite and tile, there was plenty going on already, right?
Let’s just say the result of the conversation was that I got busy studying up on pattern-mixing.
Luckily my next idea—a mosaic that tied in cabinet, counter, and floor shades without being glaringly high-contrast—made it up onto the walls.
Now: stylistically this space is even more of a mutt than my own dwelling. But the owner’s happy, the new tenants didn’t flee, and I…well, as one who skews towards my own brand of visual minimalism I’m recovering nicely.
While those who hate it’s-a-great-backdrop-for-both-pales-AND-brights grey are out of luck, I think there’s a lot to love about this little kitchen ‘o neutrals—especially compared to its predecessor!
If you made it through all the photos and/or text: Congrats and thanks; this post didn’t take to being split into parts.