Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thoughts on choosing dark kitchen cabinets

 Questions  about the wisdom of  choosing dark  kitchen cabinets keep cropping up in my reading and client discussions. Of course there are no absolutes in decorating.  You can make anything work or look good if you have the skills, and using dark cabinets in any room  requires a deft hand.

If you want your dark cabinet choice to work and have the longest style staying power, consider the following:

Let the cabinets shine

dark cabinets high contrast

 When I work with clients who want everything that they consider trendy in one space, I always discuss the wisdom of this approach.   Something has to be the star in a space and you should decide in the beginning what the star will be.  When you choose dark cabinets they demand centre stage, and everything else should support them and make them look their best.  Using lots of white or very light colours with dark cabinets is the way to go to get that sophisticated, rich, classy look that many people are after when they choose dark cabinets.  

Use  in open area spaces

dark cabinets open concept

Dark cabinets work well in large, open area spaces where the wall colours are lighter rather than darker. The dark cabinets help to balance and ground the space. .

Have breaks in the dark flow

open spaces with dark kitchen cabinets

 Leaving lots of wall space free of cabinets and/or having glass with light interior cabinets can do a  lot to balance a darker cabinet colour.  Having contrast with the floor is a must to create a lively space.

Mix dark and light together

mixing light and dark kitchen cabinets

 If you are afraid of too much dark but like the look why not do a mix of darks and lights together? 

Questions to consider: 

 Is there enough contrast with the floor? 

dark kitchen cabinets dark floors

When you choose dark cabinets your floors need to contrast with the cabinets or you are going to have the "bear cave" look that happens when your floors blend in with your cabinets. This is not an attractive look for  smaller spaces.    Even thought the floor above does have some contrast with the cabinets, I would have chosen something a tad lighter to open up the space.  Again, no absolutes, only considerations and photos often lie.  This is a lovely space.

 Is there enough contrast between elements?

dark kitchen cabinets contrast

This space is unusually dark.  It is the perfect kitchen for someone, but I would venture to say that it would not be a selling point for many buyers.

Can you have too much  pattern?

patterned countertop and backsplash

  When you have darker, busy countertops  and then have patterned backsplash you are setting up pattern competition, and it can look very busy in a small space. My rule of thumb is patterned counter, plain backsplash.

Do you have enough lighting?

adequate kitchen lighting dark cabinets

Sometimes it is difficult to tell from a photo exactly how much light is in a space.  This space is reading dark even with the obviously adequate lighting from three (probably four with under counter) light sources and light reflection from the white counter and backsplash.

Who knew there was so much to consider when you decide to go for dark!  Again, there are no absolutes only considerations and balances.   Happy decision making.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Tips for painitng small spaces

 The one topic I've written about on my blog that gets attention from thousands of decor happy readers is decorating small spaces.  I think that is because rooms and homes today are smaller than they once were.  People living in condos or apartments must be conscious of using every trick in the book to enlarge their living spaces. So stay awhile and see how colour can solve some of your small space dilemmas.  Perhaps in these suggestions you will find a treatment for your small space.

Use one colour everywhere

This might seem like an extreme solution but it isn't really.  Using one colour all over a room makes the different planes blend together  to give a more unified look.  You can even use the same colour on the floor and ceiling if you wish.  Since your eye continues to move  freely around the room you have no sense of the boundaries of it.

same colour on walls and ceiling bedroom

If I could change one thing about this room above, I would paint the trim a soft pink too to keep the eye moving. Painting  trim white creates vertical and horizontal lines that your eyes automatically go to and follow. You can see the difference in the room below where the trim is painted out.  The room has an unbroken field of colour that is certainly expansive even though a dark colour was used.

painting trim and walls same colour


More blue, but the trim is painted a coordinating colour that is closer in value to the walls decreasing the emphasis on  the trim which seems to just blend in.

dark colours in small living room

Use cool colours 

 The rooms above are using the same colour almost everywhere, but they  are also utilizing another colour trick. Cool colours like blues, blue grays etc. make the walls of a room recede thus making the space appear larger than it actually is. Blues are an excellent choice for small bathrooms, laundry rooms, spare bedrooms, etc.  When walls recede you tend to notice the furnishings rather than the  "box" that contains them.

There's nothing like a cool lavender with white and light grays to expand a space.  

dark walls small living room

Use a dark colour on the walls

That's right, a dark colour!  Would you ever think that would work?  It does because  the corners disappear in the shadows and your eye moves around easily. Darker colours are often perceived as  visually deeper. There are  decorators who take the opposite approach to keeping walls light in a small space.  And the final trick with dark colours in small rooms is to paint them in a semi-gloss or gloss to reflect light.  This approach is not for the faint of heart,  but it can be quite stunning.   If you're afraid to go really dark choose a mid value gray or taupe.

Use a colour you see outside

Blues and greens give the impression that the room continues beyond the windows. You can paint the walls an outside colour or use one  in your fabric choices.  I love the freshness of the room below. It certainly is reminiscent of  plants.

blue and green living room

blending outside and inside colours

Designer Christina Murphy uses green to great effect  to visually extend this room by connecting it to the view outside the window.  Keeping a simple colour scheme is also visually enlarging.

blending outside and inside in decor 

Everything about this room invites the outside in and blends the two together. Lighter floors always enlarge a space.  There are no dark hardwoods in my life, I like light and airy all the way.

Keep walls and furniture a similar colour 

 When you keep the furniture and walls close to the same colour you are blurring the lines between them. As a result the mass of the furniture is decreased and the overall volume of the room is increased.  If you don't wish to have all the furniture the same colour consider having at least  the bigger items like armoires and chests close to the wall colour so they will begin to blend into the room and widen it out.

Decor by Jennifer Inc contemporary family room

I also want the cabinet for the TV to be a lighter colour, but it is undeniably a focal point in the room  and every room needs one. I'd also skip the dark wood rods which your eye travels to automatically because of the contrast, but I also understand why the decorator chose them (all the woods in the room are dark).   Overall I love these two rooms.  They are warm and inviting.

Alexandru Apartment lviing room contemporary living room

I equally love the cool minimal look  of this room, but it isn't for everyone.

Paint a Focal Wall


 I'm not a large fan of painting a focal wall.  I think sometimes it works to great advantage, but most times it is a less than creative solution in a space. This strategy  can work wonders in a small space, Don't be afraid to paint an accent wall a darker receding color thus  making the space look larger.

Living Room  dark focal wall

 And there you have it.  The only thing left to do is decide which of these solutions will work in your space. 
 Happy painting.

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