2008/11: Ask Me
Q&A 10 years ago No Comments

My house was built in the 80’s, and I am painting the whole house. My question is this: I have a huge kitchen with a large blue tile floor with cream tiles around the island. This cannot be changed, so can you tell me what color to paint my kitchen, which has a chair rail around. My next headache is a bathroom with rose fixtures. The bottom half is white tile with pink grout. What color would work for the top half” Help!


(submitted by Joanne M.)

Joanne, I normally do not address decorating problems, but 1) your last name is McDonald (maybe we’re related!), 2) you sound desperate and panicked, and 3) decorating is an important part of the interior design process, so here goes…

Yours is definitely a common problem, but don’t stress.

In the kitchen, warm, natural colors are usually preferable. Psychologically, they evoke feelings of comfort and security, and they reflect fire and heat – i.e., the process cooking – and food sources like herbs, trees and plants. There are only few blue foods that occur naturally, and blue is always a cool hue. For this reason, I rarely like to see blue dominate a kitchen.
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Therefore, I would recommend balancing out the blue tile floor with a complimentary warm, spicy color in the orange family. Imagine sunsets, pumpkins, terra cotta or even something as bright as coral. Another way to go is toasty brown, deep burgundy, rich gold or caramel-y colors. You can even skew yellow if you like a sunnier, more summery feel, which could be perfect for a home in a warmer climate. (I just realized that I don’t know where you are located.)
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As far as the pink fixtures and grout in the bathroom, mellowing the room out with more neutral colors would probably be best. Creams, light grays, and even very pale gray-greens (think light sage) would balance things out and tone down the pink a little. (Please note that the colors showing up here may not look as I have intended due to the calibration of your monitor.)
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Always remember that colors – even what are perceived as “neutrals” – all have undertones of other colors, which is what makes them cool, warm or truly neutral. Disharmony happens with combining, say, a shade of green with warm yellow undertones with a beige with cool gray undertones.

For this reason, be sure to get plenty of samples from the paint department and compare them side by side to each other. An orange just may look orange by itself, but place it up next to other oranges, and you may realize that it has really brown undertones.

When you narrow it down, it would be worth the investment – especially in the kitchen if you are painting the cabinets – to get the paint store to mix some quarts for you to test with. Paint a nice-sized section (at least 3’x3′ or so) and let it dry completely to its intended color before making a decision. (Be patient, as this could take up to a week depending on humidity levels.)

You’ll also want to look at it during all times of day because natural light will affect how you perceive the color. I have a yellow wall in my office, and depending on what time of day it is, it can look canary, buttery or gold.

I hope that this has helped. The best of luck with your renovation. And if all else fails, hire a professional interior designer to consult with you for an hour or two. It will most likely save you days of frustration and quite a bit of money in the long run.