Shades of Style

Just as each day can bring surprises, choices in color for the home are becoming more unexpected. Influenced by culture, technology and the desire for an escape, consumers are choosing colors that suit their needs and reflect their personal style.

Many factors enter into play when choosing colors for the kitchen and bath. Neutrals are still the safest bet for those who are concerned about resale value, however, today’s neutrals are not the one-dimensional beiges and grays of the past. Rich-toned as well as soothing shades are also coming to the forefront. Yet, there is still room in design for contemporary brights and retro hues.

Color combinations are also making news for their non-traditional approach. “In 2006, home furnishings colors will show some interesting new directions, especially in very original, intricate and not-at-all-formulaic combinations,” notes Leatrice Eiseman, executive director, Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, NJ.

“In the past, you would use a main color with an accent color,” adds Kathie Maughan Francis, president of Maughan Design in Portland, OR. “Now I’m seeing a trend toward using three or four colors and blending them in a harmonious but changing way as you walk through the home.”

Maughan continues, “A number of clients are looking to achieve cheerful and playful as much as traditional cozy and inviting. There is less of an emphasis on matching. People are more interested in sophisticated blending.”

“We’re seeing the trend of mixing of materials and mixing histories, such as an architectural find from long ago mixed with very modern materials,” notes Sarah Reep, ASID, CKD, CMG, director of design at Kraftmaid Cabinetry, Inc. in Middlefield, OH. “It’s not just all matchy, matchy.”

It’s also a really interesting transitional time, adds Renee Hytry, CMG, senior v.p. of global design for Formica Corp. in Cincinnati, OH. “We’re seeing a definite split between the cool and warm colors,” she stresses.

Natural Neutrals

Though neutral tones are still the basis for most kitchens and baths, the colors themselves are neither bland nor boring. The grays, beiges, whites and yellows of today have richer tones and textures, and, as a result, are anything but ordinary.

“Typically, we think of neutral as devoid of any color,” explains Ginguei Ebnesajjad, manager, product styling and development, at DuPont Surfaces in Wilmington, DE. “What we are seeing now is neutral becoming tinted with color – a neutral natural. What makes it complex and interesting is that it is exactly what nature offers us.”

She continues: “Twenty years ago, we only looked at green. Now, we look for every nuance, as it is in nature. And, it’s color that’s gone from being a focal point into color that has become one of the attributes of a product or material.”

“These are not typical earth tones,” notes Pantone’s 2006 Color Report of its Grounded neutral palette. “They are organic and genuine, as they suggest minerals, ores, stones and striated rock formation in subtle, artful blends of uncontrived simplicity.”

“The increased interest in warmer tones means that a lot of those gray granites of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s are going by the wayside,” offers Mick De Giulio, president/owner, de Giulio Kitchen Design in Wilmette, IL. “Instead, it’s going towards some of the warmer palettes of stones, ones that have more sandy tones or sienna tones, or ochre – a little bit of yellow and less steely gray.”

De Giulio notes that he uses a limestone that has a reddish tint to it in some of his designs. “It’s got terracotta and red in it, and that makes it warm,” he observes.

The complex nature of these colors makes them chameleon in nature, according to Ebnesajjad. “When you butt these neutrals against other colors, they can change the perception of the colors,” she points out.

Green is the newest player in the neutral palette, according to many color experts and designers. “Green has become a new neutral, because if you look outside, you see green all around you,” stresses Doty Horn, director of color and design, Benjamin Moore & Co. in Montvale, NJ. “So, it’s a backdrop.” Green also fits into the neutral natural concept for the same reason.

Many of the latest designs in ceramic tile coming out of Italy feature green elements and designs. “There are a lot of leaf motifs – from clovers to delicate vines,” reports Christine Abbate, principal of Brooklyn, NY-based Novita Communications, who is also a representative for Ceramic Tiles of Italy.

Darker neutrals are also becoming more of a mainstay, according to Janice A. Pattee, CKD, CMG, president/owner, Janice Pattee Design in Indianapolis, IN. “Brown is really just hot off the presses,” she states. “It’s popular in wood finishes, and neutrals are becoming darker.”

“We’ve seen the browns and the golden tones really rise to the top, influenced by stones and real woods,” concurs Hytry.

Yellow is getting the brown treatment, becoming a little darker, richer and more golden in recent times. Whites are also still a mainstay, but they, too, feature just a hint of brown. Pearls and linens are the whites currently getting the most play.

“We’re getting away from the sterile whites,” notes De Giulio. Combining whites – such as pearls and linens and parchments – gives an updated, fresher look to today’s designs, he adds.

Dark vs Light

With regard to wood cabinets, dark seems to be the watchword. “We’ve been going through a very light period in a lot of ways, and I’m seeing dark coming in very heavily with regard to cabinetry – black walnuts, mahoganies, cherries – the more dramatic, heavy finishes,” notes Florence Perchuk, CKD, president, Florence Perchuk & Associates in New York, NY.

“Wood cabinet color is becoming richer and deeper,” concurs Ebnesajjad. While she notes that mid-tone cherry is still the most popular, “the stain I see more is the one going darker, like wenge.”

To make the darker woods work within today’s kitchens, De Giulio often combines them with light surfaces, be it a backsplash or countertop. “That surface is the middle area of what we see, and that determines whether a kitchen is light and airy, which is the usual client request,” he says.

Cabinet colors aren’t strictly dark, however. “I see a lot of beautiful, exotic woods – very dark woods or very light woods – nothing much in between,” comments Melanie C. Wood, CMG, design consultant, Melanie Wood Designs, Inc. in Knoxville, TN. “I see the light washed woods that are just like a cedar tone, then rich woods that look exotic, as deep as the teaks.”

“What I see in both color and finishes in wood seems to be the extremes. It’s either very light colors or very dark colors – no longer middle ground,” adds Hytry. “And, they’re used in the same environment, which actually ultimately balances out.”

Pattee reports that there is an increasing interest in lighter woods, including beech. “I think this is influenced by the streamlined simplicity of overall design,” she reports. “While I don’t think it’s going to be very big yet, it’s kind of this story of light versus dark, black versus white – only in this case, it’s cream versus brown.”

Perchuk sees the interest in light wood as a continuation of the interest in young, contemporary style. “Younger people don’t want to look like their parents,” she notes, “so this is where you get the more trendy looks that are infused with more color.

Bright On

While red will continue its run as one of the most significant accent colors of choice in the past few years, true red is being supplemented, and in some cases, supplanted, by different shades of red.

“Vibrant red in the kitchen is a very appetizing color – it stimulates the appetite – but it also gives a little jolt to the environment if your have white cabinets,” comments Horn.

“We’re starting to see red cabinetry,” notes Hytry, “pure color in high gloss finishes. The last five years it’s been all woods, but now it’s transitioning to where color is being added.”

“Reds have been – in all parts of design – very strong, be it from blushes to scarlets and the idea of deep reds to terracottas, which people react very well to,” De Giulio remarks.

The softer red of terracotta is seen as a top pick for 2006, as a complement to both wood cabinets and metal finishes.

“Terracotta is warm and earthbound, yet it’s still very vibrant – an organic bright,” Horn notes. “Organic brights get a little earthbound, a little dustier, but they still have a real undertone of vibrancy to them.”

“The combination of the silver of the stainless is softening against the cabinet tones and complemented and warmed by the terracotta,” observes Wood.

In addition to terracotta, Pattee sees other oranges, such as coral, replacing red in the overall palette. “The colors of yellow to orange hues are popular,” concurs Maughan. “The yellow family with an orange base, then softened quite a bit, are colors muted enough to work successfully in most designs.”

Tropical tones – such as greens, blues and purples – are also popular choices for 2006 and beyond, especially in the bath, notes Margaret Walch, director, The Color Association of the United States in New York, NY.

“In blue, we’re seeing turquoise,” says Perchuk. “We’re also seeing some lavenders, and in the green, you’ve got the accents of apple green, chartreuse and more subtle shades. We may even see avocado come back.”

“I’ve had two customers in the past year do a very bold blue countertop,” Maughan relates. She adds that backsplashes are also a popular place for bold color statements. “I recently did an installation with 37 different tiles in blues, coppers and gold in a free-form backsplash collage,” she says.

Into 2007, many color experts and designers are looking to various shades of purple as the next color of choice. “It could be used as a brown that has a blue/red in it, so it’s a purpled brown,” comments Pattee. “Metallic finishes can also become purpled, so maybe we would see it as a brushed finish of some sort.”

Perchuk sees it as an accent color, perhaps in the powder room, where a lot of color is used. “That’s where the sink will become violet or raspberry or metallic,” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of raspberry along with lavenders and purples.”

Retro Fits

Today’s bright colors are also borrowing from other eras, playing on shades seen in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s in the kitchen and the bath.

“Aqua is popular in the bath, but it’s a clearer, more vivid aqua than in years past,” notes Walch. She adds that there are no sad colors being used – “only bright, lively colors. If pinks are used, they aren’t the washed out pinks of the 1950s. They are much more vivid, even if the room is a retro-designer room.”

Hytry notes that, while 10 years ago people were restoring Victorian houses, many young consumers today are purchasing ranch houses built in the 1950s and restoring them back to their original form. “So, the nod to the past is actually shifting up a couple of decades,” she comments. Acknowledging the trend, Formica Corp. has launched countertop collections that have been styled back to the original colors of the 1950s and ’60s. Hytry even observes that a brand new fixture from an industry player features colors that Formica first offered in the 1950s. “However, for them, this is a newly developed color palette,” she stresses.

Shining Through

Of course, metals also have an impact on the cool and warm tones of a room’s design, especially in the kitchen and bath, where appliances, faucets and hardware play a pivotal role.

Stainless steel is still the mainstay for kitchen appliances, and that trend is expected to continue. However, many designers are itching for new choices. “I think of stainless as being that flat line, always there, because it makes so much sense,” comments De Giulio. “I think doing it in the right doses is key. However, it can be tamed down with some of the other muted metals, such as aluminum or nickel.”

“Stainless continues to be popular, but I’m sure that it’s going to get tired,” states Pattee. “It’s an established, saturated finish because it’s throughout every price point.”

While Pattee doesn’t foresee a shift toward other metals with regard to appliances any time soon, Perchuk is more optimistic. “I’m predicting that other materials will surface for appliances, such as bronze, pewter and copper,” she offers. “I think this will happen in the next two, three or four years.”

Stainless steel may go to the warmer side, where it has more of a titanium look, according to Ebnesajjad. On a trip to Europe recently, she notes that there was stainless steel that featured a gray tinted color in it. “I suspect further out, you’ll begin to see people using stainless steel with tinted color,” she comments.

Fixture-wise, there is continued expansion into other metals in addition to stainless steel, according to Ebnesajjad. “We see the evidence of copper, especially oxidized copper, which gives the aged look of an old penny,” she reports. “Surface textures expand from glossy and shiny surface into matte, honed and even tactility.” Polished and antique nickels, as well as pewter, are carving niches as well, as the industry continues to move further away from bright golds.

Shades of Spa

Wood believes that colors will move more toward a mid-tone, more tranquil palette in 2006 and 2007, “as people just want to have an emotional serenity around them.” Nowhere in the home is emotional serenity more evident than in the bath. “Today, we look at the home as a sanctuary, and the bath is the sanctuary of the sanctuary,” stresses Ebnesajjad.

Because of this desire for a relaxing haven, the majority of today’s bath designs are spa influenced. In addition to the various amenities associated with the spa, calm neutrals and serene shades are everywhere.

“The bath is becoming an experience,” notes Pattee, “so you see lighter colors, soothing colors, bright and soft. It’s calming. You’re not going to see vivid red in there; you’re going to see aqua blue. We’re seeing a lot of aqua in tile, as well as some soft blues in fixtures.”

“The bath really has migrated toward cool tones, mimicking the whole spa and water essence,” concurs Hytry. “So, blues are strong, but even more important is the influence of aqua, a color that sort of tiptoes between blue and green. And that aqua trend, along with glass tiles from a materials standpoint – water, spa, relaxation – that really has taken hold and it’s very, very strong.”

“The bathroom is definitely picking up on a tropical, lighter direction,” states Walch.

“The colors in the bath are more subtle and soothing, so blue is big, as well as green,” comments Maughan. She adds that she is currently designing a bath that features a warm coral, as well. Wood also notes the importance of soft grays, soft pale teals and medium to pale lilacs for the spa-inspired bath.

“They are colors that all work together to give us atmosphere and moody tones,” she reports. “I think these will be the predominant colors for the bathroom [in the year ahead].”

Neutral naturals are also at work here. “We’re seeing a lot of stone, and a lot of combinations of things like wood, stone, mirror, glass, texture,” stresses Perchuk. She adds that, if people experiment with color and texture anywhere, it’s more in the bathroom.

Dark wood cabinets combined with a vanity of stone, solid surface or granite, along with a vessel bowl sink, are making a statement as well in the bath.

“What has been popular, and I see a continuation of it, is the contrast of really dark wood such as wenge along with a very light limestone,” notes De Giulio. “It’s a great, classic combination.”

Whether classic or eclectic, colors and color combinations are making a statement in the kitchen and bath. For the near future, dark woods and warm, organic shades will take their place with contemporary brights and rich neutrals in the kitchen, while watery colors and spa-influenced hues continue to make their presence felt in the bath.

Nicole Miller Fashions Kitchen Design Using Eye-Catching Colors

It is widely acknowledged that trends on the fashion runways influence trends in home decorating. But what happens when fashion and kitchen design meet head on? Prominent fashion designer Nicole Miller, who has created clothes for some of the world’s most stylish men and women, answered that question recently when she designed a kitchen for Electrolux, which was displayed at K/BIS in Las Vegas. Miller, who is known for her colorful, whimsical and conversational prints, has a great interest in kitchens, given her love for entertaining in her home. In fact, she is currently writing a book on the art of entertaining and cuisine.

The Electrolux ICON designer series kitchen that Miller designed includes an eclectic mix of bright colors set against a neutral white background. The clean, sleek design features stainless steel appliances and custom perforated metal backsplashes that are also used on the front of the island and the soffit, which provides a contemporary backdrop for eye-catching accessories and punches of color that help personalize the space.

A Zodiaq Cloud White countertop is incorporated along the wall, while the island features a laminated glass countertop.

Vivid pink and lime green are used in combination to accent the sink area, while chartreuse bar stools flank the island cooktop/bar. A brick red sideboard includes an undercounter wine cooler and dishwasher, as well as a violet vessel bowl sink from Deco-Lav on top.