So, I started working with a kitchen designer who I like a lot. And, I know that you don’t give individual advice unless it’s for a blog post.
However, here’s the issue.
She’s strongly advising on doing an all-white kitchen. She says that classic white kitchens are what she recommends for traditional homes like ours.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to get rid of the brown (and orange.)
But, when I think of classic white kitchens, I don’t see “classic” so much as “sterile and cold.”
In other words, for me, so-called Classic White Kitchens = STERILE and BORING.
I mean, if I see another white subway tile, I can’t be responsible for my ensuing behavior. lol
We’ve been in this home for 15 years and plan on being here for as long as possible. Shouldn’t I be able to do whatever kitchen I want?
Okay, I saw this raspberry kitchen the other day and fell madly in love.
Would it be a colossal mistake to do something like this?
My kitchen designer looked like she was trying not to have a case of apoplectic shock when I showed it to her. Of course, she’ll help me put together anything I want, but she said if I did so, I’d have to sign a waiver. lol, I hope she wasn’t serious!
Okay. I know that you’re doing a classic white kitchen.
Of course, your home is genuinely old and with high ceilings. Laurel, isn’t that cheating? lol
So, if I were to do a classic white kitchen, could you explain how to make it so that it’ll be interesting and, yes, timeless? And, why are the not-at-all classic white kitchens (in my opinion) so dreadful? What is going on with them that makes me and others not fond of them at all?
Cabrera (Cabbie) Blanco
Yes, Cabbie Blanco is a fictional character. However, a kind reader did send me that kitchen the other day.
And, no, I did not have an apoplectic fit. It’s a beautifully designed kitchen, and I can tell it cost a lot of money. Still, I can’t see the rest of the house.
And I also checked out the designer Sheila Mayden’s website. And I found another version of the same image that is much closer to the paint chip I found online. In other words, a little deeper shade than in the magazine version.
Good job! That is rare that they’re such a good match. Please read why never to select a paint color from a photo!
It is in the same family as one of the Laurel Home Paint colors that I used or a friend did a few times. It is gorgeous!
Mediterranean Spice is a little softer and redder. However, I only used it as a wall color.
It is a difficult decision to select a paint color for cabinetry.
Generally, I, too, would’ve suggested white. And, then maybe paint the walls this color. Or, use it in a small area outside the kitchen.
The question is, will you get sick of it? The color would not be easy to change is the problem.
Yes, cabinets can be repainted. But, this deep and saturated color would be difficult to cover, and if it chips, ugh. I would think it would be better first to strip the paint, which would be expensive to do.
However, if my client really wanted this after carefully considering everything, I wouldn’t try to talk her out of it.
Okay, let’s dive into this topic. It’s one of my favorites because it’s connected to what I’m always harping about.
For instance, not a kitchen, but a plain, white boring room. The only thing going for it is high ceilings. That’s reminding me of AB Kasha. They take rooms like this and turn them into this. (below)
No exaggeration. Please check out AB Kasha’s Instagram filled with dozens of before shots behind the stunning after shots on their feed.
It’s true. I AM cheating with my place.
Why do you think I bought it? lol
Via Southern Living antique kitchen cabinets with cremone bolts- photo Laurey W Glenn
Above is another “cheat.” However, it points out one way to make a classic white kitchen classic and never boring.
And that is stunning details and extraordinary antique glass doors. Or, new doors made to look antique. Either way, this sort of detail adds warmth and interest.
My favorite “cheat” that I post a lot is this beauty above.
It’s easier to see in this image. The table is about 30″ high. And it looks like 4 tables stacked on top of each other would reach the ceiling. That would be ten feet. However, it’s the unusually tall doors that I think give the illusion of greater height. They must be at least six feet that is giving the illusion of greater height.
The kitchen I did several years ago is also ten feet. However, there’s a coffer, so that takes up some more space at the top.
Martha O’Hara also copied the cabinetry design even better. This is actually a dining room, and I’ve seen other photos. It is no higher than nine feet. You don’t have to believe me. It’s an optical illusion, I guess.
However, you can still do a gorgeous classic white kitchen with an eight-foot ceiling.
Donald Lococo and Darryl Carter’s stunning classic white kitchen (above and below) another fave is no more than 8-feet. At least under the beams. Donald is one of my favorite classical architects.
Okay, let’s now look at a plain white kitchen and examine why it’s cold and boring.
- It looks, as my mom always said, “like a marshmallow in the snow.” Heck, not even that interesting.
So, my number one antidote to a boring, white kitchen is to vary the shades of white. Many shades of white and white on white are wonderful and bring warmth to a white kitchen.
- There is no architectural interest.
One of the most popular images I’ve shared on this blog is the one above. I’ve concluded it’s the corbels.
Don’t laugh. I’m not joking.
(Well, of course, you can laugh!)
It is ALL in the details! And, that goes for all rooms, I believe.
And, just because it’s a classic white kitchen doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be white. I think the lovely haint blue in the back of the cabinets is just the right touch here.
Another wonderful example of a stunning white kitchen that has blue and brown accents.
I’m seriously crushing on that plaster crown moulding. This is what I do when I’m not blogging. I’m researching sources for things like this. Of course, there are zillions in the UK. And, I doubt that most of those vendors ship here. But, I’ve found a couple of companies in the US. If anyone has experience with one that’s terrific, please let us know.
However, this brings me to another way to bring warmth to any white room and especially to classic white kitchens. We’ve discussed this before.
- Wood tones
- Gold or brass.
Another Donald Lococo and Darryl Carter genius collab.
And, as you can see above, you don’t need to do ANY tile in the backsplash. We discussed that in this post about backsplashes.
In this kitchen, what I think brings warmth and interest to this classic white kitchen are the:
- subtle detailing of the crown moulding
- fabulous tole lanterns
- Gustavian side chairs.
And, then there’s the beautiful glass cabinetry, and soapstone counters.
Aww… I have a sentimental feeling for this home because I featured it in my first post over nine years ago!
Oh, how clueless I was back then.
While I did change over one of the links later on and my signature, I left in one of the raw links because I didn’t even know how to create a hyperlink back then.
Another classic white kitchen featured on here more times than I can count belongs to the lovely Maura Endres, m.o.endres on Instagram.
I know for a fact that her ceiling is only eight feet because she told me so! Maura is the queen of styling, and everything is timeless, from white subway tile to the Carrera marble countertops.
However, she deviated from the white in a brilliant move by painting her china cupboards a deep brownish-gray color.
I featured this charming kitchen in a recent post when looking for inspo for my own kitchen. I’m pretty sure that’s Ikea cabinetry.
However, it’s mixed in with a stunning Ilve range and looks like Zellige tiles. And, then that curved rail over the range creates a lovely and unique detail.
The lesson I’m seeing is to go for unique detailing when doing a classic white kitchen.
However, a warning, and this is for me just as much as you.
It is easy to overdo. I’ve seen some designers who don’t know when enough is enough. You see it a lot in showhouses.
How do you know when it’s enough? Well, that’s the art of design. It’s the same with a painting. How do you know when it’s finished? Same thing.
Another master of chic restraint is the young design star Leanne Ford.
How funny, there’s another Ilve range. They are awfully pretty. Oh, I know, they’re supposed to cook too. ;] But, look at that rug! Leanne is brilliant at varying the shades of white for visual interest. The star is the gorgeous vintage pendant. But, in a strong supporting role is that awesome-shaped marble backsplash. I love that. And, it also provides a bit of privacy. Well, for the kids. haha
Above and below are from Leanne’s own home, I believe. Again, stunning details, but not too many of them. And, old juxtaposed next to modern. This is what gives this space warmth and subtle visual tension.
Are you beginning to see a pattern with these classic white kitchens?
- Don’t be cookie-cutter!
- Think creatively
- and introduce some interesting details; but, not too many interesting details.
All of that will make your kitchen feel personal, no matter what color you paint it.
For example, that exquisite crown moulding is amazing. Leanne was wise to keep the rest of the design very simple. Great job!
Another favorite classic white kitchen is the beauty above. The gold and black are so chic, and the Chinoiserie chandelier adds something unexpected but perfectly at home here.
Darryl Carter also uses black very effectively in his classic white kitchens.
He always gets it right. Please check out the post I devoted to him a while back.
small NYC classic white kitchen – photo Joshua McHugh via Elle Decor
This jewel box of a classic white kitchen has it all. White with black accents. Texture from the brick wall and a stunning floor design. Oh, and the kid’s art on the fridge. lol. Perfect!
Okay, now it’s time for my number one beef when it comes to decorating in general.
Above is a color-corrected beautiful white kitchen from a terrific cabinet company I found on Instagram and talked about a few weeks ago. In all fairness, the kitchen isn’t styled And, we only see a small part.
Here it is simulated under a cooler, brighter light. It’s fine if some of you prefer this look, but I’m not a fan.
And, finishing with this charming small classic white kitchen. You can’t lose with high ceilings and a beautiful French door with a transom.
And, that reminds me. I almost forgot. But, something you may have noticed. But, most of these kitchens don’t have a ton of over-the-counter cabinetry. You know. “unkitchens.”
I’m closing with a few more classic white kitchens.
This is Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-century classic white kitchen if there ever was one! It’s in Newport, RI.
please pin to Pinterest for reference
To recap, to get a timeless, classic, white kitchen:
- Don’t do cookie-cutter designs
- Vary the shades of white
- Take cabinets up to the ceiling if possible
- Don’t do a lot of over the counter cabinets
- Stop arguing with me. haha
- Pay close attention to interesting details
- Definitely do use other colors for accents or walls.
- Bring in warmth with wood tones and gold or brass.
- Glass cabinetry is always beautiful
- Use beautiful, soft, even, warm lighting
Also, you might enjoy The Death of the Boring White Kitchen
And, if you didn’t see this lovely family kitchen I worked on, please go here.