Designing Our Kitchen: Going to the Dark Side?

Right now, I’m struggling to decide on colors for our kitchen. We need to choose wall color, backsplash, wood trim color, range hood color/material, upper cabinet color, lower cabinet color, floor material/color, island cabinet color, wall countertop material and island countertop material. This is … much more than I’ve had to decide on than in the other two kitchens I’ve renovated!

In prior renovations, I already had flooring material, which was simply a continuation of the flooring from the connecting rooms. In this house, though, we have painted floors in the kitchen that need to be replaced when we do structural work. The painted kitchen floor is between the black slate of our entry (not my favorite finish for a kitchen – it’s very dark and hard underfoot), and the antique pumpkin pine of our living room (not an option for the kitchen – it dents at even the slightest impact).  More about our crazy floors here … but here are some photos to give you an idea:

In prior renovations, I also did not have the amount of trim woodwork we do in this house. We have ceiling beams, wood chases, window frames and a small wood drop ceiling above the counters:

In our Boston apartment, I went with standard commercial-looking stainless steel appliances. In my Boston flip property (which was a small one bedroom), I used glossy white appliances to fit in with glossy white cabinets and quartzite countertops. I SO wish I’d taken a bunch of photos before I sold (this was pre-blog), but I did find this listing photo that gives you a (super-sterile, realtor-as-photographer, fisheye lens) idea of the project:

While stainless is always a great option, after seeing how much the AGA adds as a ‘statement stove’ in our antique space, I really would like to have an enameled range. This means yet another finish to consider!

Otherwise, the questions are the same as in my other renovations: what cabinet color? Contrasting colors for the island and wall cabinets? What wall color? Backsplash? Countertops? To farmhouse sink, or not to farmhouse sink?

To give myself a starting point, I decided to choose my all-time favorite dream finishes and kitchens. This was extremely easy, because I’ve had the same two favorite kitchens for years now. This ‘modern organic’ one designed by the founder of Dwell:


And this gorgeous green and marble beast from DeVol:


Obviously, these are completely different styles, but they actually have quite a bit in common. They both have dark cabinets, slab backsplashes, beautiful wood accents, quirky lighting and a big statement for a countertop (the live edge walnut and the ridiculously beautiful marble, respectively). They also share some of the same impracticalities – neither has a range hood, both use hard-to-maintain counters (you’d have to be very careful not to set anything hot on that walnut, and that glossy marble is just asking to be etched by wine, tomatoes and lemons) and the lighting in each seems insufficient to me. The gorgeous green kitchen also lacks any space to hide countertop appliances, and the walnut kitchen just does not have sufficient room around that range to move pots and pans around.

Of course, I want BOTH of these, no matter the impracticalities …

This got me thinking. Why NOT go dark? Right now our cabinets are dark, and I’ve not been bothered by that at all. I’m bothered that all the drawers are broken and that they are a peak-’00s cherry and burnt-taupe finishes, but the dark colors don’t weigh the room down. And between my two favorites up there, I’m all about dark green. Green kitchens are certainly having a ‘moment’ (check out this lovely green kitchen by Emily Henderson!), but I can safely say that in this house, dark green has had a ‘moment’ for a long, long time. There’s a dark green paint layer on the front of our house, there’s more dark green hidden under several layers of paint on interior doors, and there are even signs that our antique pine floors were first covered in a dark green paint before they were stripped in the 1940s.

So, I put together this combination of colors and materials as a starting point:

Above, left to right we have:


Kitchen counters and backsplash: Soapstone
Walls: BM Harwood Putty
Woodwork and hood: Farrow & Ball Shaded White


Cabinets: BM Bavarian Forest
Range: LaCanche Ivory


Floors: Hickory
Island Counters: Quartzite and wood combination
Island Cabinets:Farrow & Ball Shaded White

Soapstone is incredibly practical as a countertop material – it is completely resistant to heat, and has a lovely honed finish. The only thing I don’t like about it is that depending on the slab, it can be very gray unless oiled (a lot of maintenance). But if I were able to find a beautiful piece with great veining, it would be a nice statement.

I have Benjamin Moore’s Harwood Putty on the walls elsewhere in our house, and it really shines. It is a historical color based on plaster at Colonial Williamsburg, so is a no-brainer to do on the kitchen walls.

Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White is the trim in our TV room, above, which sits above our kitchen. It contrasts nicely with the Harwood Putty walls, but is a great creamy color that would work well to lighten up the top half of the kitchen.

The combination of dark green with a cream range makes both the range and unusual cabinet color stand out. I tried this combo with a black or dark gray range, and it just wasn’t as pretty. That said, Emily Henderson did a serious statement range in black with her green kitchen and it is preeeetty darn great:


Though she does have a light backsplash, a lighter green on the cabinets and white counters, which all keep the space brighter and the range a standout.

I’m still torn on the floors. Hickory is a nice hard wood that would stand up to wear and tear, but it is very heavily knotted. On the one hand, this is consistent with our pine floors. On the other, it’s more of a ‘country knotty pine’ type look than the ‘elegant country’ of our antique pine.

I love the idea of combining wood and quartzite on our island. Quartzite is a natural store (different than composite quartz countertops) that looks like marble but wears and tears much better. I used it in the flip property above. Erin Gates used it in her lovely kitchen as well:


Having shopped for and used quartzite in the past, I can tell you that quartzite is just not as beautiful as marble. I mean, is anything? But it is still a pretty option that is much more practical. Combining it with wood (maybe half wood, half quartzite, or 1/3 quartzite counter) would be unique and, again, practical. Wood countertops are less expensive, and having lived with them now as a bar top/island material, they are simple to maintain and add an organic element I love. Having stone as well allows for an extra space to make pasta, pastry, etc. more easily (plus I could splurge on a super beautiful quartzite remnant if I’m not using so much of it).

For the island, I have Shaded White because I’m not sure I want the whole kitchen to be dark, especially given that the island I’ve designed is substantial (more on the island here):

Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White would also tie in nicely to the woodwork throughout.

What do you think?  Too dark?  Should I go the whole hog and do dark cabinets for the island as well?  In for a penny, in for a pound?