A Look At The Latest Color Trends

In each space that you create, bring in color that will express your personality, add interest, impact, and enhance the design.

The colors we choose must be both current and timeless, which can sometimes be a difficult call - remember avocado and harvest gold in appliances, or mauve and teal in bath fixtures?

A recent conversation with designer Steffen Coleman (from my office), Janice Pattee of KraftMaid Cabinetry and Nicole Langel of Kohler Co. prompted the following concepts and comments on today's color trends. Coleman's eye and expertise as an artist, Pattee's long-standing involvement with the Color Marketing Group, and Langel's expertise as Kohler's Artists Editions and Color Specialist make them my favorite sources and sounding boards. Not unlike our nation's recent political scene, we are seeing two very distinct color directions manifested in kitchens and baths. There is a strong interest in bringing our natural environment into the home, in contrast to the softer, contemporary minimalist style influenced by technology and European design.

Whether in traditional or contemporary design, a simplification of form is resulting in a greater emphasis on shape, mass, material, surface texture and color. In either look, color is softened by a change in intensity rather than in value. The American palette is developing a sophisticated eye for more complex color. This can be seen in the use of stronger colors taken from nature, such as the widening use of natural stone in earth tones, or in the stronger techno colors such as iridescent and metallic finishes.

Influencing the ways in which these colors are executed in the kitchen and bath is the growing role of the American home as a "refuge." The environment that we create in our home needs to be harmonious and comforting. There is also an increasing need for our homes to reflect who we are. The colors integrated into the space are calming, yet they also have the power of a technological world and the global cultural influences that surround us.


In cabinetry

  • Butter cream and glazed finishes have been used in high-end projects, but are increasingly available in mid-range cabinetry.
  • Interest in the calming effect of close-grained woods such as maple and birch is increasing.
  • Continued interest in painted finishes in sage or mossy green tones and blues with lowered intensity is evident.
  • There are developing trends toward darker stains.
  • Mixed painted and stained finishes on cabinetry are designed into work centers or "blocks" of cabinets rather than as linear accents in trim or molding.
  • Exotic veneers that can take stains offer a chance to make a color statement in a "minimalist" design. In appliances
  • Stainless steel is continuing to be strong in both traditional and contemporary settings, whether in professional or standard appliances. Visit our Stainless Steel Portfolio.

In fixtures

  • Glass vessel sinks in a variety of water and/or fire colors add a dramatic color statement to a space.
  • Earth tone stone vessel sinks offer a variety of effects - from the natural to the Asian.
  • Porcelain sinks, tubs and water closets add richness in a variety of earth tones and reds.
  • Stainless steel, copper and other alloys are being used for welded specialty tubs and soaking baths.
  • Honed soapstone and granite slab sinks give not only a period authenticity but can be a color and motif statement.
  • Copper brass and antique bronze smooth, brushed and hammered lavatory sinks with matching fittings increase the use of color in the bath.
  • The neutrals, from white to butter cream to taupe, are still a powerful statement - elegant and timeless, or clean and crisp.

In fittings

  • Matt chrome and warm nickel finishes continue to be widely used with today's softer color trends.
  • Brushed chrome adds soft texture in a variety of settings.
  • An increasing number of faucets and fittings are being produced in an antique bronze, supporting the use of other natural materials in fixtures, tile, hardware, etc.

In countertops

  • Solid surface materials can be found in a variety of stone-like finishes, often with playful jewel inserts.
  • Solid surface materials are also picking up on the aquatic theme, such as Corian's new Beach Glass.
  • Designers are specifying honed stone, whether granite, soapstone or marble, lending a softer effect.
  • The effects of pigmented concrete can bring custom color into a space in endless configurations.
  • Stainless steel counters are finding a surge of prominence in the kitchen and the bath.
  • Plastic laminate manufacturers, in response to emerging trends, annually create a rich variety of color and patterned selections, expanding the range of possibilities.

In flooring

  • Color and pattern are emerging in exciting ways with the latest fibers in carpeting, including those suitable for kitchens.
  • Limestone tiles from India and other parts of the globe offer a wide range of rich earth tones for bath or kitchen.
  • Hardwoods in wide planking and various wood species and stains give the homeowner further options for variation in contrast, hue and value of cabinetry, counters, etc.
  • From 16"x16" tiles to mosaics, color in tile can be a neutral element, bring in a splash of color or repeat a color motif.

In hardware

  • The selection of hardware is an inexpensive way to add color to a kitchen without making a long-term color commitment. The range in glazed ceramic and glass knobs adds an exciting opportunity to support a color concept. Creative iron knobs and handles, while often in black or dark bronze, can effectively heighten a motif or look.
Mary Jo Peterson
Mary Jo Peterson is president of Mary Jo Peterson, Inc., a Connecticut-based design firm that focuses on residential projects and provides design support to major homebuilders nationwide. She is a certified kitchen and bath designer with 15 years experience, and her work has earned national recognition. With specific expertise in universal design, Mary Jo has authored three books on the subject and is a frequent national speaker and educator. McGraw-Hill published her latest book, Gracious Spaces; Universal Interiors by Design, in July 1999.

National Kitchen & Bath Association
The content of this article is provided courtesy of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). At www.NKBA.org, you'll find an inspiration gallery of award-winning kitchen and bath designs from NKBA members, complete with photos and floorplans. In addition, this consumer website offers articles and tips written specifically for homeowners, an extensive glossary of kitchen and bath remodeling terms, and illustrations and explanations of kitchen and bath planning guidelines. There, you can also e-mail questions to the NKBA's kitchen and bath experts, as well as order a free copy of the NKBA Kitchen & Bath Workbook.