A debate has been raging in the design world: Is the trendy, all-white kitchen a stark and soulless space that’s a nightmare to keep clean, or is it a stylish, sleek look with timeless appeal?
Countless design forecasts (including our own!) have sounded the death knell for the ubiquitous all-white kitchen for some time now. Designers and homeowners—once seduced by the monochromatic space’s airy brightness and sleek lines—now generally crave some color, contrast, and warmth.
“Predominantly white kitchens will always have some people who love them; however, the all-white kitchen is passé,” says Sara Chiarilli, an interior designer with Artful Conceptions in Tampa, FL. “All white everywhere is like a sterile surgical room.”
If you’re sheepishly glancing at your bleached-ivory kitchen as you read this, don’t despair: Some white is cool and classic! Just don’t overdo it. Here are some tips on using it most effectively.
1. Let it flow
One of the best ways to make your white kitchen work is to choose complementary finishes that marry with the surrounding spaces, states Jamie Gold, a kitchen designer and author of “New Bathroom Idea Book.”
“This way, you’ll be creating a more cohesive look,” she says.
For example, if you have a nearby fireplace with marble tile in the great room, choose that look for your kitchen countertops—but update it with a low-maintenance porcelain slab, she explains.
2. Choose darker floors
The best way to tone down a bright white kitchen is to create contrast. If you have the funds, focus on your flooring and furniture.
“Dark wood looks beautiful against white cabinetry, especially if you continue it to other areas of your home for a more pulled-together feel,” Gold says.
And if wood isn’t to your taste (or it’s outside your budget), the same look can come from laminate, luxury vinyl, or tile.
3. Blend shades of white and gray
There’s no denying that white can brighten any kitchen, particularly small ones, says Liz Toombs, president of PDR Interiors. But gradations of white are important in this space, too, so it doesn’t end up looking like a surgical ward.
“Pair your light-colored cabinets and counters with shades of white such as cream and gray—and then add a little black for dimension,” she suggests.
4. Add texture
An animal-print rug. Whitewashed brick. A rustic wood table. All of these add visual interest to an otherwise mostly white kitchen.
“You really need to incorporate texture into this room,” Chiarilli explains.
And you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so, either.
“I love to have some pop and wow with glass and ceramic accessories to add depth and show character,” Chiarilli says. “Don’t forget things like floral arrangements—these add color and texture without being drastic.”
Then, add a jute or woven area rug for some comfort and style.
5. Make appliances pop
“After 15 years of stainless-steel appliances, many homeowners are turning to colorful appliances—and white allows these hues to become accents or focal points,” says Darla DeMorrow, a home organizing expert with HeartWork Organizing. These colors would look somewhat cluttered in darker kitchens.
Manufacturers are leaning into the demand for these coveted pops of color: Try an adorably vintage refrigerator from Smeg or a nostalgic stovetop from Big Chill. Or, opt for smaller items like colorful coffee makers and brightly toned KitchenAid standing mixers.
6. Brighten your island
Photo by Thomas Davies Kitchens
Along with flooring and appliances, kitchen islands can add some zing to a potentially dull white kitchen.
“Without this blue island to draw the eye into the space, there would be nothing interesting to look at,” DeMorrow notes.
“Consider gray, brown, or dark blue for your island, with white cabinets on the perimeter,” suggests Amy Bly of Great Impressions Home Staying/Interiors.
7. Pump up the backsplash and counters
Photo by Sweetwater Homes
Another element that’ll hold your interest in a white kitchen is a lightly toned countertop.
“Gray-veined quartz serves to break up the white monotony, and it gives the homeowner a little grace on housekeeping because it won’t show every mark or fingerprint,” says DeMorrow.
Then, focus on swapping out that stark white backsplash.
“Subway tiles, particularly the glass ones in gray, blue shades and pale green, all work well in a white-on-white kitchen design,” Bly adds.