How to choose your perfect kitchen colour scheme
Deciding on a colour scheme for your kitchen is as much about the size and shape of the room as it is your preferred palette.
In this guide, we'll provide you with the perfect kitchen colour inspiration, as we explore how to choose a colour scheme that flatters and enhances your kitchen, as well as being in line with your personal style.
Understanding how colour palettes work
The first step in developing a kitchen colour scheme is understanding how and why certain colours complement one another. Don't worry, it's not as tricky as it sounds.
The biggest secret of great design is pretty simple – a colour wheel. You might think they're only for primary school classrooms, but colour wheels are great for helping you to understand what shades sit well together.
Two basic ways to use a colour wheel to decide on a colour scheme are as follows:
A straightforward way to use a colour wheel is by choosing two colours that sit opposite one another, as these are known to complement each other. Outside of the primary colours (red, yellow and blue) and the secondary colours (purple, green and orange), there are a limitless number of complementary colours to choose between.
Three sections of the colour wheel sat together are called analogous colours. This may mean that the scheme contains various shades of one primary colour (such as dark red, medium red, and light red), or a colour that bleeds into another (such as yellow, yellow-green and green).
There are many more ways to choose your kitchen colour combinations by using a colour wheel, such as triadic and split complement, which results in a diverse palette.
Another tried and true way of selecting a colour palette is by using an image from nature. A natural image, perhaps of something close up like a leaf, or a wide-angle shot of a shoreline, will usually produce five or six colours that will suit one another, and that will work in one room together.
The image above includes shades of blue, grey, violet, white and even soft yellow, to create a diverse palette.
There are three basic types of colour schemes
When it comes to interior design, there are three basic colour themes that rooms tend to embody:
- Tonal: This is where you choose one base colour and use variations of it across the room. This works well for contemporary kitchens: for a muted, monochrome kitchen, use different shades of grey or blue on the units, worktops, and walls.
Layering multiple shades of white can also be used to create an ultra-modern or traditional kitchen, depending on the textures the colours are applied to.
- Harmonious: This is where you use colours that are close on the colour wheel, and complement each other without being too similar.
It's easy to create a specific theme with a harmonious kitchen – green, white and brown can create a country-cottage vibe while light blue, white and grey can be used for a fresh, modern feel.
- Complementary: A bolder approach, complementary colour schemes use opposites to create a statement in the room. Colours still correspond, but the contrast is much stronger than in a harmonious scheme.
You can create a strong statement with white units and burgundy walls, or tone it down with pale walls and units and a stand-out feature, such as a brightly coloured island or oven.
Of course, these aren't strict rules and many people choose to mix aspects of each theme to create their own unique kitchen colour scheme.
Kitchen colour inspiration: how to choose your shades
Deciding which colours to use in your kitchen is largely down to personal choice. You might have a favourite shade of pink you're dying to splash on the walls in your home, or you may want to integrate yellow units because they remind you of your grandmother's kitchen.
Colours are strongly associated with mood. One way to narrow down the rainbow is to think about how you want to feel when you're in your kitchen.
- Energised: Vibrant colours and glossy shades of white are stimulating and can be perfect for a busy family kitchen.
- Calm: Neutral tones and pastels are soothing, ideal for creating a warm and cosy environment.
- Sophisticated: Smoky shades of grey and deep jewel tones are serious and cultured, just right for a kitchen that's central to a lot of dinner parties or gatherings.
- Quirky: Mixing unexpected shades and adding textured detail can result in a fun kitchen that reflects your unique personality.
- Urban: Using a stripped-back colour scheme with a loud feature colour is a great way to design a contemporary kitchen that is trendy and up-to-date.
How to work with the space you have
Essentially any colour scheme can be applied to any room, but you should carefully consider the size, shape and natural lighting in your kitchen before committing.
If you have a small, narrow or low-ceilinged kitchen with little natural light, any dark shades will make the room feel oppressive and unwelcoming. Therefore, your kitchen colour combinations should incorporate a light 'tint', as this introduces elements of white within the colour, making it brighter, even when there are touches of darker shades included.
Those with a large kitchen, which features lots of natural light and has a high ceiling, can experiment with darker shades, as the amount of light and space the kitchen has will ensure the room still feels airy. In fact, applying too much white to a kitchen of this size may make it feel sparse, meaning light shades should be balanced with warmer and darker tones.
Choosing a theme
While you don't need to commit fully to a themed kitchen with this route, knowing the styles and trends you'd like to emulate will help you to determine the colours you should use.
There are endless themes to choose from, but some popular choices include Farmhouse, Italian, Art Deco, Scandinavian and French. Each has colours associated with them, which can either be directly applied to your kitchen or used as a starting point for influence.
Wren Kitchens has a full range of design and decor guides that explain how to create a theme-inspired kitchen, for further inspiration.
Once you've determined the palette you'd like to emulate, the shades and tones that will work in your kitchen space, and a theme that gives you some guidance, you're ready to apply your chosen colour scheme to your kitchen!
Many people choose to have white or cream walls, as these work well as a neutral backdrop to the kitchen. Other kitchen colour scheme ideas include a statement wall in a colour that flatters the room; a bright splashback on the wall to add a pop of colour, or even chalkboard paint to create a quirky finish.
Kitchen flooring is a big influencing factor in determining how your colour scheme will appear. Wooden floors add warmth to the room, which is ideal for those who prefer either traditional or natural designs. Meanwhile, both gloss and matt tiles are more modern and will help to give the room a contemporary finish.
Marble countertops are another beautiful way to create depth in your coloured kitchen. Choose a rich finish that contrasts against your units, such as pearly white against inky black, or liven up a tonal kitchen with a pattern that uses the same colours as the rest of your features.
Kitchen accessories and appliances can be a fantastic way to add colour to an otherwise plain room. If you've chosen a primarily white kitchen, a bright red oven will create impact, and transform the room from simply white into a more modernist design.
Kitchen colour inspiration and ideas
In case you're struggling to decide on the colour scheme for you, we've compiled a selection of example kitchen colour schemes to help inspiration strike.
This kitchen has a low ceiling, so the generally white colour scheme helps the room feel larger. Including an accent colour on the kitchen island makes the room feel fun and fresh, without overwhelming the design.
This colour scheme includes a sophisticated shade of grey, which is balanced against light worktops and wall cabinets, so the room remains airy rather than dark.
This bright white kitchen feels clean and fresh, while the dark worktops, accent walls and vivid red oven add warmth and depth.
Finally, this wide, open kitchen has plenty of natural light, which make these deep shades feel warm and welcoming, rather than dark and oppressive.
Now you know how to choose a colour scheme – and even have a few ideas to get you started – it's time to determine your ideal kitchen colour combinations! Often, the best way to find colours is to play around with shades. Use our kitchen planning tool to explore creating your dream kitchen, or book an appointment to visit your nearest Wren showroom.