Is two-toned too much?

aliris19February 2, 2011

I was thinking the two-colored cabinet thing was pretty nifty. I'm thinking of having a darker stained cabinet for my bases and lighter stained cabinets for the uppers. I thought it might lighten the heavy-looking uppers.

*But* I'm a little worried this two-toned style is very faddish and it will look so 10's in a few years. There is absolutely zero way under this sun I will ever build another kitchen, so what goes in now ought to be still loved in much-years.

Anyone have a sense of whether this is a silly trend that will be conspicuous down the road? It seems quite pretty to me but maybe I've just been looking at too many fancy kitchens. Whadayathink?

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I kept the K/B magazines from our remodel in 2002 and two-toned cabinets were featured. It appears to be around for about 10 years.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 8:42AM
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I think it works better in a farmhouse unfitted kitchen. There, i think it will not age.

In other types of kitchens, i think it depends on the actual tones

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 9:44AM
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I think it so depends on what the tones are, and how you handle the look in your kitchen. There are aspects of any kitchen that are going to look dated years down the road, even if you go for a "timeless" look.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:23AM
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If you love it, you will be happy with it, even if it's not the most stylish choice, down the road. It sounds like the two toned will make the uppers feel lighter...and I think you're going to want that effect, no matter go for it! :)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:31AM
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12 years ago we moved into our 1928 English cottage/Tudor house. The original upper cabinets, a Shaker inset door style, are painted in a pale creamy yellow and I got new dark-stained lowers. It definitely lightens the heavy upper look. I have always loved it and plan to do the same in our new home. Do what you love. Better to veer from "The Pack" and be yourself. I learned a long time ago to please myself. No one else really cares that much. Do you judge others by their kitchen cabinet styles?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:49AM
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Also, it depends on the overall design. If it's just different cabinet colors for the sake of different colors, it might not age well. If you have a total design for the room(s) that incorporates the two tones as well as other, related, design cues, it should age in place beautifully. That doesn't mean someone in the know might not be able to figure out the era, but that it'll still look great nonetheless.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:59AM
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I love two toned kitchens. I do not think it is trendy or
that it would be dated. At least not anytime soon, as this is
an effect that can lend itself to many different kitchen
decor styles. It can be country, contemporary, rustic,
organic, modern, urban, english, french, spanish revival...
It is timeless.
I agree with you that you can lighten up the space with
going lighter on the uppers.

Crabtree Kitchens

North East Cabinetry

Beverly Leigh Binns

Johnny Grey

Luxury Kitchens


messages from the mothership blog

Kitchen and Bath Ideas

Chocolate Cabs


Attic Magic

Detroit Home Magazine

Tommy Smythe


The Clean Lines kitchen

Bungalo Hutch

Gray Cabinets

Pulp Remodel

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:51PM
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It's timeless AND easy to change down the road by a professional paint job.

I love the look. Darker cabinets on the bottom ground a kitchen, and lighter on top adds height and brightness.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:18PM
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Echoing what others have said, you should choose was you truly love regardless of what is "in style" right now, because styles continually change, and at some point whatever you put in your kitchen will be "out of style." As long you love it, who cares?

We bought our 1980s era home with pickled oak cabinets in the kitchen, and while they are currently "out of style," I love them.

So, as long as the two-toned cabinets are what you love and you're not being swayed because they are currently "in style," then that's what you should do.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Sorry . . . typo . . . "you should choose what you truly love . . ."

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:46PM
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True, if you really love the look, get it. IMHO although these kitchens looks interesting to me, they remind of a showroom trying to advertise the different colors and styles of a kitchen. This might be a bit tricky to pull of well.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:53PM
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I've seen two different colors of paint, or one stain and one paint, but I can't recall a kitchen with two different wood stains. Maybe since that's rather unusual you needn't worry much about trendiness. I would be sure to figure out early what floor and countertop options will work with both woods.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 2:32PM
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When my Dad rebuilt the kitchen for my Mum in their tiny UK row house 45 years ago, it was two toned: formica faced sliding doors on the upper cabinets and painted wood doors on the lowers. It's still two-toned 45 years later: the formica upper doors are still the same but the paint color on the base cabs has changed many times.

In fact when the 45 year old gas cooktop finally died in 2009 and had to be replaced, and it was impossible to find another the same size, so she had to replace the base cabs on that side of the kitchen (with all drawers, yay Mum!), she kept the old uppers so it's still two-tone. Just painted the old base cabs to match the new ones.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:05PM
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I agree absolutely that two-toned can be timeless. But I'm not so sure about two different wood finishes. In most of the two-toned kitchens I've seen (including my own) either one group is wood finished, one is painted or both are painted in different colors. The only kitchens I can mentally picture with two different wood tones are modern...classically modern, I think: They too would last. But if you have another style in mind, I'm not sure about two wood tones and fear it might look dated down the road and possibly odd now. What style did you have in mind?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:13PM
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Lots of good points made above. Here are my (non-expert) thoughts.

I've been wondering a lot about what "dates" a kitchen. I've come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that most kitchens will date themselves. Trends change, styles get tired, technology changes, people want the next best thing. As long as you do a quality redo and don't do anything too quirky, you'll probably get a good run (10 years??) of being "in-fashion". If your kitchen truly appeals to you, YOU might love it for 20 years and beyond.

Besides worrying about "dating" a kitchen, another issue is taste. Even if you build your beautiful french country kitchen in 2011, eg, it doesn't mean a buyer in 2012 won't dislike it. No matter what you do, you can't please everybody. So unless you're selling in less than 5 years, you might as well do what pleases you. Don't you think??

PS Love the two-tone look but I bet there are plenty who hate it

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:14PM
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I have to disagree a bit with HulaGal about quirkiness. A quirky kitchen well done has, by definition, traits that are outside of the trends of the moment, and will likely be outside of the trends of tomorrow, and the year after that. Since it wasn't in fashion, it won't go out with any fashion either.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:45PM
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Love some of those pictures posted ! Probably gives you the courage to go forward with your idea. It would for me.
Go with what you love, you are the one living with it.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:46PM
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For me, not a problem and not a fad. It's a more complex way to organize the space in a kitchen because the color works in bands as can be seen from all the pix above.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 4:42PM
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I love two tone. I saved this but noticed upon closer inspection it was stain not paint.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 7:15PM
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Thanks, Boxerpups, for the illustrations of what I was saying about a unified design.

Everyone, look at the counters in all the pretty pictures, and the cabinet colors and backsplash colors, and see just how many colors there are. Or not. :)

IMHO, what make these work so well is how much the finishes all tie together.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 7:52PM
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corgi_mom: No! I have never registered another's kitchen cabinet styles in the judgment department. It is funny how disproportionate one's whinging and worrying about all this is with anyone else's concern.

That crabtree kitchen has unbelievably gorgeous wood...and huge toekicks! Thank you, Boxer, for the photos.

The photo labelled HGTV has a wrap-around counter that someone was interested in lately. I appreciate seeing the 27"d undercounter hood too.

Boxer, these photos are incredibly helpful; thank you as always. Your search skills are prodigious! and granite-girl: yes, perfectly said -- boxergirl these photos *do* give me just that courage. they are so helpful!

ellendi -- yeah, showroom smorgasbord; it's what I'm a little afraid of too. Except I just love all the photos boxerpup posted as confirmation; I think it's a fairly true "love". Still -- you could also think of it as architecture-student syndrome; putting in 20 different window-types and wall-weirdnesses, just because you can.

melissastar -- I don't really know what the kitchen types are. I favor plain shaker-style fronts with the thinner stiles. I'm leaning toward less or no molding, with it being the lower-cabinet darker wood above the upper cabinet lighter wood. And there's light bamboo prefinished flooring too. I like wood! But I was also thinking the color variation might help alleviate 'all that wood' which another was worrying about in another thread (I didn't find the pictures of wood floors and wood cabinets disturbing; I like it!).

The house is a 1924 CA bunglalow with those -- darn, I should figure out what it's called when you have wooden strips running parallel to all four sides of the window resulting in 9 lights. These have been outfitted with goopier moulding than is probably apt and so I was thinking I needed to 'under-burn' the moulding and trim in the kitchen. Does that class it as 'contemporary'? Dunno...

Re: resale -- I can't even please myself much less an unknown, undesignated, undated buyer in some random future! I still own (and occasionally wear) clothes from HS, which was some time ago, I assure you. So it's not because I am in any way trendy or care about fashion or accommodating anyone else's sense thereof. I guess I'm just a little sensitive to the former kitchen in this house which had *the* most ugly tile ever seen this side of the Mississippi -- yellow blobby melty stuff. Pukesome. And there was plastic 1.5" bright orange shag in the closets still. *Someone* thought that stuff was the bees' knees once, and I wouldn't want to embarrass my memory that way, iykwim.

mnerg -- gotcha. I guess that's sort of what this forum is all about; transcending trends with thoughtfulness.

plllog -- as always I'm sure you're right about the integration. Those photos all just do feel like a smooth 'read' -- they look like the only kitchen that could ever have fit in that space; just right. And I can see that's just a re-wording of getting all those elements to harmonize.

So -- what kind of countertop would go with light bamboo floors, medium-stained cherry shaker lower cabs, and natural-stained cherry (or alder? red birch?) shaker uppers? Also, I thought I'd run a thin molding of wood stained the same as the lower cabs across the top of the light-colored uppers.

I started this odyssey with a light-colored fossil stone in mind (see link below). It's not big-busy but there is a lot embedded in it. I am worried, also, about its hardness and suitability for kitchen countertop and am thinking of relegating it to 2 bathrooms. What would you use instead? Synthetic single-toned? Soapstone? DH and I both loved this, uber-fussy granite called "Rain Forest": ;

it's quite a strong overall green color -- would that be too wild? Does anyone have pictures of their "Rain Forest" granite to show (someone posted one recently) or remember one in the FKB?

Thanks, all!

Here is a link that might be useful: Belgian Truffle slab

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 2:28AM
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How about this?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pretty green veined soapstone

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 2:32AM
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never-ending (aak! Not an auspicious name...) -- thanks for the photo. In fact, it is two-toned wood that I am contemplating. Does anyone else have any remembered photos of two-toned wood schemes? I think I'm convinced to go ahead with this, so confirmation isn't needed any longer, but it will help to see what others have done I think!

Boxer, how do you find all those pictures????

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 11:34AM
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arilis, we are on the same page, and in fact I am doing very similar floor species as you, maple/beech natural floors.
This started after making the decision to go wood floors in the kitchen. After seeing so many floor/cabinet combinations that really looked "off" color, I decided that you just don't want the floor and base cabinets close to the same color.
As said by others, a dark base cab grounds the cabinet while the lighter upper reflects more light and reduces the heavy look of dark uppers can bring.

I too am doing a shaker (square sticking) cabinet door style in a contemporary/craftsman style plan. Current thinking is to do walnut base cabs with maple uppers.

Where I'm having trouble now is with the counters and B-splash. At first I thought black honed granite counter top would do it, but black on walnut may not work. I'm now leaning toward stainless steel CT's and BS's, which I would think would look stunning. And the best part is ... not many are using this combo right now.

That said, I certainly do not think two-toned is too much, in fact very tasteful, if done right. Any other thought's ar most welcome.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:33PM
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I saw a kitchen with light stained uppers and slightly darker stained lowers in a remodeled home tour last year (or was it the year before?). I tried to find a link to a pic of it but I came up empty handed, sorry (and we weren't allowed to take photos).

The differences in stains were very subtle, almost not noticeable, certainly not at first glance. I understand what the designer was going for but I thought there should have been a larger difference between the stain choices so that it made a design statement instead of leaving people questioning whether the cabinets were stained two different colors or whether it was a trick of the light (I overheard one comment to that effect). The kitchen did not have a lot of natural light and that probably didn't help things.

I love the two tone look (drooling over the pics posted above). I could be fooling myself but I don't think it's trendy or as trendy as other styles. I do see kitchens with this look now and then in magazines but certainly not the extent of other trends. Finishes and wood choices might give away its age but I still think the look will age well enough because it hasn't been as prevalent. But as I said, I could be fooling myself.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:55PM
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IMHO, in the best of Boxerpup's pictures, the countertop pretty well matches the upper cabinets, and the backsplash might have a little more in it for interest, but pretty well matches too. Two toned wood makes this harder, but it's a good starting place.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 1:31PM
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To my eye, the best photos have uppers that are closely aligned with the backsplash. I love how it looks! In fact, I wonder if some of us are asking our backsplashes to provide a similar kind of colorbanding or color differentiation when the upper and lower cabinets are *not* different colors.

In any event, those boxerpup-curated photos look mighty fine, and there is a lot to learn for all of us!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 1:43PM
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never_ending, can you fix your photo link so we can see the larger photo? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 3:10PM
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I found some pictures of kitchens with two-toned stained cabinets, and although they are not exactly what you are planning, I thought they might be interesting to see two wood tones used in a kitchen.

This one has a couple of lower dark cabinets, but also shows the darker moulding on top of lighter cabinets:

Here is a link to a thread from this forum back in 2008 where jaymielo put a darker stained moulding atop lighter cabinets:

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 5:54PM
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you may have already seen this in the FKB. probably not the look you are going for, but it's a fun kitchen. :)

loves2cook4six's kitchen:

Here is a link that might be useful: loves2cook4six's kitchen

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 7:00PM
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I don't have two-toned cabinetry, but I love many examples of it. Boxerpups' archive of photos is just staggering, and so is the generosity with which they are posted by Boxerpups. Two-toned cabinetry to me implies "unfitted", which is a vintage, old-English sort of look, and to me defies efforts to date a kitchen if it is done well. And I completely agree with the advice of those who say: if you like it, do it. You should not second-guess yourself.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 7:11PM
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Here is the link for a close up of the two toned stained kitchen.

Arlis- ha! =) At the time I was a young mom with a new 1850's home to re-do. Work it seemed was...never-ending! Now it is more the never-ending adventure of life!

Here is a link that might be useful: FKB Janelle Millers kitchen

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 8:21PM
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What I would really like to see is medium-dark lowers and medium-light uppers. What I see are more extreme contrasting colors.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 12:24PM
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Willinak, interesting that you want less contrast. I'm guessing that a lot of people here are putting in a plug one way or another for clearly delineated color contrasts if you're going to do it. I think I agree with that if there is sharp horizontal linearity going on. But I liked that 2-toned wood kitchen with just slightly darker wood around the range too. that was an exception, though, with vertical color lines. And Janelle Millers kitchen was different, too, with playful color changes in the drawer fronts; ditto cooks46. Fun!

plllog -- I'm not so sure that the success of the countertop color is linked to its being the same as the uppers as that it be similar to either upper or lowers -- that is, if there's horizontal linearity, stick with fewer rather than more color contrasts. I think dark counters matching dark bottoms works when there isn't too much contrast between them. I think the thing is, having that strong horizontal line created by cabinet-color difference is a really strong statement and you use up your ability to do much more with color. I think echoing the contrast up top in the molding (thinly) is about all your color budget might be able to hold at that point. A colorful line of counter *also* may just fizz the whole thing.

Which might be a bummer for my idea of green-veined soapstone.... In any event, I take your point that doing this might make the selection of countertop more important than ordinarily (though you'd probably say it is *always* super-important! It just isn't, like all these myriad other decisions, anything I'd ever considered at all hard enough).

Look at that corner island sink, rayle: bingo. Thanks! I like the molding in that picture too, though I'd want one a little simpler.

plllog -- I'm wondering now whether you're right, and the countertop linked to the uppers is preferentially important. I think it nestles the whole countertop space with the uppers and makes a cozy connected space. It pulls the lower and uppers together that would otherwise be disconnected by color-line. When instead you relegate the counter to the bottom in terms of color, the horizontal lines don't get tied together and it's all less of a piece.

But that's mostly possible with painted cabinets. How could one mimic that in 2-toned wood stains? Except go with wooden counters which I wouldn't want to do? At the least, I suppose, keep any BS lines long and the same lighter color as the uppers. Don't know if that would accomplish the tieing-together though.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 12:55PM
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I respectively disagree with plllog (and she has such wonderful taste, I do so at my own risk ;-) but I prefer the two tone look with counters closer in tone to the lowers than the uppers with the backsplash and wall color matching the uppers as closely as possible. I think medium to darker counters ground lower cabinets very nicely whereas light colored counters seem disconnected from the color/stain choice of the lower cabinets. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.

That said, the Tommy Smythe kitchen above is drool-worthy and could easily change my mind. I think what makes it work is the black and white veining of the backplash tile (is that marble?). If it was white tile, white counters, white uppers, it wouldn't have as much appeal to me.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 6:38PM
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Aliris--Just came across this thread as we are also contemplating the two-tone thing. I'm wondering if you are going (or have gone?) ahead with that plan, and where you are in the process. Am I mistaken that you using Ikea cabs? I'd love to hear more about your plans. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 9:52PM
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Hi reston. It's fun to think about your question. The short answer is no, didn't do two-toned. But I sure belly-ached about it all. It's fun to re-visit the dilemma just to see how far we've come.

In the end I've caved a whole lot on a lot of my slightly funkier ideas. But I'm not sorry for hardly any of it. But we don't have two tones of cabinetry. We have cherry with no staining to speak of and shaker stiles. I had been thinking of bamboo and/or different kinds of wood to create the different tones and textures. But evreyone seemed to think it was not a good idea.

Do I agree now? Dunno -- I think it could be really quite wonderful. One thing is that we have a lot lot lot of light. I think this could help inasmuch as that it would highlight and emphasize the differences you were aiming for theoretically,

I like our shaker doors though the sharp edge to the panel is definitely a dirt-catcher.

There are a lot of photos available that show these two tones; it's not as unusual as I'd thought, though maybe achieving this with wood is. I think it could have worked just fine in our kitchen. As it is, we ended up with a very happening countertop and I think it's fine to let that reign supreme rather than let other catchy stuff draw your eye away from it.

Good luck with your plans! We're currently in the fighting-with-workmen stage which I really hate. Actually, the workmen are fine, it's the designer/KD/office types that make me kinda crazy. I know everyone has to eat, but middlemen are, IMO, really annoying.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 1:45AM
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It's not stained, but I'm painting my lower cabinets a darker shade of the top.
The bottom changes to an icky turquoise in natural light. AWK!
So I'll have 2-toned cabinets. I don't care if they're trendy or not. I'm so off the beaten path anyway, my stuff will remain funky forever, I think.

But I love the variety of colors and textures.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 11:31PM
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