Warming up a white kitchen

marvelousmarvinMay 18, 2013

I'm a guy, and I'm really confused by the concept that something is 'warm' or 'cold' in the kitchen when we're not talking about physical temperatures. (I hope this concept is nothing like Carol Jackson's Color for Men cause I could never wrap my head around those ideas or how to detect if something had a pink or blue undertone.)

I'm redoing the floors, cabinets, and countertop in the kitchen but keeping the existing stainless steel appliances. So I wanted to do a white kitchen, maybe even one of those all white kitchens, but I also don't want it to make it too 'cold' or 'sterile' when I sell it. So, what are the steps or tips to do to 'warm' up a white kitchen?

What's a 'cold' item, what's a 'warm' item, and what determines if its 'cold' or 'warm'? Are you trying to balance 'cold' and 'warm' elements in a kitchen?

So if I understand it correctly, a stone countertop like granite or quartzite is 'cold'? Will the color of the stone determine its coldness or warmth- will both a black and white stone countertop be both 'cold'?

If the countertop is 'cold', could I balance that with 'warm' white cabinets? What's a warm white 'color' vs a 'cold' white color for the cabinets?

I've been looking at pictures of white kitchens, and I noticed a lot of them use wood floors. How could I 'warm' up a white kitchen without using wood floors?

I was leaning towards getting porcelain tile floors because of its durability but would these tile floors be another 'cold' element and thus make a white kitchen too 'cold' and 'sterile'?

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how about wood countertops? or an off white (towards cream) porcleain floor? or some neutral slightly warm colours in a patterned backsplash?

I think that choice of material and texture as well as colour define warmth... but,.. wait for an expert to chip in, I have just started renovation work too and don't know much!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 6:14AM
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The best way I can describe warm and cold unfortunately has to do with undertones. Warm whites have a bit of yellow in them while cool whites lean more towards blue. With paint, I look at all the samples on a paint card and the darker colors on the chips often tell me what family the white is in, I.e., does it have yellow, blue, etc. in it. A pure white (no other color undertones) can be crisp, but may also look stark.

I chose a creamy white cabinet, BM Mascarpone, that has a little yellow and also a drop of red (per the paint store owner). I have Tiger wood floors that have a bit of red in them, as well as I always prefer warmer colors like browns and tans. My first choice of counters was marble, but I needed to choose a marble that didn't have as much gray in it (cool color). I ended up with a creamy based granite (warm).

It just needs to be cohesive. A mix match of warm and cool colors doesn't always play well together in my opinion.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 7:06AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Natural materials add a warmth that using faux materials does not. Wood floors are pretty key to having a warm looking kitchen if you're choosing to go the all white route. If you choose to go less monochromatic, then another material for the floors could be fine.

And yes, warm vs. cool is all about the undertones in the colors. You either have to have an eye for that, or you need the help of someone who does. You can train yourself to "see" better, (like using the blank sheet of printer paper as the background on which you place samples) but if your brain can't wrap itself around it then no manner of art school exercises will help you. You probably need the help of an experienced KD to guide you through the process.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 8:48AM
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What's your impression when you look at the kitchens below?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 9:04AM
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I like warm, both visually and temperature-wise. I could never have blue walls, although I'm crazy about blue and white dishes. I'm sure the color thing is scientific and can be demonstrated objectively, but it's also a feel you get without having to be too intellectual about it.

I love the look of white cabs and dark counters, and so I got them. During construction, they put gray-ish protective covers over my red oak floors, hiding all that warmth. I looked at my new kitchen and was dismayed by how cold it felt. I had to uncover the floor! Once all that gold/red was uncovered, it started warming up. Do not underestimate the power of your floor! There's way more of that than your counter.

I also found that one or two items in red or yellow (or whatever color turns up the heat for you), e.g., kettle or stools, can bring white alive. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 11:12AM
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We may have an instinctive or learned perception of what is warm or cold. In nature, certain things are cold; snow, ice, fog, water (white, gray, blue). Other things are warm; sunlight, fire, volcanos (yellow, red). Greens and browns, since they are combinations of other colors, can be either cool or warm depending on the percentage of the warm or cool color, and what they are combined with. I have green grantite counters. My cabinets are a medium dark stained maple, walls are a yellowish tan, and I have beige floors and backsplash. The green counters provide a cooling element. I have seen this granite used in a kitchen with white counters and backsplash. In that instance, the counters provided a bit of warmth visually.

We have an internal response to what we think the surface may actually feel like or what we know the surface feels like; wood usually doesn't feel cold. Pattern and/or texture can modify the percieved temperature of the color: you won't think my fluffy white dog would feel cold.

In pictures 3 & 4 posted above by nosoccermom, the tile floors are beige and terra cotta. In both instances, the color/texture help warm the space. I have a tile floor that looks like limestone (a medium beige). It looks warm, although it can get a little cold in the winter. Natural materials bring pattern and texture to a space. A white marble with grey veining will not read as cold as plain white quartz.

Cold is probably also a personal response to the space, do you feel like it is comfortable, would you like to spend time there? In nosoccermom's examples, the first two don't appeal to me personally. There's nothing organic or personal, and not really any texture other than the smooth surfaces. To me, these could be operating rooms or airport fast food places, but not what I would like to live with. Someone else may really appreciate the simplicity, quality materials, and lack of visual interruption. We all have different tolerances for environmental "clutter".

Spend some time looking at pictures of white kitchens and notice what your initial response is. Then see if you can figure out what elements triggered the response. Is there something that could have been added/changed to improve it?

Have fun designing your kitchen. Remember to make it work for you, not just for some theoretical buyer in the future. Here's a few more to think about:

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 1:11PM
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Unless you're my husband who insists that for him, blue is warm and red is cold because infrared is lower (ie, colder) than the visual spectrum, while ultraviolet is higher and thus warmer. He therefore finds the conventional blue/red markings on faucets confusing. But ignore him and listen to Anna.

Part of this is personal taste. I've looked at a lot of white kitchens here and on houzz.com (a great resource for just looking at a million pictures) and there are kitchens that people love, that to me read cold and off-putting.That's usually from some combination of cold light and what is, for me, too much white (cabs and counters and backsplashes). I like something warmer and when I was considering doing a white kitchen, I was thinking of adding warmth with deep red paint (I won't have much painted wall, so I can go dramatic), wood floors, making sure I bought lights with warm color to the bulbs and touches of warm color in accessories, things like chair cushions, art and window shades.

If you like the look of wood, but not the function, you can get tile, vinyl and laminate (Pergo, etc) with a wood look.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 3:48PM
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I saw those tiles that looked like wood, and I thought they were surprisingly realistic. Although, since they're tile but look like wood, I'm not sure if they would be called 'warm' or 'cold.'

And, I'm a bit confused about the 5th kitchen that nosoccermom posted- would that be a 'cold' kitchen despite the wood countertops which are 'warm'.

Finally, I just want to confirm if I understand the idea of pattern and its relationship to temperature. So, if something has a irregular pattern that you get from nature, then its warmer than something with repeatable pattern?

So a quaritize countertop that looks like carrera marble would be 'warmer' because of its irregular pattern than a man-made quartz countertop that's also supposed to look like carrera marble with its repeatable pattern?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 4:15AM
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Great post! Love the sample kitchen pictures. I struggled with the concept when looking for my backsplash.
Is there a reason not to use a wood floor? Porcelain is harder on the legs and feet. Wood with the newer finishes is pretty darn durable.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 5:06AM
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It is great to become educated, but maybe you are over thinking this. What is your gut reaction when you looks at the inspirational pictures? What are you drawn to time and time again?
Yes the warm/cold is a way of creating a balance, but it is also all about what you like and you can " break the rules."

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 7:36AM
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This is an interesting post! I would just add my suggestion to choose the temperature of your lighting carefully because that will have a huge impact on the ultimate feeling of warmth or coolness in your room.

As a realtor, I showed thousands of homes, including some in new developments that had practically identical white kitchens. Lighting options were more limited than available today, either fluorescent or incandescent. It was amazing to see how different the kitchens looked and felt depending on the lighting... and how the buyers responded to them.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 8:30AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

GF went with cork flooring and is very happy....soft under food and yet easy to clean and durable...and warm.

Another way to add softness or warmth to a kitchen is with fabric and color...so think about wall color, think about a window treatment, think about place mats....

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 9:03AM
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OMG, a man asking for advice! How exciting is that? I would just point out that we don't need to say "cold" like it's a bad thing. Some people really prefer it, even to the point of sterility. My guess is that to people under 30, as many would prefer sterile as would prefer warm. Not at all sure about this, but from what I'm seeing in design trends, this seems to be true.

Case in point -- have been new car shopping because car interiors are so swiftly shifting and I'm hating what I see for next year. Lots more burnished metal interiors, lots of gray and black leather. I am a warm ivory person who likes lots of woodgrain, preferably mahogany-ish. But I begin to realize I'm a dinosaur . . . .

If you don't mean to sell your house in the next, say, five years, do what you d**ned well please.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 9:25AM
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I wouldn't worry about warm or cold, but look at pictures of white kitchens and go with what you like.
Are you considering white shiny sleek or white shaker style?
What's your backsplash?

Even an all-white kitchen (counters, cabinets, floor) can be cozy, depending on the wall color and accessories.
See link below to white kitchens.

For instance, I think the IKEA Abstrakt is potentially "cold" because it's contemporary, bright/shiny with sleek front. Still, look at these kitchens and how they have been warmed up. I tried to pick Abstrakt kitchens without wood floor or counters:

Cork floor or tile, backsplash in a beige

all white with stainless steel but also wood counters and wood table. Some may find this stark, I like it.

charcoal and white, but the green and light behind glass cabinets make it warmer.

all white and grey but beige floor and open shelves with some food items.

all white, beige floor and wood table.

floor and backsplash beige and red accessories.

This one below has a wood floor and island, bu tit shows how a rug can warm up the space, both because it's a softer surface and becaue of its colors:

After all these Abstrakt kitchens, I think I've found my next kitchen. (also good resale value according to a friend-- the appraiser thought it was an Italian designer kitchen, which in my area is a big plus).

Here is a link that might be useful: white bright kitchens

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:05AM
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Or look at this kitchen in a currently ongoing thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: IKEA sneak preview

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:07AM
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I probably should have also originally said that this is for a single family home that I used to live in, but have now rented it for a number of years. And, that I'm planning on selling it in 3-5 years but might hold onto it if the real estate market crashes again.

So, I have no particular allegiance to any kitchen style and the kitchen doesn't have to please me. But, I figured that the potential buyer/renter will be a family so I want it to look nice without making it too 'cold' or 'sterile' when that look might be attractive to a younger, single buyer in the city.

The reason I'm going with a white kitchen is because it's popular when I rent it now and its also 'timeless' and 'classic' enough where it won't be that dated if I have to hold onto the house. (I also have to admit that a white kitchen is a reaction to the old kitchen which was too 'warm' with the overbearing amount of red- red tiles for countertops and red tiles for backsplash).

I figured that one of the things that dates a kitchen are the wood cabinets because different woods are popular in different periods. Whatever wood cabinets were popular ten years ago are now going to be dated. If I go white, then I don't have to worry about that.

And, that's one of the reasons I'm reluctant to put in wood floors- will that particular wood floor be considered dated if I don't sell the house soon.

Plus, since the house is a rental right now, I have to be concerned about durability. With all that water in the kitchen, I don't feel I can really use wood countertops and why I'm concerned about wood floors despite so many posters here using it in their own kitchens.

And, I'm also thinking about using the same flooring in the family room and the kitchen to visually connect the two adjacent rooms. But, there's a large, glass sliding door in the family room that takes you into the backyard.

If I used wood floors in the family room, there's the problem of people tracking in grit from the outside and how that would ruin those wood floors.

With all that sunlight coming in through that glass sliding door, I'm also afraid that sunlight would bleach the wood floors where the wood next to the glass sliding door will look different than the wood not near that glass sliding door.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 5:47PM
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I had asked a very successful realtor in my area what sort of kitchen style was attractive to buyers. She sent me several pictures of kitchens from her listings that she said had "sold the house". They were all white cabs, dark counters and neutral walls and floors.

My neighbor also just renovated her kitchen, with an eye to selling in 2-3 years. She had the man who works with another realtor in upgrading homes for resale just "do what sells". She got white cabinets, black granite, beige tile floors and walls. I have to say, although it sounds really bland, it feels very nice when you walk in -- and she has put a few pops of color here and there (but I liked it even before she did that). She herself wouldn't have picked such a neutral scheme, but, it is classic and I don't think will really ever go out of favor completely.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 7:13PM
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If the current kitchen is in more or less decent shape, I wouldn't redo it for a rental.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 4:23PM
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As a rental, even if I put in the kitchen from Something's Gotta Give, I don't think I'd really see a significant increase in rent although it would probably make the place much easier to rent out.

Unfortunately, there was so much damage to the kitchen that I basically had to tear everything out and start over- new floors, new cabinets, new backsplash, etc...

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 2:30AM
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What do you think about a stainless sink for a white kitchen?

Does that give a 'cold' and 'sterile' feel to the kitchen? For me, I like the porcelain sinks but that's probably because that's what I grew up with.

I was thinking that if stainless sink might push a white kitchen into feeling 'cold' and 'sterile', why wouldn't that also be an issue for stainless steel appliances in a white kitchen?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 2:44AM
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I have a stainless undermount sink in my white kitchen. I've never thought about it contributing to a cold feeling, since you really don't see into the sink until you're standing over it, and by then you have work to do in the sink and function prevails. I think other elements in a kitchen contribute more to whether it feels cold and sterile or warm and groovy.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 10:12AM
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So, it seems wood floors 'warm' up a white kitchen.

But, what about those vinyls and laminates that look like wood floors? Will those also 'warm' up a white kitchen, or do you need real wood floors to 'warm' up a white kitchen?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 3:47AM
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There are some nice tiles that look like wood and they are very affordable. They are placed close together and have tiny grout lines.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:27AM
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Cork floor? I don't know how durable for a rental or how expensive, but expect that renters will trash the place. Not saying that it will happen, but if it doesn't, it'll be a nice bonus.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Marvin, as someone else pointed out earlier, you may be overthinking this. :)

When you look at photos of white kitchens or visit flooring showrooms (assuming you're doing that), how do YOU feel? Trust your own reactions, because they're real.

I have a white kitchen. Some photos of white kitchens leave me cold, literally. Many of them are super sleek contemporary which just isn't my style at all, in any color scheme.

My red oak floor really warms up my kitchen...as do the influences outside my windows over which I have no control. Sometimes the greenery gives the white a green cast (my brain compensates and adjusts back to white). The sun reflecting off my neighbor's house mostly bathes the cabinets in a rich vanilla, almost yellowy light. I like it. The other day, to ward off the heat forecast for the day, I pulled down a white cellular blind over the sink. Instantly the cabinets looked stark polar white. Did not like, even though the color was probably more chip/sample accurate.

I don't think wood floors ever really go out of style. Mine have held up splendidly. If I were fixing up a rental, I don't know if I'd choose wood, although we were renters for most of our lives and took care of things.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 10:09AM
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I had thought about cork flooring, but there were a couple of issues:

1) The samples I saw at flooring stores just didn't look that nice

2) I was thinking about using the same flooring for the kitchen and the adjoining family room to tie them together, and I didn't think the cork samples I saw would work for thoise areas

3) From a marketing perspective, I thought cork would hurt. From what I read, in many ways, cork is an ideal flooring for the kitchen.

But, for most people who didn't know any better, they'd think cork wouldn't be durable or too vulnerable to water.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 1:24AM
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I would think that the wood LOOK is what warms up the kitchen. Since this is a rental, you do need to think more about wear and tear. What is your substrate that the floor will be going on? Is it a concrete slab? Wooden floor joists with plywood subflooring over a basement or crawl space? That will determine how easy it is to install different types of flooring and will affect flooring recommendations.

I love my cork and real linoleum floors. I would not put that much money into flooring in a rental, however. If you are on a concrete slab, it could be economical to do the porcelain tile that looks like wood, if you can get some that is reasonably priced. I have worked at a job that took me into various nursing homes, and several put in that vinyl wood-like flooring. It quickly took on the look of greasy wood-like flooring. It was quite obvious that it was not wood. I don't know if they used some kind of waxy finish on it, but in every instance, the stuff looked greasy enough that you expected to hear your shoes peeling off of it with every step, though you didn't. A tough-as-nails laminate would look nicer. Having the same flooring in both rooms is an excellent plan.

In a rental that you may be selling, I would want to get the cabs from a product line like Ikea or Sherrs, where I could buy replacement door fronts if needed before resale.

Check Craigslist for anybody selling a whole kitchen suite of appliances. During the worst times of home foreclosures you could buy anything a person was able to detach from their house before the bank took it over, and there are a few still out there. You may be able to get the appliances for the kitchen cheap.

As to warmth vs cold, how do you feel about the third kitchen posted by Nosoccermom? It is a warm vanilla white. Do you see the difference in the three light bulb colors that she posted? Some men cannot, that is why I ask. If you get lighting in the "warm" range, get whites with a tinge of yellow in them, you are going to be getting a warm kitchen. Think of creamy whites. Creamy white cabs or wall color, brown flooring that resembles wood, and warm color lighting will go a long way toward making sure your white kitchen is warm.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 2:41PM
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