Trouble finding inspiration

texaspennyAugust 6, 2012

My husband and I are in the planning stages of our kitchen remodel. I've been looking through the finished kitchen blog and so many pictures on Houzz. For the longest time, I hadn't found a picture I 'loved'. So many were pretty, or amazing, or so imaginative, but none made me say "that's it!" Here is a picture of my current kitchen. The house is from 1979 and the kitchen is in the middle of the house. There is a north facing door to the outside covered patio in the eat-in area, but no window in the actual kitchen. Even without a lot of natural light the kitchen is fairly bright. It has peachy tile, light gray/blue laminate, and we'd painted the cabinets a buttercream yellow. We're tearing out the upper cabinets on the shared wall to the living room and opening up that area.

While looking for an inspiration, I kept telling myself that we needed wood cabinets, not painted. Growing up, painting your wood cabinets was the last thing you did before getting a new kitchen - but you always started with wood. But, so many of your kitchens that I've really liked have had painted cabinets - gray, blue, red, etc. Finally, I found these two pictures on Houzz that I really love-red cabinets with the black soapstone. The only decision we've made is that we're going with Soapstone for the counter top, so these really caught my eye. My husband likes the look of a stainless steel tile backsplash and that would work with the black/red combo. For the upper cabinets, we'll only have 4 and then 1 over the frig, and I think those would be natural cherry or some type of light color. If you look at our backsplash, it's a mosaic of a bunch of different colors which I put in after I bought the house - so I'm not afraid of color. But, I'm worried that I'll get tired of the black/red/stainless steel combo....but nothing else has really made me stop and say YES! We're trying so hard to not end up with a 'brown' kitchen but I'm afraid I'm going too far. Thoughts?

Eclectic Kitchen design by Austin Interior Designer Cravotta Studios -Interior Design

Contemporary Kitchen design by Seattle General Contractor Ventana Construction LLC

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Boy do I understand your angst. Some thoughts:

First, are you also looking at magazines for inspiration? As much as I love Houzz, when you're flipping through computer images you might have a tendency to not really see them - with magazines you just linger a little. I often flit and fly through the computer. So start buying magazines, not just current issues but going to used book stores and buying stacks of more recent issues and pull pages, circling whatever you like. Or you may stumble on the exact thing for inspiration. But holding the picture in your hand just really helps, at least for me.

Second, if at all possible, take your time. See how you feel about the painted kitchen in a few days/week. In fact, try not to dwell on that kitchen and give your mind a break from it. You'll see it fresh and either still love it or move on.

Third, the painted wood cabinets of today don't look anything like the "painting right before you sell" cabinets. They're professionally done and the surface is hard and smooth.

Fourth, your current kitchen seems fairly bright exactly BECAUSE of the white cabinets. Have you considered new cabinets in some shade of white, cream, or beige? I think your kitchen really might feel like a cave with darker painted cabinets, and probably even with wood unless they're natural maple or something similar.

Last, you're worried you'll get sick of the color combo. I personally want to change color schemes here and again. Is this you? If so, do a neutral kitchen. You can always add color in your furnishings, paint and decoration.

I think you're on the right track. Give yourself some time and enjoy the process!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 6:40AM
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Great advice from mjtx2. Buy the stacks of magazines and as you go through them, and something catches your eye, mark what you like about it (amazing how quickly you'll forget), and rip the page out. Start a folder for backsplashes, hoods, floors, countertops, cabinets, special features, etc., then later when you need to make a decision, you'll be able to go back to your inspiration pictures and show what you wanted. I guess Houzz would work well like this too, same idea of filing and organizing ideas and marking what you like.

I spent almost a year planning before we started any demo work. I'd spend my morning hour on the exercise bike, happily looking and ripping. Always good to multi-task:)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:08AM
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You might not find one photo that has it all. I'm working from one that doesn't have a backsplash so I have other photos for that. Put together all the photos you like something about and then you can see a pattern.

I love the backsplashs in the photos you posted. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:38AM
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I know what you mean about worrying about 'color' fatigue after awhile...esp with the expense of cabinets. I had painted our dining room red several years back (DH was fond of yelling "redrum!" when he walked through... not a fan, I guess, lol) and I loved it... for awhile. Then I did get fatigue and went over it with a cream color. It seemed to 'relax' the space somehow. It was also a dark room with little light and that seemed to make it 'cavelike', too.
Anyway, I was seriously on the red cabinet thing for a few months until I saw this pic

and that got me off of the red.

I guess what I'm saying is that my concerns over 'red fatigue' have thus far put me off it but there are some really awesome red kitchens out there and if you like it, go for it. Your first inspiration pic is beautiful!

I envy you being choosy about what inspires you, hang around on here long enough and you'll have inspiration overload!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 8:02AM
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Don't worry about the struggle finding the inspiration photo. There is not one photo for each person and you have found a great start. I love your 2 photos, and personally have always wanted a kitchen with red cabinets. It was my plan for my last house, but then we moved and it won't work in my current space.
I think red and soapstone is very classic, and you will not tire of it. But do consider lighting, you will lose some of the brightness of your kitchen when you change out your white cabinets with red. You could also consider a lighter countertop, like Cambria Torquay which would look classic but reflect more light. Not trying to sway you if soapstone is your number one priority in your new kitchen, it is lovely.
I might try to sway you from stainless steel tile backsplash however- lol. I think it reads kind of dark when I have seen it done. I would prefer to satisfy your husband's desire for stainless with a solid sheet backsplash just behind the stove and a creamier tile everywhere else- or ignore your husband completely unless he spends time in the kitchen(and just getting a beer from fridge doesnt count).
Also, when you tear down the wall and open into the living area how will the red and soapstone tie in to that space, because if I am understanding your layout correctly you may need to to consider that. I think only the uppers on the stove wall will be visible from the living room, is that right?
Finally, your two photos both have creamy painted uppers to balance and brighten the red. I think this might be better for you too, rather than cherry uppers. Cherry is so red itself I think it would be a bad combo, if you love the red painted cabinets(which I do!) and want natural wood uppers think about maple, or birch. Think about which design element really makes your heart sing- painted red base or natural wood uppers? I got the impression you were doing the natural wood thing because you felt you should not because you wanted to?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 8:24AM
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When you were describing the color combination, my imagination said, "Eh! Garish and tiring."

Then ....
You posted that first picture.
Oh, how calm and well put together. I think those colors work because they are so far from primary. I really love the upper cabinet color in particular with that red. The yellow-y color of the 2nd pic doesn't speak to me at all. Not at all, but that's me. But I think the light uppers of either would keep your kitchen light.

That is a beautiful picture and I'm saving it, even though I'm in the sage/gray/green arena.

I am a nix on the cherry uppers. There is only a snowball's chance you're going to find a muted, lovely red like your pic that will enhance the cherry. It's such a red color it in itself, darkening as it ages, that 1) your kitchen will be much darker than you're thinking, and 2) I cannot imagine it not clashing with the lower red cabs.

My serious recommendation, though, is to get ahold of the designer in that pic and see if they'll give you the paint colors.

Then, get them as samples and paint something so you can see how they work with the lighting in your kitchen. Goodness knows it would suck if the red suddenly looked orange or something. I've worked with about 8 "perfect" colors that all turned turquoise in my natural light.

If you happen to be local to the Washington DC area, I was just thinking about a pile of 20-30 decorating mags I should give to someone! Literally, as I pulled up your thread. So if you are, they can be yours.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:04AM
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The suggestion to go to the library for magazines is a good one, but I'd expand on that. I've noticed on Houzz, for instance, that almost ALL the thousands photos are to very current style trends, colors, materials on the market. Ultimately dismayingly, and amazingly, limited in design range. There are so many potential inspirations that never show up there. So go to a large library and pull magazines from as far back as they are available. Old design books too, of course. This'll give you a much broader range of styles and ways they're developed.

BTW, I also almost never find something that could be "my" look in one picture, but I do find elements I like. Your red cabinets, etc., seem like a great beginning to build on.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:08AM
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I agree that you probably won't find one picture that has it all for you, search through magazines and you'll probably find half a dozen or so pictures, each with one or two elements you love.

I love your inspiration pictures, I think both are great. Do try to find out the exact red paint colour they used in the first photo, it is wonderful.

I don't think you're going "too far" at all. I don't agree with the recommendation to go with a white or neutral kitchen either, that doesn't sound like what you want. I think red lowers (as pictured in photos 1 and 2) will be wonderful, with light painted or glass uppers. Opening up the wall to the LR will contribute to opening up the area regardless, so I wouldn't worry about the 'cave' issue.

I don't like the idea of red lowers with cherry uppers. If you want wood uppers I would go with a very light, blonde wood (maple, birch, etc.), but I think painted uppers in a light colour would go better with the red lowers.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Circus Peanut

I LOVE the red/soapstone/stainless combination, I think it's cheerful and timeless.

It's definitely some thing to consider, but I don't find that a mid-toned cabinet color itself makes kitchens look darker; in a galley kitchen it's all about making sure to add adequate lighting. This kitchen has no windows and still reads as light and fresh:

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 12:21PM
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Building on circuspeanut's note on "adequate" lighting, I recommend thinking about and even experimenting with installed lighting before you decide on cabinets.

A rental apartment I manage has a 35' deep pubic room with windows only at the very front. The kitchen is set into the back wall. Originally it had a nasty florescent box; later I replaced it with minimal track lights, which were more atmospheric but not good for tasks.

In preparing the place for a new tenant, I spent a fair amount of time searching "windowless kitchens" on Houzz, not because I was going to redo the basic kitchen, but to get some ideas about lighting solutions that would not entail tearing out wallboard and rewiring either the ceiling of the walls.

These photos are not great, but I think they show the difference in the vista from the other end of the room as well as in the kitchen proper.

Before, primitive track lights

After, "field bendable" track lights configured for the space

How the new tracks actually provide task lighting in the kitchen

Your current kitchen lighting is bright and diffused, and that is probably the look that you prefer. If you have any doubts, turn the overhead lights off and get someone to go up on a ladder with any kind of focused downlight (I used an old clamp-on desk lamp) to simulate how recessed, track, or other non-diffused lighting would work in your space.

Best of luck. hbk

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 3:08PM
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Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. You're right...cherry cab on the top would not work. It'll have to be lighter and more even. Thanks for reminding me of that. As for making it match the living room, we're redoing the flooring, fireplace surround, and ceiling after the kitchen is done. This way we can make sure it all goes together.

CEFreeman - thank you so much for your offer, but I'm in Austin.

The funny thing is that first photo is a designer in Austin too, but on Houzz he answers a question about the paint and said it was on his personal home that he's since sold and didn't keep any of the details. I'm going to try contacting him about my kitchen, but designers here are a little snooty about 'central' austin vs northwest austin where I am. I even had one tell me that because zillo had my house priced at x and you should only spend y% of x on a kitchen remodel, she was out of our price range and wouldn't help us. Completely disregarded the part of my email where I made it clear we were over-improving and doing exactly what we want-no matter the cost. Argh. Sorry for the rant!

I'll be posting for layout help soon, so you'll be seeing my kitchen again! Heh, if you want to get a jump on it, my photobucket acct is public and you can see all the pics there! Can't wait to hear the suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Have you tried calling vendors for recommendations for kitchen designers? Places like Kiva's, Austin Stoneworks, Architerra, etc.? I noticed places in Lakeway-- cannot recall names--last time I was there, too. Good luck! Love the inspiration pic with the circles in the backsplash.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Good idea! We loved Austin Stoneworks. Lots of pretty.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Try googling "kitchen designers Austin TX" and many appear. This one had an interesting website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Capitol

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 9:57AM
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I really like the soft cream/yellow on the uppers (in your second picture) and I think it helps to balance the red on the lower cabinets. The red is very cheerful and I think that will be what you need, in a kitchen with little natural light.

Are you going to have stainless appliances? Your fridge and range will be open to the living room, so they will be a big part of your design. If you do...would you consider something light, but still colorful and fun for your backsplash? Again, I like your second picture and think some color (but with the light background) will bring all the colors together.

As for the living room and kitchen can pull out those colors and use them in those areas, too. If the red/soapstone appeals to you...then think about bringing in the light creamy yellow and maybe even the green of the second picture. It will never feel dark or depressing in a room like that :)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I wrote to the designer, too, because I love the shades he used!!

He said he gave all the specs to the new owner.

Frankly, I don't know a single designer that doesn't keep a record of their work. What if the new people lost their stuff and wanted him to do work on the house?

I just LOVE the muted colors that stand out so beautifully. Did you notice that the kitchen is by far the best decorated room in the house? Or perhaps he didn't address the other rooms and it sold on the kitchen? I can see that.

That means, they might be back for more work and he has no records. I'm running in a circle here!

Give him a call. What have you got to lose?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:28AM
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There was a red and cream kitchen done on here back in 2008.

I always liked it. It's in the Finished Kitchen Blog.

I've linked her photobucket account below.

Here is a link that might be useful: NYmommy's Kitchen

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 12:29PM
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TexasPenny--I am thinking about the same colors--red, cream and black, and having trouble finding pictures tooI Done right, I think it could be very warm and inviting. I am thinking about mixing red and cream cabinets, with soapstone and carrera marble. I was thinking about island soapstone and perimeter counters marble, or vice versa.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:39PM
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CEFreeman -

We are in the DC area and I need inspiration!

I have been agonizing over my layout issues, color issues, you name it.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:32PM
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Can you take a step back from photographs of kitchens, and think about your favorite places and then think about what it is that makes you feel good in those places? That might give you some ideas about palette and materials. And those places might not be kitchens. For instance, for my husband and me, a major source of inspiration was a favorite local museum: we loved the textures and the palette, and that space influenced our choices for our kitchen design. The funny thing is that substitutions were made, for various reasons, for every single material, and yet: we feel we have recreated something of the feel of that favorite space. Where do you most like to hang out, and why?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Thanks for all the extra suggestions. Unfortunately DH is not 'getting' the painted red cabinets. He said he liked the look of a stain. He found pics of red cabinets with a streaky black stain and said he liked that. I SO did not concur. We'll probably end up with a craftsman-y kitchen with quarter saw white oak (nothing wrong with that...was just hoping for more color). I so envy the people in here whose spouses let them choose everything!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:26PM
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To keep the red painted cabinet vibe you love,
have you considered doing just one element in the kitchen in red paint?
Perhaps the island or a free standing hutch?
Or, bring in your red paint with red painted bar stools or chairs.
I'd hate to see you lose your red paint altogether
since it is clearly something you love.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 8:35AM
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Although it is a very different look than the eclectic/Austin vibe in your inspiration kitchen,
Spider96's charming and colorful Gardenweb kitchen may give you an idea of how to sneak in the red paint:

Here is a link that might be useful: Spider96 colorful GW kitchen

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 8:42AM
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I adore red. My closet is full of it. I have bits of red throughout my house, but nothing nailed down or immovable. I know I couldn't live with a red room or even an accent wall. I think it's just too much excitement for me. I have a white and dark gray kitchen, with a bright red kettle and counter stools, a deep red free-standing buffet and hutch. They're just enough to maintain a healthy beating heart in my home, without making me feel overwhelmed.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:32PM
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