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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Colour for units - ideas please!

gingerclaireAugust 13, 2012
Hi, this is my first time on here, so please be gentle. I see that most of the houses on here are in America, but I have something a little different I would like your advice with.

I have a little cottage in Dorset, England. It is 200 years old, and I have been working to turn it back into something a little less 70s/80s than when I bought it.

My question concerns the kitchen. When I bought the property it had a modern factory-made oak-effect kitchen with far too many units for the size of the room, and a dark coloured pine floor (see pictures). The combined effect made the room look very dark and uninviting especially as there was no room for a table. I have redesigned the layout to work better, and I'm happy with the units I have bought.

I have re-floored using local limestone which is a gentle creamy colour, and am in the process of installing a handmade kitchen which I bought secondhand on EBay. I have some off-white subway tiles I will be using for the splash backs in a stretcher-bond pattern, and I am having oiled oak work surfaces (all EBay!). I would like to paint the cupboards, but would welcome suggestions for what colours might work well in a traditional setting like this. I will also need to think of a colour that will work on the walls. I want it all to be restful and soothing without looking too bland!

I would welcome advice and suggestions. I should have some pictures with the worksurfaces, sink and cooker fitted by the end of the week!
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Well, you can't get any more classic and traditional than painted white, off white, or cream cabinets.
    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:49PM
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What about wall colours?
    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:15AM
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Kevin Nathaniel
I agree with feeny. Nothing better than those design.. but remember to put extra care with those white because it got dirty easily.

The other option is... How about using vintage style? Paint your walls and the cabinets with cream/broken white colour. And put some vintage looking furniture in it too
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 3:05AM
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Hi gingerclaire,
If you put in white or off white cabinets, it sounds like everything in your kitchen would neutral, yes? Limestone, oak, white subway tile, white cabinets? Often people are constrained in choosing their wall color by the colors in their countertop or backsplash, but you are pretty much free as a bird in your wall color choices. So maybe think about the palette of the downstairs as a whole (not necessarily painting it all the same color, but using colors that work well together to produce a coherent effect) and whether you want your kitchen cabinets to "pop" in contrast with a darker or brighter color on the walls or to have a more subtle effect with a softer, lighter shade.
    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 4:44AM
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I was thinking of using Farrow and Ball paint as I love the depth of pigment colour in their products. Do you have it in the States? The colours I'm thinking of for the walls is Shaded White No 201 and the estate eggshell finish for the woodwork in London Stone No 6. See http://www.farrow-ball.com/kitchens/content/fcp-content

I have quite a cool pendant light to go above my table, it is currently painted a bright pillar-box red, but I could respray it if necessary. How do people think red would look?
1 Like    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 5:06AM
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I LOVE Farrow and Ball paints! They are available in the US, but quite expensive. I think the colors you are considering would be lovely together--very subtle and nice, I suspect, with the limestone floors. Not sure about the red pendant. I love pops of color, and bright red looks good in white kitchens, but I'd want it echoed in a few other places if you were to use it (pottery, etc.). And, given the subtlety of the colors you are considering I might be hesitant to go quite so bright with a permanent feature like your pendant. But let's see what others say, especially some of the professional designers here, as maybe I'm being too conservative. I tend to like very soft, neutral, understated palettes in my own home, so I'm not always the best judge of when a bright pop of color will work or not.
    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 5:24AM
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The limestone floors will be the focal point & most beautiful aspect of the kitchen. Match all colors to the limestone so the colors do not over-power and the undertones all blend. Note the Shaded White has a gray undertone and might not blend with the gentle, creamy limestone flooring. I think the trim in London stone might be too dark: the floor should be the diva & the trim should blend in and not stand out too much. Keep all colors lighter than the flooring. Buy small sample paints, to see what enhances the floors along with the kitchen light (natural and artificial). Limestone floors might look nice with an antiqued cabinet finish (brown glaze over eggshell). The lighting, knobs and faucets all in similar finish that enhnaces flooring, too. How about NOT painting the cabinets? They're very pretty & I love the knobs.
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1 Like    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:54AM
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If the cabinets are in good condition, I would not paint them. They are quite nice in the pictures, and the color is very neutral. If you do have to, or choose to paint the cabinets, my suggestion is "ivory" or off-white cabinets, not "white". To me, there's a world of difference, ivory is just more liveable. You colud also antique them with a brown glaze, if you like the style, (I do). Why not put something other than white on the walls? Especially if you have access to a wonderful highly pigmented paint? Choose a color you like that makes the wood tones you'll be using glow.
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Hullo, someone else from England!
Is yours the one in the middle, or with the scaffolding?
Think in terms of modest late Georgian tastes.

Modern titanium white wasn't used with buildings anywhere before the 1920s, and most places not for another forty years, get rid of the brilliant white. All of it. Pretty please.
Paint ceilings in a broken white.

The cabinets are nice but look mass produced, paint them. The feet look silly. It all looks too sharp.
F+B colours are pretty, but the paint is overrated. Have the same colours mixed in a cheaper brand.

Read up on using traditional lime.
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 2:26PM
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I like the photo that j222b attached. It shows the walls the soft color of the limestone and the cabinets in a creamy white. Yummy!
1 Like    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Rebecca Behrent
I'm from America - way out west, to be exact. I've worked as a standard and decorative painter. I don't know about England, but here in America there are companies, such as Columbia Paints, that offer paints made particularly for painting kitchen cabinetry. I would URGE you to talk to your local paint dealer and see if they don't offer something similar. It's important to make sure you use the right paint on your cabinets as you don't want it peeling off after all your hard work. As for colors - it sounds like you are working towards making this feel like a very light, airy space. You could bring some color from the outdoors into your kitchen space and add even more to the airy feeling. Greens and blues would do this, and would feel very soothing. Just make sure you don't go too bright. Study the greens and blues outdoors. Take plant matter in to match to color samples. Greens and blues always look good together. Just balance the dosage of color. For example, if your main "color" is going to be white, then make most of the space that color. Then go for one wall, for example, in blue. Or blue trim paint on your white cupboards. Then use your green in smaller doses as an accent color in accessories - green plants, green dishes, a green tablecloth, etc.. Would love to see pics when you get it all done!
1 Like    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 5:40PM
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Yum - what a house, and how good is your bargain hunting?

Your units are a good neutral colour and the door detailing is not too 'heavy' so they shouldn't date.... weren't they marketed as 'Shaker style' in the UK? Agree with 'Crazylife' that brilliant white is a little too harsh - Ivory is much more mellow and would work well with a wooden benchtop and the off-white tiles.

I like a 'pop' of colour (and I like red) although navy would work with the neutrals as an accent - thinking along the subway tiles theme.... Depending on the design, you may need more pendant lights for a bigger impact. Have fun!
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:53PM
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Thanks for all the advice so far. Here are some more pictures which hopefully give a better idea of what it looks like now. I think they give a better view of the paleness of the limestone floor too. I am after a look which will be traditional but without being too twee.

I think I do have to paint the units as they won't look right with a different sort of wood on the work surface. I couldn't really afford anything other than the wood for the surface; I really didn't want to use a laminate. Please excuse the circular saw!

I don't think the units are mass produced as I collected the kitchen from a very fancy house in South London, and some of the units were quite unusual sizes. The nasty plastic legs are now covered by the kickboard.

If anybody knows anyone in the West of England who needs some chunks of black sparkly granite (from the kitchen's original incarnation) suitable for an island and two smaller areas, feel free to let me know.
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:21PM
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Don't guess...know for sure what your surfaces will look like before you commit! Check out our website at www.freshsurfaces.com. It's a great tool that allows you to see your room before you do it.
1 Like    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:30PM
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These ads are irritating.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:36PM
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They really are aren't they. Can I delete them?
1 Like    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Julia Wakely Interiors
I'm a Canadian but have lived in London. I love the idea of your red pendant with creamy cabinetry. Another pretty option would be painting your cabinetry F+B Light Blue. It’s so subtle yet gorgeous with your limestone flooring. If you do decide on the Light Blue then I'd spray your pendant black. Hope this helps.
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:50PM
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Oooh, I like the F&B Light Blue option, until I looked at it just then I hadn't noticed its creamy colour, which I think you're right would look good with the floor. What wall colour would work well with that do you think? Something like Pavilion blue?
    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:43PM
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Charmean Neithart Interiors, LLC.
With the creamy/off white palette your thinking of I would try Gray Horse 2140-50 on the walls. This is a quiet, earthy sage/gray color. Love the space you have created. Good luck with your project. Charmean Neithart

Here is Gray Horse painted in this living room...
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    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:55PM
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amydutton Home
First of all, I love the space. Since the ceiling height is fairly low, I would suggest staying light in tone but having fun with color. I like the idea of painting the cabinets a color and having the light fixture compliment the cabinets and having the walls and tile neutral.
I do like the suggestion of the light blue, I also think the gray horse looks beautiful if you want to stay neutral.
You also might look in the green family - from sage to avocado.
Houzz recently has had a lot of colorful kitchens that I like and are in my idea book (I think you can get to it by hitting my logo to the left).
This is a sample of avocado color cabinets that we painted but if you don't want to be so "color-color" consider the other options of blue, gray horse or sage. The Avocado color is a Lowes, Valspar #6003-4A, Gentle Pasture.
Most importantly, choose a color that YOU love and reflects your personality and it will feel like home!
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:29AM
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Hi there Gingerclaire, I like what you've done so far. About colour: (I'm in Scotland) ,you know how British weather can be so much as I like some of the American houses done in grey can you imagine on a dull wet grey day here sitting in a grey kitchen? I'd find it depressing. The sage green on the baseboards of your cabinets looks really lovely against your beautiful floor - could you incorporate that into your scheme?
1 Like    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:41AM
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Hmmm MDF green, I hadn't thought of that. I agree with you on the grey. Different colours look very different in different lights, and there are very good reasons why lovely bright mediterranean colours look much better in the Mediterranean than they do when you try them at home in England! Although I can see the suggested grey colour looks great in that living room, I think on a miserable November morning it might be less lovely.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:55AM
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Hi Gingerclaire, glad to hear you are removing the 70's and taking the cottage back to its roots! My sister-in-law lives in a period farmhouse in WIltshire, and she used a beautiful medium/light blue on her bespoke cabinets! Absolutely lovely! It really brightens up the kitchen. I am almost certain that she used a F&B color.

Here in the states, we do like our white cabinets. You might do think about painting most of the cabinets one color, then accenting a particular feature (island cabinets, sink cabinets) with another complementary color.

Good luck. I'm in the midst of remodeling my kitchen now (live in Texas), and can't wait to have a sink again.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:23AM
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Hi again Gingerclaire. I couldn't see it was mdf but it looks ok on my little screen! I am only thinking green accents with a neutral background. The creamy colour of your floor is very inviting but I know what you mean about too bland. I got tester pots of all sorts of bold and neutral colours and painted A4 sheets with them and pinned them on different walls (away from windows and in direct light) and looked at them at various times of day to see how they were in different lights and it narrowed down my choices quick smart.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:28AM
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Good thinking, I shall have to do that when I get home - I shall have to be patient though, I don't get back from Afghanistan until October. Rebuilding by email is a totally scary prospect, but it's working out OK so far!
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:46AM
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Hi. I'm thinking if you're off with the army you may be sick of the sight of green! I saw a kitchen painted in a dark roasted red which looked terrific but it was huge. I think if you like your red pendant light you could accent in that colour but don't go overboard. The blues suggested by Rebecca Behrent and judsongirl also sound good. Take care out there.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:11AM
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Julia Wakely Interiors
Hi. With the Light Blue cabinetry I'd paint the walls in Pointing. Bright, airy and a very warm ivory.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:20AM
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I have an old farmhouse in Surrey with a similar style kitchen with oak worktops and the units are painted in a mixture of F&B oil based eggshell in Lulworth Blue and Farrow's Cream - most base units in the cream and an island and a bookshelf in the blue. The walls are Dulux Chalky Downs 4 (from the Tailor Made range) which is similar to Shaded White but less expensive and available in a wider range of finishes. The kitchen has been in for about 5 years now and the paint has worn very well with just a few minor chips in the areas that get the most use.

The blue looks quite strong on the chart as it's a little patch surrounded by bright white, but on a larger scale is a lovely soft greyish wedgewood blue which looks good with stainless steel appliances and with the oak worktops. We also have creamy white subway tiles as a splashback! The scheme works really well and copes with the English light without being dull. I agree with comments about avoiding bright white - we have used Dulux Almond White on all the ceilings (matt) and woodwork (eggshell) in our house and it is perfect in a period property.

In your kitchen I would be inclined to use the blue for the base units, and cream for the wall units. This breaks up the units and makes them more like an unfitted period style kitchen, as well as making the room seem bigger than if they are all the same colour. What are you thinking of for the knobs? If they are not too dissimilar to the worktop it would be nice to remove them while you paint and leave them in the timber finish.

You also mentioned Pavillion Blue. I tried a tester of this in another room and found it looked very grubby and dull. Depends so much on the light in your room so whatever you do decide on do a BIG test patch (I put mine on big sheets of card so I can move them around and they don't leave brush marks on the wall) and look at it at different times of day and night.

Good luck!
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:31AM
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Rebecca Behrent
I know you can't go wrong with blues and/or greens. If you do go with red, be careful! My kitchen is about the size of yours - I started painting a small area in red, and it was so overwhelming I quickly ditched the idea. I live in a part of the country that sees 6 months or more of snowy, often gloomy, weather. Although the grey is beautiful, I can't live with it and have none of it in my home, simply because we have so many cloudy days it does get depressing. My own kitchen has soft yellows, creams and blues in it. And actually, it does have a few red accents as well. You might look at some pictures of French kitchens in which they use yellows, blues and whites (oh - sorry, I've heard the English don't like the French? Well - what about looking at some Scandanavian kitchen colors? (I hope you like them, I'm 1/4 Norwegian. But I also have English ancestory - yea!). :)
1 Like    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:34AM
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Have you posted any pictures pollyannagal? I would love to see how it looks.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 8:09AM
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I like everybody Rebecca, especially the French, they usually have such good taste in home decor! Have you got some good links to scandinavian kitchens?
1 Like    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:03AM
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gingerclaire, perhaps the uppers in a creamy off white and the lowers in a lovely pale blue/gray. Looks great in this pic with wood counters. Don't think the red pendant is going to make it. you can make it a brighter wedgewood blue blue or blue/green perhaps?
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:20AM
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I haven't posted any pics of my kitchen but if you are interested I will try and put some on for you to see the effect.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:50AM
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The new pictures are much clearer, the cabinets really are quite good.
If you paint the cabinets in a different pale colour they are likely to clash with the kickboards. Have the kickboards match the cabinets, or use a deep chocolate brown.
Georgians would have painted the handles (which are good) the same as the cabinets.

I noticed that an extractor has been removed. Ensure there is good ventilation, especially if you ever plan to let the place.

Subway tiles are great - for a pubic convenience. Have you considered using that same limestone to make your spashbacks? Ceramic tiles are "so" last century.

Sorry there pollyannagal, but I really do like your colours; would be great to see your photos.

Think more French kitchen than Scandanavian.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:17AM
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The kickboard is just unpainted MDF at the moment, it can go any colour. The extractor is sitting on the floor at the end of the cabinet run, about to be installed.

I can't afford any more limestone - it nearly broke the bank for the floors!

Good tip about the handles, I had been considering cream-coloured porcelain ones, but thinking about it matching them with the units might be better.
    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:26AM
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Hi Gingerclaire.
Nice job on your renovations. Lots of interesting suggestions, and I will add to them. Paint your cabinets Dimity. Soft warm creamy white. I also think the comment on the rainy days is a good point to consider. What is the exposure of your window ?. if it is East, the light coming in will be cool. This will have an effect on grey or any cool colour for that matter. I have fallen for the colour Terre D'Egypte. A warm terra cotta/ red. Love it for your kitchen. Warm up a gloomy day with this colour on walls. I can see you making a labour of love in this new space. Lets stay away from hot reds, blue reds, Picturre Gallery Red is a good choice too. The wood counters are a great choice. Keep life simple. Handles can be brushed bronze, or iron. Texture..

The light fixture may have to be painted to be able to live with the rest. I am not offended with a stand alone peice either. Signature, and statement are good thoughts here re the light.

Re- kickboards. yes have them match. Add some loveable fabrics. Accesories.
This is a starting ground. be original, be you. Remember, everyone sees colour differently, choose one you love .

1 Like    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 5:44AM
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As requested, here are some pics of my kitchen with the F&B Lulworth Blue and Farrows Cream with oiled oak worktops. Not the best pics but hopefully gives you an idea of the effect of the colours. It has worked very well for us and is period enough to suit the house without being old-fashioned. sorry for the delay in posting pics but it's been a mad weekend taking advantage of the sunshine!
3 Likes    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 12:36PM
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You're right, it is a beautiful combination! Congratulations on a lovely kitchen, is it always this tidy?
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 12:41PM
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Hello I have just had my kitchen installed (we live in a 1840 cottage Durham U.K) which I have been designing for approx. 9 months the colours I have chose I have loved for a long time the wall and surrounding cupboard are Farrow and Ball Elephant Breathe and the island is F & B Brassica the colours work very well together HannahB.
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Have you got any pictures?
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Thanks gingerclaire. What you can't see is the sink with the pile of washing up!
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 1:03PM
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Sorry No HannahB.
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 2:24PM
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OK, so the oak worktops have been fitted and I'm now having second thoughts about painting the units... The units and the worktop are different woods, but look quite similar in colour. What do you all think?

I'm also wondering how far up to do the backsplash on the wall with the cupboards and wine rack. I may decide put another shelf in below the wine rack, so should I tile all the way up to the shelf, or just keep it at the height of the base of the wall cupboards? Or should I give the shelf a miss and put a nice horizontal Matisse print I have across the space?

I have solved my extractor dilemma with the find of a cool downdraught extractor which pops up out of the counter and has the fan outside to keep the noise down.

It's all coming together now, thanks for all the advice so far!
1 Like    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 3:28AM
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Good to see the progress. Lovely sink! If you're having 2nd thoughts about painting the cabinets I'd leave them. The wood is good and they don't fight with the worktop. Painting them is a massive and tedious job! Once the walls are painted and you have other colour details in I think they will look great. Remember also that the worktop will naturally darken a little in time but if your cupboards are a bit older they may be more stable in colour. If you keep them in the wood I'd change the knobs to a metal finish (black or brushed stainless steel) which would really lift the whole scheme. A trick to blend the two different woods is to fix a stainless steel strip to the front edge of the worktop to break the line between the two and tie in with appliances. Your main challenge with not painting cabinets is the MDF plinths- any plans?

I would go for a simple oak shelf between the cupboards, maybe using hidden brackets to keep lines clean. Paint the batten under the wine rack to match the wall. If you don't need the shelf space or like open storage go for the print, or combine the two ideas and sit the print on the shelf along with a couple of simple jugs or similar. If you put a shelf in I'd tile up to it to avoid breaking up the space too much, if no shelf then in line with cupboards to define a space for the picture.

There doesn't look like much space behind the hob for your extractor - how deep is it?

Hope to see more progress reports!
1 Like    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 4:33AM
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Nancy Hehmann
Gingerclaire, it is so amazing that people from all over the world can now discuss things!! I know you will be excited to get back from Afghanistan to your lovely home. A big thanks to everyone who is trying to make the world a better place.
The wood in your cabinet does look nice and while white kitchens look nice over time they can be more easily damaged with wear and tear. If you are now thinking not to paint, I would highly encourage you to stain them and make sure you get a great protective coating. In the long run, I am sure the stained cabinets will stand the test of time longer than painted. I like the sound of your red pendant too if you still want to use it. I love to use pops of color and they are indeed sometimes very uplifting! As you say, on a rainy day you want something bright and cheery.
I hope you will post pictures of your completed kitchen!
1 Like    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 7:13AM
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Love it. I would not paint cabinets, either. I love the knobs, too. Matisse / shelf would be great.

The cook top is near the oven wall, will cooking efforts spatter on the oven wall from the cook top? Photos: 1) subway tile splash with wood counter, 2) wood back splash 3) a back splash ending where your splash would end.
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Here's a good article about protecting wood counters.
Ideabook: Wonderful Wood Countertops for Kitchen and Bath · See Ideabook
or this suggestion from another wood counter on Houzz "It has been sealed with a mixture of wax and mineral oil from the Real Milk Paint Company: http://www.realmilkpaint.com/soapstone-sealer-wax.html "
    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:05AM
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OK, so finally I took the plunge and got out the paintbrush for my kitchen. The walls are going to be a darker shade, what you see in the pictures is just the mist coat on the fresh plaster.

For the units I went for a gentle grey-green colour from Little Greene called 'Normandy Grey' (photos show the repaint partially completed!). I am now wondering what I should do with the kick boards. They are MDF, so need painting, but I am unsure of what would look best.

What do people suggest?
    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:02AM
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Nice to see the progress - looks lovely. I would paint the kickboards the same colour as the units so they blend in as any other finish would just draw attention to them. If you hadn't painted the cupboards you could have tried to match the kickboards to the floor colour but thankfully now you don't have that problem. What handles/knobs are you using?
    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:11AM
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Another thing I haven't decided yet! I have some second-hand antique off-white porcelain ones, but I'm still toying with the idea of replacing the original unpainted wooden ones.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:19AM
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Unpainted knobs would repeat the counters & look good.

I'd paint the kickboards green, too.
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    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 8:30AM
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