Interior Design

A Colorful New Way to Give Your Kitchen a Design Refresh

How to design a vibrant, color-filled space for cooking up your favorite dishes.

July 31, 2019

We've partnered with Sherwin-Williams® to share expert tips for bringing bright, vivid colors into your kitchen and highlight just how easy it is to design the cooking space of your dreams.

The kitchen is where your most vibrant, delicious meals come to life: pops of bright red and yellow stand out on herby tomato sandwiches in the summertime; intensely orange butternut squash and leafy green kale shine in this fall-ready pasta during the chillier months.

So if your cooking space is craving an update, why not look to your favorite colorful produce for design inspiration? That's where Food52's Art Director and farmers' market aficionado, Alexis Anthony, comes in.

Whether your kitchen's stuck in the same plain beige you moved in with, or the decor just needs a bit of a refresh, these totally doable ideas are sure to bring a dose of warm, inviting color to any space.

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Top Comment:
“It would be great if different videos didn't continue to autoplay in the header vid. It autoplayed before I read, and I read before watching, so when the piece mentioned the video and I scrolled up, it was a video about chocolate and whipped cream. Thought it as an error until I refreshed and the correct video appeared.”
— M

Check out her best design tips below, or watch the video above, to see her completely transform a kitchen from blank slate to meal prep-ready in just a few steps.

Our Best Tips for Designing a Color-Filled Kitchen

Photo by Rocky Luten

1. Pick a piece of colorful produce and use it as inspiration.

For this kitchen, Alexis used a bright green bunch of cilantro as the inspiration for the color of the walls. To find just the right shade, she used the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer App's "Match a Photo" feature to generate a color palette based off the different shades of green in the cilantro's leaves and selected the perfect color. Her pick, unsurprisingly, was Cilantro SW 6453: a fresh, lively shade that would be the focal point of the entire kitchen.

When picking out your own kitchen shade, you'll want to consider not only the lighting in the space, but also the existing design elements around the house. "If you want the kitchen to be a standalone feature, you can go really bold," she explains, but if you want to coordinate with the rest of your home, the color should work within the overall palette.

If you're in between colors—or the thought of using an eye-catching color feels intimidating—she recommends using the App's "Instant Paint" feature (which leverages augmented reality) to visualize the color on your walls before committing. With this helpful app, "you can be braver than you normally would with color."

2. Make sure your walls are prepped and ready.

Ok, so you've decided to go bold! Before you pick up that paint roller, make sure the walls are all prepped. In the kitchen especially, a space that's more prone to spills and splatters than others, you'll want to take extra care. "You have to make sure it's clean—in a kitchen, sometimes there can be grease on the wall from cooking," Alexis says, which can lead to an uneven coat of paint if left untouched.

When wiping down the walls, "avoid using any cloth that would leave any sort of dust or residue; a paper towel probably isn't the best choice because it could leave fibers on the wall that could leave bumps in your paint," she explains. Microfiber is a great option here, since it is non-abrasive and practically lint-free.

Another one of Alexis's pro tips: "Always tape things off," she says. "It takes a long time, but it's worth it to get a nice clean line." You should also put down a canvas drop cloth (which you can reuse for your next painting project) to protect your floors and countertops.

Photo by Rocky Luten

3. Stick with neutral countertops and cabinets to make the wall color pop.

If you're going to use a stand-out color on the walls, keep the countertops and cabinets a light, neutral color so that they don't overpower each other. "Against the white shelves, all of the white accents, and the marble, the Cilantro color is able to fully pop and be the main feature of the kitchen," Alexis explains.

When you're working with such a striking shade, you want to really let it shine, which is why you probably want to avoid picking out bright-colored countertops, shelving, or even cabinets. A combination of vibrant color and soft neutrals will make your space feel balanced and inviting.

4. Use open shelving to put your favorite pieces on display.

"I like open shelving because I collect props and kitchenware, and I like to show them off," Alexis tells me. You can use that visible wall space as a showcase for your favorite pieces, whether it's a piece of vintage cookware you picked up at an antique fair or the set of hand-thrown mugs you've cherished for years. "It's also a lot easier to use what you love when you can see it out in the open, and celebrate the things that you enjoy," she says.

Another plus of open shelving: it encourages you to stay organized. "It keeps you honest," Alexis adds. When all of your kitchen items are out in plain sight, you're more likely to keep the space neat and tidy.

Photo by Rocky Luten

5. Bring warmth to the space by mixing and matching materials.

When picking out which accessories to display, stick with pieces that fall within the neutral palette, but mix up the textures to make the space feel cozy and inviting. "I brought in some lighter wood tones just to warm it up and keep the space from feeling too cold," Alexis explains. She also included a few additional textural elements, like the ceramic cookware and wood-framed art, to tie everything together.

A bowl of fruit adds an extra pop of color, while a verdant house plant can "bring in a little bit of life and speak to how fresh the wall's green color is," she adds.

How would you design your dream kitchen? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

In partnership with Sherwin-Williams, we're sharing our best design tips and transformation videos to show you how a few simple changes—starting with the wall color, like the Cilantro SW 6453 featured in this kitchen— can take any space from blah to breathtaking. To make the whole process even easier, use the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer App for mobile, which has innovative features that make choosing a final wall color totally hassle-free. Here, we used the "Match a Photo" feature to find just the right shade of green inspired by a bright, vivid bunch of cilantro.

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Erin Alexander is the Assistant Editor of Partner Content at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


M July 31, 2019
It would be great if different videos didn't continue to autoplay in the header vid. It autoplayed before I read, and I read before watching, so when the piece mentioned the video and I scrolled up, it was a video about chocolate and whipped cream. Thought it as an error until I refreshed and the correct video appeared.
tia July 31, 2019
I painted my kitchen last year, both walls and (ugly melamine) cabinets. I recommend washing everything down with TSP or a TSP replacement first to make sure you don't have grease to worry about. It takes a while, because you have to rinse and then let it dry but you DEFINITELY don't want to find out the hard way that you didn't get all of the grease.

Take off the hardware or any outlet covers on the walls you're painting before you start. It's much easier than taping around them or just trying to avoid them.

If it's been a while (mine probably hadn't bee painted in 20 years or more), you may end up needing more paint than you expect. Or you could put down a layer of good primer first.

And if you're painting the ceiling, COVER YOUR HAIR. Picking paint out of your hair is a total pain, and preventable.