Let’s Put Some Color Back in the Kitchen

Colorful modern kitchen

Growing up, I watched every episode of “Grace Under Fire.” The show’s heroine, Grace Kelly, had a small robin’s-egg blue refrigerator in her kitchen. It was old and had a single door and rounded edges—I loved it. After every kitchen scene I thought, “I’m going to have a fridge just like that in my house.”

Later in the series, the refrigerator was painted white. Suddenly, the cheery blue appliance I’d been coveting for years looked just like any old fridge. I was devastated.

That trauma lasted well into adulthood. Grown-up me, clutching childhood dreams of colorful kitchens, just knew she’d be able to find a blue fridge, or maybe avocado green, or even a nice earthy yellow. Instead, I found a sea of metal.

Cold, sharp-angled stainless-steel appliances stared back at me everywhere I went: in friends’ homes, home improvement stores, even used appliance stores.

Grace Kelly in her kitchen in “Grace Under Fire”

childstarlets.com

Grace, in her kitchen

I wanted something more playful, something that would match my personality and create a focal point in the kitchen. Where did all the color go? To find out, I needed a history lesson.

Colorful appliances, as it turned out, first came on the scene in the 1950s.

“This was the era of color TV, so when armed with this powerful new visual tool, designers and appliance manufacturers marketed everything with that in-color angle,” says Diana Hathaway Timmons, about.com color expert and design consultant in the Tacoma, WA, metro area.

Eclectic Kitchen

Anthony Perez via Houzz.com

Eclectic Kitchen

Marketing wizards pushed color hard.

“Decor ads back then went as far as to market their appliance colors to match your wardrobe or favorite shoes,” Timmons says. And it worked. From the multihued variations in the ’50s and ’60s, to the earthy tones in the ’70s, color hung in.

That is, until the early ’80s, when color started to fall out of fashion.

“This is when you saw less Harvest Gold and more almond and beige appliances,” says Timmons.

Chic and modern farmhouse

Corynne Pless via Houzz.com

Chic Modern Farmhouse

But those pale neutrals didn’t last long either. Soon consumers were leaning toward black and white appliances again. Stainless steel first showed up in the ’90s, according to Timmons, but it didn’t really take off until TV intervened, again, to change people’s tastes.

“Fueled by the popularity of the Food Network, cooking and entertaining at home in a commercial-style kitchen drove the stainless-steel appliance movement,” says Timmons.

Suddenly, everyone wanted sleek stainless steel. And home buyers started to expect it.

So had I really already lost the battle? Had manufacturers finally given up on unique style? Not entirely.

Manufacturers still make new color creations for the don’t-want-to-overpay masses from time to time. Following in the footsteps of tech giants, some appliance companies have adopted “ice white.” Sometimes other metallic finishes such as shimmery gold and dark bronze show up, but they don’t have a big impact.

“It won’t shake the hold stainless steel has,” Timmons says. “The perception still is, stainless equals high-end.”

But what about the robin’s-egg blue, cherry, and avocado shades of my childhood dream home?

Lake house barn-wood bar

Drew Steven via Houzz.com

Lake House Barnwood Bar

It is a fringe market, but some colorful appliance creations still exist. After an online opinion poll, General Electric announced plans to make its retro GE Artistry line in two new shades: Cupcake Blue and Red Pepper.

Vintage design master Big Chill also makes its Mid-Century Modern fridge in several amazing colors such as Pink Lemonade, Jadite Green, Buttercup Yellow, and Beach Blue.

The Beach Blue looks almost identical to Grace’s old kitchen fridge—it gets my heart pounding.

Traditional kitchen

Big Chill via Houzz.com

Traditional kitchen

But getting those unique colors will cost you.

GE is raising the base price of its Artistry line from $1,200 to $1,500 for the color options, according to CNET. Big Chill comes with a shiver-inducing $2,995 price tag.

So what’s a (kind of cheap) girl to do?

Paint: If you already have a boring stainless-steel fridge, there are painting contractors out there who will paint your refrigerator, Timmons says. It may not be the cheapest option, but you’ll save over the “custom” colors of the higher-end models.

Go magnetic: Magnets don’t stick to true stainless steel, but if you have a painted fridge, you can change the color with magnetic fronts. These fronts are designed to cover the entire door, making a big change, according to Timmons.

Decals: Not ready for a drastic change? Sites such as Etsy offer vinyl decals in an endless variety of styles and colors. Sure, it isn’t a complete color change, but you can choose patterns and designs as well.

As for me, I think I’ll turn on some “Grace Under Fire” reruns and dream of a more colorful time.

Which Kitchen Layout Is Right for You?

Whether you’re gearing up for a major renovation or shopping around for houses, it’s hard to argue that the kitchen is pretty important.  If you eat food, which you probably do, you’re going to have to spend time there.

Of course, there is no One True Kitchen Layout. Many tout the work triangle, where the three major work stations—sink, stove, and refrigerator—are laid out more or less equidistant from each other, as the most efficient layout. However, what’s going to work best for you depends on your needs and the limitations of your space.

Here are 4 of the most popular options:

Galley

small-galley-kitchen-designAlso called a walk-through kitchen, this layout has two parallel counters sandwiching a walkway. It’s perfect for smaller homes and apartments, since there are no wasted corners and the walk-space can do double work as a hallway. They’re also efficient—there’s a reason ships, airplanes, and many commercial kitchens all use galley variations.

There are drawbacks, though. These kitchens are usually on the small side, and there’s no seating area or room for socialization.

L-shaped

L-Shaped-KitchenAn L-shaped kitchen is almost exactly what it sounds like—two sections of counters connected at an adjacent corner. They are common in more open concept houses, but are versatile enough to fit pretty much anywhere.

This is also an excellent set up to go for if you want an island. One downside to L-shaped kitchens is that they require you to face away from the open areas while preparing food, but an island gives you the option to do the opposite.

U-Shaped

kitchen_3-1U-shaped kitchens can be great for people who spend a lot of time in the kitchen. They surround the cook on three sides, so everything is in reach. They also typically offer a great deal of storage space, but are more closed off than some other options.

For a more social variation, consider losing the wall and upper cabinets on one leg of the U. Or, if you have the room, a center island can have the same effect, but with some extra work and storage space.

G-Shaped

g kitchenIf you like the idea of a U-shaped kitchen, but don’t have the room for an island or want to knock down a wall, a G-shape—three walls of counter and cabinets with a partial fourth counter acting as peninsula—might be right for you. This usually gives you extra cooking and storage room, along with an eating counter.

Let’s Put Some Color Back in the Kitchen

Colorful modern kitchen

Growing up, I watched every episode of “Grace Under Fire.” The show’s heroine, Grace Kelly, had a small robin’s-egg blue refrigerator in her kitchen. It was old and had a single door and rounded edges—I loved it. After every kitchen scene I thought, “I’m going to have a fridge just like that in my house.”

Later in the series, the refrigerator was painted white. Suddenly, the cheery blue appliance I’d been coveting for years looked just like any old fridge. I was devastated.

That trauma lasted well into adulthood. Grown-up me, clutching childhood dreams of colorful kitchens, just knew she’d be able to find a blue fridge, or maybe avocado green, or even a nice earthy yellow. Instead, I found a sea of metal.

Cold, sharp-angled stainless-steel appliances stared back at me everywhere I went: in friends’ homes, home improvement stores, even used appliance stores.

Grace Kelly in her kitchen in “Grace Under Fire”

Grace, in her kitchen

I wanted something more playful, something that would match my personality and create a focal point in the kitchen. Where did all the color go? To find out, I needed a history lesson.

Colorful appliances, as it turned out, first came on the scene in the 1950s.

“This was the era of color TV, so when armed with this powerful new visual tool, designers and appliance manufacturers marketed everything with that in-color angle,” says Diana Hathaway Timmons, about.com color expert and design consultant in the Tacoma, WA, metro area.

Eclectic Kitchen

Anthony Perez via Houzz.com

Eclectic Kitchen

Marketing wizards pushed color hard.

“Decor ads back then went as far as to market their appliance colors to match your wardrobe or favorite shoes,” Timmons says. And it worked. From the multihued variations in the ’50s and ’60s, to the earthy tones in the ’70s, color hung in.

That is, until the early ’80s, when color started to fall out of fashion.

“This is when you saw less Harvest Gold and more almond and beige appliances,” says Timmons.

Chic and modern farmhouse

Corynne Pless via Houzz.com

Chic Modern Farmhouse

But those pale neutrals didn’t last long either. Soon consumers were leaning toward black and white appliances again. Stainless steel first showed up in the ’90s, according to Timmons, but it didn’t really take off until TV intervened, again, to change people’s tastes.

“Fueled by the popularity of the Food Network, cooking and entertaining at home in a commercial-style kitchen drove the stainless-steel appliance movement,” says Timmons.

Suddenly, everyone wanted sleek stainless steel. And home buyers started to expect it.

So had I really already lost the battle? Had manufacturers finally given up on unique style? Not entirely.

Manufacturers still make new color creations for the don’t-want-to-overpay masses from time to time. Following in the footsteps of tech giants, some appliance companies have adopted “ice white.” Sometimes other metallic finishes such as shimmery gold and dark bronze show up, but they don’t have a big impact.

“It won’t shake the hold stainless steel has,” Timmons says. “The perception still is, stainless equals high-end.”

But what about the robin’s-egg blue, cherry, and avocado shades of my childhood dream home?

Lake house barn-wood bar

Drew Steven via Houzz.com

Lake House Barnwood Bar

It is a fringe market, but some colorful appliance creations still exist. After an online opinion poll, General Electric announced plans to make its retro GE Artistry line in two new shades: Cupcake Blue and Red Pepper.

Vintage design master Big Chill also makes its Mid-Century Modern fridge in several amazing colors such as Pink Lemonade, Jadite Green, Buttercup Yellow, and Beach Blue.

The Beach Blue looks almost identical to Grace’s old kitchen fridge—it gets my heart pounding.

Traditional kitchen

Big Chill via Houzz.com

Traditional kitchen

But getting those unique colors will cost you.

GE is raising the base price of its Artistry line from $1,200 to $1,500 for the color options, according to CNET. Big Chill comes with a shiver-inducing $2,995 price tag.

So what’s a (kind of cheap) girl to do?

Paint: If you already have a boring stainless-steel fridge, there are painting contractors out there who will paint your refrigerator, Timmons says. It may not be the cheapest option, but you’ll save over the “custom” colors of the higher-end models.

Go magnetic: Magnets don’t stick to true stainless steel, but if you have a painted fridge, you can change the color with magnetic fronts. These fronts are designed to cover the entire door, making a big change, according to Timmons.

Decals: Not ready for a drastic change? Sites such as Etsy offer vinyl decals in an endless variety of styles and colors. Sure, it isn’t a complete color change, but you can choose patterns and designs as well.

As for me, I think I’ll turn on some “Grace Under Fire” reruns and dream of a more colorful time.