Bathroom and kitchen remodels are balancing acts: Stick with neutrals and the design looks plain; focus on jewel tones and you’ll be repainting in a year.
“People gravitate toward neutral palettes,” says Stacy Thompson, an interior designer and the owner of Compass Design in Indianapolis. “They don’t want to get locked into a color family for too long. They want to do something that will last forever.” The solution? A light, airy neutral punctuated by bright (but timeless) accent colors.
There is life beyond eggshell: A speck of blush, a breath of lilac or a hint of hazelnut in plain-old cream creates a white that’s anything but ordinary. Contrast darker cabinetry with a bright white to let woodwork stand out; or keep the cabinets milky to play up a colorful backsplash. And don’t be afraid to mix whites: Placed together, tones of bone, ivory and pearl combine to make smaller rooms more spacious. Feeling brave (and really clean)? Wash an entire kitchen or bath in a single alabaster shade for a sleek, spa-like look. Contemporary rooms can manage a matching sheen (think high-gloss paint and lacquered cabinetry), while transitional spaces work well when they play with texture—say, matte walls, veiny marble and shiny subway tile.
The color:Behr Sea Salt (780C-1)
The key to this fresh, breezy tint is to choose a hue that’s not too saturated (read: retro) or too lime (hello, juice bar!). The color should have a bluish undertone and a muted intensity. In sprawling kitchens and baths, mint can go floor to ceiling—just keep the cabinets and woodwork white or espresso, as yellow- and red-based stains can clash with green. In smaller kitchens and powder rooms, opt for white walls and use the color on lower cabinetry, or bring in milky Jadeite storage canisters.
The color:Behr Canton Jade (460A-3)
“People tend to use more color in spaces of the house that are easy to repaint,” Thompson says. “But in more functional spaces like bathrooms, they tend to go more neutral.” Resist beige and tan and opt for soft, bright, yellow-based sand tones: A beachy painted wall echoes natural stone countertops and draws the eye toward medium- and dark-stained wood. Bonus: Sand harmonizes with virtually any fixture finish.
The color:Behr Sand Fossil (770C-3)
Bold lemon and marigold raise a room’s cheer factor and energize a palette of neutrals and wood. Resist the urge to tone down the brightness—no mellow yellows here!—instead, use saffron hues in small doses. Bring a white-and-gray kitchen to life with a citrus valance and a bowl of lemons; if you dare, brush daffodil onto a vintage-y island. In the bathroom, accessorize with modern glass pendant lights in sunny yellow and a cheeky rubber duck atop crisp white linens.
The color:Behr Marigold (380B-7)
The latest, greatest and most versatile neutral is gray—gunmetal to ash to dove, and everything in between. Lighter grays work in almost any space, so consider pulling out the gray tones in a stone countertop, then play with the saturation. Keep woodwork white so the gray pops, or give old cabinetry a gray paint job and leave walls white. Want to push the envelope? Go full-on charcoal: Mix shades and textures of gray with smoky walls, dark concrete counters and glazed ceramic accessories.
The color:Behr Gentle Rain (790E-2)
Channel the ocean and pull a bevy of blues into your room: Select deep, vivid ocean hues and soft, grayish ones (not too teal!). Brush blue head to toe in the bathroom—after all, this is where water belongs! You’ll need more restraint in the kitchen, but “if you do a white cabinet, you can do more color on the backsplash,” Thompson assures. Think about cobalt subway tile, a glass mosaic or multihued Turkish tile in ornate shapes.
The color:Behr Madras Blue (560D-4)