As discussed in part one, choosing a new kitchen colour scheme is about much more than just the cabinet colour as all aspects of the design including flooring, walls and worktops must work as a whole. As people usually (but not always!) choose these first, this post will focus primarily on cabinetry and wall colours; both should complement each other, as well as their setting.
North facing kitchen light quality
For the many London Victorian or Georgian terrace homes with bedrooms at the front and kitchens at the back of the house, this east-west geographical axis typically means receiving sun over the bedrooms in the morning, whilst the sun later sets over the back of the house. Their positioning means north facing rooms receive the least amount of natural light, and because there is no direct sunlight, it is generally a cold light.
Whilst limited, the light in north facing rooms is consistent, which means the kitchen colours visual appearance shouldn’t change too significantly as the day progresses. But key for these kitchens is that their cool light quality will likely emphasise cool paint undertones. This can create a chilly or dreary kitchen feel. To avoid this, the ideal for north facing kitchens are medium-toned colours with warm undertones. These will counteract cold light and introduce the visual warmth that is missing. Such colours include yellow based hues, or creamy neutrals. Choice is largely dependent on personal preference, the period of your house, and what sort of mood you want to create for your kitchen, but medium colour tones that will work for north facing kitchens include the following:-
- Fired Earth’s ‘White Ochre’ This is a light off-white colour tone which will complement white kitchen furniture, and warm grey tones.
- Benjamin Moore’s Ylang Ylang This is a yellow based hue, ideal for traditional kitchen settings. It will complement white furniture tones, or else you can create a more dramatic contrast with Sepia brown glass or lava grey design glass.
- Little Greene’s ‘Joanna’ Again, this tone will complement whites, warm greys or a rich wine red kitchen tone.
- Sanderson ‘Soft Ivory’ This is a warm neutral which will offset white furniture and also marks a nice complement for stainless steel accents.
- Farrow and Ball’s ‘Bone’ – Whilst it has a very subtle hint of green in its undertone, ‘Bone’ is a warm colour so will work for north facing kitchens, and many of our clients have used this colour with warm white and neutral colour tones.
- Farrow and Ball’s ‘Elephants breath’ Proving that the recommendations provided here for North facing kitchen colours aren’t set in stone, this paint colour has slightly cool undertones yet is a highly popular kitchen choice for North facing kitchens (as well as all other house orientations!)
White is not always right!
Whilst many people lean toward white in the hope of a bright and airy kitchen quality, you have to be careful about exactly which shade of white to choose for a North facing kitchen. This applies for furniture, worktops and wall colour, otherwise the effect can still appear gloomy and even make your kitchen feel smaller. Warm whites with a yellow or creamy base, such as Farrow and Ball’s ‘Wimborne White’ ‘White Tie’, or Fired Earth’s ‘Debuntante’s Gown’ will work for north facing rooms, whilst stark whites with a grey undertone can appear grey and gloomy in the wrong setting. When choosing whites, or any other colour, it is best to avoid shades with blue or green undertones for north facing rooms. This applies for walls but can affect kitchen furniture choice too, depending on the room’s space and light source.
For example, at LWK Kitchens we have varying white door tones in gloss and matt finishes; this includes a warm-based neutral and ultra-white ‘Polar white’. For a north facing room with a cold light quality it is likely the warm white with its cream undertones will prove more suitable than the Polar white shade, because of its warm undertones. If unsure, it is often best to try out both door samples within the room and see for yourself if one works better than the other under your kitchens natural lighting.
Embrace the darkness…
But you definitely don’t have to fight against the cool light in a north facing room as dark colours can work equally well! With the right colour undertone, they can even make a room appear larger! The shade you choose will depend on your personal preference and to some extent the style of your home, but if you want to choose dark colours for your walls then earthy hues with warm undertones are ideal.
For a statement wall, Farrow and Ball’s ‘Red Earth’, ‘London Clay’ or even the Marsala pantone colour of 2015, with its warm brown undertone are striking options. However, whilst bolder choices do work it is best not to venture too dark in wall colour or the poor lighting quality of this room orientation might not support the colour. Generally speaking, dark wall colours should always be contrasted with light kitchen cabinetry, whereas light wall colours will work with both light and dark furniture options.
Dark kitchen furniture choices for north facing rooms
If your preferred kitchen door choice is a dark or bold kitchen colour but you live in a north facing home, don’t let this put you off!… In most circumstances you can choose any kitchen colour you want for the base units. This is because they fall below eye level so have less impact on us as we enter a room than wall units and worktops, or else as we stand at a worktop within a kitchen. Kitchen designs don’t usually include dark colours at eye level to avoid them overwhelming the units below. However in a spacious kitchen setting this can work…you just need to follow the same principles of colour undertones for your elevated units as for your walls, and make sure each of the colour undertones are complementary. For example, the perfect match for our Basalt grey kitchen colour tone is Farrow and Ball’s ‘Dove Tale’ wall paint colour, with a light toned worktop.
Alternatively you might create a pleasing contrast with some of the neutral or lighter tones mentioned earlier in this post. Other medium to dark tones to consider for kitchen wall units in a north facing room, and which have warm earthy undertones include Cashmere, Cubanite, Beige Grey and Gold Bronze. Alternatively warm wood kitchen finishes can be highly effective. Other kitchen colours shouldn’t be ruled out if you have a definite preference for them, but they may need enhancing with a series of artificial lights where needed in order to ensure the colours don’t fail.
Improve your north facing room’s light quality
If it’s a possibility, and though it can be expensive, one of the advantages of a north facing kitchen is that skylights or a glass roof should work for this orientation. These allow more light than standard windows because they are hung horizontally. Enabling more light from above should improve the light quality by allowing warmer light into the kitchen, and this is without the kitchen ever becoming too hot in the summer. (But always check if you need planning permission before making such changes to your home’s structure).
Make the right colour choice
Please note that all of the recommendations above are just that, rather than hard and fast rules. For detailed colour advice in regards your own kitchen specifications please send us a message or call 020 7536 9266 and we will gladly assist.
Here’s some further posts you might find helpful:
- Kitchen Island Design for Families
- Can a kitchen remodel to increase house value really work?
- Kitchen Design: How to plan an efficient kitchen layout (Part 1)
- Expert kitchen advice: Making the right kitchen choice for you
- 10 Tips for Making a Small Kitchen Space Look Bigger