What are the New Designer Neutrals?

All granite, all white, and all-matching kitchens don’t seem to stand out like they once did. Today, we’re seeing grays, greige, black, beige with hints of pink green, or cream being used as the main colors in kitchens. Some are even using dark blue and green as their cabinet color and setting it off with another color. It seems neutral doesn’t have to be truly neutral anymore. So how can you pull off these looks in your kitchen?

We took our questions about the new meaning of neutral in the hearth of the home to Senior Designer, Maggie Bellinger of Café Appliances. As an integral part of the Concept and Brand Team within the industrial operations group, she specializes in color, material, and finish. As one of the designers behind Café Appliances, she also knows a lot about kitchen design.


How can colorful cabinets be neutral? It sounds contradictory!

Deep greens and blues are almost neutral. We think of them as neutral because they’re falling towards a gray. Because everything was gray for so long, it grew tiresome and that fatigue toward gray prompted a move toward identifying more with charcoal and black. But we’re also seeing shades of deep, dark eggplant and washed out tangerine.


We’re also seeing shades of deep, dark eggplant and washed out tangerine.
Maggie Bellinger, Senior Industrial Designer

When did the trend turn from true neutrals to more color? What do you think inspired this trend?

We’ve seen this trend for a couple years. Within the design community it’s been going for even a little longer but as far as mainstream, it’s been the last 2-3 years. Again, this stemmed from the fatigue within the spectrum of true black and grayscale.

Now we’re seeing a lot of blues and “almost grey.” Some pinks. There is creep into more saturated hues and different shades of blush that err towards very rosy.


Some homeowners might be skeptical that a kitchen can still look elegant and classic with pink or green paint in the kitchen. What’s the best practice for striking a balance between a trend and something that will last?

Where you apply that color is really important. Try painting something that's easily changeable. When you get brand new cabinetry from a manufacturer in a specific color, it’s beautiful and very difficult to paint over. Instead, try pulling in color through countertop appliances. Another easy way to incorporate color is with hardware. It’s easily updated and affordable but can really make a statement. Tile and countertops are also more of a commitment so try swapping out countertop decor, cutting boards, framed art, and adding greenery in the kitchen.

Where you apply that color is really important. Try painting something that's easily changeable.
Maggie Bellinger, Senior Industrial Designer

When talking colors and interiors, there’s no substitute for a visual. Can you share a few of your favorite designer neutral kitchens done well?

Sarah Sherman Samuel layers whites and creams and beiges really well. In her designs, she creates a lot of depth within a neutral palette and incorporates different textures like Terrazzo and ceramics. You also see a lot of shade variations: satin, matte, mixed. Looks simple but for anyone who designs, you know how hard it is to actually pull off.

I also love the Ukrainian designer Nelly Prodan. She uses [Sherwin Williams] Mink cabinets, rustic wood, and stone floor and somehow finds a way to soften contemporary design.

I’m also inspired by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, deVOL, and Sans-Arc Studio.


What do you think inspires people to bring more color into their kitchens?

For the longest time, everything was stainless. We didn’t know how to work with it because it reflects the rest of your kitchen. But then people began incorporating their own decor in the kitchen. So much was happening in the home decor industry in general and kitchens began opening up to the rest of the home. People wondered, Why aren’t kitchens harmonizing with the rest of the home? There’s stark white and aluminum in the kitchen but nowhere else in the house. So there was more of a desire for harmony with the rest of the house.

Why aren’t kitchens harmonizing with the rest of the home?
Maggie Bellinger, Senior Industrial Designer

According to Houzz, 20% of new kitchens are being opened up to the outdoors (where there’s a ton of color and texture).


What are your favorite pairings of base color and Café Appliances?

I love the Matte White pro range w/ brushed bronze hardware and Matte Black commercial hood. The grates on the top of the pro range are really dark and you create beautiful unification when you add that matte black hood. Love to see more people mixing the mattes within their kitchen.

matte white vignette with black hood

What other home and kitchen trends are you seeing that you’re excited about?

In the last report of NKBA [National Kitchen and Bath Association], it predicted midcentury styling would jump three or four spots in popularity over the next three years. I think we’ll see nostalgia for past design and designs that draw on the rich history in appliance making. And maybe even some heritage products popping up, pulling colors and form from midcentury. Looking forward to that.

Outside of midcentury, I’m excited to see how technology influences the kitchen. Technology is disappearing, even as it gets smart. It’s subtle. Just like it’s happening throughout the rest of the home. It’s embedded in linen and textiles. And I see those influences creeping into the kitchen. I imagine the housing of technology will blend more and more seamlessly.


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