White has long been the go-to for a crisp, clean, fresh-looking kitchen. White kitchens are ideal for contemporary as well as traditional styles. And let’s not forget that it’s so easy to personalise a snowy-white backdrop with black accents or a splash of colour. Or you can simply opt to continue a white-on-white theme into everything from dinnerware to the latest handy-dandy kitchen gadgets.
Why white kitchens work
White is a perennial favourite in the kitchen for good reason. Not only is it fresh and clean and easy to personalise, it adapts easily to different design styles, from uber-sleek and minimalist in a contemporary home, to classically handsome in a Hamptons or French Provincial residence. If you’re going for a smooth contemporary look, then cabinets finished in a two-pack lacquer will give you the choice of a modern high-gloss look, or a softer satin sheen. In a more traditional kitchen, Shaker-style profiles or tongue and groove designs work well with a satin finish.
Here’s a quick run-down of 3 key style directions for white kitchens, along with our top tips for each look.
A whiter shade of pale
The biggest challenge with white kitchens is to make sure they don’t start to look sterile and the vibe becomes more ‘hospital’ than heart-of-the-home hospitality. A good tip is to include a metallic kickboard. It won’t shout out, but it will deliver a gentle sheen while blending with a white-on-white scheme. Another idea is to design an island bench as a piece of furniture to add contrast and introduce colour. Using a two-pack lacquer finish enables you to choose pretty well any colour you like. An island bench also becomes a fabulous focal point when you use a feature benchtop, such as the new Caesarstone marble range, which blends white tones with swirls and feathering. Textured white splashback tiles add interest to white kitchens, which are also perfect for showing off natural stone floors or a glowing timber floor.
It’s usually best to keep built-in appliances such as ovens and cooktops in stainless steel. White appliances generally don’t look white anymore when rubbing shoulders with glossy white cabinetry. They can take on more of creamy-yellow or grey hue. If you want to make a statement with your cooker, consider an amazing freestanding range in shiny black. Or you might be drawn to a bold bright, such as red or green. A sculptural range hood set over a cooktop in an island bench is another way to make a statement in a white kitchen, helping to break up the whiter-than-white purity.
You can use your choice of accents to give your white kitchen personality, whether it’s a casual beachy look or an edgy Industrial look. If you’re going minimalist and uncluttered, your accents might be as simple as a row of sculptural stools at the breakfast bar. White kitchens stand back and let other pieces sing, or they can be heroes in their own right. If you’re going for a streamlined look, opting for recessed finger-pulls in lieu of cabinet handles will keep the look silky-smooth and uninterrupted.
White with a wood twist
The combination of timber and white is a beautiful thing. Any colour and any grain contrast amazingly well with crisp white, and it doesn’t matter where you use the timber or, indeed, how much timber you use. Pick out the fascia of an island bench, add overhead cupboards in warm timber tones, or create a bespoke centrepiece for contemporary style. Timber – whether veneer or solid – will add interest and help warm up a predominantly white kitchen, ensuring it will never look sterile or unwelcoming.
When you put ‘stuff’ on your kitchen benchtops (you know the sort of thing … cookbooks, kids’ lunchboxes, the open bottle of cab merlot from dinner last night), the overall presentation loses some of its minimalism. Balancing the white with some timber can make it feel a little more homely, so it stands up to scrutiny a little better and doesn’t have to look pristine 24/7. You don’t have to keep it quite so clutter-free if you’re not naturally inclined to do so.
And just for fun …
Is black the new white?
At the other end of the scale, arguably a million miles away from a snowy-white kitchen, is the inky-black kitchen. Admittedly they’re not for the faint-hearted, but they are gaining traction in some design circles. Dark and moody, a black kitchen can be very ‘Manhattan apartment’ – great if you have the confidence and aren’t instinctively drawn to crisp white. It’s handy to note that a black kitchen is usually tempered with plenty of contrast – usually in the form of white or timber. In fact, there seems to be love affair blossoming with white, black and honey tones. Yes, a black kitchen can be pretty full-on, but it can work well in an Industrial-style home, for example. A lot depends on the kitchen’s location within the home and its access to natural light, as well as the way you pull all the different elements together.