5 kitchen painting tips from Farrow & Ball's color expert

Expert kitchen painting tips, from picking the right shades to using them effectively

An example of kitchen painting tips showing a large kitchen with gray cabinets, a narrow, multifunctional island and blue pendant lighting

Looking for kitchen painting tips to give your cooking and entertaining space a new lease of life?

The way that we use the kitchen has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. No longer is it just a place for preparing food for our families, it is somewhere to nurture them too. 

It’s a place to entertain our friends and often is seen as a reflection of our decorative choices. It is an area where you can indulge in huge spending, but there are other much less costly kitchen ideas that can improve the space, too.

Kitchen painting tips

We talk to Farrow & Ball's Color Curator, Joa Studholme about her kitchen painting tips and how to use the power of color.

Joa's favourite kitchen color ideas will help you transform your kitchen.

1. Make your kitchen the brightest space

A large kitchen with gray cabinets, a narrow, multifunctional island and blue pendant lighting

When it comes to the walls, make your kitchen the lightest, brightest room in the house. It is probably where you will end up spending the most of your time during the day and will be the perfect contrast to more dramatic colors used in cozier living areas.

White kitchens make the room feel light, but in order to trick the eye into making the kitchen feel super light and airy, you could consider using a much stronger color in the hall or room that precedes it. Passing from a darker color to a lighter one will make your kitchen feel even bigger and lighter. 

A light-filled room does not have to be white though. Gray kitchens paired with shades of pink, like Ammonite and Peignoir, work just as well and will add extra character. It is, however, important not to contrast these colors with a white ceiling which will make the walls look darker. 

Using the same color on the walls and ceiling will not only create a calmer atmosphere but make the room look bigger and higher as you can’t tell where the two meet. Starting with a simple palette also gives you greater flexibility when you come to add color to kitchen units, dressers and islands.

It is best to use Modern Emulsion on kitchen walls and ceilings, which is tailored to the busiest rooms in the home being washable and wipeable, as well as being stain resistant.

2. Experiment with different ways to paint your units

An example of kitchen painting tips showing a wooden kitchen island with white bar stools and three white pendant lights

Painting existing units feels like a formidable task, but you can refresh most kitchen cabinetry with the right tools and some patience.

DIY painted kitchens will save you a fortune compared to the cost of an all-new kitchen, too. There are three basic ways of choosing the color for your units:

  1. Paint the units a lighter tone to the wall color or even a simple white like All White. Top favourites are Strong White units against Cornforth White walls or School House White units against Shaded White walls.
  2. The use of dark tones like Worsted or Green Smoke on floor-standing units creates a modern look with a nod to tradition. But it pays to be wary of using strong color on wall-hung units, which can make the kitchen feel claustrophobic, so I tend to paint them the same color as the walls. Darker kitchen cabinet ideas against lighter walls is the easiest way to add instant impact and be right on trend.
  3. Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, many of us want them to feel less like rooms just to cook in and more like rooms to live in. This has led to a huge fashion for using the same color on both the units and the walls. A scary thought, but incredibly effective in not only making a really special space, but one that feels bigger than it actually is as the units ‘melt’ into the walls.

A large kitchen with cream cabinets and a wooden dining table with flowers and a pendant light above

3. Add extra color on your island or in cupboards

A close-up shot of a pantry cupboard painted pink on the inside and black on the outside

Little bits of unexpected color can make you smile, and we can enhance our kitchens with the use of strong color, even if only in the smallest of spaces.

If you open your mug cupboard to discover some unexpected colour or pattern it can’t fail to make you smile. And don’t forget that you don’t have to look at it all the time. Most of the time the door will probably be firmly shut.

You can be as bold as you dare. Vibrant Rangwali is upbeat and joyful in any cupboard with a solid door. These colors should be painted on all three vertical surfaces as well as the ceiling but not on the shelves.

An example of kitchen painting tips showing a large kitchen with a dark blue island and two large sash windows

Painted kitchen island ideas are one of the most popular ways of introducing some extra color, often in a darker tone to the other kitchen units. For example an Inchyra Blue island sits perfectly with Oval Room Blue units or Preference Red with Dead Salmon units. 

Rooms that feel grounded give us a feeling of security so painting a strong color centrally and low down can benefit a space hugely. Strong colors feel much easier to live with when they are used below the eyeline, like in this green kitchen below.

A kitchen with white walls and exposed wooden beams above dark green cabinets with wooden worktops

4. Use a full gloss

An example of kitchen painting tips showing a kitchen with white metro wall tiles, green statement walls and a cream Aga

Craving light is part of human nature. Kitchens are where we tend to be on our feet working so they benefit from any extra light we can create. The very best way to add light into a room is by using a super chic high gloss finish on either walls or ceilings. 

There is a huge historic precedent for this. Many a kitchen or pantry in a historic house would be painted totally in a gloss finish because of both its robust and reflective qualities. Now gloss finishes are becoming increasingly popular in super contemporary kitchens or in the kitchens of the seriously design conscious.

Full Gloss can be used on walls but is even more effective if used on ceilings where it will reflect any natural daylight and create a dramatic look at night. Use the same color as the walls on the ceiling, but in a full gloss finish to create an extraordinary seamless look, even in the strongest of tones.

Deep shades like olive green Bancha or super chic Hague Blue work particularly well, as do very light colors like the slightly industrial looking Blackened (the perfect color to use with stainless steel kitchens) or delicate Wevet.