Pretty up your kitchen with color, pattern

March 23, 2011 

I have a friend who has cheerfully worked through more than her fair share of kitchen renovations. Just when she gets it right, another move comes up and it's back to the drawing board once more. I've followed her progress over 20 years, from tiny apartment to country home, and there is always one overriding theme … her kitchens are pretty.

That might sound like an unsuitable goal for the busiest room in the house. Practical, easy to clean, well-planned counter space for food preparation, clever storage solutions, good-quality appliances are the standard essentials for a kitchen. But for my friend, appearance was the key, and she loves pretty.

It got me thinking about the many ways you can update a kitchen to fit into your wish list. The job depends on whether you rent or own, and most important, your budget. With these in mind, there are three paths from which to choose: strictly cosmetic, starting from scratch or a bit of both. Whichever route you take, color, patterns and shapes will help you to build on your favorite style.

Here’s how I would go about creating a pretty kitchen. Delicate colors and gentle shapes are fundamental. Plain white cabinets can be transformed by adding etched-glass panel inserts, molding or trim, and attractive handles. Add a scalloped border to shelves or a plate rack. A few coats of paint will unify these custom touches.

A backsplash is one of the major focal points in the kitchen, as it runs at eye level and is the natural break between cabinetry and countertop. Take advantage of this space. Tiles are available in so many styles, sizes and colors that you can make a strong design statement at little cost. In the kitchen shown here, the soft rosy hue of pink tiles is accentuated by the design of the inset and hidden lighting. The delicate arched detail heightens the effect of the pretty color. The wall behind the cabinets is a fresh shade of citrus green, full of life, and a favorite complement to any shade of pink.

If now is the time to replace your sink, check out the styles with patterned apron fronts. Here’s another element on the pretty list, but it is a splurge item: Kohler’s Alencon Lace Design etched on the Dickenson undercounter sink is characterized by a graceful interlacing pattern reminiscent of 17th-century French lace from the renowned city of Alencon. The outstanding design feature of a patterned or colored apron front sink is strong enough to carry the overall theme in your kitchen.

Natural and imitation stone are durable materials that slip effortlessly into traditional and modern looks, as does wood. Country wood plank and city ceramic chic both work with pretty. Wood can be left natural or stained to a light hue. A patterned tile border will dress up a plain floor. Vinyls are comfortable and practical and now are available in a range of patterns thanks to the invention of photo imaging. Enjoy the look of grass or pebbles underfoot.

With all the products that are out there now, you can change one or two items in your kitchen and accomplish a whole new look. Pastel pink, blue and green, lace, scalloped and veined patterns, curves and arches are simply pretty. Why not try out a new personality in your kitchen?

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at Please email your questions to

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