The message in design forums is that Lighter + Brighter = Bigger (aka "better"). While there is some foundational truth that lightening things up can make a kitchen feel more spacious than it actually is, we've also seen plenty of dark kitchen designs that present themselves as comfortable, roomy and uncramped.
For example, our post, Would a Small Kitchen Look Good With Black Cabinets, provides real examples from our own gallery.
Dark versus Light - What Really Matters?
If you're concerned that dark kitchen finishes are cramping your style, there are plenty of ways to lighten them up. If you're worried that your darker style tastes will negatively impact the kitchen's look and feel - put that worry to rest.
Here are things to consider when planning a remodel of your small and/or dark kitchen space.
Can you open things up in the literal sense?
Our beautiful northeast is filled with older homes that are more compartmentalized than we might like. Fortunately, there are plenty of tricks to open up a kitchen space, without having to create an entirely new floor plan. Half-walls, pony walls, glass cabinet doors - all can provide a room with a bigger view, which translates to more visual square footage and the "feeling" of more usable space.
Read, Are Open Floor Plans a Thing of the Past? to learn more about semi-open floor plans that can make your small kitchen feel less cramped.
Other ideas include removing soffits and reorganizing cabinet space so countertops remain uncluttered.
Create a comprehensive kitchen lighting plan
Most homeowners underestimate the power of an artfully designed kitchen lighting plan. Until you've designed your own home - or been through a remodel - it's easy to forget that you can control your kitchen's lighting destiny.
Ideas for brightening up your kitchen include:
- Expanding windows for daylighting
- Adding skylights and/or solar tubes
- Providing both task/safety and ambient lighting features
- Using reflective accents and features that optimize available light
Balance darker finishes with lighter accents
Let's say you're in love with chocolate pear cabinetry (who isn't?), but your kitchen is on the smaller side. In that case, we'd recommend:
- Choosing a lighter countertop finish that contains some of the darker cabinet colors in its pattern.
- Designing a backsplash using glass or more luminescent tiles or slabs that will radiate available light back into the space.
- Choosing a lighter wall color that unites the cabinets, countertops and backsplash.
- Selecting bar seats that are upholstered or finished in a lighter shade.
- Installing suspended lighting fixtures or chandeliers that are more reflective or translucent in nature.
- Adding reflective accents wherever it makes sense in the design.
If your kitchen is well-designed and de-cluttered, you can get away with dark-hued cabinets and accents as long as they've been balanced with the lighter side.
Add open shelving and glass cabinet doors
A little visual space can go a long way in a small kitchen. Glass cabinet doors - especially when inserted along an upper-cabinet between two rooms (like the kitchen and dining room, or the kitchen and family/living room)—allow a view through the wall—making the kitchen feel bigger.
The addition of open shelving also provides visual space, cutting out the obstruction of a cabinet box or two, and allowing the extra couple of feet between the shelf edge and supporting wall to be visible.
Either or both of these additions can help to un-cramp and lighten up a darker kitchen space.
The good news is that it's entirely possible to enjoy both darker cabinets or kitchen accents as well as a smaller kitchen footprint. It's all a matter of the right design.