Decorators Are Accessorizing in Color Combos

Times Staff Writer

We may be going back to the age of the pristine white-enamel era, or what was described as “the sanitary white kitchen” of yesteryear, but accessorizing in color is still the fashion word in housewares today.

It was in the late ‘20s when a rainbow of color began to radiate in home kitchens. According to “The Housewares Story Book” by Earl Lifshey, published by the National Housewares Assn. in Chicago, Macy’s was credited with originating the scheme. The New York store’s campaign ad, illustrating kitchen tools and accessories in Delft blue, apple green and mandarin red, ran a headline: “Color Comes Into Your Kitchen.”

Although there were stages of avocado, copper-tone and harvest gold between then and now (around the early ‘70s), the first group of standard colors adopted for kitchen accessories by the first color committee of the National Retail Dry Goods Assn. were white, kitchen green, ivory, delphinium blue, royal blue and red. They were actually a shade closer to the dominant colors we have now in some kitchen appliances and cookware.

Colors on the Cabinets


In cabinetwork, light is the word. John Pace, technical director in kitchen design at California Kitchens in Burbank, stated that the trend in kitchen cabinet finish is still in white or the pale natural tones. Wood-Mode, a cabinet manufacturer, for instance, now makes Alpine white as well as delicate pastel tones such as peach blush, Champagne and teal breeze.

Millbrook makes beautifully crafted curved cabinets in exciting high-gloss colors of hunter green, pink, blue and red; however, Pace said the white definitely has greater appeal.

“People are in the kitchen for many hours a day, so a shocking cabinet color might get on their nerves. When you go to white, you can accessorize, according to how bold you want to get--say, a black fruit bowl or orange canister--to give a room a different character. To be on the safe side, work with the spectrum chart, otherwise go with a pleasing contrast.”

Countertops can fill in for the one color needed in the kitchen. Colorful choices ran the gamut from pastel to bold in laminated marble-like or plain Formica countertops and nonporous synthetic marbles such as Nevamar’s Fountainhead, Corian and Avonite, to real granite. “When using granite, avoid getting too heavy; black and the darker shades can be overbearing; the light tans and light reds are easier to live with,” Pace advised.


Smooth countertops may be running in favor with many homemakers, but tiles are again getting renewed attention. According to Pace, what has helped the industry is improvement in grouting with new colors and the introduction of a plasticizer to aid in cleaning, as well as new sealers to maintain the neat look of tiles. There’s no end to what you can do with tiles and they certainly provide color in the kitchen.

In her new book called “Country Floors’ Decorating With Tiles” (Simon and Shuster: $29.95), crafts and design authority Rosyln Siegel writes, “Choosing a color scheme depends on a number of factors: the colors you like best, the colors already in or near the room, the feeling you hope to convey and probably some of the color preferences you have absorbed from the current fashion trends.

“Certain color combinations suggest feelings and attitudes that are almost universal. Black and white convey a high-tech, modern look, while pink and yellow evoke a more delicate, romantic feeling. Combining pale colors provides a restful effect. Sharp contrasts, such as black and gold, and red and midnight blue, work to create drama. Unusual color combinations--lilac and red, pink and green--can be exciting and unsettling, a focal point in the room.”

The picturesque book is filled with beautiful tile designs from Country Floors, an international tile importing company. The author worked with top designers at Country Floors to discuss the elements of style in tile decorating, showing how to use color, pattern, size, shape and texture to achieve a desired look. Styles illustrated range from antique to traditional to contemporary, featuring such examples as romantic florals, geometrics, mosaics, picture tiles and murals, rustic and country.


Currently attracting a lot of interest at Country Floors’ L.A. showroom is a group of wall tiles, which are made in America, called coloratura. Named the WT Series, this Technicolor aria consists of the largest range of colors with high-gloss glaze and evocative Art Deco borders.

“A lot of people are having fun with color,” says Sheri Hirschfeld, showroom manager. “The thing about these tiles is that you can work with them like a puzzle, mixing colors and geometric patterns.”

Other Country Floor tile selections with magnificent colors of teal, lilac, salmon and blue include rustic double-glazed tiles from France and Italy that you can mix and match with some of their stunning hand-painted picture tiles.

A splash of color can come from a simple faucet. KWC’s hot red model adds a dash of color to its single levered Neodecor line of Swiss-made black, gray, white, chrome and almond faucets. “A faucet is best seen and not heard” is KWC’s logic in designing the quiet Neostar faucet, another line designed with no little nooks and crannies and one that uses a conical seated valve.


Another KWC model is the Neodomo faucet, which is made with custom controls, adjusters that allow you to limit temperature and water flow for safe comfort and energy savings. This unit also features a retractable spray that lets you bring water a few feet away from the faucet. KWC also makes cover plates, soap dispensers and lotion dispensers to match faucet tones. Other manufacturers that have added color to their faucet lines are Moen International, Hansgrohe and Hansa America Inc. For sink color, consider selections from Kohler, which has long been known for vivid colored enameled cast-iron sinks. The trend however, according to Pace, is to use synthetic pure silicate quartz sinks such as those from Blanco or Gaggenau. Exceptionally easy to clean, this type of sink is not affected by strong staining liquids. To clean their sinks, homeowners like to use cleansers that will scrub off the glaze in porcelain sinks, exposing the metal, Pace said. The quartz pigmentation is done throughout, so that any chip on a white sink will still expose white, he added.

Portable electric appliances and teakettles that are displayed on the counter or stove top can also supply a spot of color in the kitchen. Getting a positive consumer response with their empire green (a pine or forest green) gadgets (such as the KitchenAid mixer, Chantal whistling teakettle, Krups coffee maker and grinder) is Williams-Sonoma. Like the cobalt blue kitchen ware with which they started a trend, the green is projected to follow its successful footsteps, according to Anne Kupper, public relations director for the chain.

“Forest green, not the sickly avocado green, has always been popular for us in tablecloths and other accessories,” Kupper explained. “It’s a strong green, Mother Nature’s color that goes with anything. It goes with yellow and blue; it’s a wonderful sharp contrast with white and with wood tones. Green is so fresh. We tried red but we were not as successful.”

Many people are just as happy getting colors from their cookware. Long known for introducing strong colors in their French cookware line in enameled cast iron, Le Creuset from Schiller and Asmus has just introduced four new colors this year. They include the oven-to-table Paris Tabletop line’s Southwestern colors of teal and apricot, as well as Carmine Red and shiny black. (They still have white, slate blue, cobalt blue and flame.) The new design cookware, which may be used for induction cooking, is called Le Creuset Nouveau and features Glissemail, a new, shiny porcelain finish that can withstand high temperatures and thermal shock.


Remember the bright colored aluminum tumblers of the early ‘50s that you probably now spot in garage sales and thrift shops? Sitlax now produces these in even brighter Neon Jewel tones. Tumblers, trays, coasters and wine buckets are available in neon tones of gold, blue, Kelly green, pink, red, violet, turquoise, magenta, black and silver. The tumblers are terrific with iced drinks--remember how the exterior got very frosty?

Color in kitchen linens often follows fabrics in fashion. At the recent New York Fabric Show, the projection of the leading color, design and fabric influences moving into spring and summer of 1990 are, according to the Pantone Color Institute, influenced by a botanical garden of spring flowers: pastels, white and cream, dusty rose, rouge, cherry, peach, lavender, lilac, tourmaline, celadon, laurel green and primrose yellow.

In the harvest hues are wheat, oat, flax, straw, maize, clay, earthy browns, herbal greens, sage, wild grasses and flowers, moss.

Finally, influenced by world culture is a kaleidoscope of colors, contrasting with black, white, ivory and some metallics for accents: bright tropicals such as orchids, flamingo, turquoise; foliage greens with white; fiesta brights, red, orange, yellow, violet . . . and so forth.


In other words, anything goes with color.