Embracing the dark kitchen

The benefits of a bright, airy kitchen have been known for decades, indeed we’ve previously written about the importance of lighting when it comes to putting together your dream space. However light doesn’t always mean white, and with a little bit of know-how you can make the most of the dramatic, layered impact of a dark kitchen in your home - without it feeling like Gollums’ cave.

Create a unified space using base tones

There’s a preconception that dark colours create a dreary, gloomy space. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. Just think about the glow warm a campfire casts around a forest in the evening, or the intimate soft lighting of a classy restaurant - it’s this kind of familiar cosiness that only rich darker tones can truly recreate. Unless you’re going for the classic monochrome look, feel free to experiment with tones, especially navy blues. One of the main benefits of a dark kitchen is that a number can be used without creating ‘colour clash’, whereby two or more colours battle the eye for attention. Used in large amounts, this can lead to a disorientating effect.

Aim to use no more than two to three ‘base’ tones, (the colours that form the walls, floor and cabinets for example); this helps unify the room, bringing all the elements together.

Creating a balance

The beauty of a dark kitchen lies in its ability to draw attention to interesting patterns and textures, often washed out in lighter spaces. Using small amounts of contrasting colour, such as white tile spacing, immediately gives the whole room a dramatic feel. Other colours that work well in small amounts are cherry reds, bright yellows and metallic silvers or bronze. These ‘pop’ out from the darker background, immediately drawing the eye. Lampshades, oven dials and pan hooks are just a few candidates to add a little coloured spice to the room.

Using different materials is absolutely key to creating a deep, layered look. Mixing fabrics on seating and using a range of hard surfaces is one effective way to achieve this. Be careful with patterns though. While one or two bold patterns can make a statement, too many will detract from the overall effect - making the space seem cluttered instead.

Add a bit of shine

Mixing matt surfaces with glossy ones is vital for giving your kitchen a vibrant energetic feel, helping light to reflect and illuminate the space. It also helps in providing yet more depth to the overall look of the kitchen. Of course shiny also means fingerprints. While these are not as pronounced as they’d be in a blinding white kitchen, they can be a nuisance for those with children (or the lazy). With this in mind, consider using a gunmetal grey or natural timber for your primary work surface and save the shine for tiles and/or cabinets.

Get the lighting right

Although it sounds counterintuitive, soft, diffuse lighting in a dark kitchen can really bring the space together. Spotlights fitted above countertops and an oven light can be used to provide great visibility in the evenings, without compromising the mood of a cosy kitchen-dining space.

Dark colours and industrial style lighting go together like two peas in a pod, with Faraday bulbs providing the perfect accompaniment - especially when set above a stand-alone island. During the day make use of plentiful natural light by incorporating large, open windows and, where possible, skylights. As the sun sets your kitchen will take on a whole new life of its own.

The Wood is still good

No matter the style, wood works beautifully in any dark kitchen, with the restrained surroundings allowing the natural grains to really come to the fore. As a rule of thumb, you should pick a style and stick with it, creating a defined theme throughout your kitchen. The grain size and exact tone are entirely up to your personal preference; a bright beech can look just as good as a characterful stained oak.

Blend in larger furniture

Using similar colours for appliances and large furnishings can help them blend seamlessly into the walls behind them, actually making the room seem bigger despite the popular view that dark tones ‘shrink’ rooms. This trick works especially well with smaller kitchens, where a simple shelf can feel like it juts out, restricting space.

On a similar theme, dark colours make it harder to differentiate the end lines of walls, visually expanding the room. Although difficult to perfect, painting the ceiling can also utilise this principle - giving a grander feel to the whole kitchen.

Get some help

At Squarepeg our designers have been known to cross over to the dark side every now and again. If you’d some advice about building your own bespoke dark kitchen feel free to get in touch! Our experts are always delighted to answer any questions you might have.
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