Pastels, creamy blues and grays are coloring kitchens

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There are so many design choices to make when remodeling a kitchen, but what might seem like one of the easiest can also be the hardest -- What color should it be?

The good news is that paint can be changed as the years go on, and it's not costly in the grand scheme of things. But choosing the wrong color can throw a great remodel off-kilter.

The pastels of yesteryear are making a comeback in everything from clothing to housewares, and paint is no exception. Hailed as a new neutral palette, pastels and muted hues in every shade are being recognized as the foundation colors of many rooms, especially kitchens. Think minty greens, clear grays, light blues and even pink.

Some tips from a pro

Designers recognize the information overload that design-minded consumers are dealing with in the marketplace with 24-hour TV channels, shelter magazines and social media sites full of endless ideas. So companies have created accessible tools and tips to help consumers cut through the clutter.

Tristan Butterfield, Kohler’s creative director, offered some easy suggestions when planning your home improvement project:

• Have a clear idea of the finished product you are trying to achieve. Collect images. Make a work board or start a notebook of photos and note the ideas that you are attracted to. Ask yourself, “If that was my finished product (room), would I be happy?

• Collect samples of the paint, stone and tile and put them on a white paper or board to determine if these are the right “ingredients.” If something doesn’t feel right about your chosen combinations, then it probably isn’t right.

• When choosing materials for your space, invest in the highest quality and put the money where it is seen or touched.

• Create a “sense of rightness.” If you are going to do a modern room, do it correctly. If you are going to mix it up, do it purposefully. You will know if it is right or wrong. Remove that item and find something that works.

• Everything should have a reason to be there, and everything should be interconnected.

The look is solidified as paint companies such as Benjamin Moore, PPG Paints and Sherwin-Williams dive into the collaborative mode, working with celebrity designers and other product manufacturers to come up with fresh ideas. In the world of kitchens, that means laying out a road map of interconnected products that speak to light, space and function.

Benjamin Moore has done its first collaboration with Kohler, maker of premium bath and kitchen products. The Collaboration in Full Color collection features three regional lifestyles with kitchens and baths designed by Ellen O'Neill, creative director for Benjamin Moore, and Tristan Butterfield, creative director for Kohler.

"We are two legacy companies, and Kohler approached us to do this partnership," Ms. O'Neill said.

The two companies decided that instead of picking one color, they would design a whole color collection based upon regional palettes. The Southern Charm line, inspired by the decor of historic Southern towns, includes soft pinks, saturated blues and cloudy grays. The Eastern Mist choices, linked to the misty colors of the Eastern seaboard, feature pale shades of green and blue. Finally, the Northern Roots line, based on the hues of well-worn, wind-beaten farmhouses, includes grays and taupes.

Each lifestyle shot comes with a "recipe" card that includes paint colors, specific product and finish. The collections show a new trend in painting -- applying the same color on the walls and trim but using different finishes.

So, in the Southern Charm bathroom, walls are painted in a matte finish and the wainscoting is done in satin. Each room has a different combination, and some trim is done in a semi-gloss, but the effect creates continuity and allows light to reflect throughout the space in a whole new way.

The cards also outline the Kohler products used in the room.

"One of the things we are seeing of these colors is that they are just a reinterpretation of the past," Mr. Butterfield said. "A new generation of young designers are looking at these things and they are new to them. ... They were not around when pink was hot in the '70s."

At PPG Paints, world travel and location color palettes are big. Neutrals take center stage in a collaboration with celebrity designer Vicente Wolf. The striking palettes, inspired by Mr. Wolf's travels, include cool greens from Burma, muted coral sandstone shades from Agra, India, and the purples of Paris. Twenty neutrals are used as base tones, while a palette of 20 accent colors allows for contrast.

Dee Schlotter, brand manager for PPG Paints, said these colors resonate with users as they pause and refresh their homes for 2014 with less saturated tones. PPG's Atmospheric Neutrals and Harmony Collection have been a hit for years, and the palette has taken on some new groupings appropriate for kitchens -- light creamy mints, pale sunny yellows and poppy pink set against white cabinetry.

One trend that is still going strong in kitchen and bath design is to step away from a classical feel by using complementary finishes on fixtures, mixing up cabinetry, using different counter tops and painting walls in various colors.

"The key is keeping to the same level on the depth chart using the proper proportions," Ms. Schlotter said.

The PPG team just completed a renaming of the line and a redesign of the point-of-sale merchandising. During a tour of the new store display, Ms. Schlotter showed larger paint chips and color collections that are grouped by depth, undertone and saturation levels.

"For instance, this shade of green will pair with this red, this brown or this pink," she said.

The display showcases the nine palettes of the Harmony Collection incorporating the Atmospheric Neutrals. Groupings of blues, greens, jewel tones and neutrals have color combination cards featuring five shades and a room photo on the back.

But the star of the show is a 40-inch high-definition computer monitor controlled iPad-style. In two minutes, the computer allows you to tap on a room shot, tap a color, tap the wall and watch the digital shade instantly paint the space perfectly. Tap, tap, tap -- more shade possibilities.

"The best part? You can email your project to your home email," she said. "From there, you can upload a photo of your own kitchen and see it with your color choices."

Sherwin-Williams, meanwhile, has broadened its partnership with retailers Pottery Barn and West Elm. Its colors tie into the lifestyle branding, making painting and furnishing your kitchen simpler,

One collaboration getting lots of attention is the HGTV HOME Paint Collection. Jackie Jordan, Sherwin-Williams director of color marketing, said the collection speaks to the moods and personalities of homeowners.

"It helps tear down the color choices instead of being overwhelmed by hundreds of colors."

The collection has palettes for every taste. Pastels and cheery pops of color rule the recently released Softer Side palette.

"Every color in the palette is coordinated to work together," Ms. Jordan said, noting that you can take the color card and design the whole space with it as the undertones are complementary.

It is a good time to play with paint, and there is nothing more fun than cheery colors to put you and your loved ones in good mood on a daily basis.

Rosa Colucci: 412-263-1661 or

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