Grey kitchen ideas - designers explain how to get the most from this wonderful color
Grey kitchen ideas are the height of liveable luxury - smart, chic and calming. Interiors experts explain how to get them right
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Grey kitchen ideas are always in demand. Luxe, soothing, stylish and sometimes even daring, grey is one of the most versatile and liveable colors around. When used well it can add depth to neutral palettes, or make bolder shades seem more grounded. It's the perfect neutral, able to be dressed up or down.
Interior designer Kelly Hoppen thinks that grey is part of a growing trend. 'What we're seeing is that pale tones can be cool and cutting edge,' Kelly says. 'I admire House of Grey's less is more approach, and how Axel Vervoordt is doing neutral with pops of color.' What we're seeing is that it's not about thinking of grey as a safe choice, but an inspired tone to turn to for real character.
'I think it's more interesting to keep color pared back and work from a subtle palette,' says interior designer Rebecca Wakefield of Studio Fortnum. 'Using a soft color is an art form as subtle color shades can be so susceptible to to difference in natural light. A neutral shade can look really greeny in one room, and pinky in another.'
With that in mind, it's useful to think carefully before rushing into including grey in your kitchen color ideas. How can you show it off to its best advantage, and how can you get it right? By following these expert tips for going grey.
Grey kitchen ideas
Paler shades of grey are chic and sophisticated while steely, charcoals and graphites make for a moodier, more dramatic space.
You could go for wall-to-wall grey, or mix different shades together, painting walls with a shade at the paler end of the spectrum to create a restful scheme. For something a little bolder,contrast grey cabinetry with a completely different colour, or mix in some patterned tiles – or other materials, such as rich timber or luxurious marble.
Base cabinets in darker shades than wall cupboards help ground the design and prevent it looking top heavy, while dark grey walls against white cabinetry and shelving creates an eye-catching contrast for two-tone kitchens that looks fresh and modern, as you will see in the examples ahead.
1. Embrace grey's aging power
Interior designer Mark Lewis wanted to nudge the conversion back to its origins. That meant a raw feel to the walls, traditional flooring and recycled fittings. A lime plaster, with a mid-grey pigment, adds a fittingly dramatic backdrop for the original carved stone church column. 'I don't like anything brand spanking new,' Mark says, explaining why he limewashed the walls and waxed the units for an aged effect.
Grey is uniquely poised to add this vintage sense to a kitchen, as paint washes and worn textures can feel truly charming. This does take time, however. 'Waxing the cabinets was a long process, and a bit of a headache, but we got there in the end,' Mark says.
2. Be inspired by driftwood tones
As this kitchen shows, there can be a real softness and elegance to grey. The grey tint in the marble backsplash and cabinet top is complemented by the greyed out tone of the cupboard doors, which are modelled on driftwood.
'A huge driver for this renovation was to recreate the sense of Shelter Island,' says designer Tom Rutt of TR Studio, who created this look. 'Inspired by a connection to nature, it had to feel warm with materials influenced by driftwood and fossils. Often, townhouses can seem traditional or overly slick and we wanted to avoid both those things.'
As with white kitchen color ideas, it is possible to approach the shade with warmth if you let the tones of nature inspire you.
3. Pair grey with white and pink
As anyone who has wondered what colors go with grey will tell you, white is the perfect pairing. Its starkness gleams out against the dreaminess of grey, making both shades seem more sophisticated than they would on their own. Here, the grey marbling of the island carries to designer Suzie McAdam's modern kitchen backsplash ideas, both of which sing out against the white walls.
Suzie brought both shades up to date by mixing in pink wall sconces. 'It's about surrounding yourself with things you love,' she says.adding that she wanted to include some whimsical flourishes in the cook space to stop it feeling too functional.
4. Use pale grey for unobtrusive modern cabinets
A shiny, pale grey makes the perfect shade for use in modern kitchen cabinet ideas - even when they're handle-free, sleek and chic they still feel muted, as witnessed here. In fact, they make the perfect backdrop to the majestic marble used on the island.
'I felt this space needed the drama of this beautiful marble to raise it out of the ordinary,' said the designer Kayla Pongrac. Because this kitchen is in a small apartment, she needed to add in a lot of integrated storage, but because it's open plan, she didn't want this to intrude into the space. Hence, grey was the perfect choice for the doors.
5. Use a grey material for the backsplash
The cabinets here may be a beguiling pink, but their potential prettiness is made smarter by pairing them with a concrete composite worktop and wall cladding by Caeasarstone. 'I love it because it's an unexpected color pairing,' says the homeowner Shaun Simons.
The terrazzo flooring has grey flecks in it too, bringing the look of the room together.
6. Follow minimalist principles
In this modern penthouse, the challenge was to turn an empty box into a home. 'The focus was more on quality of design and the materials used - an understated luxury,' said Simon Kincaid of Conran and Partners who designed the space.
Using grey helped to create this sense of luxury - by taking an approach inspired by minimalism in interior design there is an emphasis on the quality of the kitchen. Grey is a perfect minimalist color - it doesn't intrude on a space and feels very calming. It's also a useful shade to play with in a big space, where a huge block of a bright tone would be overwhelming. 'The kitchen is so generously sized, you want to prep a cocktail or roll out some pasta,' Simon says.
7. Add a hint of gold
There is not much more luxe than pairing dark grey kitchen ideas with flashes of gold. The two colors bounce off each perfectly, and gold can be used sparingly in inlays and handles to great effect.
The trick is to get the right grey. 'Grey is never just grey,' says Marie Soliman, who designed this space. 'There are two greys, one that comes between white and black, which I call "cold grey", then there is the richer one which is a mix of two opposing colors on the color wheel. This warmer grey has real charm and can be used with any color.'
An essential bit of info for anyone wondering how to paint kitchen cabinets, these warmer tones are ideal to create a friendly kitchen in which to entertain.
8. Explore the darker side of grey
Always the expert on kitchen island ideas, designer Athena Calderone has had her cupboards and furniture painted in Railings by Farrow and Ball. True, this is technically a black paint, but with its blue undertones it just about qualifies as grey.
By pairing this shade with white walls, it creates a bold aesthetic which is almost monochromatic, but not quite - thanks to those greying tones. 'The contrast of whites and creams against harsher dark colors always engages the eye,' Athena says. 'When you juxtapose something soft against something bold you create a certain voltage.'
9. Mix grey and yellow
If you're considering kitchen island ideas with seating then grey is the perfect choice. it goes with everything. You can use bold, yellow barstools now, and then change the seating up every few years if you want a different vibe
'Grey is an ideal foil for other shades,' says Livingetc editor Pip Rich. 'This makes grey kitchen ideas the ideal solution. You'll only want to design a kitchen once, maybe twice in the entire time you live in a home, so if you go for a grey hero piece - like the island - you can easily swap other, more colorful accessories in as the years go by. Right now, I'm really into the fizzy joy of yellow next to grey.'
10. Use grey to lighten a small space
Often in apartments, you'll need to draw on small kitchen ideas to get the space right - especially if there is limited natural light. This is where dove grey comes in - it is pale enough to bounce the light around the space, and warm enough to create a feeling of sunshine where there isn't. In this small corner kitchen, above, white would have been too stark.
What color goes best with a grey kitchen?
In a kitchen, light greys pair best with white and pastel shades like pink and green, while dark greys go well with brighter hues like gold, pink or deep blue. The beauty of grey is that it goes with every color on the wheel - its the perfect neutral - so you don't need to feel worried about experimenting with palettes.
'The trick is to look at the tones within the grey, and go from there,' says Livingetc editor Pip Rich. 'Some greys have purple or blue in them, and work well with those colors, other greys have black or brown in them and work best with black and brown.'
Are grey kitchens out of style
Grey kitchens will probably never go out of style - the way in which grey gets used by designers is constantly evolving, keeping it fresh. At the moment, light grey marble and dark grey cabinets are the biggest kitchen trends for 2022, but you can guarantee that a grey kitchen will age gracefully and well.
Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.
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