Decorating ideas for a brown, brown and more brown kitchen

midcentury-kitchenpaige-and-Dustin250Reader Paige needs our help — she and her husband Dustin recently bought a 1960 ranch house, and they are struggling to decide what paint color would help liven up the brown, brown and more brown found throughout the kitchen and connected dining room. She isn’t a fan of the brown backsplash, flooring and countertops, but they will have to stay for now. Can we give Paige a few paint and decorating ideas to help add some color her kitchen? 

retro-dining-area

Looking from an adjacent space (the living room?) into the the dining room.

Paige writes:

I’ve been a follower of Retro Renovation for a long time and have seen you help fellow readers with paint! My husband and I just bought a 1960 ranch, and I am really struggling with what color to paint the kitchen/dining room.

dining area

Our kitchen is open to the dining room, and unfortunately the brown back splash and brown floor will have to stay for a while.

heywood-wakefield-dining-tablevintage-heywood-wakefield-chair

That, paired with the blonde woodwork and a wheat Heywood Wakefield table and chairs are really giving me some issues! I’m not attached to the upholstery on the chairs so that can be changed if need be!  I definitely want to go with color in the kitchen but everything I pick seems to clash with the floor. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

So, what can we do to help liven up all of that brown? We think there are a few key changes that can make a huge difference and up the happy factor in Paige’s kitchen:

  • Light: Adding additional sources of bright light — like new, brighter ceiling lights — will help the space feel more cheery right away.
  • Color: Between the brown wood cabinets and trim, brown tile floor, brown tile backsplash, brown countertop and beige walls, there is sure a lot of brown in Paige’s kitchen. The quick, easy and inexpensive way to fix this problem is to choose a cheery paint color for the walls, or maybe even a wallpaper accent wall.
  • Rug: To further up the happy in Paige’s kitchen, we suggest getting a large area rug to place under the table in the dining area. This will not only add color and pattern to the space, but also help break up the large expanse of brown flooring.

Now, let’s see four options we came up with to help brighten up Paige’s brown kitchen.

Kate’s option 1: A happy aqua

Midcentury-kitchen-aqua2In this option, I found a light colored cheery flower print indoor/outdoor rug that will contrast with the medium brown floor tiles and inject some life into the room. Next, I pulled the aqua blue flower color found in the rug and used that shade to paint the walls. This instantly refreshes the space! Playing off Paige’s Jere inspired starburst wall hanging, I also added a coordinating sputnik light fixture that will not only add interest but also more light to the space. Finally, a medium toned vintage wood starburst clock helps repeat just a little bit of the wood up on the walls. Paige could recover her dining chairs with a solid coral, green or aqua fabric and also use that fabric to make coordinating valences for above the sink and dining room window.

Midcentury-kitchen-aqua

Kate’s option 2: Cheerful coral

midcentury-kitchen-coral2This option — similar to option 1 but a good choice if Paige likes warm colors more than cool colors — I used the same light colored cheery flower print indoor/outdoor rug that will contrast with the medium brown floor tiles and inject some life into the room. Next, I pulled the coral flower color found in the rug and used that shade to paint the walls. This instantly refreshes the space! Playing off Paige’s Jere inspired starburst wall hanging, I also added a coordinating sputnik light fixture that will not only add interest but also more light to the space. Finally, a medium toned vintage wood starburst clock helps repeat just a little bit of the wood up on the walls. Paige could recover her dining chairs with a solid coral, green or aqua fabric and also use that fabric to make coordinating valences for above the sink and dining room window.

midcentury-kitchen-coral

Kate’s option 3: Kitschy kitchen wallpaper

midcentury-wallpaper-dining-area21970s wallpaperIn this option, I started with some fabulous vintage 1970s wallpaper with a kitschy kitchen themed print. So as not to overwhelm the space and save on cost, I would wallpaper just one wall as an accent wall. The remainder of the walls would be painted a cheery aqua, pulled from the wallpaper pattern. Next, I’d add a yellow area rug — another color pulled from the wallpaper pattern — to help brighten up the floor and add even more color. A classic globe ceiling light over the table would not compete for attention with the wallpaper, and would provide a nice amount of light in the space. A grouping of vintage wall plaques in coordinating colors to the wallpaper helps repeat the color scheme and ads a bit more kitsch to this kitchen. Finally, a medium toned vintage wood starburst clock helps repeat just a little bit of the wood up on the walls. Paige could recover her dining chairs with a yellow, green or aqua fabric matched to the wallpaper pattern and also use that fabric to make coordinating valences for above the sink and dining room window.

midcentury-wallpaper-dining-area

Pam’s option 4: Warm and woodsy like Grandma’s kitchen

dining-area-Woodsy-PamPam here. The first thing I thought of when I saw Paige’s kitchen was to start with a braided rug, because this whole space has old-fashioned feel, like a knotty pine kitchen. In addition, that DELICIOUS Heywood Wakefield Dogbone set can skew old-timey or mid mod. So I went for a kitchen like my Grandma Agnes had. I found a Capel rug that would look good with the brown — kinda foresty. I looked for a cheery barkcloth that would add more pattern via matching valances for the two windows — hey, you could also do a cafe curtain on the bottom half of the dining room window, which would add even more cheer. Kate chose a dusty blue paint color taken the rug and the barkcloth. In this concept, I skipped a light for over the table thinking you may want to keep the existing fan with light, for function. And I found forest green fabric for the chair pads.

dining-area-Woodsy-Pam2

Ok, readers — here’s your chance to chime in. Which of these options do you like best for Paige’s kitchen? And: Feel free to add your own ideas to the comments, too!

Photo courtesy of April Engstrom.

Photo courtesy of April Engstrom.

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Comments

  1. Deanne says

    I think if you have a clear vision of what you want – don’t do anything that gets in the way of that. If ultimately you don’t want subway tile as a back splash don’t do it now just because it’s cheap and easy. Same with rugs and wallpaper. Go with what you want even if it clashes with the floor. You know the floor won’t always be there. It’s a waste of time and money to do temporary changes. If you’re unsure of your final vision just live with what you have for awhile and decide what your dream kitchen looks like. Then go for it! It will be worth the wait! I lived with floral wallpaper, a beige sink, cracked vinyl flooring and flesh colored counter tops for 17 years. But I continued to amass my fiestaware collection and red with chrome accessories. Now that I have my dream kitchen they are finally home!:)

  2. Mary O says

    My first thought was aqua, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought of orange. Bright and timely.

  3. Angela says

    Is the cabinet harware copper? If so, shine it up. I would just pull colors from your dining room chairs into the kitchen. Red, orange and yellow would defiantly pop on those countertops! Add a retro cookie jar, bowl of fruit or flowers. You need a mushroom if you’re going 70s! I’d leave the floors alone, once you accessorize, they’ll fade away. I personally trip on kitchen rugs when cooking, but I’m a clutz! Just decide your style and add as you go. It’s a brown kitchen, everything, even pink will match!!! I personally, would love to put yellow boomerang laminate and harvest gold appliances and replace the microwave with a hood vent. I’d do the floors with Armstrong commercial tile in grey, white and yellow, maybe even a random orange tile here and there. I’d paint the DR for now and add a cool geometric wallpaper accent wall later. For now, you could paint the accent wall the gold or orange color in your chair fabric and then the other three walls a butter yellow or a warm creamy white.

  4. Chicago Char says

    I love bright colors, but I perceive the solution is not in a color scheme but in resolving the competing shapes. Everywhere you look there is a sharp or rounded open or closed staggered or stacked rectangle, square, oval, half moon shape or edges that are wavy or octagonal. I suggest not adding any more patterns, especially not another wall starburst.

    To help the floor recede, I’d look to the floor and paint an accent wall the deep clay taupe and the other walls and ceiling the next lighter taupe. I’d use a vintage embroidered or printed linen toweling for the chair seats that has a hint of black and clay. (Vera Neumann’s original and reproduction offerings have many options that would complement the space.) You may wish to use a canvas weight. Use the same for the windows. To add light you might consider adding to the diningroom wall three or four staggered oversize unframed long mirrors perhaps oblong or choosing one of the shapes in your table backs or tabletop.

    I’d use removable colorful tree wallies or word art wallies, too, that complement the seat covers and would be easily changed. (See Spoonflower online.) I would change out the light kit on the fan to a stone like the countertops or the fan itself to black or a copper.

  5. linoleummy says

    Delicious knotty pine! Have you picked a countertop yet? I know actually replacing it is down the road but evolving with a big target like that narrows down so many other things. The yellows and reds of your Hey-Wake upholstery would probably bring out the honey tones of the wood beautifully. I got Wilsonart’s Retro Hotrod with my knotty pine and it’s scrumptiously warm & vibrant, especially with the under-cabinet lighting. Bonnie Jo’s kitchen http://retrorenovation.com/2012/02/27/bonnie-jo-campbell-updates-her-swamp-house-kitchen-and-talks-about-living-modestly-to-pursue-a-dream/ was my inspiration. Of course Betty Crafter’s http://retrorenovation.com/2011/06/17/betty-crafter-says-yes-to-the-knotty-pine/ is to die for! Apple green accents are also on my list with my red & yellow. Get samples of countertop to see with the knotty pine and match everything else to the one you choose. I got small paint can samples and painted cardboard panels to try out different colors on the walls. Backpainted glass or even acrylic panels to cover the backsplash and gluing down some cheap roll vinyl over the floor can help you ignore those for now. Good luck!

  6. Margie C. says

    The kitchen cabinets are very pretty, so I wouldn’t paint them, but I’ll bet a good cleaning might help. You said the countertops would have to stay, but honestly, replacing them would really brighten the space. Use something bright and warm, such as the *gorgeous* RR-Wilsonart “Friendly Beige” boomerang laminate (I got the sample and it’s really pretty). Lowe’s & Home Depot have 18 mos. same as cash deals on their credit cards all the time; easy to pay off in installments for zero interest on jobs like countertops. Replace the black appliances with white ones. If you don’t want to or can’t remove the tile backsplash, paint it. Use porch paint on the floor with a couple of layers of sealant; there are lots of websites on how to do this.

  7. Mardie Millit says

    I think a period-accurate olive green like Sherwin Williams Parakeet (https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW6711/#/6711/?s=coordinatingColors&p=PS0) looks good here, and I’d put some vintage wooden owl wall hangings in the dining room. There are tons of them on eBay. Doesn’t have to be owls, of course, but a lot of them are adorable. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xvintage+wood+owl+wall+decor.TRS0&_nkw=vintage+wood+owl+wall+decor&_sacat=0

    (Sorry, if there’s a better way to post links, I don’t know what it is. Did a search & came up with nothing.)

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