When to choose stainless steel
Love it or leave it, stainless steel is certainly a popular appliance finish — and for many good reasons. As a metal in a midtone between light and dark, stainless steel is a safe-bet neutral option to match nearly any color palette. The material has a look of quality, and this often comes with a heftier price tag than other finishes, so whether the splurge is worthwhile is a matter of personal budget and priorities.
Although it’s hard to go wrong with this option, here are a few situations where stainless steel is an especially strong choice.
1. When your home is ultramodern
2. When your cabinets are wood
3. When you covet transitional style
Here, the interest often comes from mixing different neutrals and textures, like combining wood and white cabinetry, so feel free to contrast your steely appliances with warmer metals like brass or bronze.
Brushed brass is an especially strong choice to pair with stainless steel because it has a subtle warmth that doesn’t contrast the steel so obviously.
Bring in lots of texture — with rattan seats and placemats, for example — and you’ll have a rich mix-matched palette.
4. When you’ve got the blues
When to choose black
5. When you love the drama of black and white
Black and white is a classic color scheme for a reason — and not just because it makes your photos look instantly artistic. This combination is vivid and dramatic, all without any trendy colors that might clash when viewed a few years down the road.
Black appliances paired with white cabinetry achieve this look with just enough black to be bold but not overbearing. Warning: Your appliances should be spread out enough so that the look isn’t too heavy or lopsided. In a compact kitchen without much cabinetry, this look is extra risky, so designer beware.
6. When your cabinetry is very dark
7. When your cabinetry is a moody gray
8. When your kitchen is spacious
When to choose paneled
Besides letting you match the cabinet material, this also allows you to match the door profile (such as Shaker style) and even the hardware for total consistency.
You can panel multiple appliances or just ones in particular areas. Fridges are a popular choice to panel since they are generally very tall, wide and visually dominating.
This approach, while almost always more of an investment than standard appliances, can solve lots of little design dilemmas, such as the following.
9. When your kitchen is super compact
In very small kitchens, such as those often found in apartments and condominiums, there can sometimes be very little actual cabinetry, with much of the visual real estate being taken up by the fridge, microwave, oven, range hood and possibly a dishwasher. This can often leave the kitchen looking busy or lopsided, especially if the appliances are crowded to one end.
Paneled appliances (especially a fridge) help create a much more streamlined look, which can make the kitchen seem much larger and more put-together.
10. When you love wood, wood and more wood
11. When your look is already high-drama
When to choose white
12. When your cabinetry is a pale tone
Kitchens can be light and breezy without the cabinetry being strictly white. Pale neutrals, a bit darker than off-white, make for a welcoming atmosphere, and white appliances help set off their subtle undertones.
Note: For white refrigerators, you can easily notice the difference in texture between different models. For a more elegant look, I recommend choosing a quality white fridge with a flat, easily wiped surface rather than the ripple-textured models that can catch grime more easily. Fingerprints may show a bit more in the short term, but over time, the appliances will be easier to keep looking new.
13. When your ceiling is dark
Wood beams on the ceiling bring a lot of cottage appeal, whether your kitchen is actually in a rustic farmhouse or an urban abode. However, a dark ceiling like this can weigh down your space somewhat, which is where white appliances come to the rescue. Keeping everything along the walls light and breezy will let your rich dark ceiling be a feature without the whole room feeling like a cave.
This is also a good approach if your kitchen has no windows or if it’s a bit darker than you’d like for any other reason.
14. When you want to mix and match
15. When you have light counters
The cabinetry isn’t the only material your appliances need to coordinate with. When you have light counters, in, say, a luxe marble or hardy quartz, light appliances can bring the tones from these horizontal surfaces to your vertical surfaces, so your color scheme feels more tied together.
Notice here how the counters pick up on the white of the glossy fridge, and also pick up the gray of the cabinets (via the rich veining), with silvery handles added to tie the latter two to each other. All the colors are repeated somewhere for a truly cohesive palette — subtle genius at work.
When to choose color
16. When you love retro diner charm
17. When you’re ahead of the curve
18. When your kitchen needs a little something special
If you have classic white cabinets, demure hardware, subtle sophisticated tile and hidden, perfectly functional lighting, you may have everything you need — except a little oomph. A fiery red oven or a cheerful blue fridge can add a lot of pizazz to an otherwise humble kitchen.
To keep it classic, try an Italian kitchen-inspired red oven in a bold firetruck-approved shade. While trends may change, this look will stand the test of time — and always be a great conversation starter.