Who turned out the lights? How to use finishes to lighten your space

Who turned out the lights? How to use finishes to lighten your space

Dark rooms can be fantastic, but how can you correct an over-dark space to make it feel light and inviting?

My clients contacted me with a problem. They have a beautiful, craftsman-style home with an eccentric kitchen that was so dark as to be almost non-functional. The kitchen had a lot going for it, so we started there. The layout was pretty good overall, professional range and the cabinetry was in keeping with the style of the home. There was some natural light, but it was being mostly lost and there were a few missing opportunities for storage that needed to be remedied. 

Dark absorbs light, and there were a lot of dark finishes in the kitchen. I mean, a lot. An overly busy (and dark) backsplash covered an entire wall in the kitchen. It was really not something I'd expect to see in a craftsman, and while I am all for surprises, I'd prefer they were nice surprises. It was pretty clear that lower cabinets could mostly be retained, with only a few tweaks to improve function. The peninsula, for example, lacked storage beneath and countertops were getting cluttered up with appliances that could be tucked away underneath. A cabinetmaker built shelving, cabinetry for the walls on either side of the range and to addressed a few other minor details (not shown). Everything we were adding was going to be light and bright, and that would balace off the dark cabinety below making the space beautiful.

The clients and I decided we would leave the floor for the time, and see what would happen if we only addressed wall colours, countertops and backsplash. A new quartz countertop was added and we were able to slightly enlarge the working area as well. Subway tile in white with a pale green accent instantly lifted up the focal wall in the kitchen. The tiles had a handmade look and feel that also suits the craftsman aesthetic. We stuck with a palate of pale green to bring the outdoors in and the room began to feel less like a dungeon and more calm and soothing. Also, the owners could see to cook!

Contemporary elements play off against the vintage features with a showpiece Kohler tap and brushed stainless hardware.


As my clients liked what they saw, enthusiasm increased and they made a decision to replace the flooring as well. In keeping with the materials of the time, linoleum flooring was installed to brighten the space up even more. linoleum is a natural product made primarily of linseed oil and is extremely durable. What is commonly refered to as linoleum is actually vinyl flooring, a much less natural, durable and beautiful material. During the craftsman era, it would have been used for floors, and also sometimes as a countertop. 

By the end, we had given the natural and artificial lighting reflective surfaces to bounce off. The kitchen was totally transformed in both function and mood. Great results without a total renovation. I love it when that happens!



Do you wonder if your space needs a complete renovation or just a few tweaks to make it great? I'd love to help you find out. 

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