We have just signed a contract on a house nearing completion in a suburban subdivision. The kitchen is comfortably spacious, but we're not fond of its rather antiseptic appearance. The white lacquer-like finish on the cabinets seems particularly plain. How can we produce a warmer, more inviting atmosphere?
You can always refinish the cabinets, but I don't think that's essential. Many of the other elements that you'll probably want to redo can actually be advantageously emphasized if their colors and textures are in contrast with white cabinets. Let's take the floor as an example.
Give some consideration to installing a terra-cotta ceramic tile in a traditional "south of the border" pattern. It will act as a fine foil for the white cabinets, whether painted or made of plastic laminate. One possibility, shown in the photo, is the large octagonal and small triangular combination from Elon tile of Florida. The uneven form and warm, natural clay appearance of these hand-made tiles ensure that this kind of flooring will be one of a room's most important decorative elements.
You may also wish to add a more interesting counter top. Some of the work surface could be made of marble for pastry-making, or of natural wood for use as a chopping board. The rest of the counter top could consist of glazed ceramic tiles. Thanks to today's laticrete epoxy grouting compounds and latex-modified mortars, it's possible to outfit your kitchen with colorful, durable and stain-resistant tile counter tops.
This ceramic surfacing will also look especially good in combination with white cabinets and terra-cotta flooring. The textures will produce a degree of warmth often lacking in functional spaces.
Round out the kitchen design by adding decorative wallpaper and natural-colored waxed pine furniture, along with a wicker chair or two, if you've got enough space. A display of decorative ceramics on walls or shelves will further guarantee that the white cabinets no longer appear plain.