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How to Add Personality To a White Kitchen

Many of us want (or have) all white kitchens. It’s certainly the trend of the decade, and for good reason – it feels big, open, and easy to manage. The more color, pattern, and style contrast that you bring in to any space, the busier it feels. Kitchens already get really busy with people and sometimes those people actually “cook” with “ingredients” and produce “meals.” Doing such a thing can REALLY make a kitchen messy, and therefore even busier. So yea, I understand starting out white. But if you have a white kitchen and you want more style for either a special occasion, or just to look pretty on an everyday basis, we came up with some tips to help.

Introducing Color To Modern White Kitchen Emily Henderson

1. Bring in color –  It’s not a groundbreaking tip, but adding 1 – 2 colors won’t make it feel busy and will instead help it start to come alive. We brought this in via the pots/pans, fruit, and cookbooks. It’s curated, but doable if you want the lived in look that has restraint.

2. Add fruit/flowers – No need to set up a whole tablescape on your island, just buy or pick some seasonal fruit (leaves on preferably) and put them in, say, a 19th century dough bowl. If you have misplaced said bowl a simple, pretty, low-profiled bowl will do (but will not grant you admission into the lifestyle mafia like a $400 dough bowl will).

3. Display the utilitarian – Bring out your prettiest oils, salts and spices. Hang your prettiest pots and pans. You don’t go to Whole Foods for your health – you may as well leave that $29 salt out on display.

4. Kitchens deserve art, too. The kitchen gets neglected when it comes to art, with nary a wall space in sight. But there are places to bring it in – the counter and even inside the cabinets, if it’s small (behind a collection of clear glasses is a fun/unexpected place to put it).


For a photo don’t forget to give it the “someone beautiful was just here” look by splaying open a cook book with a lovely tea towel strewn just so.

If you hadn’t seen the before, I don’t think you’d realize how much you can actually do to your kitchen to add life. The kitchen was stunning before, and now it’s stunning AND it looks like a place I actually want to be in.

Introducing Color To Modern White Kitchen Emily Henderson

Craving some more styling GIFS? Check out: Styling the Perfect Window Shot, How to Style Your Bookcase, 1 Mantel 3 Ways.

For more about the book, behind the scenes, and a few more peeks inside the pages look here: Book Title And Cover Options | The Real Book Cover | Behind The Book – Styling The Perfect Shot |Styled On Shelves Now

*** Photos by David Tsay for Styled



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44 thoughts on “How to Add Personality To a White Kitchen

  1. That is a gorgeous kitchen !

    I wonder: do you need to style it so heavily because there are no people in the photo ? I imagined the same kitchen with my family inside (four people two cats), and it felt overcrowded. In my beloved kitchen, I have a plant, a tea kettle, and a bowl of fruits. That’s all, and it feels very busy most of the time, considering how many people usually are in it.

    Anyway, I wonder if we should style and design while having the family in mind as people who would be in the “picture” in the end. I always feel like they should have “visual priority”.

  2. My kitchen is white but will never be gorgeous because I refuse to stow the small appliances and items I use often like the blender, toaster, coffee kettle, canisters, napkins, paper towels, utensil holder, soap dispensers, etc. Though I buy pretty ones, it’s still clutter compared to magazine or model home kitchens! ; )

    Nice tips. I love the branches.

  3. I am so ready for the white kitchen trend to die. I’m actually tired of all white everything (and all grey everything). GIVE ME SOME COLOR. I feel like everyone’s homes are starting to look like mental institutions.

    Sorry, that was way harsh. I just have strong feelings about too much white.

    1. I think its happening. The fashion coming out right now is INSANE with so much color, pattern, etc so I think we’ll start seeing serious color and pattern back in homes. We’ll see. I’m adding more color to my house right now (mostly in the blues, greens) because I got a bit bored of my neutralness. So stay tuned.

    2. We ended up painting our cabinets aqua for that very reason. We originally thought we’d go all white but we just NEEDED color. People who see it are still very much in the “oh…this is interesting” (meaning they think we’re crazy) mindset. We’re just waiting a few years and they’ll think we’re geniuses. GENIUSES!!! 😉

    3. I agree–for the last ten years in magazines there haven been SO MANY featured rooms that are like, “They decided to do something fresh and new and do white on white.” And I think, Are you people on crack? There is nothing original or interesting about another all-white room with some house plants and overpriced pillows thrown in. SO BORED of white layered with neutrals.

      We just bought a home with bright 70s orange kitchen cabinets and an orange dining room chandelier that is to die for. We left them but switched out then old lineoleum for great big gorgeous white limestone slabs quarried in Turkey. Everybody compliments us on the kitchen, and the warm bright color makes me so happy evey time I see it. Long live color!

  4. Looks great! I don’t have a white kitchen but am trying to infuse white to enliven the place. But it doesn’t actually work so well when you are starting with a moody black/grey counter (granite) and alder cabs (shaker style, clean/simple look). I have glass fronts on some of the major cabs and white dishes/clear glassware in them, with just a few spots of color (dishes). Trying without looking like I am . . . .

  5. gorgeous, I could sit on that stool for hours doing life… reading cook books, visiting with friends and family, eating cheese and crackers and drinking wine. it’s amazing how adding just a few things – most of these people already have in their cabinets or around their homes – can give LIFE to a space.

  6. just posted and have a question: do you think you could highlight a kitchen with darker colors (a given) and show how to freshen it up with white and color and texture? Not cherry cabs but amber/brown cabs and darker countertops (not white)?

    it is SO Hard to see possibility when a white kitchen is not in the cards.

      1. HMM. I’ll see if I can find one. I don’t think we shot one for the book nor do my friends have any but I agree it would be helpful to see. … let me think.

        1. That would be pretty great actually. My husband and I bought our first house which is a 60 year old bungalow. I love it but the previous owners in an attempt to upsell it used beige subway-ish stoney tiles, dark brown oak cainents and (gulp) beigey laminates. The layout and dimensions are great. I am by no means a fan of all white kitchens but I am definitely a fan of personality and color. I had no idea how heavy beige could feel and it is nearly impossible to keep up with cleaning to stay ahead of of the weight that the color brings. And I think beige is trickiest because it weighs a lot without being saturated. I need help.

        2. I’ll volunteer my dark wood and black counter top kitchen. Can’t blame a guy for trying!

  7. Very good post but after having a white Shaker style cabinet kitchen for 10 years I will never do it again! Cannot keep it clean and the lip from the Shaker style is impossible. Mind you I have no interest in wiping down my cabinets once a week which might help and do not want to do it once a year. Please do not get a white kitchen! No one believes me and they keep putting them in! Next time it will be some color of wood and a flat front! I will also get white appliances. I do not want to clean the stainless or pay for the non smudge ones.

    1. Yea, we have to wipe ours down constantly. The darker bottoms at least hide WAY more. But I love having the uppers white …

    2. We, too, have Shaker style cabinets, but I long for an all white kitchen. Is it really terrible to maintain? (We’ve had white cabinets before, they were not Shaker, but also not flat & I don’t recall them being difficult.)

      The biggest problem for me is that I am DROWNING in brown, and I do NOT like brown or beige! Literally every single surface in our home is/was a shade of beige or brown. We’ve managed to get a couple rooms painted, but I feel like I’m trapped in a mud pit, or desert. Ugh!

      It feels totally overwhelming! (I need an Emily rescue!! Though, it’s possible that this house is too hideous to be rescued even her amazing talent.)

      1. I should clarify a bit. We moved to an entirely new region where brown seems to be a city mandate—I didn’t even know so many shades of brown existed until we moved here!

        Our move was very quick, so we literally had three days to find a house, in a good school district, so we had few options. (Though, truth be told, they were virtually all the same, so it wouldn’t have even mattered how much time we had.)

        I thought, ok, these are all cosmetic changes, so I settled. But, when you’re talking about Every.Single.Surface. of any house, that really adds up in time and cash. I hate all this builder-grade, brown/beige junk everywhere!!!

        [Rant over. Sorry for venting!!]

    3. We have a cream shaker kitchen. In our previous home we had a white one.

      The cabinet fronts need a regular wipe down to avoid looking dirty. But it takes about 5 minutes to do the entire kitchen if done often, which isn’t really a big deal.

      The dirt is still there on darker coloured units or flat fronts, it’s just not as noticeable. I think the visible reminder to clean it is a good thing, otherwise the kitchen might look clean, but is in fact dirty. How is that a good thing?

  8. Art is often looked in a kitchen. It can add color and make the room seem less like a utilitarian space. A fern or green plant can last longer than cut flowers. My other favorite thing in a kitchen is a table lamp on the counter. Unexpected but gives a kitchen a little je ne sai quois! 🙂

  9. Art is often over looked in a kitchen. It can add color and make the room seem less like a utilitarian space. A fern or green plant can last longer than cut flowers. My other favorite thing in a kitchen is a table lamp on the counter. Unexpected but gives a kitchen a little je ne sai quois! 🙂

  10. I actually hang little artworks in the backsplash area of my kitchen. I have a colorful one right behind my coffee machine and I really love the little bit of personality that it brings. Also, I use a pretty silver tray to hold the mortar/pestle, salts, butter dish, etc, and it is a nice way to elevate (literally!) those everyday items. I also use little lamps on the counters. Sounds cluttery, the way I am saying it all, but it works!

  11. We have an all white kitchen. The lower cabinets are the glossy IKEA cabinets, and the uppers are white-glass IKEA. I love the peaceful, clean aesthetic, and they’re super-easy to wipe down. (And yes, I’ve used many of your past tips to bring warmth and life to my kitchen, and it’s WORKED!) I love my kitchen.

    I would LOVE to get tips on bringing warmth to a white/grey bathroom! We’re in the final stages of our bathroom remodel (lots of white subway tile, big grey floor tile, white high gloss vanity, grey concrete counter, wooden deck around tub, and light-light-light grey walls.) But now I need to warm it up with LIFE and a touch of art work. And I have no idea where to begin. I have one giant staghorn fern to hang in a corner, but that’s all I’ve got.

  12. Everything is sooo true here. I renovated my kitchen to all white (except the old black countertops which are…… livable), for the sole reason of being able to have fun with color in the form of rugs, art and accessories. I absolutely DIE for my custom Aelfie rug as her work is incredible and livens up my whole space!
    The post of the renovation is here:

    Great post!!

  13. I still love all white and doubt I’ll ever stop loving it. It feels wonderfully clean and calming. Although these days I do think you should add at least small bit of wood and black in the form of accessories as you did here.

  14. Hi Emily; Would your recommendations work the same for a tan and black kitchen? My kitchen has black granite countertops and the cabinets are tan wood. It looks very busy already. Besides taking away as much as I can from the tops, to add color and make it look more “stylish” and alive, would the same advice for white kitchens work? Please, I am dying to know your thoughts!!!

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