How to add colour to an all-white kitchen – from earthy tones to bold brights

As beautiful as they are, white schemes can be stark, here's how to add colour to an all-white kitchen

white kitchen with white units and worktop, patterned tile splash back, brass tap, open shelving, floral wallpaper and artwork, stone floor tiles
(Image credit: Future PLC)

A question that crops up a lot is how to add colour to an all-white kitchen. Colourful kitchens aren't for everyone, but every kitchen can include a splash of colour in a kitchen colour scheme.

While white kitchens have a restrained, crisp, clean feeling, they can tend to feel a bit sterile or bland if not carefully considered. A small splash of colour can elevate an otherwise white kitchen idea to a more joyful, personality-laden space.

'We need our homes to feel that much roomier, lighter, and brighter. White kitchens do this perfectly, offering an energising, transformative aesthetic to any space and mastering the art of illusion, making smaller rooms feel bigger. I’m loving a pop of gold or brass handles in an all-white kitchen – this creates an elegant and timeless aesthetic,' says Annie Tullett, Sales Designer at Tom Howley.

Ways to add colour to an all-white kitchen

From warm touches of neutrals to bold pops of brights, there are many ways interior design ideas on how to add colour to an all-white kitchen. 

'One of the huge advantages of choosing an all-white kitchen is that you can be playful with the hue of the walls and create a room filled with style and colour, but ring the changes without difficulty,' says Helen Shaw, director of marketing (International), Benjamin Moore.

1. Create a statement with a bold accent wall

white kitchen with one red accent wall, table and chairs, stone flooring, view through door from hallway, designer chair in hall

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

If you love the freshness of white but fancy an injection of colour then consider a feature wall idea and paint one wall in a bold shade. 

'White goes with every shade in the colour wheel, so the choice for walls and trim is really down to personal choice and taste. As a general rule of thumb, if the room is north-facing, go for a colour with a warm undertone, such as a red or orange. If it’s south-facing, you can afford to choose a cooler shade, such as an on-trend blue,' advises Helen Shaw, director of marketing (International), Benjamin Moore.

2. Low ceilings? Keep the white in the top third

kitchen with white cooker hood and white walls above wall units, pale blue worktops and splash back, butler sink, pale pink units, terrazzo floor, table and chair to side

(Image credit: Future PLC)

White works wonders in small kitchen ideas with low ceilings as it will brighten up the top third of the space perfectly. You can then introduce paler shades underneath the wall cabinets to prevent the look from being too stark and to keep the feel light and airy this could be a painted splash back or use a coloured worktop idea

For your main units blush pink works well, choose shades in a similar tone for cohesion. Terrazzo tiles are a great option for flooring with their speckled colours.  

3. Choose an ice cream shade for your cabinetry

pink and white kitchen with herringbone floor, brass bar stools, chrome range cooker, open plan shelving, plants, vases of flowers

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In a larger kitchen you can afford to add more colour consistently throughout the space. Don't go too dark though if you want to retain a bright look. Pale ice cream shades of pink, green or sky blue look wonderful with crisp white making them great choices. 

Warm up the cabinets with brass bar stools and plenty of plants and fresh seasonal flowers for extra colour. Laying a wooden floor in a herringbone pattern also adds depth and colour which helps to prevent a large white kitchen from feeling too stark.

4. Source warm metallics

white and pale green kitchen with grey kitchen island, patterned floor tiles, black and brass bar stools, brass and glass pendant over island, brass handles, plants

(Image credit: Pooky)

Brass has been the go-to metallic for quite a while and it's easy to see why – it's one of the 'warmest' metals to use and has a stylish edge. Introduce it to your white kitchen as a colour by starting with a pendant light and then following through with brass door knobs, handles, accessories and bar stools. 

'Being a must in every room, lighting is a great place to start introducing personality. A mixture of brass, bronze and silver work wonderfully to create a sophisticated and glamorous look. A statement chandelier over the kitchen island will boast elegance and create a dramatic focal point against a white backdrop,' says Jo Plant, dead of design, Pooky.

5. Balance white with a darker scheme

green and white kitchen with marble splash back and matching floor tiles, brass handles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you love darker colours but don't want them to take over your white kitchen then use both to balance the space. Proportionately white can still be the dominant colour with the dark kitchen ideas confined to the base and wall cabinets. 

White worktops and marble-style splashback tiles with matching floor tiles will retain the wonderful aspects that white offers while allowing a darker shade to stand out. 

6. Paint your kitchen island

white kitchen with grey painted island, grey marble worktops and backsplash, herringbone floor boards, vase of flowers

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

Adding colour can be subtle, and a good place to add it is to your kitchen island ideas

'A colourful kitchen island can instantly uplift a primarily white kitchen, providing a unique and bold focal point. This allows you to incorporate a splash of colour and personality without committing to a full-on vibrant kitchen. 

Offset your statement colour of choice with neutral wall cabinetry and white surfaces. For example, consider painting your island in a rich, grounding green such as Avocado or Serpentine with white surrounding cabinetry and complementary finishes like gold and copper,' says Tom Howley, design director, Tom Howley Kitchens

7. Embrace colourful floor tiles

white and grey kitchen with grey graphic floor tiles, white metro tiles on walls, copper pipe shelving and handles, copper tap

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you love a white and neutral scheme but fancy perking it up then invest in coloured kitchen floor tile ideas, they can be as bright or as subtle as you like even if they are shades of one colour. 

Floor tiles are a great example of how to colour to an all-white kitchen and there are some fabulous designs to choose from these days – from florals to hexagonals, graphic designs to stripes. 

8. Paint an unexpected feature

farmhouse style country kitchen with glass and metal pendant over kitchen table, yellow paint round window, rustic kitchen table

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

We tend to stick to conventional places to add paint – walls, kitchen cabinets, kitchen island and flooring, but there are other areas too. 

'Adding colour can be done in many different ways without it looking too scary, try painting furniture or areas you wouldn’t initially think of decorating. Another great way to add interest to a white space is to use a soft earth tone such as Treron, Mouse’s Back or Shaded White to add a calming feel to the room, or a bold yellow around the window like Babouche,' says Charlotte Cosby, creative director, Farrow & Ball.

9. Add colour and pattern with wallpaper

white kitchen with white units and worktop, patterned tile splash back, brass tap, open shelving, floral wallpaper and artwork, stone floor tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Colour and pattern can be added to an all-white kitchen successfully. White tiles with a linear design work well as a splash back and they can match a white worktop, whilst wallpaper in a kitchen is a wonderful way to add different colours to any scheme.

In a white kitchen keep it minimal and only paper one wall if you want white to be the main colour in the space. You can then pick a couple of colours from the design to pull through into your accessories. 

10. Layer earthy textures

white kitchen with island and wood veneer feature wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

'When it comes to adding colour to an all white kitchen, there is no area to be left untouched. 

The first point to focus on is to consider all the surfaces. There are so many areas in the kitchen that can benefit from adding colour beyond the most obvious elements like painted cabinetry,' says Melissa Klink, creative director, Harvey Jones.

Other ways include investing in a deep veined marble splash back and matching open shelf, metallic wall lights and artisanal earthenware bowls, tactile vases and wooden chopping boards all of which will add texture and subtle colour.  

11. Colour your lower units

Kitchen with white wall and grey cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

Cabinetry tends to take up rather a lot of space in the kitchen – and in an all-white scheme you're looking at row upon row of plain white doors. A pretty way to add colour to a white kitchen is to paint your kitchen cabinets

Leave upper cabinetry and work surfaces white. Then choose another colour altogether for the lower storage units. Go for a pale or pastel tone for subtlety, or a bright colour for impact. Whichever of the many kitchen colour schemes you opt for, due to the height it won't feel too in your face, or even be visible from all angles.

12. Add contrast with work surfaces

Kitchen with white wall and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

A gentle way to add a little something to otherwise white kitchen ideas is to choose a dark, contrasting worksurfaces to sit above the white cabinetry and below the white walls. Choose a deep wood for a more rustic touch, or a black stone for a more contemporary style.

Make these elements feel at home by linking the colour elsewhere in the kitchen, for example with chairs, window treatments and small appliances.

13. Choose a colourful splashback

Kitchen with white walls and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/Neale Smith)

An easy way to get adding colour to a white kitchen is to rethink your kitchen splashback ideas. Tiling is one of the most practical ways of doing this, so choose a bright patterned option for added interest. When going for patterns, stick to one new colour, keeping some white included for a cohesive feel.

You may have one large or several smaller wall areas which require this extra protection form daily life. If the latter, you have the choice of whether to keep the areas the same, or choose a different tone or colourway for extra drama in one spot.

14. Paint stand alone cabinetry

Kitchen with white wall and blue cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A lot of kitchens will have stand alone storage units in addition to the built-in cabinetry. Use this as an opportunity to add a pop of colour. Either buy a bright unit, or paint the one which you already have. If opting for the latter, make sure to check out the best paint for kitchen cabinets, to make your life that bit easier.

When it comes to choosing a colour, consider linking with any other shades already in use. Look to window treatments, small accessories or even your tableware for inspiration.

15. Include natural tones and textures

white kitchen with neutral marble worktops, white wall and base units, artwork, wooden floorboards with rug, plants

(Image credit: John Lewis of Hungerford)

Look to rustic kitchen ideas and add both colour and depth to your white kitchen by integrating natural materials. Wood, raffia and coloured metals all add natural textures and patina without detracting from the neutral space.

Look for natural materials to use in your hardware, too. Perhaps leather handles or brass taps. You don't have to spend too much on these items, either. Home decor discount codes are a handy way of picking these pieces up for less.

'A white kitchen is the perfect base for creating a nature-inspired space by using warm wooden flooring, textural elements such as jute or coir rugs, highly veined marble or porcelain splash back and worktops and plenty of beautiful house plants,’  says Rebecca Nokes, head of design & brand creative, John Lewis of Hungerford

16. Invest in a statement cooker hood

Rather than trying to hide your cooker hood, make a statement of it and get adding colour to a white kitchen. A bold metallic choice with add a serious punch of luxe to the space, and you can link in the metal through handles, plug sockets and even your cutlery.

If you're looking for some more fun, look for a bright coloured option - either a painted metal or wood.

17. Create a blackboard space

Kitchen with chairs and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Use blackboard paint on the strip of wall above on open shelf up to the ceiling for a touch of cafe chic. Use white chalk to stick to your theme, or keep some coloured chalks to hand so you can add extra rainbow colours as and when you desire.

18. Decorate the insides of your cabinets

Kitchen with white wall and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The backs of cabinets and shelves, as well as the insides of drawers are a tailor made way of adding colour to a white kitchen. Use these otherwise ignored spaces to add unexpected impact and personality.

Either wallpaper or paint these nooks. It's always worth learning how to paint kitchen cabinets so that it's easy to re-do for when you feel you need to freshen things up.

19. Include coloured light shades

Kitchen with flower in pot and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

We love a statement pendant light in a kitchen, so use this as an opportunity to add a little extra colour. You don't need anything wild -  go as dramatic or restrained with your kitchen lighting ideas colour choices as you see fit.

Do be aware that the light cast from coloured shades does vary. Glass and material shades in oranges, pinks and reds cast warm glows, while you get a cooler effect from blues and greens. Metal options tend not to affect the light too much as they tend to be kept white inside.

20. Add a pop of black

Kitchen with white wall and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Update an all-white cooking and dining space with black and white kitchen ideas. This timeless duo of black and white doesn't have to belong to a modern space alone; it's just as much at home in a classic or country kitchen.

Matte black finishes rather than anything too glossy works with this look, so go for ceramics with an artisan feel, traditional spindle-back chairs or a simple pendant light.

21. Invest in colourful appliances

Kitchen with white wall and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Don't be put off by brightly coloured appliances. Just ensure you're happy with the colour you choose as they're such a big investment. For a country style, pastel tones are perfect for a subtle injection of colour. Go with bold brights for a contemporary or retro style kitchen and strong heritage tones for a traditional kitchen.

22. Add warmth with wood

Kitchen with white wall and wooden cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

Since wood is a neutral itself, it's a natural accompaniment to otherwise white kitchens. Choose one tone of wood and use it liberally. You could have it as you table and chairs, and even integrate it into your cabinetry and lighting, too.

Lighter shades of wood will create a warmer look against the white, while darker options will create a more dramatic contrast.

23. Choose contrasting panelling

Kitchen with white wall and wooden shelves

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Upgrade your kitchen on any budget by using stained, panelled wood as a splashback. Take this further up the wall behind open shelving to create a rustic-style display.

You don't just have to go for brown, either. Wood stains come in all manner of colours, so you have plenty to choose from. Remember that stains affect different types of wood differently, so always test stain an area or a spare plank.

24. Paint sections of the wall

Kitchen with white walls and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Even in the smallest of kitchens, there are bound to be sections of wall separated from the rest. This could either be from cabinetry or just alcoves from how the room has been built.

Paint these smaller sections in a colour other than white for a splash of colour without committing to changing the scheme of the kitchen. This is also a great way to include grey kitchen ideas, if you can't say goodbye to that trend just yet.

w do you add warmth to an all-white kitchen?

Get savvy with clever interior design tricks to prevent you all-white kitchen from looking clinical. 

'Accessorising is key here. Make sure you choose a worktop with a pattern or accent colour so it stops it looking too clinical,' says Rebecca Nokes, head of design and brand creative, John Lewis of Hungerford.

'Handles are another way to make an-all white kitchen have more interesting aesthetic and there’s a huge range of designs, colours and materials to choose from. Open-shelving can also help make an all-white kitchen look better – oak shelving can give the space a distinctive Scandi look.'

White kitchen with navy stools

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How do you add warmth to an all-white kitchen?

All white kitchens don't have to be cold and sterile. A few simple additions can warm them right up. Woods and other natural materials help bring in a calm warmth. Similarly, greenery – fresh or faux – will add a fresh feeling. Lighting has one of the biggest impacts.

Make sure you're using the right kind of white paint in your kitchen to offer a warm, rather than cool, feeling. This will be affected by the natural light available, what direction this light is coming from, as well as the size and shape of the space.

'A growing trend in the industry is coloured flooring. Chequered patterns and terracotta tiles have all fallen into favour, as well as, tumbled limestone or warm tones in herringbone timber, which add a great dose of warm colour to the space. If you’re unsure of where to start with colour in the kitchen, you might find the answer right under your feet. 

If you can’t quite stick to one new floor design, adding a rug into the equation is a phenomenal way to add colour and a bit of pattern play to the room. The great thing about rugs is that you can always update them as your preferences change. Runners with reds, oranges, blues, greens and ochres add such a great layer of colour to neutral spaces,' says Melissa Klink, creative director, Harvey Jones

What colours look good in an all-white kitchen?

White is the most neutral of all the neutrals, and for this reason there's not a colour it doesn't go with! That said, there are so many different shades of white out there, and different tones of white are better matched with other colours. 

Always look, or ask, about the undertones. These will help suggest where on the colour palette might be a good match for you. It's important to always test out when adding colour to a white kitchen as the combinations can look different at different times of the day, too.

Because white is so versatile, there are plenty of wonderful colours that will work with it and look striking. 

'Green is quickly becoming a neutral as homeowners are now opting for comforting, natural colours in lieu of entirely crisp, bright white kitchens. Consider pairing a rich, grounding green such as Avocado or Serpentine with white and complementary finishes like gold and copper that relate to the natural world. Or for a cool, crisp look with sharp contrast – consider a black and white geometric tile splashback or flooring,' says Tom Howley, design director, Tom Howley.

'For a fresh, optimistic look, why not try introducing some bold colours to the space? There is a shade for every taste which can range from vibrant pinks and dark blues to calming lush greens,' advises Charlotte Cosby, creative director, Farrow & Ball

How can I make my white kitchen look expensive?

Beautiful materials like marble, grained wood and metallics will help a white kitchen look more expensive, Tom Howley explains:

'Warm whites, natural wood, and textural layers will reign in 2023 as we strive to create more comfort, authenticity, and serenity in the home. Throughout the past year, our design team has noticed clients leaning towards a combination of blonde woods, off-whites, and tactile surfaces in the kitchen. This trend will continue to evolve with the addition of reeded glass, patina finishes, and natural stone flooring.'

'Accessories are key here too so nice lighting, drop pendants for example, replacing your appliances and choosing a really special splash back such as something heavily veined or antique mirror looks great. Metallic handles can make a kitchen look really expensive as does our fluted wooden cladding which comes in oak and can be left natural or painted,' adds Rebecca. 

Thea Babington-Stitt
Assistant Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Assistant Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years. 

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.