Colorless kitchen gets country flair with paint

DEAR DEBBIE: We are renting and can’t replace the old countertop in the very boring all-white kitchen, but we can paint. Do you have any ideas for making the kitchen cheerful and country style? — Virginia.

DEAR VIRGINIA: Try not to be disheartened by what you can’t change. The trick is to optimize what you like, and this will diminish the negatives.

Paint is a simple, versatile decorating tool that is the perfect solution for your kitchen woes. There are particular color combinations that work happily together to evoke the many popular country styles. A French country kitchen sparkles with bright white, sunny yellows and midtone blues. The warmth of Tuscan style revolves around rich tones of gold, ocher, terra-cotta and olive green. It’s always helpful to search through books, magazines and newspapers to find kitchens that you love. You can take ideas from anywhere and a photograph gives you a starting point.

My friend moved from the country into an old city apartment and felt somewhat lost with his colorless kitchen. I chose a mossy green paint for the walls and cabinets, and then rubbed a dark-brown glaze over the cabinets to give the surface some depth and to highlight any details. There was cardboard tile on the lower walls and the backsplash area painted white. These sheets of board tiles were commonly used in the ’70s to cover uneven walls. Rather than removing them (and uncovering more problems), I designed a pattern of larger tiles painted yellow and green.

The fake grout lines were covered with 1/8-inch masking tape, four tiles to the square, and every other large tile was painted the moss green of the walls. Then I mixed a colored glaze — one part yellow latex paint to two parts water-based glazing liquid — and brushed it over the entire surface, covering both green and white tiles. Once the tape was removed, the white lines made a realistic break to the pattern, and the yellow glaze added a translucent quality.

There was space to dress the windows and adding distressed wood shutters was a perfect complement to the rural theme. My friend’s collection of red-and-white spatterware is now right at home, and so is he.

DEAR DEBBIE: Help! We have three boys ages 10, 8 and 4 who primarily use a bathroom that has a pink sink, toilet and tub. How can I decorate the room to look boyish? There’s no budget for remodeling right now. — Matt.

DEAR MATT: They probably haven’t even noticed. But I suggest you paint the walls medium gray with a burgundy-red racing stripe around the sink, bathtub and shower as a fun trim. Stock up on dark-gray or navy towels and you’ll have diffused the pink and created a cheerful bathroom for your boys.

DEAR DEBBIE: I just painted our living room in sea grass (a lovely pale grassy green). My furniture is burgundy/brown leather and the floor is gunstock oak. We have a large bay window. What would you suggest for drapery color? — Stan and Val.

DEAR STAN and VAL: You have chosen a calm and serene wall color, which complements the natural wood floor and tactile leather furnishings. I would keep the draperies understated. For a fresh look I’d go with white, or for a more subtle effect choose a stone shade. Lightweight suede fabric will offer an elegant touch.


Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at

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