Colour in the kitchen: Q&A with Sophie Robinson

We sat down with renowned interiors expert and colour enthusiast, Sophie Robinson, to get her answers to our most burning questions about colour in the kitchen. Here's what she had to say...

Sophie Robinson Colour Expert

In a nutshell, how would you summarise the psychology of colour in home interiors?
Colour has the power to change the way we feel and indeed behave in a space. When light waves bounce off a surface and are received by the retina, our brain not only translates that into colour but has an emotional response too.

Therefore, establishing how you want to feel in a space is really important when choosing the colours for your interiors. The second thing to note is that we, as individuals, have different reactions to different hues, combinations and palettes.

Spending time to discover your personal relationship to colour is also key to creating a home that is going to make you feel your best.

What’s an example of popular colour palette and the mood or feelings it can invoke?

Blue is universally the worlds’ most favourite colour. But when you think about it there are so many shades. From the inkiest navy, to warm teal through to fresh sky blues, the important thing is to work out which blue is right for you.

Blue supports focus, clarity and concentration so pick a dynamic shade and use it in your home office. But it’s also, by association with the ocean and open sky, a very calm and tranquil colour and so paler shades are perfect for bedrooms or areas where you want to feel peaceful and calm.

From speaking to our customers, we know that colour is the first thing we think about when deciding to renovate our kitchens. What are your top three points to consider when we’re choosing our kitchen colour palettes?

In terms of colour psychology, the colours we associate with food work best in kitchens. To help invigorate appetite and digestion, greens, yellows, reds and oranges are the obvious choice.

There is no naturally occurring blue food in nature so as a result it actually works to supress our appetite.

I personally feel that since buying a new kitchen is one of the most expensive investments, we make in terms of our interiors you should go for a colour you really love.

Too many people worry about trends and the idea that something will date. Don’t be swayed by trends, listen to your heart and pick a colour you love, and you will get all the joy, and be less likely to go off it.

And please consider colourful cabinets! Colour doesn’t just have to be applied to walls. A colourful kitchen can really add character and distinction so go bold on the cabinets and let them be the hero in the room.

We’d love to hear your view on the colours that are likely to make us the happiest in our homes – and do these vary from person to person?

The headline here is that one colour does not fit all. I’m famously known for being rude about grey and my Instagram hashtag is #banthebeige.

However, I know for some people neutrals really do bring them happiness and joy. Yes, even grey! But for too many people they have been brain washed to think that neutrals are ‘good taste’ and are closed off to any alternatives.

Through my colour workshops and online courses, I get messages every day from people who are breaking out of the beige box and finding their own unique colour joy.

Yellow is the colour of optimism and positivity, so maybe you could start with that. From a perky primrose yellow, a sharp citrus or mellow saffron, there is a happy yellow for everyone.

As a general rule, are there certain colours that work well in the kitchen, or can you make any colour work with the right styling?

I think there are too many limiting beliefs around what you can and can’t have in a kitchen. When I come to design a kitchen, I start by thinking of it as I would any room in my house.

There is an opportunity for colour, for pattern, for softness, for decorative accessories.

If you don’t use the same decorative cues that you use elsewhere in your home you can end up looking like you took the set from the kitchen showroom and installed it in your house and it will always feel at odds with the rest of the house.

So, don’t hesitate to use colour on the units, wallpaper, fabric blinds at the windows, lamps on worktops, fabulous framed artwork and cushions around the table.

For most of us the kitchen is the heart of the home so make it a room you want to hang out in. The kitchen is no longer just a room for food preparation, it’s the family hub for conversations, work, and relaxing, so it’s really important that you create that atmosphere in your décor.

For those of us who’d prefer a more neutral palette in our kitchens, how would you go about creating a design that still has plenty of character?

There are two key things you need to consider when decorating in neutrals and that is texture and tone.

To prevent your neutral scheme falling flat make sure you play with contrasting textures, from matt surfaces like stone and wood to the high gloss of glass, metal and ceramic.

The way different textures play off next to each other will bring your scheme to life. I wouldn’t have gloss doors with a gloss marble worktop for example, better to have matt painted doors and then the worktop will dazzle even more.

Use different tones to add depth and contrast, so avoid having your floor, walls and kitchen all in the same neutral tone.

This could be a dark wood floor, pale units and then a mid-tone stone worktop for example. Choosing tones from the same neutral palette will bring colour harmony.

Which colour palettes would you recommend for someone who wants a colourful kitchen that stands the test of time but also wants to stay on top of trends?

I’d say stop worrying about trends! I mean it, who are you designing your home for? I hope the answer is for yourself, for your own enjoyment and self-expression.

Trends are great at keeping us inspired and the industry invigorated with fresh ideas, but when it come to choosing what's right for you and your home, you’ve got to give up the FOMO.

Especially when it comes to kitchens as they are not something you are going to rip out when the new trend comes to town. So instead be your own trend setter and make choices that inspire you.

And you never need stop. You can refresh your kitchen over time with new accessories, paint colours, wallpapers, window treatments and switch the accessories around knowing that the bones of the kitchen design are already perfect.

Any ideas on how to add colour to a neutral kitchen?

I understand that the majority of people are still going to go out and buy a kitchen in a ‘sensible’ neutral colour!

But the great thing about a neutral backdrop is it allows you to ring the colour changes more easily and quickly. Painting the walls a colour is the fastest and most transformational way to do this.

Consider that if you go for a colour that contrasts with your fitted units, then the units will really jump out, which might not be what you intended.

Instead think about colourful tiled splashbacks, colourful blinds at the window and feature lighting and accessories to bring the colour joy all around the room. A feature floor can look pretty wow too.

What’s the first step to understanding what colour works for your home and your style?

I’ve spent my whole life honing my love of colour and I’ve got to a place where I’m really clear which colours I love and surround myself in them.

From the paint on the walls all the way through to the dresses hanging in my wardrobe, I see my happy colours everywhere. Begin by dropping all the anxiety around what is deemed ‘good taste’ or concern around what other people think.

This is ultimately a pointless goal as taste and reactions to colour are so personal, so it’s impossible to design a home that will appeal to everyone who visits.

Instead take the time to look within and consider what colours really resonate with you. Take a look in your wardrobe for clues or think about the style of artwork you love.

You want to be quietly looking out for that feeling of uplift you get when you see a colour palette that you love. I use Pinterest boards and my sketch book to help me hone my ideas.

We’re hearing more and more about mindful decor recently – is there more to this than the psychology of colour?

The practice of mindfulness asks us to be present in the moment and not always stressing about the future or indeed the past.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to practice gratitude and indulge in the small wins. This is something that can easily be practiced at home. It could be carving out a space for some quiet solitude, be that a reading nook or an area dedicated to doing yoga practice.

Creating specific areas for different activities or marking different times of the day with little rituals can really help us pace our day and manage any anxiety.

Closing the curtains and lighting a scented candle at the end of the day can be a simple signifier that it’s the evening and time to relax.

I love to treat myself to fresh flowers once in a while because I adore the way they instantly freshen up a room with a bolt of colour and I’m mindful that I need to appreciate them every day as in a week they will be gone.

Lots of us have been using our kitchens for more than just cooking and eating this last year. We’ve been home-schooling, working and everything in between. Which colours work best for our “Super Living” kitchens?

Any multifunctional room is a challenge to decorate as there are many different activities to accommodate. I think colour blocking can be a great tool to use.

Maybe in the alcove where you have your desk, create a calm and focused zone with blue. It could be a painted wall, or a painting hung above the desk.

You will probably wish to create a more convivial vibe around the kitchen table which means oranges and yellows are great to add. It could be a warm wooden oak table with colourful chairs or a large yellow vase on the table.

In open plan rooms you don’t need to stick to one colour throughout but do make sure the colours you choose are from the same ‘family’, so it all hangs together.

Which are your favourite kitchen colours that are trending this year and how might they influence our wellbeing?

I’m seeing shades of green being a strong trend in interiors and are perfect for a kitchen. Green is the colour we associate with mother nature.

During this extended lockdown, getting out outside for daily walks has connected a lot of people with the restorative power of being in nature. So, bringing green inside is the perfect way to keep the feel-good vibes going.

Green also looks wonderful with natural materials like wood, stone and brick so you can quickly work up a palette that feels as good as it looks.

And last but by no means least, we’d love to know what colour your kitchen is and how you chose it?

Well, you might say I was ahead of the curve as I already have a green kitchen and it was a deliberate decision to link the kitchen colour scheme to the garden outside.

My kitchen is north facing and doesn’t get a lot of sunlight and so though it might sound counterintuitive I went dark in tone and combined with warmer earthy tones.

I then used a vibrant patterned wallpaper to punctuate the space with colour and pattern and it really brings it alive. I’ve added texture with a reclaimed wood worktop and a terracotta floor, and I love how the tones of red contrast with the green.

It might be a dark and small kitchen but it’s our favourite room to hang out in!

Want more colourful kitchen inspiration? Browse our curated collection of stunning colourways here.