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Pastel Kitchens Any Grownup Would Love

Pretty in pink. Mellow yellow. Baby Blue. With their demureness, it’s easy to dismiss pastels as childish tints that are as serious as a roll of Necco Wafers (or do you prefer Sweet-Tarts?)

But pastels aren’t just for babies, Easter baskets, and candy necklaces. They have a quiet intensity and power to bestow a sense of calm. Even pink is a potent secret weapon: Football coaches used to paint the opposing team’s locker room a warm shade of pink, to help neutralize their foes. Ditto for drunk tanks — police realized a pink room made people less aggressive.

Pastels are one of the big color stories for kitchens this year — and we love the way they deliver happy, playful energy. Creating a chic pastel kitchen is all about striking the right balance of colors and textures. As these kitchens below demonstrate, when you pair pastels with the right neutrals and deeper shades, they take on an adult sense of sophistication. See how you can infuse your kitchen with a cool, joyful vibe with these examples curated from Instagram.

Photo credit: @studio818

Pair it With Earth Tones

There’s something very chic and earthy about neutral tones taken from nature like ivory, camel, and chocolate. And when they’re paired with pastels, they make the whole space look very sophisticated, grounded, and timeless. The great thing about these neutrals is that they look great with every pastel hue from pink to mint to baby blue, you just need to find the right tone and intensity. In this super-cool kitchen from Studio 818, caramel-colored leather, wood,  burnished metals, and white walls are perfect foils for this pretty shade of blue. This is the kind of kitchen you could enjoy for years.

Photo credit: @megantaylorphoto via @domino

Go Gray

As a neutral backdrop, pale gray is softer and more soothing than pure white.  And it’s a perfect foil for any pastel shade you like. The light gray cabinetry in this super-fun St. Albans kitchen by Jordan and Russell of 2LG Studio in London helps tie this multicolor kitchen together seamlessly. The floral pastel tile on the island and floor says this is a kitchen built for fun. The pink tile, natural wood stools, and live-edge counters add warmth while the gold bin pulls and shelf brackets add a chic touch. This is where everyone will want to hang in when these lucky homeowners have their next party.

Balance it With Black and White

We’ve featured this kitchen by HGTV celebrity designer Tiffany Brooks before because it’s so delightful. First, Brooks was ahead of the curve on the blue cabinetry thing. And she found a way to bring a pretty pop of pink into the space with the vintage runner. But it’s also a prime example of how sophisticated soft colors can be. The warm white walls, ceiling-high backsplash in Carrera marble subway tile, and bright white counters create a serene and clean backdrop. Brooks adds an edgy turn with the deep pewter and oil-rubbed bronze drawer pulls, shelving brackets, and chandelier that echoes the pattern in the rug.  

Photo credit: @tilemakestheroom

Be Ambiguous

There are some colors that read exactly the same every time you look at them. Then there are others that seem to shift with the light. The changeability can be maddening – I had a bathroom floor that shifted between mauve and warm taupe, so it was impossible to match with anything. (I eventually replaced it with Carrera marble.) But if you can embrace that ambiguity, it’s a fine way to bring a subtle pastel into your room. Heath Ceramics’ Frost G40 tile is mostly blue with a hint of the terra cotta base that comes through. But other times it leans toward periwinkle and lavender, depending on the surroundings. In this kitchen on the Tile Makes the Room Instagram feed, it’s in a pale purple reign, thanks to the full-color refrigerator and the purple blooms.

aqua kitchen with white cabinets and hot pink flowers
Photo credit: Paul Dyer for Studio Dearborn

Go Bright Ahead

White draws the eye in decor, and so do intense bright shades.  When you pair a bright pop of color with a pastel, by contrast, the pastel becomes soothing and serene. There’s something so cheerful and delicious about the way the team from Studio Dearborn paired with aqua Pratt & Larson Small Arabesque field tile and a matching island with a hot pink runner and bright Gerber daisies for a kitchen remodel in Danville, California. You could also try this bright + pastel effect with one color. Choose an intense pure hue, then pair it with a pastel tint (a tint is any pure primary or secondary color mixed with white). When you layer colors in this way, it creates a bold yet harmonious statement and the pastel becomes neutral.

warm pink and black kitchens @farrowandball paint
Photo credit from left to right: @farrowandball, @stephenkentjohnson for @nealbeckstedt

Always Bet on Black

Blush pink and black has been one of our favorite color combos forever, and even now it never fails to thrill. These earthy shades are so popular right now they’re becoming new neutrals.  There are so many beguiling pink paint choices right now, but we swoon for Farrow & Ball’s intriguing shades like Setting Plaster, Dead Salmon, Calamine, and Sulking Room Pink. Pick your favorite warm pink shade and pair it with deep inky cabinets or marble for a kitchen that’s simply drop-dead gorgeous. Deep shades like forest green, charcoal, and navy would be just as stunning.

Photo credit: @cletile and @studiodiy

Embrace Imperfection

Wabi-sabi, a Japanese design concept that celebrates imperfection, was one of the big kitchen design themes for 2018. But it’s still around this year in the cerused and reclaimed woods, and antique pieces starring in decor this year. The growing popularity of perfectly imperfect tiles is another expression of wabi-sabi. Rather than a smooth and uniform surface, this kind of ceramic or glass tile is purposely made with slightly uneven edges and thicknesses. The overall look is more textured because it catches the light in different ways. In this kitchen by Studio DIY founder Kelly Mindell, the wall of Clé Tile white Zellige lends a handmade look that balances the sweet pink cabinetry and chic bright gold hardware. It says: “I’m cute, but I don’t take myself too seriously:-)” Expect to see more tiles in this style; as James Salter said: “There is no real beauty without some slight imperfection.”