christyinohio

North facing kitchen needs update/ brightening

Christina Leach
November 7, 2019

We remodeled our kitchen about 15 years ago. The layout is great and we recently replaced several appliances. My problem with the kitchen is that it feels dark with all the wood and the windows only facing north (can't do skylights as there is a bedroom above). We like the granite. We are definitely going to replace the backsplash. I'm looking for any other ideas to update and brighten the space. Thank you!


Comments (35)

  • tartanmeup

    Beautiful cabinets! What type of lighting do you have? If your bulbs are yellow rather than a cooler white, that might make the space feel "dark". Perhaps consider tweaking the light before choosing a new backsplash as lighting affects colours. What type of backsplash were you considering?

    I'm a fan of pairing wood with white so I'd consider brightening the wall colour. Next would be considering changing the hardware and stools to something with a bit of shine to them. You can choose a more vibrant or lighter coloured rug and window treatment as well.

    ETA: That link brings us to another site, DavidR.

    Christina Leach thanked tartanmeup
  • chloebud

    Yes, beautiful cabinets! I think lightening up the counters, backsplash and stools will help. Glad your appliances are stainless and not black.

    Christina Leach thanked chloebud
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  • Christina Leach

    tartenmeup - maybe a handmade tile in a vertical running bond off white? I'm also thinking of removing the cabinet that is over the dishwasher and maybe doing some open shelves there instead. Also I like your idea of new window treatments! chloebud - don't think I can change the countertops....

  • chloebud

    Sorry, somehow I missed the fact that the countertops were staying. If you lighten the backsplash, maybe some cushions for the stools to tie in. Agree new window treatments would be nice. I wouldn't do open shelving above the dishwasher. Maybe a glass front?

    Christina Leach thanked chloebud
  • chispa

    First thing I would do would be a ruthless cleaning out session. Get rid of things you never use and make room for many of the things that are sitting out on your counters. Less visual clutter will make a big difference in how the space feels.


    I had similar colors in my kitchen and the thing that made the biggest difference was adding a much lighter counter. I went with Taj Mahal quartzite, which would also look good with your cabinets and floors.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    I hate to say it, but those wood blinds block out what little light there is. can you keep them in the open position? is it necessary to have mini blinds? could you do a nice, light roman or even a solar shade?

    and I know we all have to live, but you're the one complaining! so, decluttering would also help to 'lighten' the area.

    once you do get a brighter backsplash, it's not going to matter if it's covered by everything.

    you have plenty of lights.

    Perhaps losing the black stools and getting something in a SS or light tone? ditto the desk chair.


    I'd paint the window trim white (since you already have so much wood), but that's a personal preference. Plus, if you did the white trim around your windows, then at least you would have some white to tie in w/a white tile backsplash. See the painted trim on this one?




    all of these photos have white trim around the window. I think if it didn't, the stark white tile would be too much of contrast and not tie into anything.


    here they left the trim wood, but did a blue/gray glass tile


    if it's a solid black countertop, you could do something like this Calacatta herringbone (not the accent over the stove, just the tile). I like the darker tones since it will work w/the black better than if you did a stark white subway tile.




    2x8 tile in a soft sage tone is also nice


    found one photo w/white tile and all wood. It's a honed black countertop though. (any chance you could hone your counter??)


    style is a little more craftsman than yours.

    notice the wood stools. better than doing black

  • Jora

    Ditto what Beth said about painting window trim. Also, love with the Calacatta herringbone.

    I'd also replace the handles and the chairs, and maybe the light fixture - to SS.

  • PRO
    Home Art Tile Kitchen & Bath

    I would go with white marble backsplash with white grout, light color stools, and consider adding glass to some of the upper cabinets or even replacing some with open shelving. Getting rid of black granite and replacing it with a light quartz option would help a lot in brightening the space, but you like it, so I would consider the above mentioned.

    Christina Leach thanked Home Art Tile Kitchen & Bath
  • stir_fryi SE Mich

    Wow -- that picture with the white window trim made a huge difference! Also, colorful runner rugs would be great. Hard time figuring out that big light fixture over the island -- maybe a nice, colorful hanging fixture instead? Beautiful cabinets and, I agree, keep the granite.

    Christina Leach thanked stir_fryi SE Mich
  • eam44

    You have a lot of light fixtures but the quality of light isn’t great. Have you considered under cabinet lighting, and perhaps changing to LED bulbs? A new bs will help, so good thinking.

    It might also be helpful to switch the use of some of your space. If the desk became a coffee, toaster, breadbox, blender area, for example, that might work better for you.

    Inspiration images are so helpful. Pull a few that share your finishes, but resist the temptation to grab images with tons of light streaming in. That’s never going to be your space.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    Change all the bulbs to 4000K LEDs , remove the wood blinds find a home for all the clutter , get some fun colored stools , some under cabinet lighting and a backsplash in a a lighter tone maybe glass subwya tile I don’t really see what your counter is maybe a pic of it closer up will get some ideas for backplash. Roman shades on the windows in a bright colored print.

  • rchater1

    Have you considered tiling the backsplash all the way to the ceiling? If you do a light tone it will also help reflect some light.

  • Christina Leach

    These are great ideas and I appreciate the photos too. I like the idea of painting the trim white. Will that look odd if the rest of the trim in the house is stained wood?

  • heather641

    I wonder if you replace the cabinet over the toaster oven with some open shelving and do a lighter backsplash if that would break up some of the wood. Love the recommendation of removing wood blinds-i think that might make a big difference

  • eam44

    White? You want the window trim to melt into your wall color, so whatever color you choose for your walls, paint the window trim that color. It'll open things up a bit. It doesn't matter what the rest of the window trim in the house is. Those windows are in other rooms.

  • Christina Leach


    Close up of granite.

    Here is kitchen pre-clutter ...or new ;-)

  • eam44

    It's a very pretty space, and with an updated bs it will be even prettier. That wall color is not helping you! It is a bit yellow. Are you open to making that brighter and more neutral?

    This is SW 7000 Ibis White. I like it because it is very neutral and light, but it has just a tiny bit more red in it than anything else, and it will play well with your cabinets. Below that is Fireclay Tile in Tusk - beautiful, also very slightly warm.



    Christina Leach thanked eam44
  • tartanmeup

    Seeing these new pics, I changed my mind. I'd lighten the walls, change the stools (maybe just paint them?) and the window treatments before I'd touch the backsplash. Wouldn't paint the window trim either. Your kitchen is really nicely done. Cohesive.

  • Christina Leach

    I actually just requested some tile samples from Fireclay tiles!

  • RedRyder

    The trim will be painted whatever color your backsplash tile is. Getting samples is a good idea. Your cabinets are beautiful. I agree the black hardware and stools aren’t helping to brighten the space, so start looking at changing those. (Not going to break the budget to do these but it will make a huge difference.

  • Carol jean

    Did you check out those black and white tiles White stools and white trim and a lighter colored rug the pros here give very good advice

  • eam44

    Cool! What glazes did you order?

  • Christina Leach

    Samples are Calcite, Ivory, Feldspar, Ultracream with black patine and Foggy morning with black patine.


    This is the ultracream with black patine which was thinking maybe would tie in with the black countertops. I was thinking maybe Benjamin Moore Pale Oak or something similar could look nice with that.



  • eam44

    They both skew a little green in the undertones which could conflict with the cabinets, but try a sample of the paint in your space and see what you think.

  • j quigs

    would love some help with our NW facing kitchen too - we are slowly trying to transform its look and have replaced the appliances to stainless. Now looking to change our countertops and backsplash. Been to several yards and have some slabs in mind - Calacata Do Brazil (quartzite), Taj Mahal (picture appears grey but was actually warmer/brown - Quartzite), Dolce Sogno (soft quartzite) and we threw in a granite too. Reading all the strings has scared me away from soft quartzite as we cook every day and are no strangers to lemons, red wine, tomatoes and the like! Would love some feedback on durability and how you think our choices will pair with the cabinet/floor colors. These are items (floors and cabinet color) that we would like to change, but for budget reasons, have to live with...for now! Also considering changing the hardware on the cabinets too.



    Calacatta Do Brazil


    Dolce Sogno (Soft quartzite....think its a no because of durability)



    Taj Mahal



    Valley White Granite

  • Jora

    j quigs - Just wanted to let you know there is no such thing as 'soft quartzite'. There is marble, dolomite, granite, and quartzite.

    However, some entities sell marble and Dolomite under the title 'quartzite' or 'soft quartzite' because they do not know better, and some sell it despite knowing. :)

  • j quigs

    Thanks, Jora - we are now leaning our way through the multiple naming conventions used for all surface types. We've decided to steer away from quartzite or "soft" quartzite because they require too much "care". We use our kitchen every day and between coffee, salad dressing, tomato sauce, etc. and want to enjoy our investment as opposed to resenting it. Neither my husband nor myself are the type that can live with the imperfections that marble and quartzite variations present. Back to the drawing board! Of course, we welcome any suggestions!

  • riverscox25

    Love your kitchen. Keep the granite but change the backsplash to a lighter something, maybe grey subway tile.

  • Gcubed

    What did you decide to do?

  • Jora

    j quits - There is NO soft quartzite (sorry for the caps).

    Quartzite is actually very durable for the kitchen - more so than granite -but key is you have to make sure you are purchasing 'actual' quartzite, not marble/dolomite labeled as quartzite.


  • Sheeisback GW

    J quigs it’s best to start your own thread. You can link to another thread for reference if you need too.

    To the original poster if you’re still working on this, I wouldn’t use a white splash if there’s no white in your counter. Doesn’t look like it to me. I think it will look best if you pull the lightest color from there. Even painting the window trim white isn’t going to be enough to keep the splash from looking disjointed from the counters.

    I’d declutter and put as much away as you can on the counters that’s practical, new area rug, maybe Roman shades for windows, a plant... Right now there’s not a lot of softness and I think fabric would help. Stained wood barstools might be better too since the current ones are black and you already have a good amount of the dark color in the room.

  • nosoccermom

    Have you removed the blinds to reassess?

  • j quigs

    Thanks for the comments and sorry to jump in on an existing thread. I'm new to posting on houzz. Here is my new thread and I've included some recent countertop selections https://www.houzz.com/discussions/5824800/nw-facing-kitchen-replacing-countertopsplease-help#n=0

  • rachann61

    I really like the SW Ibis paint color the earlier poster recommended. That pretty paint could and would make the cabinets and granite shine. Also getting some lighter barstools. Could you paint the ones you have? I like their shape. Are they comfortable and in good shape?

  • Christina Leach

    Thank you all for ideas! I am definitely going to replace the wood blinds. The windows face the street so I will need some window covering for nighttime. Also, in process of researching a lighter tile back splash. Maybe a cream or off white. Planning to replace the cabinet between the windows with 2 open shelves for the white dishes we use daily and a couple plants. Right now my contractor is busy but I'm meeting with him after Thanksgiving and hopefully can move forward at that point. I will post "after" photos when completed!

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