The power of neutral

Interior designer Lucy Bartley from lucyb home shows how a neutral kitchen look can be enhanced with careful lighting and design touches to deliver a special ambience

The biggest advantage to a neutral kitchen is that it will instantly create a minimalist style and broad appeal. This will create an air of calm, one which works instantly as a backdrop for the utensils and crockery that you may already have. This neutral colour scheme allows you to update your accent colour palette for worktop decorative items regularly, or even seasonally.

My advice is to go for statement eyecatching accessories that are individual and of personal importance to you. For example, a coloured vase, glass hurricanes, a decorative textured bowl – pieces that draw the eye in, add a new shape, depth and a splash of colour/texture. Items that aren’t actually ‘kitchen related’ and are more ‘one of a kind’ craft/artisan pieces will give your space personality, whether from home or abroad.

Adding texture and contrast finishes, such as an engineered wood flooring will give warmth to the space, from the colour and grain – a great contrast to mid gloss white door and drawer fronts. Natural wood accents like a chopping board, knife block and serving tray would also work well.

An alternative to wood flooring would be to play with a patterned floor tile, giving a colour splash and or a geometric motif, or even a textural stone or slate floor, for another suggestion to add an alternative surface finish.

With a neutral kitchen, you can add further depth by choosing either chrome, black matt or brass ironmongery as a colour accent. Consider using the same finish and colour for taps, kitchen utensils, handles, light switches and power sockets.

In such an essentially simple, understated kitchen, it is crucial to ensure that none of the door and drawer fronts are out of line, as this will stand out like a sore thumb. Push-catch (handleless) doors work well, giving a pleasing linear aesthetic that avoids visual ‘clutter.’ Go for a light quartz worktop with a mottled colour finish within, as this will give interest and makes the top appear less ‘solid.’ From a distance it will appear ‘white,’ but a closer look reveals the colour variation. The contrast of elements are key within such a simple kitchen palette.


The addition of a pendant statement light fitting, whether over an island if you have the space, or central to the room, will always look great, adding a new level and height for the eye to work off. If over an island, three light fittings are always a nice balance, creating symmetry and lining up vertically within the overall aesthetic. For a kitchen/diner, a pendant light display above a dining table is always useful and can again link into the colour of the ironmongery used. There are so many wonderful pendant designs out there, in various colours, shapes and finishes.

In this understated neutral contemporary kitchen, I would always suggest recessed downlights and no metal surround, instead white to blend in with the ceiling.

In terms of lighting, it is good to weigh up the four basic types in your design. ‘Task lights’ help you see clearly when chopping vegetables or reading from a cookbook. ‘Ambient’ lighting illuminates the room, rather than a targeted spot, whereas ‘Accent’ lighting highlights a feature, such as an artwork, as you might have in a living area. This would work within a kitchen space, if you had an amazing marble or stone countertop for example, to help bring out the accent tones, flecks of the material, so is a real consideration. ‘Decorative’ lighting simply enhances the space with the fitting’s colour and material, as well as the shadow it casts.


Finally, remember your design checklist before starting on the kitchen design and fitout:

  • Use three interesting textures that reflect a contrast of materials, for walls, worktops, cabinetry door/drawer fronts such as mid gloss units, wood flooring, and a quartz worktop.
  • Utilise an accent colour for the glass splashback. This can be quite wild, or a neutral that sits somewhere between the light door fronts and dark wood floor colour (a tone that blends and coordinates), possibly a taupe or a soft subtle grey.
  • Ironmongery – match a gorgeous, contrast metal finish across the space – taps, handles, knobs, hooks, latches, coat pegs and plug sockets. Such functional details complete a room and will accent your own style, whether traditional, quirky or contemporary.

To end, remember comfort underfoot. If the kitchen is large enough, you can always add a rug or runner to warm up a wood or tiled floor. This will give another texture and colour and allow you to add pattern, whether a modern geometric or more traditional soft floral. When the kitchen links to the dining space, this again allows you to pick up a design reference and create cohesion, with a rug under the dining table and chairs. Rugs are natural space definers, making a visual frame for the dining table to sit upon.

Lucy Bartley is founder of lucyb home