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A matter of taste

Kitchen ideas from Food magazine

How the colours you use to decorate your kitchen affect your appetite

The concept that some colours are more delicious than others – psychologically-speaking – has long been a topic of scientific study. While those in marketing are most interested in how this affects consumer habits, the findings can also be put to good use within your own home.

Bright orange kitchen
Resene Trinidad (orange) and Resene Banana Split (yellow) are set against the neutral walls and ceiling in Resene Bianca. The doors, horizontal architraves, frames and panels are in Resene Taupe Grey and the vertical architraves in Resene Ecru White. Designed by Parsonson Architects. Building by Scotty’s Construction.

Now that kitchens are commonly designed as part of an open-plan layout, the places where you’re cooking, eating and relaxing likely all exist within a single interior scheme. If you’re concerned about the psychological effects your design and colour choices have on your family and visitors, consider this food for thought.

Bright orange kitchen
Resene Tangerine, used on the cabinets in this kitchen, is balanced by a timber feature wall and a floor stained in Resene Colorwood Walnut. The walls are painted Resene Alabaster. Designed by Fraser Gillies, photo by Frances Oliver.

Colour is the single most important sensory cue when it comes to setting people’s expectations for the likely taste and flavours of food and drink. While the colour of the food comes down to ingredients and cooking, the colours you surround your food with have been shown to have an effect too. In other words, the colours of your crockery, tables, walls, ceilings and floors etc can all set preconceptions about what’s on the plate before the food even makes it to the mouth. Obviously colours hold different associations for various age groups and cultures, but there are some common reactions across the board.

Mood board
Orange feature wall in kitchen
Mood board: Balance out tasty-looking pops of bright red and orange with an earthy mushroom taupe like Resene Felix. Oval tray in Resene Bitter, large round tray in Resene Papier Mache, small tray with handle in Resene Salsa, cocoa cellar (with spoon) in Resene Guardsman Red, large lidded container in Resene Roxy, narrow vase in Resene Ayers Rock, wider vase in Resene Crail, small vase (on oval tray) in Resene Papier Mache and small lidded container (on oval tray) in Resene Vanquish. Styled by Laura Lynn Johnston. Photography by Bryce Carleton.  Above: Accent walls in Resene Clockwork Orange define this Christchurch kitchen. Owners Sarah and Glen see the colour as a modern take on the traditional concept of the kitchen being the heart of the home. The other walls are painted Resene Double Merino.


Passionate and energetic, red is known to stimulate and excite. It also enhances the appetite. When we see red, neurons fire up in the hypothalamus part of the brain and we get an energy boost, just like we do when we are ready to feast.

Many food corporations and fast-food establishments include red in their logo or branding, due to its ability to elicit a reaction much quicker than any other colour. When using red in the kitchen just remember to use it cautiously, as too much of a good thing could feel like just that – too much. Try richer versions like Resene Shiraz, Resene Paprika or Resene Burgundy. Or, combine small pops of brighter varieties like Resene Candy Floss or Resene Jalapeno balanced with walls in a taupe like Resene Americano, Resene Swiss Coffee or Resene Almond Frost.


An all-yellow colour palette can be hard to trust in a kitchen, as the hue encourages our analytical instinct – the opposite of what you’d typically want in one of the most creative spaces in the home. However, small pops of yellow can be eye-catching and cheerful. Resene Lemon Twist is reminiscent of citrus, while more subtle beige tones such as Resene Manuka Honey or Resene Melting Moment are call to mind honey and melted butter.


Orange can encourage impulse, but it’s also considered a comfort colour. It typically stimulates both appetite and conversation. Try Resene Tangerine for a true orange or look to softer, dustier peaches such as Resene Whiskey Sour, Resene Manhattan or Resene Negroni.


Green is commonly used in food because it’s associated with freshness, being healthy, vegetarianism and, generally speaking, good taste. While it’s not often the first colour people think of for a kitchen colour palette, it is a natural fit, and considering sage greens are one of the hottest colours right now, it shouldn’t be hard to accessorise. Renowned cast iron cookware brand Le Creuset recently released a collection of sage green crockery. On your walls or cabinetry, try Resene Avocado, Resene Lemon Grass, Resene Bitter or Resene Miso for on-trend options.


While it isn’t a colour you’re going to find nourishment from, grey can be associated with natural ingredients. Silverware and stoneware have long been fixtures in the kitchen as the colour represents class and cleanliness. As a neutral colour, it also has a way of bringing out brighter colours, and the right shade can actually make your food look fresher and more vibrant by contrast. For the most trendy variations, look to ‘greige’ with Resene Truffle, Resene Tea or Resene Caraway.


Brown is associated with coffee shops, farming, pastries and chocolate, and can be used to stimulate appetite and create an organic presence. Brown encapsulates wholesomeness and comfort – perfect for a kitchen – so it’s no wonder timber kitchens are so popular. Stain joinery in warm Resene Colorwood Nutmeg, darker Resene Tamarind or neutral Resene Natural wood stain. Heat things up with spicy shades like Resene Cinnamon, Resene Jambalaya or Resene Spice.


Blue is the most unappetising colour; it’s actually known to reduce hunger. Scientists theorise that this is because there are no naturally occurring truly blue foods – blueberries are technically purple. However, blue is also the most universally loved colour, known to evoke a sense of calm and trust. It makes sense to avoid blue plates, but try a deep dark shade like Resene Licorice on walls balanced with warm white cabinetry in Resene Rice Cake or Resene Milk White for an elegant look.

Colours featured in kitchen and mood board photos...


Kitchen Decorating Ideas
View more kitchen decorating ideas from Food magazine in the Resene kitchen inspiration gallery.

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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.

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