Elle H-Millard on Kitchens - Home Front

Elle H-Millard
May 03, 2018

Interior design expert Elle H-Millard is a certified kitchen designer and trend forecasting consultant. H-Millard was one out of 11 cast to be on HGTV’s “Design Star” series, where she competed to host her own show. Today, she presents and participates in think-tank group discussions, creates kitchen and bath concepts for product development, and manages a team of industry professionals at the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Let's talk kitchens. Read my story here about how the reign of the all white kitchen may be over; six ways to bring color into your kitchen. Elle H-Millard is an interior design expert and a certified kitchen designer. H-Millard was one out of 11 cast to be on HGTV’s “Design Star” series, where she competed to host her own show. Today, she presents and participates in think-tank group discussions, creates kitchen and bath concepts for product development, and is a manager at the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). Let's chat.




Hello, I am super excited to be chatting with you all today.  I have a love for color and pattern and looking forward to sharing ideas with you. I also am passionate about sharing in best design practices and tips that can prevent you from making mistakes.  I look forward to a great conversation.

I have cherry cabinets installed about 20 years ago. Could I successfully paint them? Maybe mix painted cabinets with the cherry? I am opening up part of the kitchen and would need to install new cabinets there. The counters are grey dappled granite. What colors would be good. . Thanks for the help Petra

Yes, you can paint stained cabinets.  However, there is some prep work that needs to be done ahead of time.  You will need to remove the gloss finish, and sand cabinets.  All dust should be removed prior to painting. Mixing paint and stain is common, however cherry stain and paint may not be ideal.  I would recommend painting all cabinets and using two different colors of paint like white and blue or white and gray depending on the style of the kitchen. 

Hello. My 250 sq ft country kitchen needs new flooring and the cabinets painted. On the one hand, I love a lot of bold color, but then find myself drifting back to the thought of how pretty a creamy or all-white kitchen would look. I've always been fond of black and white checkerboard pattern floors, but living in a rural area, i know the white tiles would get dirty 5 seconds after I cleaned them. I thought about red and tan checkerboard floors, but afraid it might be too "different." Any suggestions on how to get color either on the floor or on the walls and/or cabinets? If it helps, I like Sherwin Williams paint. Thanks so much for your help.

Flooring is a more permanent fixture that can get outdated quickly if done with a bold pattern.  It sounds like you are willing to take a risk which is great.  First recommendation is to evaluate your closet. Are you someone who is willing to take a risk with your fashion and feel confident doing so?  If the answer is yes, I would recommend you go for the bold color and add it in in small accents that make a big statement (unique colorful pulls or perhaps and accent on the painted cabinet.  You can also  start with a backsplash or wallpaper. You can also add in color to the cabinetry.  A designer can help you find your path so that it suits your personality and style while still giving you the decision making ability. Also, don't be afraid of white floors.  Tile cleans up very nicely. I personally have white floors and LOVE them. 

We are using Sherwin Williams colors, and thinking of using Roycroft Bronze Green on the cabinets. Should the green be used only on a few cabinets as an accent? Use it on all the cabinets? Would Jogging Path be a good complimentary color for the walls? The floors will be oak hardwood, and the countertops slightly grey (London Fog). Thanks for your help.

This sounds like a lovely color scheme.  The green will read as a neutral in the space as our brain naturally accept green given is natural qualities. You can use it for all of the cabinets or mix it up and include the Jogging Path on an island to separate the green. The Jogging path will help contrast the green and can be also used on the wall to create balance and harmony.  If you are looking for a bold contrast, I would add in touches of warmer colors as accents in artwork or accessories  on the counter. You can get away with a bold yellow or orange in small accents. Perhaps a unique tea kettle or blender or canister set will help drive some personality to the space. The space sounds like it will be very comfortable and relaxing for quests to enjoy. 

Hi! I find that my kitchen and bathroom aren't as ventilated as I'd like - though both have exhaust systems. Bathroom is somewhat and kitchen is fully exposed to the rest of the air in my not-huge apartment, so it's not like there's no air flow. But could you recommend some ways to speed up the air freshening beyond candles or similar? Especially post-cooking, there's no way to contain food odors, first of all, and I can't so far get them to dissipate quickly. Thanks for your insights!

Ventilation and humidity control is extremely important in the kitchen and bath.  The best form of ventilation is to exchange air from outdoors, however there are times when you must recirculate the air indoors.  Be sure you are cleaning or replacing your charcoal filter screens to be sure that it can clean the air efficiently.  You can also look at downdraft options on a cooktop or range to help eliminate odors. Key to ventilation is air out and air in.  

We are looking at converting an existing window to a door to add a deck to our house. The window has a radiator in front of it. Any idea how much this would cost? We would get quotes before pursuing but honestly I have no idea if this would cost $100 or $10k and I'm just trying to get a ballpark for our budgeting purposes. Google is providing a lot of results from the UK (I guess radiators are more common there?) Thank you!

This is a tough question as HVAC tends to be the most expensive move as it typically involves moving ductwork which is in the floor, or in walls.  However, it really depends on how far you are moving it and how much demo you plan to do.  If it is a full remodel and a contractor is there anyway, it is relative to the project. If this is the only renovation, it could be costly being it is typically a domino effect.

do you know what the level of contamination in an under sink bathroom cabinet would be? i'm generally nervous to store things in the bathroom, definitely not uncovered or in the open.

Bathrooms are dirty, there is really no way around it. Particles move through the air in bathrooms  and land on well pretty much everything. Having items contained and sealed is better, but still no 100%.  

Why has gray paint become so pervasive? It seems to reflect a failure of imagination.

Gray is a great contrast to white without being too stark. There are also so many natural elements such as marble that provide a feeling of luxury to a home.  Gray is a powerful color and often seen by many executives. Gray can also be an extremely complicated color as there are undertones to gray that can clash with other colors, hence why the combination with white is so popular. You can use bold accents of colors to really make gray stand out. Golden tone are great with gray as are blacks, teak wood tones, and millennial pink. 

I have all white kitchen cabinets and appliances. I'm getting ready to paint the walls which are currently a rather dated yellow. What paint colors will set off the white cabinets and look modern? I prefer Sherwin Williams and Behr paint. Thanks!

You really can't go wrong here as this is going to be personality driven. Blues and greens are becoming quite popular in the kitchen.  Reds have faded in the background, however with today's trends anything goes as long as there is balance and proper scale.

Any ideas for my problem kitchen window? It looks onto my neighbor's house, so needs a curtain or shade or something. It's a casement window, with handles that make it hard to install shutters. And we want to be able to open the window. Help!

You may want to think about adding a film to the window that still allows light in, but blocks your view.  There are some really creative window films from 3M that you might want to consider.  Look at it as an opportunity to add "artwork" there to make it a space you want to look at.

Hi Elle! how would you recommend decorating a small second den room that doesn't get much use? It's just a second bedroom at the moment with nothing in it besides a bed and small side table, doesn't get any natural light, but I'm happy to make it dramatic.

Make it a destination space, a private reading room or an office that can be converted into a bedroom.  Add in large scale wallpaper and fun lighting to create some serious drama.


Love the chats! Long-time lurker, first-time poster here. I'm remodeling a 1 BR rental apartment in Dupont Circle in a lovely old building (1910). Since it's a rental, I'm looking for recommendations for a neutral wall color for main rooms (BR, LR plus foyer) to go with bright white trim. I've been thinking of BM Edgecomb Gray but welcome other suggestions. Also, should I go with the same color for bathroom and kitchen? Kitchen will be white cabinets/gray quartz counter/stainless appliances, bathroom classic white w/gray floor. Not exactly cutting-edge stuff, but I appreciate your guidance. Many thanks!

Rentals can be bland being you want to create a safe space that is easy to maintain and repair if necessary.  I agree with your choices for the walls and love Edgecomb Gray.  I would suggest that you add in a unique wood species to the floor to give some drama while creating a neutral zone for the renters to be able to make it feel like theirs. Also, invest in a fun countertop or backsplash to make the space feel fun and unique.

I have a kitchen that has no windows. What is one thing I can do to brighten it up?

I would look into creating a false window into the backsplash.  Like a long dramatic horizontal "window" that is created by glass and some warm LED lighting. You can add a frame around it to replicate the style of the home and light it up.  There are lots of great options for glass or acrylics that have embedded organic botanical in them to create some uniqueness to the space. 

I have oak colored kitchen cabinets and am planning to sell my house in 2-3 years. I was thinking of replacing the doors with something a little more contemporary in white or some other neutral color. Would it be weird to paint the cabinet front in the same color, but leave the inside the oak color? I don't want to spend a lot but thought that might update things a little.

When replacing doors on cabinetry first you will want to look to see if the doors are on a framed or frameless cabinet which often dictates the hardware. A full overlay door on a frameless cabinet lends itself to a contemporary look.  If you have a full overlay on the door, you might be able to get away with the oak interior, but I would recommend painting the entire cabinet as you wouldn't want the cabinets to be a deterrent when selling the home.  Money spent in the kitchen and bath is money well spent when thinking about selling the home.  Your time and investment in doing it right will be more valuable to you in the long run. 

How long should good wood kitchen cabinets last?

Well constructed cabinets can last a lifetime. Some of the luxury lines are built strong enough to hold a 200 lb person standing in them. It isn't just the cabinetry that should last, but the hinges, slides, and hardware. 

Do you see stainless appliances keeping their dominance? Will they look dated in 5 years?

Coming from someone who LOVES change.  I personally feel stainless is being reinvented by sister metals like black stainless, or brass tones. I am seeing an uptick in gold and brass finishes with faucets and hardware, so it naturally makes sense for those finishes to find their way to appliances as well. However, with that being said appliances are made to last 15 years or longer, so just because a new trend is coming out doesn't necessarily mean stainless appliances will be outdated. We may see options to have panels that can be purchased to give your existing appliances a face lift, but I don't see homeowners replacing appliances purely on finish. I look at my wedding ring and it is platinum, if I choose a metal today it would be gold, but it doesn't mean that I don't still love it. Stainless is just reinventing itself  in various colors.

Thank you for your comments. Oops, I forgot to mention it is a galley kitchen that is in the middle of the house. It is the “hallway” for the rest of the house. Given that, Do you think my proposed color scheme might be too dark? At least I should use plain white tile for the backsplash to keep the area as bright as possible. You agree?

No color is too dark as long as you have enough lighting in the space. I have seen bright all black spaces that look incredible. LED lighting has given us permission to break all the rules. 

We have a small, contemporary kitchen that opens to the rest of the first floor. We're the second owners and we want to update the island so that it's more functional. If possible, we'd like to keep the counters the same granite they are now because we don't want to chance ruining tiles on the backsplash -- we don't have any replacement tiles. How do we handle the granite for the island? Try to get a slab of the same granite? an entirely different granite or quartz? Help!

I would go with something entirely different and use it as an opportunity to create contrast.  It is unlikely you will find an exact match to the original granite. It is not out of the question to mix granite and quartz either, just be sure the two compliment each other.  Pay attention to scale of the aggregate in the granite and play off of the colors to find the complimentary slab or quartz. 

It was great chatting with you all.  If any of you are looking for designers to help you in your kitchen or bath, you may want to check out nkba.org to find a professional in your area.  Have a bright day!

Thanks a lot Elle. My kitchen is a boring khaki and black. Must add more color. Meanwhile, next week we'll be chatting about shopping for vintage treasures with the owners of the Old Luckett's store who are preparing for their Spring May Market.  Until then...

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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Elle H-Millard
Elle H-Millard kitchen design expert
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