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Cherry wood stained cabinets were once a popular and expensive kitchen option. Then after the brown trend took hold, they felt outdated – like a leftover from the 90s. But recently I’ve noticed this  cabinet colour being used in fresh new ways, making me think cherry cabinets might be back.

This has been on my radar for a few months now. That is, once I saw Chris Loves Julia’s master bathroom reveal with the all-over limestone tiles combined with warm, reeded CHERRY cabinet vanity – I knew we would be seeing more of it.

When I saw this bathroom, I decided Chris Loves Julia, single-handedly brought back cherry cabinets, which were last on trend in the 80s/90s.

But everything old comes back around again and always in a new and inspiring way, which makes us forget what it looked like decades ago. And that has many of us run to embrace it again.

Well, some of you aren’t old enough to remember ‘decades ago’ but one day you’ll know what I’m talking about. 😉

Before | Tuscan trend bathroom

Cherry cabinets, are just like brass. It took a few years for brass to hit the mainstream. I started specifying brass when it arrived in 2013-2014 and got a lot of resistance in the beginning. Too many people still remembered the shiny brass doorknobs and swan faucets from the 1980s.

I hope brass remains a timeless finish. And I predict it has some staying power because we’re making more thoughtful and beautiful combinations of hardware, which warms up all the grey (and now) black that we’re decorating with.

After

Julia combined both brass and black in this renovation and created a beautiful bathroom design.

Take a look (below), and try and picture everything in black. It would look flat and predictable really quickly.

Read more: The Perils of Decorating with Too Much Black

And what’s more? This bathroom is styled beautifully. Her art-filled wall around the bathtub reminds me of my ensuite bathroom.

And the cabinets? They gain currency because they feature the new fluted texture that immediately makes them look custom and high end.

Notice too that all the tile, floor and walls, is grey limestone. The days of trying to match wall tile to floor tile with tile that coordinates (instead of being the same) hopefully died with the Tuscan brown trend.

We all saw too many mismatched, bad colour combinations back in those days.

So, before you jump up and down because you think this means you can keep your cherry-cabinet kitchen, I have bad news for you. 

If your kitchen looks like this (below)… well, it still needs paint to update it and create a fresh look.

Why? Because when a trend comes back around, it always has a new twist and some refinements to make it look new. Really, what makes a trend stalwart like cherry cabinets, or earthy tile or brown everything (or grey all over) go OUT in the first place, is not only trend fatigue, but also seeing it done badly, in uninspiring ways (think builder grade versions) over and over until it just seems BAD. 

And then someone comes along and uses it again in a way that puts its appeal in a favourable light again. 

Without all that? A tired finish is a tired finish and it’s worth making it look fresh again with paint and styling.  As this blogger has done beautifully below. 

But first, before we get all cynical about the drivers of changing trends purposely trying to separate us from our money, let’s just reflect that we are all complicit in wanting a new look that feels fresh and current.

The ONLY way to get off the trend cycle is to install classic and timeless white or cream kitchens and bathrooms in the first place so you can endlessly update them with colour and decorating to suit your changing interests. Just saying. 

The complex cream chosen for these cabinets (below) creates some definition between the even paler wall colour, while softening the look dramatically overall. It also lends some warmth to the Uba Tuba, builder-black countertops from the 90s.

You can feel that this kitchen is loved now, and not just a tired holdover from a bygone trend.

Isn’t that a big part of what gives a room appeal? A sense of the care and attention to detail that energizes the space? Yes, you can achieve that with a major renovation full of designer attention to detail, but you can ALSO infuse a room with love simply with paint and creative styling. 

Even Julia’s gorgeous bathroom above would not have us all pinning it without her wonderful styling and art wall. Small updates and creative decorating can take a room a long way.

Yellow Brick Home

Too often, homeowners just put up with a dated room and give it no love. But I say it’s better to get creative and make it the best it can be NOW. It’s always worth making those smaller changes to give a tired room new life, even in the interim. Don’t give up on your kitchen or bathroom just because you can’t afford a full overhaul at the moment. Get creative with paint and decorating, you won’t regret it.

Wood stain colours, except for the most natural neutral ones, will come and go with trend cycles, which is why I constantly advised against the grey weathered woods and grey flooring during the last ten years we’ve been in grey trend. And sure enough, I’m not surprised to be seeing much warmer wood tones emerge in reaction. 

Are you noticing cherry-wood cabinets too? How do you feel about this wood stain – yay or nay?

If you’d like help with your kitchen, you can buy my Create a Classic Kitchen package here.

The first two dates of my Virtual Specify Colour with Confidence Events are SOLD OUT, go here to register in either of the final two dates available, October 21 & 22 and 28 & 29, 2021

Related posts:

Trend Alert: Should you Install Reeded Cabinets? 

Updated, Painted Cherry Kitchen via eDesign; Before & After

Classic and Timeless Design Tips for a Home You’ll Love Forever

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56 Comments

  • Carol Hunter says:

    Although the “after” bathroom is lovely, it’s a “nay” from me as I wouldn’t like dark cabinets in my bathrooms (or kitchen) . I’m an all-white cabinet person! But each to his or her own, as we all have different tastes.

  • Tiffany says:

    You nailed it – Julia can make anything look beautiful through detail, decorating and styling… I think the house they are working on now will have us all revisiting some old “trends”.

  • Nancy says:

    Maria – this was a awesome blog
    I love the look of that Cherry bathroom .
    But not every one could pull that off
    But most of all I loved how you explained all of today’s Blog .
    Plus the encouragement you gave to not give up but to paint to decorate .
    so encouraging !!
    Thank you

  • Stacey says:

    The cherry bathroom is lovely but I see a dust catcher nightmare with these fluted wood finishes.

  • Nikki says:

    I love wood. I am a wood nerd. Always have, always will. Personally I would never paint well made real wood cabinets, I’d refinish them first. I have a more scandinavian natural style so bright colors and paint don’t appeal to me.

    • LisaL says:

      I’m with you Nikki! I’m all about natural woods. I’m struggling with my reddish finished fir cabinets but would never paint them. Just need to find someone to refinish to a natural finish.

  • Margaret says:

    CLJ have just moved into a very Southern traditional home, and have decided not to fight the trend. While I am really tired of a lot of the poorly done monochomatic designs, I’m not willing to go back to the dark, and as mentioned earlier, dust catching furniture. Julia is lucky to have a huge bathroom for the dark cherry, which will darken in time, even more. I love looking for inspiration, but, I enjoy Maria’s light colorful, happy and way less traditional style.

  • M says:

    From what I’ve seen wood finish cabinets (including cherry) have never left cabinet manufacturers catalogs, showrooms, designer portfolios, and homes, even high end custom.
    But I still love white a white kitchen. That will always be my preference.

    I don’t know how I feel about that bathroom. Pretty, but it’s a lot and will it age well? Idk.

    That last one, ugh, all I see are those 2 ceiling fixtures fighting each other. Those are a hot mess in my eyes.

    • Vicki says:

      Yes. I don’t agree that was progress
      Open some doors with glass
      Choose different cabinet paint and close up to ceiling

      • Margaret 2 says:

        I agree as well. The kitchen simply looks too stark now. Not a fan of cherry cabinets at all but they at least added some warmth. The white cabinets do not complement the white paint on the walls and there’s not enough color to keep the two different whites in balance, either. Just a total pass for me.

    • Elizabeth Burke says:

      Agreed! I kept looking at those conflicting light fixtures – I thought that maybe they were Photo shopped in to see which one worked and someone forgot to take one away. Sorry I would have kept the cherry cabinets – then change out the dated stove – replaced the counter top and added a subway back splash.

      • I agree. And a more modern over the range microwave. Whirlpool makes one now that’s low profile and very clean looking, only showing the clock because the controls are hidden behind the door. Have recommended it to maybe 10 clients in the past year if they had to have an OTR microwave. I’d put in knobs and pulls too so the oils from hands don’t screw up the finish. Also, those don’t look like cherry WOOD but maple stained a darker color, but I am looking on my phone so not positive.

        • M says:

          Hi Karine, can you please provide the model # for that Whirlpool OTC microwave? Unfortunately that’s the only place one works in my kitchen and a microwave is a must for me! Thanks.

  • AHH says:

    Julia is so talented and I love her designs (and those vanities!). Technically those are made from alder with Provincial stain, but alder can certainly look like cherry so I suppose the effect is similar. https://www.chrislovesjulia.com/all-about-the-custom-vanities-in-our-bathroom/ I think all woods can be beautiful and look updated if everything else is just right!

  • Lorena says:

    Not everybody jumps on the new trend bandwagon, some of us just keep what we already have for a long time now, and refresh it with new things, over and over again. That is a way to live sustainably and budget and eco friendly.

  • Karen says:

    Cherry? No thanks. It’s not just the cherry wood itself I don’t like, it’s also the colours of paint and granite/quartz, flooring that would go with it that I also do not like. I prefer white, black, gray, charcoal and don’t care about trends. The closest I would come to that cherry is a black and white and caramel. The cherry takes one more than halfway to Tuscan and, it there ever was a worse aesthetic, I don’t know what that would be! ICK!

  • ronda hoxsie says:

    In the cherry wood kitchen, I would have left the cabinets alone. Then depending on the budget, replaced the range with a slide in, put in a white subway tile backsplash, a new, lighter countertop, painted the walls a pretty color and put in different lighting. Then style the kitchen with a lamp, some stools with color and add in colorful, pretty accessories.

  • Tracy Wagner says:

    Hi,
    I guess I am on trend, I just installed a stained cherry island with inset doors and white rino marble counter for my new kitchen. The rest of the cabinets are agreeable gray. I figured when I get sick of the cherry I will just paint it.

  • Kim Paull says:

    I love this. As long as you accessorize everything correctly and in lights colors for me it works with a dark wood cabinet.

  • Fran W. says:

    That bathroom is a big ‘nay’ for me. I just don’t like the cherry cabinets, and I don’t like the grey tile either. The kitchen transformation, on the other hand, is amazing. Looks so fresh and pretty.

    • JoAnn says:

      Totally agree. Don’t care for the tile color with the cabinets. That bathroom would be difficult if not impossible to decorate in any other way. Ditto for entire reno of that house. The front exterior especially is trendy terrible.

  • SDC says:

    OOPS! You did it again.

    Chris Loves Julia’s new cabinetry is not cherry. It’s alder wood. Here’s a link to their actual posting about their vanities:
    https://www.chrislovesjulia.com/all-about-the-custom-vanities-in-our-bathroom/

    And here’s an excerpt from their post:

    “Dustin showed us some samples of several wood types and stains, and ultimately we loved how the Provincial stain treated the Alder wood. It applied so evenly, and was a more affordable option than oak or walnut.”

    Not all stained wood cabinetry is dated. Depending upon the species, door style and finish, stained wood cabinetry can be as timeless as painted cabinetry. Take a look at the hundreds of photographs of beautiful kitchens with stained cabinetry on the Crown Point cabinetry website. Stained cabinetry, with classic door styles and finishes, made from woods such as select cherry (i.e., sapwood culled out), quartersawn white oak, sapele, curly maple, or walnut is both beautiful and timeless.

    I’m puzzled why you continually mislabel all stained wood cabinetry as dated cherry.

    The examples you post are typically stained maple cabinets or plain sawn oak. Neither are particularly attractive when stained, maple in particular does not take stain well, but both became ubiquitous in kitchen cabinetry because these woods are prized for their hardness, durability and lower price point. Over the years, maple has become more expensive and Alder has stepped in as the new, affordable choice filling the gap between inexpensive pine and the more expensive hardwoods. The downside is it is rather soft and easy to dent and scratch.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I’m talking about the fact that they are red. Thanks for the correction on the species where I do not claim to be an expert. Thanks for clarifying. And most stained wood cabinetry does date itself to the era when it was installed, as this is my third trend cycle in my 20 year career, I’ve seen thousands and thousands of kitchens which is where my opinions come from. And it’s still my opinion, doesn’t make it right. Maria

  • Lorri says:

    I would never get tired of reeded cabinets.

  • Holly says:

    I love the updated version of the black Uba Tuba granite countertops and for the life of me, Maria, you’ve got EAGLE EYES to be able to point out that it’s Uba tuba granite in the first place! Chris and Julia’s bathroom makeover is pretty but you wouldn’t catch me doing that because I think the reeded look will rate or is that timeless? I have no idea why but I instantly thought of the old sitcom The Golden Girls when I saw them.

    I’ve always found cherry wood a bit too dark and formal for my taste but I’m also so sick of the wood overload in my home for the past 28 years too. This makes no sense because I’ve got rustic style tendencies, bringing it back to the species and color of wood and how long one has had it on their home, sparking a need for CHANGE like you said! Wood floors are a different story though, and I love them. White will be my go to cabinet choice probably for the rest of my life.

  • Dusti Jones says:

    Thank you for all your insights and sharing your knowledge! The updated kitchen is much more fresh, but I have a few questions. Because the countertop is black, I would have instantly thought of going more bright or true white for these cabinets. I would have then considered a complex creme for the walls. Please help me understand how you made these decisions in this kitchen. Thank you!

  • Sandy says:

    I love stained wood cabinets and am of the ‘why use wood if you’re going to paint over something that took generations to grow?’ mindset. Hopefully the next generation of designers will come up with a sustainable option and we won’t have to feel so guilty about our renovations.
    Meanwhile, I never have enough wall space and would love to know what art is used that can be placed around the tub like that, and not be damaged by steam.
    Lovely post, lovely room – thank you

  • Stacy says:

    All the gray has sent most of us running to warmer finishes or at least warmer accents. Even if it’s a picture with some color! I think this cherry is not really the cherry we remember. It’s a grayed down cherry. It’s a nice balance to all the gray limestone. Black cabinets or gray would be terrible. For the kitchen, even with the cabinets painted, it’s still flat. It needs some color, maybe in curtains. I’m with Ronda that I probably would have left the cabinets alone and put in a new countertop. I would have added bigger hardware on the cabinets, maybe in a brass or gold tone? What strikes me as really strange is the light fixtures in the after photo. They are so different from each other, and one is centered on the room, and the other is over the peninsula. I think I would have chosen 2 smaller pendants for the peninsula and matched the finish to the other one. They’re simply to close to be different finishes.

  • alyr says:

    The the USA, (and around the world), the highest quality of various historic American period furniture (starting the sixteenth century)…is WOOD
    (Mahogany, elm, and walnut, pine, cherry, birch, maple, oak) . It’s the people with throwaway trendy furniture who don’t know about it or chose it. Some of the most expensive furniture sales in the past decade is a pair of Chippendale side chairs at auction for $119,00. A Queen Anne Carved Walnut Side Chair $600,000. A Chippendale Document Cabinet for $3 Million. A Chippendale bureau table for $5 Million, For something a little more affordable and trendy, see: Lexington for example: Tommy Bahama for an example of the classic wood finishes.

    The “problem” with true wood kitchen cabinets is that over time residue from your hands takes the shine off the cabinet where you touch it and it looks muddy. It can’t be refinished without doing the entire door.

  • Dona says:

    This is an interesting conversation. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not necessarily the brown cabinets of the Tuscan trend, or the cherry cabinets or the maple cabinets that are dating the kitchen. For example, we are now looking at purchasing a new build 55+ home in our retirement. We are looking to stay with as many standard options as we can for cost savings. Standard options for cabinets include shaker profile in maple or white and standard countertops are granite, quartz is an upgrade. But in my opinion, where we need to spend the money is in upgrading the standard layout of the cabinets. Standard is solid wall of uppers with microwave over the stove, cabinets are 42″, but still not running up to the 10′ ceiling. Even if we chose all white cabinetry, which most of the builders offer, it will still look dated in the layout that they offer.

    All this to say that I think the cherry kitchen in the white looks fresher, but still dated. I would have not painted them, removed some uppers and replaced with open shelving, or at least removed the doors on the uppers, moved the microwave and replaced with a shelf, and maybe added some extensions to the ceiling on some or all of the cabinets. Again, I think what makes a kitchen look more dated is not only builder grade finishes, but the standard builder grade layouts that we have seen over the past few decades..

  • Debra says:

    As others have said Cherry is to dark for my taste. the painted updated kitchen needs more styling IMO. A colorful shade for the window, replace the gold ceiling light fixture and a nice accent rug?

  • BillP says:

    I am confounded by the subject AFTER picture. The stone and paint look gray to me. The room has the worst of both, the cold gray plus the dated cherry, with a mixture of hardware finishes. I have seen cherry cabinets effectively updated with creamy quartz and brass/gold hardware and lightning. To my untrained eye, the undertones are different and conflicting in the above picture.

  • Nancy L Simison says:

    Maria, I don’t understand how the cherry and grey is a good idea. I would not do that. I am surprised by the fact you are supporting it, to be honest. But I do recognize the reeding on the cabinets are an excellent update. I m not afraid of dusting on vertical surfaces. It just seems a lot less timeless than what you usually support even if you could make a case for the combo of colors. Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I’m reporting on cherry coming back as a cabinet colour at the same time that I think this bathroom is well done. Do I think it’s totally classic and timeless? No. However, it’s a well designed trendy bathroom. Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • DM says:

    I think wood cabinets with a natural finish are as timeless as white painted. It’s the accompanying hard finishes, paint colors and builder style layout that dates a kitchen.

    I agree with Maria that we will start to see wood kitchen cabinets again, they’re all over Pinterest. If we can stay away from trendy backsplashes , counters and floors our kitchens will be timeless with any of those cabinets.

  • Becky Greenwald says:

    I’m no expert, but warm cherry (or whatever wood looks like this) with even the newest brassy hardware paired with gray tile of any kind is cringe-worthy for me. Like a black suit with a brown belt and shoes. Decorate around it any way you may want, but it clashes and is not for me.

  • KJG says:

    I don’t think the cabinets in the dated kitchen picture even approach looking like cherry; particularly easy to spot a “fake” when the stain looks muddy as if it’s just sitting on top of the wood. Even the beautiful new bathroom doesn’t look like cherry to me (same issue). That being said I do love that bathroom and would never tire of looking at those fluted cabinet fronts.

    When people think of cherry as a cabinet color they’re probably thinking of the aged color of antique cherry wood or orangey cherry fakes. Also, the grain of authentic cherry wood should celebrated and would show through a well done stain job even if dark. Fifteen years ago installed unstained natural cherry cabinets and they were a beautiful very light warm shade. Over time, as expected, they began to darken; this is just what cherry does!

    • Yeah, real cherry has a beautiful grain pattern and in my opinion looks best in a simple door style so you can see the grain. Those trees gave up their lives for us. I’ve done a kitchen in maybe 2007 in hickory stained the color of teak on a yacht and they love everything about it including the mineral streaks. They named their daughter Sailor so they got what they wanted and didn’t care about the trend at the time.

  • Liz says:

    Not something I would do in my bathroom but I love it!!

  • Jeanne says:

    The bathroom is beautiful but I would not want to go in there every day. The cabinets are too dark. I’m not on the cherry trend, much preferring white and light, which is better for giving me a good mood. I do like the kitchen a lot. I think cherry is a close relative to Tuscan and that gets a big nay.

  • Holly says:

    Maria, your post makes total sense. Nine years ago we renovated our bathroom and it used to be my most FAVORITE room in the house. BUT…. after discovering your blog and purchasing your eBooks, I can’t “unsee” the mistakes we made with the tiles in our shower and now that we’ve updated the rest of the house I feel that bathroom is my LEAST FAVORITE room in the house now. It’s the only room I haven’t selected paint for yet. I’m having a heck of a time with it but I also feel it needs some love and attention.

    Confession: I’ve never known what to do for artwork in a bathroom and I’ve always thought artwork in a bathroom to be a strange thing, I don’t know why… I was mesmerized by Julia’s artwork in her reno and it gave me some great ideas!

  • Kim says:

    Maria:
    I’ve never responded to your blog before but I have been reading and enjoying your designer eye for 5 plus years now. I purchased your Core and VIP samples a few years back and have used them in 2 of my own homes as well as my sister’s and a friend’s. They are wonderful – thank you!

    I also don’t usually read the comments but I found so many of them interesting and they reinforced my belief in how strongly we hold tight to our design beliefs and preferences– designer or not.

    While I am a big fan of white cabinets and would not change in my own home, those reed cabinets are striking but even more so juxtaposed with grey and brass. I would not have come up with that combination myself but it works — that specific cherry color giving relief to grey in a calm and not too overpowering way — not unlike cognac (another color I would not have guessed works so well with grey). But will that cherry color come back in cabinetry in a significant way? I can see it as an accent and taking center stage in more modern/contemporary decor but I think it’s going to be a long while before it becomes a dominant color in the cabinet world. Although I said that about bell bottoms and hip huggers in clothing fashion– and I hope what I am seeing now is a blip that fails completely. In the end, anything that is different but executed well — and as you said, with some new element or interesting twist — is going to intrigue us but it may not gain enough following to make it stick. I do think (or perhaps hope) that light and fresh cabinets will dominate remodels for a while to come.

    I’ll also add that in the past I might have agreed with some of the comments that said that color cherry and grey with brass clashes. (And a black belt with a brown suit still makes me cringe too.) But with respect to the bathroom combination, I cannot say that anymore because in the 5 years I’ve followed you, my tastes have changed and I find that I can appreciate unusual combinations of finishes and colors even if I would not choose them myself. That said, the kitchen is problematic for me (those cabinets read pink undertone and that may be my issue) and this response is already too long so you are saved – lol. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration!

  • Erin says:

    Real cherry is beautiful wood, and it doesn’t have to be formal. I think it’s timeless, especially in regard to how it’s used in Shaker furniture. It has a wonderful grain pattern. Red stains do provide a homey warmth, but I feel they look best when balanced. I believe people’s rooms go wrong when they don’t properly balance the visual weight of the items/finishes in the room. Wood finishes look best pared with colors and patterns that not only complement the tones but reduce visual contrast and keep the eye moving. It’s just harder to achieve.

  • Sarah says:

    My custom cabinets (2017) are local cherry (just oiled) with inset shaker doors. The counter is nearly-white quartz, backsplash is harmonious subway tile, island is painted light olive with butcher block top, floors are quartersawn white oak. I would make different choices about the pendants now, but in general, I loved it! Too bad I had to move!

  • Janelle says:

    Overall, I like the after of the smaller kitchen and think it’s an improvement over the before. I also like the wood satin in CLJ’s bathroom but not all the marble. Thanks again for a great post.

    • Janelle says:

      Or should I say, I don’t like the wood and marble combination…the marble just seems to cold.

  • Violet says:

    I love how the kitchen was improved so beautifully with just some paint, tile, a light installation and a new faucet. I would have gutted that kitchen if it were mine all because of that countertop. This masterful makeover proves that the services of a professional designer are worth the cost.

  • George says:

    This bathroom is too heavy. Too much grey and the cherry weighs it down even more. At least they moved. 😉

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