New Natural Wood Kitchens: Timeless or Trendy?

New unstained or natural wood tones are cropping up in kitchen designs everywhere, and I think they will have a bit more staying power because they are lighter and more natural looking. Here’s why these new wood kitchens work.

I’ve received a lot of requests lately for this post about an unstained wood kitchen so here it is:

A classic white kitchen will always be my first choice. But since white kitchens have (happily) been trending in the last 9 years since the fresh (grey) trend happened (and the average trend cycle lasts about 10 years) … well, there are naturally those who are looking for something new or different.

And guess what? There’s a whole new look for wood kitchens, and it’s so much fresher.

The new look of natural wood tones.

Lots of recently designed wood kitchens I have seen, manage to sidestep the main issue with traditional ones: dated stains and finishes that are intended to create a “rich” look like cherry, golden oak or espresso tend to look heavy, dark and overly formal.

And I’ve talked a lot about how a particular stain will date a kitchen quickly. For example, although there are outliers, generally, golden oak kitchens peaked in the 80s, cherry and orange maple wood kitchens 10 years after that, and then espresso kitchens had their moment in the early 2000s. They look like relics of their decade, and this is why I caution against installing a wood stained kitchen.

Should you paint your cherry cabinets? Read my Third Rule of Design: Expensive Does Not Equal Timeless

Right now, the wood stain that will be associated with this trend at the moment is anything grayed, weathered or “reclaimed”.

It’s much more difficult to guess the date of white cabinets, unless a trendy backsplash gives them away.

New ashy (cooler), unstained wood tones are cropping up in kitchens everywhere right now, and I think they will have a bit more staying power. Here’s why.

First, they are lighter, airier and more natural looking, which has broad and enduring appeal.

Second, they are much less likely to be combined with busy earthy granite and tile which is what made the dated warm wood kitchens and made them so heavy and hard to live with.

In the nicest current wood stained kitchens, there is a beautiful balance of natural wood tones and crisp white.

Natural Oak and White Kitchen via Luxe.Daily

Here’s the pretty butler’s pantry from the same kitchen below.

Luxe.Daily

And I’ve always said that the way to make a wood stained kitchen look fresher and more timeless is to install a white countertop and backsplash.

More Modern Natural Wood Tones

Because of technological improvements, wood finishes don’t yellow the way the old lacquers and alkyds did. These new natural wood tones are not just a passing trend, but a new classic. They are prettier because you can clear coat them without creating a warmer yellow cast. This allows the wood to look as fresh as when it was cut.

It’s the same with the current natural, unstained oak floors. They are just as classic and neutral as a pale maple or medium brown walnut. It’s when they are grayed or overly rustic that they become more of a fad and eventually dated.

People are looking for fresh, light and casual. And natural light wood tones fit the bill perfectly, while still providing some warm earthiness to a light and bright space. The new wood finishes are grounding but not stuffy or heavy.

BK Interior Design

Incorporate lots of fresh white and cream with your wood tones.

I don’t think the gold, orange and red wood stains of decades past will have time in the trend spotlight again anytime soon, but unstained wood has enduring appeal, it feels fresh and modern.

A little bit of wood or wicker is always pretty in a white kitchen and it’s also true that what makes a light oak or maple kitchen just right is lots of crisp white. While grey or soapstone countertops can also look pretty in a light wood kitchen.

But, there should really be a white backsplash and nice light walls to balance it out.

via Hernandez Greene

Here’s another pretty rift oak kitchen with soapstone counters and a brick floor (below).

Via the Home Bunch

So, if a wood kitchen is your thing… natural, unstained oak or maple is what I recommend — along with lots of fresh white and maybe some soapstone, which I’ve been seeing a lot of lately; another trending classic.

Beware of Gray Wood Tones

A word of caution however, look for a truly natural looking finish and beware of anything with a gray or taupe cast, or anything that looks overly rustic. These details are part of the gray trend and will soon look dated.

I also think that cerused wood could come off as dated in time just as the pickled oak of the 80s did. In other words, the more natural the better, keep it simple.

If you like a gray wash, cerused or rustic feel to your wood, indulge instead with a furniture piece, just not your custom kitchen cabinets.

After all, the goal should be to only design your kitchen once and love it forever. #amIright

So over to you my lovelies, what do you think of the new look of wood kitchens?

P.S. OMG I keep forgetting to tell you that I won second place in the Best Design Influencers Award with Modenus! And that’s because of your votes, thank you so much!!

I love my readers, ya’ll are the best, truly! I am so grateful for this amazing community!

Related posts:

White Kitchen Cabinets for the Most Timeless Kitchen

Ask Maria: About Kitchen Cabinet Uppers and Lowers in Different Colours

Contrasting Kitchen Island; Get Your Colours Right

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  1. I love seeing this post, as we’ve planned a mix of white oak and white painted cabinets for our new-build kitchen (along with quiet white quartz and white subway tile). We love natural wood, but I was torn because I wanted the kitchen to be as timeless as possible. I’m happy to hear that what we’ve planned may fit the bill!

  2. I prefer white cabinets, but these are the most attractive ‘natural wood’ cabinets I’ve seen in a long time. Congrats on the Modenus award!!!

  3. Maria, Thank you for this post! I love love love this look!!! Question, is it possible to take the cabinets you inherited in a house, i.e. custom made, quarter sawn oak that has an red/orange stain and strip them down to achieve this natural look? I would love to take my cabinets to this look rather than throw them out and start over. They are beautiful high quality cabinets, just not the right color for me 🙂

    Congratulations on your award!!! Much love to you xoxox

    • Hi Christy, I don’t know if you could do this, I would talk to a stain expert, maybe someone experienced in a paint store! Thanks for your comment! Maria

    • Hi Christy. Oak is a hardwood and doesn’t soak in the stain like other softer woods, except in the the grain of the wood. Oak soaks up the stain in the grain, that’s why the grain of oak always really stands out when they’re stained. They will have to stripped and sanded to make sure all the stain is removed, especially from the grain. It could be very labor intensive. Definitely not a DIY project.

    • Hi Christy,
      I wonder if your cabinets are made from red oak. That’s what was popular years ago. The current trend seems to be to use white oak. The difference will affect the color/look that be achieved.

    • I can’t imagine that these grayed cabinets will be timeless. Why? Because there aren’t any out there that are 10-20 years old. If they were truly timeless, like white, there would be. I think in 10 years or so, people who go with this trend will be wondering what they were thinking! Also, I think the recent darker wood trends (such as cherry or maple) will always be classic. I agree that they were way too heavy with the busy and dark tile and/or granite that they were paired with, but add a white subway tile or mother of pearl backsplash, a not-too-busy surface, good lighting, and maybe a few glass front cabs, and it is classic and fresh, imho.

    • Christy, after you strip off the finish, they can be bleached with various things depending on the look you want. To remove all colour hydrogen peroxide or oxalic acid is used. To merely lighten the wood and remove the stain household bleach will do the job and even out any discolourations. You could experiment on the inside of a cabinet door. I do this all the time with wood floors and prefer the bleach as the look is most natural. It needs removing with a damp rag, but not necessarily neutralizing, although you could follow with dilute vinegar. Then sand to a high grade as it will raise the grain. If you have quality cabinets and like them, I would go for it! I’ve considered doing the same with my dark cherry cabinets.

  4. These cabinets could all easily be painted white down the line as well – the natural wood is paintable and the style is timeless.

  5. I really like these wood cabinets! So what type of flooring looks best with natural wood cabinets? I imagine many who will redo or replace their old wood-stained cabinets will also have wood floors. In the examples above, I see some with tile and one with a natural wood floor like the cabinets. Will I need to tell my clients to replace or restain their floors to create the right look? Any thoughts on that are appreciated. Also, congratulations on your award!!???

    • I would keep it pale and casual, creamy limestone would also look good or a light concrete! Thanks for your comment! Maria

  6. Hi Maria! I love that you use the word y’all! I’m glad you mentioned the pickled oak cabinets of yore because that would be my only concern with the new wood trend. But I understand that this is natural wood which has been around literally forever! Classic. Beautiful. This is such a good clarification because everyone is saying “wood is back,“ but of course it’s not back it’s reinterpreted. Thank you again for a great post!

  7. My husband hates the idea of an all white kitchen so this looks like a great compromise- beautiful wood but still timeless. Definitely bookmarking to show him when we start seriously working on our remodel.

  8. First thing I thought of was the pickled oak of the 80’s! I thought it was soooo wonderful mostly because I had that old orange oak at the time, but fortunately when we bought a new home in the 90’s I went white! The pickled oak was as pink beige as you could get and drove the color scheme throughout the houses. When I was able to update 4 years ago I kept my white and added subway tile and white quartz and there’s not a day go by that I don’t still love it! I’m with you, white will always be classic!

  9. First and foremost— Congratulations Maria!!! Well deserved.
    Secondly, the title says it all “New wood…”. Still trendy to me. Like everything else, it will get it’s time to shine then something new will pop out of the woodwork. Literally hehe. It’s very pretty for sure. But so are many of our design choices. You have given us so many tools to create the home of our dreams. We may mess up from time to time just a wee bit but you manage to throw us back on the bus when we do. Everyone’s heart sings to a different drummer. It’s always fun to see who likes what!

  10. Very pretty but I notice to pull it off so it doesn’t look heavy there aren’t any uppers or only a few with glass in doors. And . . . I like running the hardwood floors through the kitchen and this seems like it would be too mich wood to do so. Do you agree, Maria? Thanks for keeping us informed!

    • I agree, but in general the trend with kitchens now is to do a full pantry wall of cabinets so that you can have less uppers on the working side of the kitchen so it feels lighter and less like a ‘kitchen’ and more like furniture that fits in with the rest of your house. I don’t think it would be too much wood to run hardwood through the kitchen, I would just keep it pale. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  11. Love this! It is truly classic. Thanks, great information as I consider a new build. Congratulations as well.

  12. Finally, something I can work with in my maple kitchen! But the yellow/orange cast of my cabinets bothers me. When choosing a white paint color for the walls, what should the undertone be? I have looked at whites with a yellow undertone but I feel that is bringing out the yellow and that is what I want to avoid. Should I go with a true white that’s more crisp as you mentioned? I am trying to get the “natural” look with what I have. Thanks, Maria!

  13. Love the natural oak and white kitchen from Luxe Daily. So fresh looking and love the white back splash all the way up.
    Congratulations on getting 2nd place Maria you deserved 1st. Keep doing what your doing , your the best.

  14. I’m with you on the classic white kitchen. It will always be my first choice. The simple white oak cabinets I’m seeing are lovely. But I thinks it’s mostly because they’re new. So, if I had a husband that insisted on wood cabinets I could live with these.
    But like Penny, would I need white oak floors in my kitchen to blend with the cabinets? Since I prefer wood floors over tile.
    Congratulations on your award. Much deserved!

  15. Most of the oak cabinets in your article obviously have some type of stain coloring the wood. You won’t get that look with just a clear coat on raw wood.

  16. I LOVE the natural wood with fresh white more than an all white kitchen! I want the old world feel with warm tones and lots of natural light. The brick floor is very cool however how hard are they to keep clean? I pinned this look for future reference! Congratulations on your award!

  17. Love this new natural wood look, Maria. I live in an Edwardian farmhouse with lots of oak door trim and window casing which a former owner lovingly stripped and kept “natural”. The white big box store cabinetry, that a subsequent owner installed after creating an open concept kitchen, simply does not look cohesive with the adjacent rooms. I hate the white kitchen, especially with dogs. (lol) Wish I could afford to rip it out and install a similar look.

    Congrats on your well deserved honour.

  18. I love this look for kitchens. I agree that white kitchens are timeless and classic, white cabinets are more maintence for a busy well used kitchen. I also agree white backsplash and soapstone countertops keeps the look classic. So warm and inviting. Great post.

  19. I love the light natural wood, but it seems that when you go this light you would have to factor in the undertone of the wood, as in, am I now working with a pink beige? Secondly, I also like wood floors in the kitchen as others have said. I can’t picture any wood floor with this kitchen except the same color (and too hard to match), and that would be too much of the same wood. I think I still prefer a white kitchen.

    • We are in a 20-year-old house with solid maple kitchen cabinets. They have a very pale stain, maybe even just a tint to the varnish. They are seriously yellow now, even on the inside unfinished panels that almost never see daylight. Maple wood will age yellow. Anybody who wants the look in the pictures would not be happy using maple and should look at white oak instead (red oak doesn’t have that green undertone). I’m dealing with the clash of these cabs with the very pink ivory travertine-look porcelain tiles running through half our first floor, not just the kitchen. Versus a husband who is balking terribly at painting the cabs. I actually like the wood too, but wish it didn’t clash so much with the floor.

      • And many thanks to Maria for providing a vocabulary and visual structure that helps us intelligently talk about all of this! Your ebooks have helped me tremendously and I’ve recommended your blog to others wrestling with renovations.

  20. Since we have moved a few times in the past decade we’ve had white shaker cabinets with concrete countertops (MCM), maple cabinets with light coloured Silestone countertops, a rich cherry with dark gold granite (Tuscan), and now maple with dark granite (Rustic).

    We are renovating the whole house and have chosen white rift cut oak cabinets with white quartz countertops and a white geometric stone backsplash. The style is more European Contemporary with long, linear lines. This is my preferred style, and I have always loved wood cabinets, so can hardly wait for them to be installed.

  21. What are your thoughts on the very strong coloured kitchen cabinets –I’m seeing a lot of navy, pale blue and even mint green kitchens in magazines. Will these really be timeless?

    • Yes, colour is still way more timeless than a grey or black painted kitchen! Love this idea just make sure it creates flow with your other rooms, in other words, don’t paint your kitchen blue unless you are decorating with blue in the great room too! Maria

  22. Maria, I loved this article! I think its one of my favorites in your blog of all time. What I love about it is that no matter what, your advice about subway tile is tried and true. It looks good (with the right white) no matter what decade of trends we are in. I love love love the look of light wood. Well done! I’m going to use this as a reference article for years to come. Thank you for your teachings, and for helping the world look more harmonious one blog article at a time.

    Warmest regards,
    Michelle, a TCE

  23. What would you do with the floors with wood cabinets? These photos all have tile or stone floors – what would your choice be here to keep it classic and timeless? If you do hardwood floors, would you match to the cabinets or go darker? I love this post, thank you!!

  24. I like wood kitchens so much more than white. From my experience stain holds up much better than paint (we had a custom cabinet maker do our bathroom vanities in white and within 7 years or so there were chips/scratches in the paint, and none in the stained kitchen he did for us). Also, unless you really like cleaning (or don’t use your kitchen much) white shows dirt so much more than wood. I love all the kitchens profiled here.

  25. My daughter just bought an older home and is planning to refinish her pine wood floors next week. I steered her away from light floors because you say medium brown is classic. Now you’re talking about doing light floors. Is that only with wood stained cabinets? She’s planning to paint her older cabinets white to update the kitchen. Is medium brown still the way she should go with white cabinets? Thanks!

    • Hi Pam, I added pale, light hardwood to the list of classic a few years ago, however whether that’s right for your daughter is still based on her house and whether a lighter floor will work with the era of her house, it is a more modern look. Hope that helps, Maria

  26. Would love a post on kitchen tables to tie into this look or with a classic white kitchen. Now soooo many kitchen tables have a grey cast to them. And huge bases! I imagine the kitchen tables will look dated down the line also? What finish and style table is the most classic and timeless that would tie into the classic kitchen? Your posts are always so helpful.

    • How about a white Saarinen table, you can almost put any chair with it and it relates to the white countertops? Maria

  27. I just want to thank you again for all you do to educate us on “timeless and classic”. Every time you post something new about trends and things that will eventually be dated, I’m just so relieved I found you and got to learn the “do’s and don’ts” before we built our current house.

    I breathe a sigh of relief every time you mention the timeless hard surfaces and colors because that’s what I used thanks to you! So I know I won’t be tired of my kitchen and bathrooms in 10 years.

    Thank you thank you! And congrats on the Modenus award!

  28. Everything comes back again, but different. The oak kitchens of yesterday are certainly not the oak kitchens of today. Nor will oak kitchens today be the same oak kitchens tomorrow. Which is why if I had to do it all over again, it would be white white white. A backsplash is fairly easy to change out. Cabinets are not.

  29. I’ve been seeing these lighter wood kitchens for a while now also. I think what makes them “timeless” is that the wood tones are a light true brown . . . the same thing that makes a light brown wood floor timeless. These kitchens will age well.

    It’s the wood tones that veer hard in any other direction that usually look trendy and bossy.

    I am renting a house with wood cabinets that are strong yellow-gold maple with the ugliest splotchiest brown counters you’ve ever seen. Even worse, they are paired with a red-brown glossy wood floor and the walls are painted a dull olive green. The color clash is real. 🙁

    My ex-husband lives several states away from me, and we haven’t seen each other in years, but still talk on the phone a lot. He’s never seen this rental house, but he’s always been a bit psychic. He recently said, “Hey, does your kitchen have dull and dreary colors? I get the impression it does.”

    Bingo! 😉

  30. I’m getting ready to spec my clients (first in 12 years), light wood kitchen.
    I see all of your photos seem to have tile floors. How do we match a wood floor with a wood kitchen? I know to go with the same undertone, but even if I pull a colour from the floor, for the wood cabinets, and have one wood lighter, and one darker, it still looks like wood on wood.
    Most clients have wood flooring in their kitchens as most are open concept.
    Must say I’m struggling with this one!

  31. Hi Christy,

    You might be able to have the cabinets painted white or a color that you like if stripping, sanding and retaining is not an option.
    If you do replace the cabinets, consider selling or donating them to an organization like Habitat for Humanity. They often have resell stores. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

    Good luck with your decision and project.

  32. In my endless perusal of mid-range real estate listings in rural New York, I see mostly dark wood recently updated (eek! where are these people getting their ideas?) kitchens or earlier kitchens that scream their era. But rarely I see one with natural wood cabs, and even though I love white and chose it for my kitchen, the natural wood makes me think, I could live with that. So it seems to me that you’re on target in saying that the light, natural wood will have staying power. The kitchens you show are lovely, so different from that older heavy look or from trends like pickled wood.

    My favorite kitchen is from an early era, with a big fireplace you can cook in, a beehive oven, open shelving and places to hang pots, a French range, and real furniture. Maybe in another life . . .

  33. The first or top photo is appealing, perhaps because the wood is on the bottom part of the kitchen and the white fills the upper parts of the kitchen, and it feels fresh. I still prefer white kitchens. If I ever consider using wood in a kitchen, this is a post I will read again for the helpful ideas. Congratulations on the BDI award with Modenus!

  34. I chose natural red birch cabinets when we redid the kitchen in my previous house 20 years ago. I scrubbed them clean when we sold the house and they looked almost new — that is the nice thing about natural wood. In my new house I chose the same natural red birch for the lower cabinets and white for the upper. White quartz countertops and a light gray/blue subway tile backsplash. Natural pine floors. (I am on the coast.). I am so happy with the look! I find that I have to be careful with the white finish on the upper cabinets, but I know from previous experience that the natural wood cabinets will hold up over time. I personally like the warmth that natural wood brings to the kitchen, especially when combined with other white finishes.

  35. Congratulations on your award! What an accomplishment!

    Having said that, I think I’m going to peace out on your blog for a bit and here is why: this post rubbed me the wrong way, and I know it wasn’t intentional. I feel like your blog is best when you are instructing readers about how to match undertones, when to match, when not, and advice about how to update a room or pick stone that works with your paint. However, the blog has gone towards this: trendy or classic? And are you smart enough to get ahead of the curve. That is a false dichotomy and it is a bit harmful. I finished this post feeling deflated b/c we are building a new house and “new builds” aren’t really updated in our area for the latest wood trends, nor could we afford it if this wood were an option. We are lucky we could build a house in a nicer area. And in fact, I am not a “new build” person, my dream is a colonial on a charming street that I can update. However, in our area, and having young children, new builds are better neighborhoods for kids — b/c there are more kids– and we want that for our children. The white cabinets we could choose were engineered wood and they were stark raving white, plus the open space didn’t “want” white, in my opinion. Having read your blog that blue gray is going to be out and trying to make the best choice we could, I went with what appealed to me and what seemed a bit warmer (oh no…taupey) gray. We did a white counter top to brighten it up, and oh no, clean/dirty combo. I don’t even think it has cream undertone. Now, had we gone with wood, it would most likely be baseball bat looking wood. I am happy with what we chose, knowing it won’t be my taste forever and that it isn’t what I would have chosen if I could design my own kitchen and choose my own cupboards. But now I should say…I was happy…until I read your post and was informed that taupey gray is quickly on it;s way out. It is? I feel like I committed some oddly moral crime! I feel like this classic or trendy thing doesn’t help most people, because more people are in my boat than in the boat of the designer above who created these kitchens…and these are the lucky people, of course, b/c they can at least buy a new house.

    I also think the classic/trendy thing is misleading in another way. I agree that a white kitchen can be a safe and always-around way to go. But even there, the truly classic looking white kitchens have a certain sharp look to them — cupboards that go to the ceiling, the cabinets LOOK expensive and there is usually a bit of warmth to them. My friends were finally able to redo their kitchen but couldn’t afford to change the cabinets. She chose white paint to update the builder grade wood and she couldn’t even (reasonably) get the white paint she wanted. Her husband insisted on the practical glossy finish or whatever is recommended, and it made most sense, according to the local SW store, just to go with a white white ($), not Alabaster or the white she wanted. Again, this is the boat most people are in. They are making compromises with spouses and money, or whatever else. And since the cabinets themselves were older and smaller, the overall effect was, yes, updated and very nice, but I wouldn’t even say it is a classic kitchen! (My mom, other hand, has a pale green cabinet with a minty undertone, tile from the 30s or 40s when the house was built, that she never got rid of, and her kitchen has looked classic even before minty undertones were trendy. She has white counter tops.

    As well, since passing up a grayer gray (cooler), I notice that gray really is a classic color, even if gray cabinets won’t always be “the look.” If you look at houses in historical neighborhoods and even historical colors, it IS a classic colorl. As well, many of the colors in Farrow and Ball are classic English colors that are taupey, gray, dirty, and I always love them. I do like your advice about using white to crisp things up a bit, or how to like floors, carpeting, cupboards, etc. you are stuck with by matching undertones rather than contrasting them. (The Makerista blog has sage green cabinets that look beautiful and classic with her black and white floor and white subway tile (which I know you think are classic and always a good choice), but sage green really isn’t in now, nor was it a couple years ago when she chose it based on her love of all things English. But that’s the point…our personal styles need to shine through and we need bloggers like you to tame them with correct undertones and balanced countertop colors. I also think rooms need tension, yin and yang, something interesting. They end up this way b/c they end up with compromise due to badly measured beams and floors that settle, etc. etc. A clean room ends up with a beautiful “dirty” picture b/c the person fell in love with the picture, or her child gave her the picture, whatever. I would prefer going back to advice about cultivating a style and improving on what you can regardless of budget, etc.

    And frankly, almost no one is going to love one exact look forever. People fail to update after 10 years (often) b/c they can’t, not b/c they love it forever and ever!

    • Hi Tanya, thanks for your feedback, there is nothing wrong with grey, black or brown, it’s the OVERUSE of these neutrals that immediately place a house in a particular era that I’m trying to save the world from. I truly makes me sad that people unknowingly install too many trendy coloured items that they regret shortly after they are installed. AND the reason your Mom’s mint green cabinets are still going strong is because colour is way more timeless than the current, trendy neutral. I appreciate your comment! Maria

      • Thanks for your reply, just saw this. That is quite an insight about colors being more classic, I feel like I have read all of your blog posts, but I missed that one, which makes sense. I also do tend to focus on posts about neutrals! Sorry, think I was just having a moment. I am second guessing like every choice I made in May, and since they give you a small square to look at for many c hoices when you build a home, it’s ridiculous. (I suggested they go get the bigger squares direct from Sherwin Williams for paint–they use SW exclusively–and even the designers stared blankly at me. Luckily for me, I was set b/c I knew all the undertones of the neutral categories we could pick from and did a good job matching the undertone of the cabinets to the paint. It all turned out quite nice, in part, due to your posts. What I am bummed about is that in the showroom, the level we could choose from for carpeting upstairs was few and I thought I picked one with a silvery-undertone, but it looks taupe. The designer convinced me to do a cooler gray green in the master and they do not go, except at precisely one time of day when the sun casts a bit of silver on the carpeting (lol). I said that same color didn’t go with the master bath cabinet, but she insisted they did. Guess what? They don’t! I know that from you. Each time I even try to convince myself b/c my husband wants me to let it be, I can just see taup-y gray in the cabinet and green gray on the walls. Hubby has conceded to pain the cabinet after move in, but I am stuck with carpeting right now. (I don’t like carpeting, period, but we could only do so many upgrades. At least where I see errors, I know that I can make it look good/cohesive with paint since that is cheaper and more doable right now!

        thanks for all your advice. I can credit it where things went well and it helped me be a better judge of why some things aren’t working, in spite of the designer’s “expertise”!!!! 😉

  36. I absolutely love the natural wood look. You mention oak and maple but what about other woods with a natural finish. I’m thinking of cherry that is not stained just sealed. When it’s done with flat front or shaker doors that appears classic to me too. Especially if it fits the era and architectural style of the house. Your thoughts?

  37. I am so happy to see this post! We are about to install a new kitchen in our total house gut job/reno that we’ve been working on for almost 3 years! I’m so excited. I have ordered natural maple cabinets and we are doing a white counter top (Rock Salt by Livingstone) and a subway tile backsplash with a medium grey grout to relate to the speckles in the counter. The walls will be Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore. We will have black hardware. I think it’ll be so pretty. 🙂
    I love your website and get excited every time I see a email from you!

  38. Maria, what would be an equivalent paint color to the BK Interiors picture posted above on the kitchen walls? It appears they might be plaster but worth a try to duplicate the warmth with paint as it goes great with those wood cabinets! Love this post and your insight – thank you!

    • Definitely looks like plaster and the other reason why the creamy colour looks so good is because it relates to the countertops. I would look at Natural wicker or Feather Down to achieve this look. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  39. I love this look. It’s restful and so pleasing on the eye. Someday, someday, I’ll have my cabinets refinished and I’ll definitely go for a nice stained look that will show the grain of the wood. You’ve inspired me!

  40. Marilyn K. Stirrett

    What are your thoughts on using hickory or knotty alder (with few knots) in a medium color stain with a coat of glaze? I’ve heard that it is a good idea to use a lighter shade stain for the wooden floors which may be stained white oak. (When I built a home more than 25 years ago with oak cabinets–maybe they are what some refer to as “orange oak” they also suggested I use the same color stain on the oak floors. Seems they would not do that today, but I have not found it to be objectionable or as some suggested “too much wood”.

    • I am soooo not a stain expert, that takes years of experience of working with stains, I would install a pale oak or light maple with this type of cabinet, hope that helps, Maria

  41. I’m having some conflicting thoughts about what is considered classic wood stains. I toured the Biltmore mansion and the kitchens were loaded with built in cabinetry from 1900, and nobody would say they were “outdated”, they were gorgeous. But they were a darker stain. Not espresso, but not pale either. I think it all depends on context.

  42. Yes! Yes! Yes! You nailed it. And the kitchen from Home Bunch-absolutely swoon worthy. Thank you for blogging about a beautiful trending new classic!

  43. Maria, this post makes me very happy because it explains how if I paint my walls off white, add some glass to my upper doors, add a lighter counter, and bring the wood floor into my kitchen from the rest of the house, my kitchen will look lighter and updated and I won’t have to change my cupboards, which, happily are a brown wood stain which is neutral in a classic shaker style. Thank you for your insightful and current advice. I don’t always have time to read it in the school year (I am a teacher) but it is always helpful.

  44. So pretty! I love this color of oak — I wouldn’t use it for a kitchen, but I’d love to use it for some of my furniture pieces. Do you have any idea how they are achieving that color? Is it truly just unstained oak, or has it been treated with a pale/ashy stain? It sure looks like it’s been given some kind of treatment. Any tips you have are greatly appreciated!!! ~Angela~

    • I don’t, I am not a stain expert, sorry about that. I would talk to someone who designs millwork. Maria

  45. It’s nice, not my style. It reminds me of how the gray winter light in the Pacific Northwest washes out everything–I can’t imagine this with a cool bright color scheme. It’s desaturated. I wouldn’t want to sit or cook in that kitchen. But it certainly looks lovely and I’m sure the people who like it will enjoy having it around as an option.

  46. YES! I love this! I have wood cabinets, and with how heavily I use my kitchen, I’d be scrubbing all day every day to maintain a lovely all white kitchen. Can’t do it. I’ve been telling my husband I just want to strip my cabinets down to a light natural finish as a compromise. He (wisely, haha!) keeps objecting to starting a project that crazy, but with this post as support, I’ll hold that thought for later when my current kitchen gives up the ghost and I build a new one. My one regret to this house (OK, my MAJOR regret, I have more than one, haha) has always been that the kitchen is “good enough”. Can’t wait until it wears out!!!

  47. I’m curious what topcoats keep the wood from turning orange. We had natural oak installed and it yellowed horribly after a few years. It was worse where the sun hit the cabinets. I couldn’t stand the color and stained them. I’m tired of the dark stain and they’ll be painted white. I really like the color wood shown above but does it really stay that color?

  48. One of the differences to the kitchens from a couple of decades ago, is that these cabinets are not combined with wood floors. The wood on wood look is so heavy. Also, most of these cabinets are inset or full overlay, not the partial overlay which dates wood cabinets. I love this look but I also love wood floors in the kitchen… which makes the choice for me to go with painted cabinets. Love reading your posts!

  49. I think it is a beautiful look but, it is trendy. All the wood stains end up being a trend if you examine the history of kitchen design. Having said that, I have no problem with trends. If someone loves the look, I think they should go for it. The trend should last a long time 🙂

  50. While these kitchens are very beautiful – they are not timeless. Every kitchen trend becomes dated. I remember when we were looking at houses 20 years ago and all the rage was cherry cabinets and limestone/travertine/marble backsplashes. Everyone said – cherry is timeless/classic and natural stone never goes out of style. My friend who had a very high end white on white kitchen was told to rip everything out and replace it with cherry and natural stone. I have owned many houses and every house was timeless then dated in a matter of years.

    The only time a kitchen is classic is when it is cohesive with the style of the house and honors the architecture.

    What a joke designers are these days to try to convince people the newest thing they are peddling is timeless.

  51. I have never loved a kitchen more than my light/natural maple kitchen with a mix of flat and shaker-style doors with soft white bull-nose counters and simple white tile backsplash (though if I could have gotten a solid slab of solid surfacing for it in my budget, I would have done that in a heart-beat.) The maple’s light colors were perfect with the casual vibe but the fine grain and sheen of the seal made it equally pretty with the few formal, darker stain pieces we owned. Fresh, natural, inviting. Warm with wood, but not heavy-feeling – perfect for our hot, hot locale. Inexpensive white appliances were fine with it, and high end appliances would have been outstanding. Real food looks gorgeous against this backdrop, and a few decades later I haven’t gotten tired of the look, though I’ve been without it for nearly 20 years. If it were still my kitchen, I would sand off the clear-coat, reveal lighter wood below the surface and reseal it. And upgrade the laminate counter to a nicer solid surface with an integrated solid-surface or under-mounted stainless steel sink, and run it right up the wall as a backsplash. And I would have taken down the 90’s taupe/off-white stripe wallpaper long ago. The actual home had tasteful amounts of maple accents in niches, banister and on fireplace, so the flow was beautiful. We let the maple be the maple, kept the walls a soft warm white, installed cream berber carpet with beige flecks, and decorated simply, mostly in greens that harmonized with the wooded views outside the many windows that made the home beautifully light-filled. Had a designer help us with layouts and cohesion. Loved that place for its light, airy, nature-filled vibe!

  52. What do you recommend when you are doing wood floors and stained lower cabinets.? Should the floors be darker than the cabinets or visa versa?

  53. Omg I wish I’d seen this earlier. We are having custom maple cabinets installed Monday! I have a big house and everything is trimmed in golden oak- I decided to have the cabinet man factory stain the cabinets a color that is close to the
    Oak. I picked a black granite that has long white streaks in it and the island and desk will be a sheet black stain. Appliances are stainless-over the stove will be an updated chimney hood and cabinets on either side will have glass. All our hardware in the house is antique brass so I’m looking at an updated but matte ORB for hardware. Floor is ceramic in a neutral sandy and beige. Now I’m petrified I’ll have the heavy look you describe. Our wall are all a creamy beige (open concept) so white doesn’t feel right in our 30uear old traditional colonial.
    Please tell me it doesn’t sound awful!

    • I would rethink the granite, sounds busy and dark and it doesn’t relate to the tile floors. You’ll have this kitchen for a long time and if the countertops are not installed yet then likely they have not been fabricated yet. Hope that helps, Maria

  54. Great article! Thank you! Love this combination of the natural and white cabinets. Like the look of the light marble counters and backsplashes. ( name for a granite that looks like a marble?) Would you do the island in a black soapstone with a white veining? Love the look of a black metal hood over the range.

    • On old oak cabinets? can’t be done. If you’re talking new? I would check with your paint store, and ask questions so you’re clear you are talking to the expert. I spent many years working in a paint store pretending I knew something about stains, they are complicated, every wood takes a stain differently. Hope that helps, Maria