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Classic and Timeless Wood Stained Kitchens

By 08/29/2013June 11th, 202338 Comments


Wood Stained Kitchen I Like


 Plus an abundance of white | Interior Design by Sabrina Albanese

Wood Stained Kitchen I Like

 White Floors (Image via Smallbone)

Wood Stained Kitchen I Like

 White Countertops

Wood Stained Kitchen I Like

White Island

Wood Stained Kitchen I Like

Via Houzz

And if you have an espresso kitchen with hardwood floors and it’s staying but you need an update, get white countertops and a white backsplash (above). So pretty.

Why is so much white necessary?

Because then you get the most flexibility in your decorating. It’s my mission in the world to give my clients the confidence to decorate with colour. And a classic background is usually what is required.

I know you thought you’d never see the day when I’d stick a wood stained kitchen in this blog, but there’s a first time for everything!


Related posts:

What it Takes to have a Classic House

5 Steps to a Kitchen You’ll Love

5 Steps to Selecting the Right Colour for your Kitchen

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 


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  • pve says:

    Terrific. Love all the images you post to prove a point of inspiration.
    I love my white countertops but often get a comment,”You must spend you life cleaning those white counters”- to which I say no, “the better I can see the dirt” – some surfaces never get cleaned because they hide grime and years of dirt. not mine.

  • Jill McDougall says:

    In our new house in Washington, I decided on cherry cabinets with a natural stain (hopefully they won’t change color too much over time- right now they’re a perfect neutral), and am going with white quartz countertops, a white backsplash, and white walls. I love that you have posted these as examples you like, because it had been nagging me that I departed from your white kitchen cabinet advice! Now all is well in my world! 😉 -Jill

  • A-L says:

    I don’t disagree that a stained wood kitchen can work; I’m just not sure if most of these pictures are going to be considered “timeless.” The only one that I think might make it is the espresso one. I think that when kitchens try and be contemporary/modern (like most of these with no door hardware or very modern hardware), in ten or twenty years it will look very 2013. But if they had gone with something like a Shaker cabinet and simple hardware, it would look far more timeless. Sort of like that post Cote de Texas about antiques. Timeless forms mean you can’t figure out when they were bought.

  • John W says:

    While I love walnut as a wood and color, I find it’s too much when used in upper cabinets. It’s too heavy looking/feeling.
    What I have found that works wonderfully is using walnut base cabinets with maple uppers. Lightens up everything while the walnut bases give a strong, supporting feel.

    • Diane says:

      I like the idea of walnut for the base, when you do uppers in maple, are they painted or stained? What color?

  • Lynn says:

    Wow… this came at an opportune time for me! We just closed on a home purchase 2 weeks ago, and am in process of “redoing” a few rooms to match my liking. At present I will definitely be painting the kitchen cabinetry… husband is in total agreement, all systems are go! The home was expertly constructed in 1959, and the woodwork throughout the house is pristine… real hardwood flooring that were refinished by the prior owner of the seller we obtained the home from. My dilemma here is that yes I will paint the cabinetry, but I’m not so sure I want a “light” or “white” color cabinetry after reading this post.. The floor in the kitchen area is tile, approx. 12×12 squares and (get ready ..) “beige” color. I would have to say a “green” tone beige and thankfully not pink! The countertop will be replaced at some point but not immediately. If you can imagine formica countertop, cream color w/ brown marble design, definitely from the 60’s – 70’s.
    I would love any suggestion and comments any of you may care to offer. I have always enjoyed reading this post and have found some wonderful ideas all the while! There are some very good ideas here… I will post some before and after pics once I get it under control…
    All suggestions are welcome! Thanks much!

    • Lynn says:

      Forgot to mention the hardwood flooring is original to the house, and are more of a general golden oak…. the cabinetry that I am going to paint are either a beech wood, or possibly maple (light color wood) and could be described as a honey color at present…

      • Maureen says:

        Are your cabinets original to the house, from 1959?

        • Lynn says:

          Yes. In fact all the wood is original throughout the entire home. Cabinetry is plain front, no dimensional moulding or trim… Very basic fronts. I’m a little perplexed about the vertical wood and trim that encases the only door in the kitchen… This is the door leading to the back patio of the house… I’m 90% sure it needs painted as well, but you know how those second guesses usually can create interference with progress! I am fortunate that the window sills are white marble, slight grey veining…widow sashes are white vinyl.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Your cabinets should be painted because they are 90’s and dated. Cream if that is the fixed white in there. Maria

      • Lynn says:

        Thanks, Maria! I am excited to paint them. The fixed white would be the white vinyl window sash(s) and the white marble window sills. Only two windows in the kitchen.

  • Beth B. says:

    I am surprised that you liked the kitchen with espresso cabinets / white counter tops and backsplash. I thought you were an advocate of white with black and brown with cream? Am I wrong? Help!

    • Mary says:

      I was thinking the same thing!
      Have you changed your thinking about stained wood with white counter tops?

      • Maria Killam says:

        I find that walnut works with white, off-white and cream. Just like medium brown flooring would still be in a kitchen with white cabinetry or in a house with white walls. The last espresso kitchen looks like the exception to the rule, not a lot of uppers, pretty perfect windows, light to medium flooring and white walls. The average tract/spec house kitchen does not look like this so the regular rules would apply in my opinion.

        Most quartz is actually off-white so to clarify, if someone has a espresso kitchen off-white would still in general be better than stark white for sure.

        Regarding the fact that most of these kitchens are contemporary and modern, I tried in vain to find more examples of traditional walnut kitchens and could not find them. Walnut is more expensive which is why I have only seen it in person very few times and the last time was in a very expensive neighbourhood in Vancouver.

  • That first photo reminds me of that 1960/1970s show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” It looks more retro than contemporary to me, but I like retro as long as it’s on purpose! Have a great holiday weekend, Maria!

  • Kathi K says:

    I agree, Maria. Make the things you can change as classic and neutral as possible, and you can work around what you have…

  • Erica says:

    White stone or marble is just so quietly elegant with wood. No mosaic frenzies competing with the cabinets here! I love white and white kitchens but the right wood does add a beautiful warmth. The second kitchen is my favorite – just the perfect mix of materials and styles for my eyes.

  • anne says:

    Thank you Maria! That walnut kitchen in HB is the model for my future new kitchen. Despite your advice about a white kitchen I’m always drawn to mid-tone woods with white counters and light-colored floor. In my line of work I’ve seen thousands of homes (new construction to antique, MA & CT) and WISH their people were ColourMeHappy readers. Seems no one wants to stray from stock maple or dark cherry w/busy granite or laminate – gettin’ old. When I meet builders I’ll often mentioned the gray trend and your blog, since beige continues to hit their walls!

  • Babs Loyd says:

    Wow, good looking kitchen. I especially like the globular lights. It is individual and handsome. White with walnut is a nice contrast.
    Now, I am moving to a ranch-style kitchen with birch cabinets, lavender tile counter tops and white floor. The walls are a soft yellow at present. There is a strip of very bold, southwest-looking tile surrounded by more lavender tile in the backsplash which I must remove with a hammer if necessary. I think the yellow of the birch with the lavender is pretty and am considering painting the walls very neutral because we have lots of colorful art for the walls. I know you will have a brilliant suggestion! Have a good rest on Labor Day!

  • SandyCGC says:

    Don’t like dark wood cabinets at all and eager to paint the 1980s oak ones in my kitchen some shade of white, but I think you are so absolutely right, Maria, about the need for white countertops. Mine are almost 30-year-old Arborite in a creamy white and they actually save my kitchen. The interesting thing to me is that if I had to choose one of the kitchens above, my first choice would be the last one with the expresso cabinets and my second choice would actually be the overly-walnut-ted first one. Trying to figure out why and I think it’s not only the white/shade of white used but also the “life” in those rooms that comes from the touches of yellow (bowl of lemons, pot on stove) and green (plants) and even orange (flowers in the expresso and tone in the walnut cabinets). The other rooms seem somewhat bland and sterile (although the “white island” one almost makes it). I might be the only one in the world who would look at it this way but it’s YOUR FAULT, Maria – you teach so much about color even when class is not in session.

  • sherry says:

    I love the modern simplicity of these cabinets. Very similar to the Ikea Nexus cabinets I put in my bathroom. If I were making a kitchen cabinet decision today, this is the direction I would go.

  • Interesting…when I saw the headline I thought “has to be in a mid-century modern residence…”

    What transcends the brownness is the clarity and cleanness of the settings…

    Great post!

  • Kathy says:

    I’m surprised at my own reaction to these kitchens, as I love brown wall paint. But I really don’t care for any of them, especially the first one. Too dark, especially in the gray winter days in the Portland area….

  • BillP says:

    The new 3 million dollar condos across the street from me have dark walnut cabinets, white Caesarstone countertops, subway tile backsplash and white oak floors. The espresso color is on the way out, I believe that the next wave will be mid tone walnut like the top picture.

    Thank you, Maria, for featuring these stylish alternatives to all white. A-L, I believe that it will be the ten year old appliances that will date the kitchen first.

  • Diane says:

    Thanks for showing wood stained cabinets. Love the walnut cabinets. I have red oak floors that have been stained to be a little darker than natural, would walnut be a good choice for stained cabinets for these oak floors? Other suggestions, other than oak?

  • Glad to see these photos. I just helped a client choose new expresso cabinets because she hates white kitchens. She is OK with barely off white counters and subway backsplash. Anything creamy-er will take the kitchen right back to the 80’s. Many still love their browns! But the white helps keep it fresh.

  • Barbara says:

    If we are giving opinions, I have to say that I hate all of those kitchens. Any that look like that certainly aren’t going to be too popular. What matters is that the homeowner likes it, though.

  • Wyn says:

    I like the first and last — the first for the beautiful grain, and the last for the overall feel and palette. I like warmer woods and darker woods, but they are so much better with the right balance of light elements. Every example here has lots of (off-)white wall/ceiling or counter, or has strong lighting or high ceilings, which is why they don’t turn into wooden caves.

  • Barb says:

    Love this post Maria! I just bought a 6 yr old house with natural stain maple cabinets, but a brown glaze, very traditional. My favorite is white cabinets, but I don’t have the heart to paint these beautiful cabinets! So this would be a perfect idea for me, maybe subway tile and marble? I like some of the quartz but would that be to contemporary looking?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It’s hard to say without seeing your kitchen but it sounds like you’re on the right track. Maria

  • Claudia says:

    These kitchens and are little too dark for me, plus they remind me of the kitchen of my childhood home and of my friend’s parent’s kitchens in the 1970s, sans the avocado or rust colored fridges.

    • Claudia says:

      Actually, just the top photo – the other kitchens look very modern, just a little on the dark side.

  • Andrea says:

    pleasantly surprised indeed! thanks for sharing!

  • Nancy says:

    White was the answer for me! I’m renting a luxury apartment that has bossy slate floors and a golden oak {shudder} vanity in the bathroom. The developer painted the room a paper bag color. After much time on your blog, pinterest and houzz, I realized the only solution was white, white, white to match the doors, trim, shower tile and plumbing fixtures. Now that the oak vanity is such a small percentage of the room, it is barely noticeable. And the grain of the offending golden oak is not enhanced because the white is so… white.

  • Wendy says:

    Agree totally…these wood kitchens work because the wood is treated as a color. Brown with white is timeless and workable. Many folks try to overlook the brown tones and sometimes the wood is BOSSY, usually orange. These look smart.

  • Debbie says:

    We are the proud owners of a re-claimed luxury kitchen from Green Demolitions. At present our “new” kitchen is stacked 3 high and 4 deep in various areas of our house and garage. Even though this is immensely exciting I have serious trepidation to go along with my total joy! I am NOT a designer or color expert but I do know what I want…timeless. I don’t want to do this again. The wood work is glazed two tone by Andre Julien. We are planning on hardwood throughout but need help making the stain finish decision. Reading your blog I also would love help with what countertop choice to make and of course the backsplash. I do understand the one pattern rule. The entire upstairs is a 1970 blank slate at this point because it will all need paint in the end. The whole idea of reclaiming a kitchen is going strong but new to the Pacific North West. If you are at all interested look on the Green Demolitions web site and search Andre Julien to see my “new” kitchen… I love your advise, Marie. Now I need help with a glaze as a permanent choice but I would like the other undecided choices to be non- trendy and classic.

  • Nancy says:

    What color if white would u use with espresso cabinets warm white r cream

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