The Return of the Wood Kitchen

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comObviously I have all things kitchen on my brain with our current renovation, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my reasoning in selecting wood cabinetry for our home. Have you guys noticed wood materials resurfacing in kitchens? I certainly have and I wanted to address it’s longevity, the “trend”, and why it made the most sense for my own space. Click through for lots of inspiration imagery that influenced my kitchen design, as well as my thoughts on the return of wood cabinetry. 

The Return of the Wood Kitchen -

W E    W E R E    S O L D

When Emmett took an accounting job with a local custom cabinetry shop, we both agreed that wood cabinetry made the most sense for our kitchen reno. I love the warmth wood adds to a space and our Utah home is currently lacking those natural wood elements. Since the cabinetry is being custom made, all of our hesitations were put to rest:

  • I could mix and choose a custom stain color
  • We could select any type of wood species we wanted
  • I could design a custom door style that worked well with the wood grain
  • We also knew it would be solid wood and built to last

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comNot all wood cabinets are created equal and I didn’t want to fall prey to a cheap looking laminate or a wood-look material that wasn’t as easy to customize. Although our cabinets are still in production and have yet to be installed, I’m really confident with the process and the materials we selected. I can’t wait to show you guys!

T H E    T R E N D

Lots of people think of 80’s and 90’s kitchens with standard orange-toned oak or reddish cherry cabinetry when they think of “wood kitchen cabinetry”. Gone are the days of dated wood cabinets! We’re seeing wood in the kitchen comeback in a big and modern way. It’s a very versatile material that can work with any aesthetic.

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comIf you’re trying to avoid the dated look, but are interested in implementing wood cabinetry, here are some guidelines that will help keep your kitchen fresh:

  • Opt for a clean and simple, or modern / flat door style
  • Don’t go too saturated (find a neutral wood tone / stain)
  • When in doubt (or if you can’t fully commit), try a two-toned wood kitchen… wood lower cabinetry and painted uppers- or better yet, maybe a wood island? How about wood appliances doors to cover your fridge?
  • Bring wood into the space elsewhere, aside from the cabinetry (ceiling beams, bar cabinet, dining chairs, bar stools, etc.)
  • Add metal hardware or die-cut pulls

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comTo me, wood is actually less intimidating than selecting paint grade cabinetry because it’s SO versatile. It goes with everything! The bottom line is this… if you’re going to commit- do it and embrace it.


I get lots of questions about “trends”. It’s a crazy word… it can get you really excited about something, and all the same- it can also be used in a negative way when things are overdone. Trends are all the rage while they’re “in”, but once they’re on their way “out”, it’s game over. That could mean an expensive mistake.

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comI’ve talked about my aesthetic evolving over the years, and how I’m less likely to hop on a trend these days, as opposed to doing what feels right for me and the house I’m designing. Wood cabinetry has been no exception. I will say, it’s gaining popularity- which could be classified as “trendy”, but it also feels classic and timeless to me.

As I previously mentioned, this home doesn’t have any natural wood architectural details and that’s really something I’m missing. My general rule is this… too much of a good thing isn’t always good. It’s all about balance. Bringing wood cabinetry into the kitchen will actually highlight the painted millwork and will make for a nice contrast. To me- that’s not trendy at all… it’s a timeless and smart design decision.

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comIf you’re worried about wood cabinetry becoming too trendy, be sure to focus on a classic door style, countertop material, tile, plumbing fixtures / finishes, and  lighting that feels timeless and compliments the cabinetry. Just because you have wood cabinets doesn’t mean your entire kitchen is “trendy” or “dated”… it’s how the space is working together as a whole. That goes for any trend! Moderation and application are key.

C O M P A R I S O N    T O    P A I N T    G R A D E

The last question I feel inclined to answer is the upkeep and maintenance for wood cabinetry. Maybe I’ll do an entire post on caring and cleaning wood cabinetry once we live with it for awhile, but for now- I’ll say it’s pretty similar to paint grade cabinetry.

You want to clean it with non-abrasive cleaning supplies. I don’t use harsh cleaning chemicals anyway, so that’s not really an issue- but definitely avoid bleach, ammonia, solvents, etc. The only other thing to be aware of is moisture. Like any wood surface, it absorbs moisture or water. However, unlike a coffee table, cabinetry surfaces run vertically rather than horizontally, so it’s pretty impossible to sit something wet or dripping directly onto a cabinetry surface. It really isn’t an issue. Cabinetry manufacturers also seal the cabinets with protective material to help keep the wood water resistant. We opted for a medium rub clear coat… that basically translates to a finish that falls in between matte and gloss.

The Return of the Wood Kitchen - roomfortuesday.comWhen deciding on wood or paint grade cabinets, I didn’t think twice about the durability of wood cabinetry. I’ll have to post next year about how everything is holding up and maybe my cleaning routine. Would you guys be into that?

That pretty much sums up my thoughts and design process for wood kitchen cabinetry. How do you guys feel about it? I hope you’re into it because you’ll be seeing it in our kitchen soon enough! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

images: waterworks / redmond aldrich designjean stoffer / change & coagent bauer / hgtvjean stofferest living

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. So glad you’re back! Although we went with white-painted cabinetry just last year, I also love that wood has been making such a gorgeous comeback. I agree with you about it being a timeless material: Wood floors and wood furniture can be considered classic, so why not cabinetry? Also to your point, I think the stain can become dated so much more quickly than the cabinets themselves, and it’s usually the more extreme tones that do: orangey oaks, reddish mahogany, super light maple. The neutral, mid-tone browns seem a pretty safe bet to me. Can’t wait to see your cabinets!

    1. Thanks, Julie! My thoughts exactly. Wood is gorgeous and it’s more about the stain and color than the material itself for a timeless or classic look. Happy Monday! xox

  2. Melanie Thielke says:

    Love the wood cabinet comeback! I find them rich looking and timeless. The trick is avoiding the varnishy, yellowed look that comes with the finishes aging. Any hope of rehabbing perfectly good cabinets once this happens, other than refacing? Also, what are those metal wraps called which are found in the photo of the kitchen island, and where do I find them?

    1. Me too, Melanie! Refinishing wood cabinetry depends on the material. If it’s a solid wood, you can certainly sand it down and restain the cabinetry. If it’s a veneer, you’re out of luck and will have to lightly sand and paint, or reface the cabinetry. The metal feet on the kitchen island is a custom detail. I actually wrapped the bases of my nightstands in the guest room like this… see that post here:

  3. Can’t wait to see the final results! I 100% agree that well-executed craftsmanship is timeless. It’s the mediocre, mass produced wood cabinets from the past that we all know and hate :)

    Are you doing inset or overlay? I think we are going to get paint-grade maple fronts (I’ll always be a painted kitchen girl for myself) but there’s so much advice out there saying that MDF is more stable and less prone to warping, which does seem compelling, especially since slight warping is more of a problem with inset cabinetry!

    1. I totally agree, Sarah! We’re actually doing overlay cabinetry for this kitchen. The kitchen is SO small, we need every inch of storage we can get. Emmett’s request was overlay because you can get more storage space out of it / have a larger opening. xo

  4. We are redoing our kitchen as well, and waiting for our natural cherry cabinets to show up. I was shocked to find out that a clear cherry wood cabinet (not knotty wood) was the same price as painted! And pretty much the same price as a stained oak! We chatted with quite a few cabinet folks, and one tidbit I picked up is that with a quality, hard paint finish (as I was told), the paint will show dents and sometimes chip off. So, it will show nicks and dings MUCH more than natural wood. We have a small space and kids, so as it was so similar in price, we were happy to go with natural wood. Plus, its my favorite. :o)

  5. Where did you get your hood from? Totally love it and we have the same pendants over the island!

  6. Sandy Van Dyk says:

    Hi Sarah, rather than using any chemicals or cleaning products on your wood cabinetry, consider the Norwex envirocloth. Works like magic and uses only water. My husband builds cabinets & he approves. Has changed my life!!

    1. Yes!! Thank you, Sandy. I actually already use and love Norwex- one of my friends sells it and it’s amazing!

  7. I redid my kitchen about 6 months. All cherry shaker with a light stain. Love it!

    1. Sounds beautiful, Dale!


    Hi, Love the look of wood kitchens. We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen and I would like to install wood cabinets. My question is what type of wood and stain would go best in a house with caramelized bamboo floors, pine casement windows, and a fir staircase. Our house does have a lot of wood already, so I want to embrace it but tastefully. Help!!!

  9. Jennifer Perez says:

    I think you are absolutely right. I’ve seen gorgeous kitchens from McGee and Co with white cabinets mixed with open shelving and an oak island and oak pantry door. My problem is my asan Diego home has Knotted Alderwood everywhere. Kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, butler pantry passthrough. What can I do? Paint it? (The knots have to be filled). Reface the kitchen cabinet doors white ? I’m agonizing😫