Skip to main content

Wooden cabinets don’t have to be outdated – consider these modern designs

When you think about wooden kitchen cabinets, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you picture an 80s kitchen filled with dated oak cabinets, you are not alone. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they were all the rage; in the 2000s, the backlash was swift—for almost 20 years, homeowners favored the clean, crisp look of white cabinets.

Today, wooden cabinets are making their way back into more and more kitchens with updated lines and detailing that work in any space – and designers have identified which is the best wood for cabinets in any kitchen. Here, we take you through our favorite wooden kitchen ideas and what to look for to bring this modernized classic into your home.

modern kitchen with wood cabinets
Watermark Designs/Unsplash

Which wood is right for you?

Nothing beats the durability of real wood. There is a reason why so many of those cabinets from the 1980s are still around — they last. Unlike cheaper MDF or particleboard cabinets, wooden ones are much stronger and sturdier. Aesthetically, nothing infuses a space with more warmth and character than wood. It also looks at home in almost any design, whether your kitchen is sleek contemporary or farmhouse rustic.

When it comes to stained cabinets, some woods are better than others. Oak garnered so much popularity because it was an easy wood to work with. Today, it is still frequently used, but there are also a wide variety of other woods to choose from, including alder, walnut, hickory, and cherry. Each one will have its own color, grain, and texture, so be sure to explore them all and see which one speaks to you. Keep in mind that each one will have slight variations and unique patterns, unlike a painted cabinet. If your budget is tight, pine or poplar will not hold up quite as well but will be much more cost-effective options.

Stain color is also an important factor. You will have to live with whatever you choose for years, so it is vital that you do your homework. Stains range from blonde to ebony. Lighter stains tend to be associated with more traditional kitchens, but if you like a lighter finish, flat-fronted cabinets will give a more updated look. Dark brown will provide contrast to stainless steel and a lighter backsplash. Black is typically seen in modern kitchen designs.

If you want the durability of wood and the option of painting the cabinets, maple is the way to go. That wood has a small grain and very little texture, so it is ideal for paint. Softer maples are a good option for less money.

At the end of the day, when planning a modern wooden kitchen design, you need to consider what look you are trying to achieve. Think not only about your own taste, but also about what will fit in with the rest of your home. Wood works wonderfully with some of today’s most popular looks. A boho-chic kitchen with rustic wood cabinets or live edge open shelving; a sleek kitchen in a dark-stained finish with clean lines and stainless-steel accents; a traditional kitchen with rich, fluted trim accents demonstrates the versatility of wood.

decorative wooden shelves
Tony Smith/Pexels

Update the old

Already have wooden cabinets that are in solid shape, but could use an update? One of the best ways to give dated cabinets a whole new look is to paint them and add new hardware. This is a great way to bring new life into an old kitchen and can be accomplished in a weekend. Just remember to sand them thoroughly, use a good primer, and finish with at least two coats of paint.

Don’t ignore the selves, either. The best shelf liner for wood cabinets is one that prevents shelves from damage caused by moisture, including rings when putting damp dishes back in the cupboard.

There are other ways to bring the warmth of wood into your kitchen without replacing the entire kitchen. One of the biggest kitchen trends is mixing it in with painted cabinets. Adding an island in reclaimed wood to a white cabinet kitchen brings character into the space. Even a few simple, wooden open shelves can add interest and are a good place to display decorative objects. However you bring wood into your kitchen, nothing beats its durability, and with today’s new designs, your kitchen will have a fresh look that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Darcey Gohring
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Darcey Gohring is a freelance writer based just outside New York City. She served as the managing editor of New Jersey…
10 2024 kitchen design trends the experts love
One of these trends may be what your kitchen needs
cottage kitchen design

2024 home design ushers in bold, exciting features, but how will this look in the kitchen? We talked to the experts to get an idea of what we can expect for 2024 kitchen design trends. This year is all about turning the house into a home with quirky and eclectic touches. Here are ten design trends we can expect.

Texture is a must-have in the kitchen
Texture is also vital for pulling off an effective design. But this year, texture becomes the focal point and one of the must-have details to bring to your kitchen design.

Read more
How to make your kitchen design more functional, according to experts
Here’s the best way to make use of your kitchen most efficiently
Navy blue farmhouse-style kitchen design

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where families gather several times a day, making it one of the most used rooms in the house. That’s why the kitchen design needs to be functional and multi-purpose, capable of adhering to your family's needs throughout the busy day.

To get some advice on how to best utilize the space, we spoke to Laurel Vernazza, Home Design Expert at The Plan Collection. Here’s what we learned.

Read more
7 kitchen designs that prove how versatile shaker cabinets really are
These kitchens stun with timeless shaker cabinets
Blue kitchen cabinets in farmhouse design

Shaker cabinets have been around for centuries, and with good reason — they are timeless, elegant, simple, and clean. Whatever kitchen design you have landed on, shaker cabinets can add a ton of style to the space. Shaker kitchen cabinets are best known for their square edges and some with inset panels.

First coined by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing — the term "shaker" came out of the "Shaking Quakers" group in the U.K. In 1780, the Shaker community came to the U.S., where they showcased their furniture-making skills, among others — and the style has remained popular across the country ever since.

Read more