Styles & Colors for Wood Kitchen Cabinets

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Wood cabinets in the kitchen can be beautiful, fine-grained cabinetry or old, painted eyesores. When the top and bottom cabinets are dark wood, a kitchen can seem gloomy. And stained wood might not go with your plan for new appliances, floors and design. But ditching the cabinets or replacing them is both expensive and environmentally less than friendly. Use what you've got, or enhance wood cabinets with clever new facades, fresh paint or a background that lets them star in the kitchen.

Wood and White

  • Wood cabinets can offset the stark white of a modern minimalist kitchen, especially if the wood is used with restraint. Consider just cabinet doors made of old barn wood in a white lacquer-finished kitchen. Keep cabinet frames and other shelves and furnishings shiny white. The weathered wood becomes a focal point that adds depth to the room's décor and opens the door to a few vintage touches such as knitted tea cozies or painted pottery pitchers.

Wood Goes Green

  • Recycle wood wine crates into conversation-piece cabinets for the kitchen. The crates are fitted to plain wood boards cut the size of cabinet doors. End pieces, stamped pieces and crate bottoms are randomly assembled and screwed to the wood panels before hardware and hinges go on. It's also a good idea to varnish or lacquer the cabinet doors before adding the hardware. The end result is distinctive wood facades that can be wiped down, cost less than custom cabinets and reuse wood in a clever way. If you're into kitsch, hunt for cabinet knobs that look like champagne corks and drawer pulls that look like corkscrews.

Stained Wood

  • Dark stained wood kitchen cabinets can be a dramatic style when their surroundings are kept simple. Very dark wood is set off by lots of white: white tile backsplashes and walls, white marble or pale limestone floors, even white vintage appliances. Stainless steel and brushed aluminum hardware and major appliances such as stoves and refrigerators make dark wood cabinets look contemporary. Old-fashioned appliances, deep farm sinks and faded period accessories are classic with darker woods. Avoid too many upper cabinets, fussy drawer pulls and other hardware to keep the kitchen décor clean and contemporary. Excessive color and patterns can also be distracting.

Painted Wood

  • When you buy or inherit wood kitchen cabinets in a dated style, the trimmed wood just makes things look worse. One quick and inexpensive solution is to paint the cabinets, flattening the detail of fussy panels and moldings and redirecting the eye to color, or the lack of it. An old wood kitchen gets a modern sensibility that marries vintage and minimalist when a beamed ceiling, scarred wood floor and mid-century suburban wood cabinets are all whitewashed. A high backsplash of rectangular white subway tile makes the room gleam and a few sections of butcher block counter top keep it from being too stark. Try a soft turquoise, cream or pink paint for old wood cabinets that have been painted previously. Furnish the room with period appliances and fill a jelly jar on the counter with wildflowers to contrast with cabinet colors.

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