Trendspotting: Unpainted Kitchen Cabinets

Image via Garde Hvalsøe

I was a little shocked when I started to see kitchens with unpainted wood cabinets popping up on my Instagram feed. Having come of age during the era of glossy dark cherry and oak kitchens that felt either like clubby dens or country “kitsch”ens, I had them firmly planted in a spot marked R.I.P. along with balloon valances and soffits—design elements whose time had passed. But the new interpretation is more refined, and really, a breath of fresh air after decades of enameled kitchens and so many gallons of Benjamin Moore White Dove paint.

Minneapolis designer Victoria Sass agrees that wood is back. “Yes! We are seeing a strong re-acceptance of wood in the home again. We work with a lot of homeowners to help them design around their original wood trims and details, so common in Minneapolis homes.” Her firm, Prospect Refuge, is currently designing a Scandinavian inspired kitchen using raw oaks and bespoke details to create a space that’s rustic, refined and modern—a fresh take on what wood can be.

Many of the newer looks feature lighter woods, even bleached in some cases. They have a matte, organic quality that lends softness to the otherwise hard-edged work space of a kitchen. Woods with a unique grain such as rift cut oak, which has a distinctive linear pattern, is also gaining popularity according to Alexandria, MN based woodworkers CM Woodworks, who are also seeing an increase in the demand for custom-made unfinished and stained wood cabinetry.

Part of the success when using woods is what else is happening in the space. Instead of the busy mottled granite from earlier decades, designers are choosing paler shades of marble, quartz and concrete for countertops to keep the palette quieter and more restrained. Instead of heavy upper cabinets, windows or floating shelves are used to create a lighter feel and the wood cabinets are saved for the lowers, an island and/or pantry wall. Maximizing natural light and using a mix of white and wood cabinets also keeps things looking fresh and warm. Paying attention to flooring material—making sure the tones complement the wood cabinetry is also important. Here are some of the prettier new wood kitchens from Instagram.

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