7 Ways to Give Wood Kitchen Cabinets Personality Without Paint
Serpentine-shaped doors go against the grain.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 11:16 PM
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There’s something comforting about plain, solid wood kitchen cabinets. Maybe it’s the sense of nostalgia we feel (they bring us back to the days before lacquer was a thing). Or perhaps it’s the sheer honesty of it all: They’re not pretending to be something they’re not.
Letting the natural tones shine will lend a ton of warmth to your space—not to mention they’ll practically last forever. Solid wood doors—think: resilient oak, easy-to-paint maple, heavy hickory, fine-grained birch—are known for their durability, unlike plastic veneer, particleboard, and laminate, which all have shorter life spans. Other pros: They can tolerate high humidity without swelling or warping and you won’t see any seams, just the beauty of the grain. The con? The quality of the product does drive up the cost, but the years you get out of it are worth the expense. And contrary to popular belief, they don’t have to be boring. Here are seven ways to help your nonboring solid wood doors shine—no paint involved.
Rethink the Shape of Things
Andee Hess’s serpentine-shaped space is like a game of Tetris, where the bumps and grooves (really, the handles) in the white oak cupboards are the puzzle pieces. One upside of solid wood cabinetry is that the edges can be curved, unlike pointy laminate, making it an ideal choice if you are going for a no-hardware look.
Give Appliances a Natural Look, Too
Shiny metal doesn’t exactly scream “organic.” Cladding the refrigerator in the same wood that covers the cabinetry, as seen in this mid-century modern home, is an extra step that pays off. While you’re at it, make way for a tall utility cupboard or small garage for other unsightly kitchen tools.
Combat the Warmth With Something Dramatic
The majority of Leanne Ford’s former Los Angeles kitchen consists of custom oak doors from the Lauren Liess collection for Unique Kitchen and Baths, but for true storybook whimsy, she topped them with a black soapstone counter and had her carpenter make the sink base cabinet out of salvaged wood.
Surround It in Texture
Read in between the edges of the Rosa Morada wood cupboard in this Todos Santos, Mexico, kitchen, designed by Alex Boudreau, and you’ll find concrete. Micro-cement, which also has a plaster-like look to it, is another great option for a border. It doesn’t stain like the real deal, so you don’t have to stop cooking with colorful spices.
Put Paint in Your Sealer
When left untouched, natural white oakwood has a beautiful, raw appearance. However, sealing is unavoidable, and once you do so, it turns a yellow hue. Designer Abbie Naber came up with one solution: Neutralize the coat by mixing in a dash of white paint.
Camouflage the Pulls
Don’t disrupt the beauty of the grain with chunky matte black pulls or glistening brass knobs. Instead go the barely there route. Bradley Van Der Straeten carved out half-moon notches along the edges of these cupboards. The trick is having another sliver of wood behind it so you don’t see an empty gap.
Treat the Surface Like a Canvas
Ellen Van Dusen’s doors might be made out of plywood, but she gave the basic composite variety some pizzazz by hiring a woodworker to route a pattern of curves into the doors. The humble material isn’t so basic anymore.
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