Published on April 3, 2019

Recent design trends have pushed daring renovators to adopt high-end finishes like thick slabs of dramatic blue marble, solid brass backsplashes, white oak floors, and French range hoods that sell upwards of $10,000. While these design details are undeniably beautiful and worth a spot in our “dream kitchen inspiration” folders, they’re not always possible if you’re trying to make budget-conscious renovating decisions.

So when we came across a trending renovation material that is also extremely affordable—we’re talking “discount aisle at the hardware store” cheap—our interest was piqued. Enter the latest fad to hit kitchens (and even bedrooms) everywhere: painted or stained plywood. We’ve already touted the humble material as the next It trend of 2019, but this new iteration feels more versatile and easier to pull off in a wide range of styles.

Brooklyn-based Giancarlo Valle got the ball rolling last year when he shared that the DUMBO apartment he lives in with his wife, Architectural Digest style director Jane Keltner de Valle, is actually filled with clever built-in solutions made from untreated and stained plywood. Now, the design world is brimming with unexpected iterations of the trend. If you’re planning a renovation this year or you’re simply curious about the diverse applications of this hardware store favorite, we’ve done the groundwork and assembled some of our favorite examples of this unexpected new fad.

If You Want to Dive in Headfirst

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Courtesy of SMS Arquitectos

Dubbed “the plywood house,” this colorful home in Palma de Mallorca by SMS Arquitectos blends antique tiles with affordable plywood in superb ways. Left in its natural state in some areas of the home and stained or painted in others, the humble material lends itself to a variety of rooms and moods—like in the kitchen, where walls and cabinets were stained in a cool moss green.

If Mint Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor

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Photography by Jef Jacobs | Design by Dries Otten

In this soft and edgy Brussels kitchen by interior architect Dries Otten, an unusual round American walnut and terrazzo island is surrounded with ultra-cool mint-hued plywood cabinets. The space is finished with white oak floors and a terrazzo backsplash to create a fresh but elevated look.

If You Love a Good IKEA Hack

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Courtesy of Reform

Kitchen brand Reform customizes IKEA kitchens in inventive ways that feel fun yet custom and high-end. In this space, mint green cabinets with round milled-in handles look fresh against a large plywood pegboard backsplash, which also serves as a base to hold several open shelves. The result gives this low-priced alternative an elevated feel.

If Tone-on-Tone Is How You Roll

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Photo by Beppe Brancato for Lissoni Associati Design and Architecture

In this blue-hued space by Lissoni Associati Architecture, plywood-stained panels and doors in tone-on-tone muted shades of navy and indigo create the perfect backdrop for a minimalist mid-century display featuring the ever-popular Hans Wegner Shell Chair (interestingly also made out of plywood). This monochrome approach would fare beautifully on kitchen cabinets or storage walls.

If You Aren’t Afraid of a Graphic Moment

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Courtesy of Hotel Henriette

In Paris’s Hotel Henriette, simple plywood walls and bookcase in the guest rooms are made 100% more interesting with deep indigo painted graphic shapes. Finished with similarly hued blue bedding and pops of citron yellow, this approach is proof that you don’t have to spend a ton on fancy wallcoverings or paint to create a fun statement wall.

If You’re All About Scandinavian Simplicity

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Photo by Markus Linderoth for Förstberg Ling

The most interesting aspect in this Swedish kitchen by Förstberg Ling is the duality between the pale untreated plywood and the dramatic black-stained cabinets (which are also made out of the humble material). To finish off the space, simple white ceramic square tiles make up the backsplash and a white kitchen pendant stands against the bold black walls.

If “Eclectic” Is Your Middle Name

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Courtesy of Drie Otten

In this bright and happy Rotterdam kitchen by Dries Otten, variety is key. Untreated plywood happily cohabits with painted cabinets and shelves in shades of poppy, marigold, rose, duck egg, and avocado. If this wasn’t eclectic enough, some cabinets are simply painted white, while others feature a delicate pegboard detail, giving this small space a peppy, colorful look.

If You Want Your Trend-Driven Impulses to Last

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Photo by Michael Vahrenwald for New Affiliates

Last but not least, this Bed–Stuy loft by NY-based design practice New Affiliates marries untreated plywood with green lacquered kitchen cabinets and bright copper pipes, creating a clean, light, and unpretentious space for its inhabitants. Open shelving in the kitchen finishes off the look with glassware and vessels in hues of green, orange, and teal that complement the green island and copper plumbing.

Discover more kitchen trends we love:
This Designer Isn’t a Fan of Upper Kitchen Cabinets—Here’s Why
Would You Let Strangers Design Your Kitchen? Emily Henderson Did
It’s Time This Forgotten Kitchen Tool Gets the Spotlight

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