Return of the Natural Wood Kitchen Cabinets

For the last twenty years, painted kitchen cabinets have been the preferred kitchen cabinet option. White cabinets in particular shaker cabinets have been the most popular kitchen cabinet for the last good while. In recent years, stained wood cabinetry has made a comeback in a big way. The new wood cabinets aren’t the same honey oak ones we remember from the 90s. The newer style of wood kitchen cabinets is organic, modern, and beautiful in a way that has me seriously thrilled to see more and more kitchens shed the painted cabinets. That’s not to say that natural wood kitchen cabinets are for everyone but if it’s something that you are thinking about, there are some major pros. Let’s take a deep dive into natural wood kitchen cabinets and the case for using them in a modern kitchen.

Painted cabinets are still a favorite to homeowners because paint is so customizable. You can completely change the look of your kitchen simply by changing the cabinetry paint color. You can have your cabinets painted any color in the rainbow for a bold pop of color. Wood kitchen cabinets, while not as colorful, are also customizable with different woods and stains.

I think Shea McGee said it perfectly, “While we love painted cabinets, there’s something about untouched materials that feels timeless, natural, and slightly undone.”

Beyond the beautiful look of natural wood kitchen cabinets, there are some long-term benefits to them as well.

Benefits of Wood Kitchen Cabinets 


Natural wood kitchen cabinets have a longer lifespan (around 30 years) than painted cabinets (just over 10 years).


You can stain wood cabinets in any color you want to create the perfect look for your home. Whether you want a classic look or something more modern, wood cabinets can be customized to fit your needs.

Ease of Maintenance

Wood cabinetry is much easier to maintain than painted cabinets; moreover, the cleaning process won’t shorten the lifespan of wood as it does paint. Wood cabinets don’t scratch and are not susceptible to chips and dings like painted cabinets are.

Huge Range of Variety

Wood cabinets can be stained or painted to your desired design aesthetic.

Types of natural wood kitchen cabinets

For many years pine and oak were the most popular species for wood cabinetry. In modern kitchens, wood cabinetry uses a variety of species. Some popular species of wood for kitchen cabinetry include: maple hardwood, walnut, pine, red oak, birch, and my favorite, white oak. Additional types of wood used for kitchen cabinetry include:

  • Hickory
  • Cherry
  • Ash
  • Pecan
  • Alder
  • Poplar

Keep in mind all of these woods can be stained to your liking so if darker cabinets are your preference you can choose dark woods with a darker stain for your custom dark wood cabinets. You can do similar to achieve light wood cabinets and medium tone wood cabinets as well.

What do Wood Kitchen Cabinets Cost?

Cost, of course, is a huge consideration when renovating a kitchen. Cabinetry is typically the largest chunk of the kitchen budget and real wood cabinets will typically be more costly than other materials like MDF. Wood in general is costly and the cost fluctuates. Also, the additional labor required in producing high-quality wood cabinetry is significant. According to Cabinets Now, solid wood cabinetry can cost anywhere from $100 to $1200 per linear foot. Labor costs for installation are on top of that and those vary from market to market. 

Although solid, natural wood kitchen cabinetry is more expensive than manufactured wood, it is also more sturdy and will last you a lot longer, making it an excellent investment in both design and longevity.

What Kind of Countertops Go With Wood Cabinets?

You might be sold on wood cabinetry already but are curious about what type of countertops you should install to go with your natural wood kitchen cabinets. If you want something as classic and timeless as wood cabinetry you can go with solid stones like a marble slab or granite. Another timeless alternative to marble countertops is the more durable manmade stone, white quartz.  

For a more modern design, try concrete or gray soapstone for a concrete look. Modern kitchens tend to be open, bright, and have clean lines. So anything to create those clean lines will work in your favor. You can also still use a timeless material such as marble but get creative by doing a waterfall edge. Additionally, to create a clean line, you can also bring your countertop material all the way to the backsplash.

What Kind of Backsplash Goes With Wood Cabinets?

If you love the idea of natural wood kitchen cabinetry but still want that pop of color, your backsplash is a perfect opportunity to bring in the color you desire. Anything goes when it comes to backsplashes. A white backsplash is probably the most popular, currently but you should consider different materials, too, like glass, stone, or even metal. Or if more traditional backsplash is on your mind check out these backsplash options.

modern natural wood kitchen cabinets
Photographer: Molly Winters
 Claire Zinnecker Design

What Kind of Flooring Goes With Natural Wood Cabinets?

When renovating, some people avoid choosing wood cabinetry because they are afraid they have to match their cabinets to their wood floors which can feel like an impossible task. This is not true. Most design experts will tell you not to match your cabinets to the flooring but instead find wood species and tones that complement each other. There are many flooring options and that’s a post for another day but flooring such as stone tile looks great with natural wood kitchen cabinets. There are some instances in which kitchen cabinets look fantastic when matched with flooring (hello white oak) and sometimes it’s too heavy. If you are getting the feeling that the cabinetry will be too heavy with wood flooring – make the switch to another flooring option.

Two Tone Wood Kitchen Cabinetry

What about the two-toned kitchen cabinetry trend? We’ve seen it with painted cabinets for a while now. White upper cabinets and another color for the lower cabinets. Or one color for the full kitchen and another for the kitchen island. We’re now seeing a combination of natural wood kitchen cabinets and painted cabinets in one space and I 100% approve. I exceptionally love a full wood kitchen cabinet situation with a painted island. It’s a nice opportunity to balance out the wood tones (especially if you are going with wood flooring) and it’s a chance to add that pop of color without bathing the kitchen in it.

Wrapping Up

Here’s the bottom line with natural wood cabinetry, if you want something different than what everyone else is doing, and have a decent budget for a kitchen design then you should go for the wood cabinetry.  It will give you an organic and timeless look that will make your kitchen stand out.

What do you think of this returning trend in modern kitchen design? Will you be swapping out your cabinets for wood? Let me know in the comments below! And if you liked this post, please share it with your friends! Thanks for reading!

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