Which Wood Is Right for Your Kitchen Cabinets

February 3, 2021

Planning a new kitchen, whether new construction or a remodel, can be exciting. As the heart of most homes, we ask a lot of our kitchens, so when it’s time to design one from the ground up, it’s important to consider everything.

The primary design element in any kitchen is the cabinetry. The right kitchen cabinets set the design tone for the room, while also providing the function you need. Using wood for cabinet fabrication gives you the longest-lasting, most versatile options, but how can you decide the best wood choice for your cabinets? Like most projects of this size, doing your homework and working with knowledgeable professionals will get you the best results. 

How to Choose a Wood Type

Start with the tone and style of your new kitchen. Many designers will ask you to identify an item or photo that inspires your overall look. Knowing the overall feel of the finished room will help you begin to narrow down your choices. A rustic, farmhouse look will differ greatly from a contemporary, sleek design, and your cabinet and wood choices will also adjust accordingly. 

The most basic choice is to consider whether your cabinets will be finished with paint, stain, or display a more natural look. For painted cabinets, you won’t have to consider things like the tone and natural color of the wood, or any grain patterns. For painted cabinets, you’ll want to work with your cabinet maker to choose a strong but affordable material, like pine or maple.


Pine is a softer wood but is a good choice for custom styles that might need distressing to achieve an aged look. Maple is also an affordable choice that, when stained thoughtfully, can mimic other types for less money. Whether stained or left natural, the grain of maple is an attractive choice for a design with a lighter feel. 


Birch is another economical option to consider. Like maple, it receives stain well and can mimic other woods with the use of the proper stain color. Birch also has a less distinctive grain pattern, which can be preferable for a sleeker, more minimalistic design style.


If you want a natural finish, you may want to consider the types of grains and colors available that will complement your overall design. For example, cherry wood is known for its rich shades of reds, pinks, and browns that mellow, deepen, and become even more beautiful with exposure to natural light. Depending on the cabinet style, cherry can work in a variety of design styles, from French country to modern.

cherry wood finish


Oak is another choice that provides a variety of looks to fit many design styles. Oak is available in both red and white varieties, each with their own benefits. Red oak’s more pronounced grain pattern and ability to take different stains will give your design aesthetic even more latitude to find a shade that is perfect for your kitchen. White oak has a tighter grain and was widely used during the Arts and Crafts movement and in Mission furniture. Its versatility extends to how it is cut, with quarter-sawn oak offering an especially period look. With its tight grains and interesting patterns, red and white oak are both strong choices that adapt well to many colors of stain, while also looking great when left natural.


Alder is a lesser-used wood, depending on the area of the country you are in. Clear Alder is a less expensive, softer wood choice that presents a more uniform grain pattern. Its ability to react well to distressing makes it a good choice for traditional cabinets or vintage-inspired designs. Knotty alder, as the name implies, has knots and other noticeable characteristics in its grain, which make it an appropriate choice for more rustic kitchen designs. 

Design Your Dream Kitchen

Some wood choices will cost more because their unique characteristics make them highly desirable for the right kitchen designs. Hickory is one of the strongest woods used in kitchen cabinetry. Its unique pattern of contrasting light and dark grains in the same pieces can be further enhanced by stains and result in distinctive cabinetry for a custom, one-of-a-kind look. 

When your dream kitchen has been realized, you will be glad that you invested additional time and energy into finding the perfect wood and cabinet style. Finding the ideal look may require the consideration of working with a custom cabinetry designer to bring out the very best in the wood you choose and the cabinet style that brings your inspiration to life.

Categorised in: ,