Article Line Long1
Design

FARMHOUSE Check-In – A “What We Chose” Edition: Stained Wood Or Painted Cabinets…

I can design a mediocre room pretty fast. But to design a great room, one that meets our practical needs, works with the architectural intent of the home but feels like “me” – until I die – is far more laborious. And I honestly love (almost) every second of it. I wish I could be more cavalier about each decision, throw them out willy nilly, but I can’t. And regardless of the choice, I will wish I had done some things differently. I obsess about each macro and the micro choice when it’s my house, even while not following all of my own formulas, and intentionally breaking some “rules”. But this can only be done with a certain level of obsessive planning and painstaking attention to what we want for this home. What sacrifices in the name of style will we make? What practicalities will we forego in order to have it represent our personalities? The pitfalls of being so obsessive are that once you change one thing, it’s a full domino effect. I don’t know if I’ll ever do client work again, but if I do I’ll likely feel so guilty about the time that I put into each decision – because folks, IT ADDS UP. So today we are discussing our choice between painted or stained wood kitchen cabinetry. Let us remind you where we started:

This lady. Knowing that we really loved vintage we found this soulful piece of furniture to use as the island. It’s red oak (!!) and absolutely stunning. Brian and I both said “yes to that dress” immediately upon viewing and haven’t had an ounce of regret since. We forewent practicality of “cabinetry” for functioning but old drawers and we feel pretty darn great about it (mostly because we have a large pantry for storage and we have way less stuff than we used to and want to keep it that way). But having this red oak piece made the decision to do the rest of the kitchen cabinets in natural wood even harder, prompting me to write the post about “can you have too much wood in your kitchen?

Our answer is apparently NO, you can’t have too much wood. But to recap I’ll remind you of the pros and cons of paint versus stained cabinetry:

  1. Painted cabinets can chip, revealing the primer or wood underneath. Many manufacturers or cabinet makers say that theirs don’t (and it has so much to do with the painting formula and techniques). But if a drawer hits another drawer when open (in corners), if you slam vacuums against the toe kick, or if you are just super rough in your kitchen (me), etc – it will chip or ding. Nothing you can’t touch up, of course. Stained wood (especially if it’s naturally stained) will not chip – it can still get dinged but it’s hardly noticeable.
  2. Painted cabinets can be more fun and colorful. You have a billion options in both color and finish (flat, semi, high gloss). You can go dark and moody, light and airy, or bold and bright. You can choose colors that represent you, stylistically and those colors can wildly change and dictate the look and vibe of the space.
  3. Stained cabinets are more expensive (for nice wood). And cheap wood will date your house (eventually) but that’s because cheap anything will date your house (especially if the craftmanship is cheap, too). So you want to pay attention to the quality of the wood (veneer clad or 100% wood), and love the grain pattern (because the grain will be the “pattern”). While you absolutely can stain a cheap wood to look darker, never once in my life have I thought that doug fir stained with a walnut stain actually looks like walnut. People will argue with me on this, they’ll protest and say that they have made fir look like walnut, but in my experience, it just looks like darker doug fir (WHICH IS FINE).

That being said my instinct was to go with painted cabinets to offset the island, not compete with it and deal with the risk of having too much wood. Two competing woods with different undertones in one room is absolutely doable, but not without a lot of careful considerations, intentions, and willingness to risk take. Not to scare you but if you are new/nervous to design you can stick to the “one natural wood + painted wood” formula unless you are trying to work in heirloom pieces that you already have – it’s simply less risk.

design by arciform

As a reminder, the floor is ALSO white oak. I was captain of “team painted cabinetry’ thinking I’d go for a medium powder blue or a darker green or blue, etc, meanwhile, Anne and Brian were chanting “DOUBLE WOOD! FOR! PRESIDENT!”. Anne was so adamant that this house/kitchen specifically wanted wood cabinets that I started really believing her. Honestly, I prefer wood for practical purposes (no chips ever) and I LOVE wood in general, but I love color, too! And can three different woods in the same room look intentional and not too heavy?? She showed me some photos of rooms where she mixed different woods with different undertones and it just clicked into place. While I wouldn’t recommend this for all styles of homes, for this farmhouse – she was right. The kitchen wanted to be wood. Of course, once we decided on double wood then I had to change the stone and the tile I had in mind (it was white, it is no longer), but these are fun problems to have (if you have time to solve them which we did).

via unique kitchens & baths

We are working with Unique Kitchens & Baths on the kitchen cabinets so they sent me all their wood samples early on. While I’m trying to not recreate a farmhouse version of the mountain house kitchen, I also really love living in that warm minimal kitchen so maybe I am. That kitchen has gotten a LOT of wear and tear (between parties and living there full time during lockdown) and the cabinets look perfect still (they aren’t, you just can’t see the dings or scratches). We immediately gravitated towards the white oak, in a natural finish.

via unique kitchens & baths

It’s so pretty. So high quality. Just solid, pretty wood made by Mennonites (women-owned) in the US and arrives pre-assembled as boxes (in blankets – no plastic wrap!). The question became – do we do both the sink/range walls in the white oak as well as the fridge/freezer/bar wall? We went back and forth for WEEKS. We stood in the space with paint samples, we changed it over and over in the renderings. The debate was between keeping them all white oak, or doing the fridge/freezer/bar in a light neutral white-ish tone (to disappear into the wall/ceiling. In the renderings, the white all of a sudden popped out too much and called more attention to it. So after so much back and forth we decided to be safe and have it in white oak which is more expensive. However, if we end up wishing they were white then it’s paintable, whereas getting it already studio painted and wishing it were different would be way harder to change. I’m not sure we made the right decision, but it’s the one we made as of now 🙂

So that’s where we are at – a calm, warm, kitchen full of multiple tones of wood… Up next I’ll show you the tile, the stone, the hood design (not done yet), the ceiling treatment, and the controversial hardware decision (spoiler – Brian chose it and I’m not convinced it’s what we should do but no holes are drilled yet). It’s all coming together, folks 🙂

Opening Image Credits: Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Right From: Mountain House Kitchen Reveal | Left From: Styling to Sell: How We Staged Our Dining Room and Kitchen

0 0 votes
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

45 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Elle
2 months ago

So glad you’re going with wood! I’ve seen so many smoky blue or green kitchens that if you’d gone down that route it would have seemed really safe/not exciting, though I’m sure it would have been a lovely example of a blue kitchen. I remember you writing that you feel pressure to do the new thing to create content – that’s also known as pushing the envelope and trying to be ahead of the curve – and having to use your imagination because it’s not easy to find examples, which all adds up to creating something amazing and distinctive! I am here for the reimagining of the 80s/90s full-wood kitchen for the modern day!

Bo
2 months ago

That is one gorgeous piece of furniture. However for us non-designers blending woods is tricky. And I’ve noticed men always opt for wood and more wood and even more wood. One aspect of woood that few talk about is its tendency to go darker over the years. Personally, I like a mixture.

Kristi
2 months ago

I think mixing woods is grad level design work;) Plz teach us. I will never do painted cupboards again. Ever!.. due to chips, etc, such a frustration. I’m tired too of the perfect kitchen with a mixture. Sometimes they remind me of a man who is too good looking, so much so that he is less good looking. Give me something with soul over perfection every day of the week!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago

Wood = soul, earth and creates a deep “Aaahhhhh”, relaxed breath, exhale to come home to.
I love that you chose wood. 💗
The previous kitchen (that you graciously recycled) was gorgeous, so I know that this will be even better!
I’m. So. Excited… for each, step-by-step reveal.
I’m ready to taste each, little morsel.
So happy yo bewalked through each bit slowly, rather than jumping in all at once.

My little cottage is filled with wood, all sorts of wood.
Jarrah floors (we don’t have sub-floors here, old houses have thick, solid, wide, planks), dark stained (tudor-ish) plate rails and doors in the formal areas, antique ‘scrubbed’ golden English pine dining table (with colourfully painted beech chairs), antique teak carved entry bench, recycled pine kitchen island with a granite top, teak and antique English pine chests of drawers….it goes on. I love wood. Especially old, pre-loved wood that has history.

Wood goes with wood, goes with wood.
🤗

Vicki Williams
2 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty, do you do a blog or be on IG? Anywhere we/I could see your house? Sounds so great. Everything you have described. BTW, long time in coming but i so congratulate you and admire you and root for you in taking the steps you have taken over the last 2 (?) years to be come whole. Blessings on you!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Vicki Williams

Hi Vicki, and thank you😊
I’d love to share my ol’ girl!
She’s in he midst of gaving a few zhushs … painting, lighting changes, furniture moving, a bunch of stuff, on the cheap, coz freedom from abuse crippled me financially, but it’s worth it!
I’m even going to give the stick-on tile thingos a go in the awkward 1950 kitchen! Ha!
BIG time DIY going on here!

I’ve thought about writing a blog for yearrrrs. I didn’t know if anyone would follow or be interested in what I have to share, but so many times, people here and on a couple of other blogs, ask, so maaaaybe I should re-think it?! 😏

If Emily is ever up for it, I could share it here, maybe…?

Terra
2 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

HECK FREAKING YES, RUSTY!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Terra

🤣🤣

Sara M
2 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

What terra said. I’d tune in immediately, Rusty. You are going for it in all avenues of your life and your passionate, real and have a boatload of gumption. And you’re an excellent writer. Yes, please!

Sara M
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara M

*you’re*

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Sara M

😊

Vera
2 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

YES share here Rusty!!!! I don’t follow a lot of content so here would be perfect, we’re all here anyway!!! I loved your feel good makeover and hope to see more from you!

Melanie
2 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I will add my request in too 😊 please share your old house with us, the old wood in any way, shape, or form feeds my soul.

Arlene
2 months ago

I moved into a condo with a brand new kitchen – with beautiful painted cabinets. While I love how they look, the “dings” drive me crazy. It is virtually impossible to not “ding” them if you use your kitchen heavily (hello pandemic). I am super-careful to the point of obsession, but it still happens. Once every few months, my husband walks around touching them up with a dot of paint, but I still know they are there lol.

Kelly
2 months ago

Your wood choices are beautiful and it will be so refreshing to see a red oak kitchen. Maybe it’s just the photo, but the island furniture piece doesn’t appear to have enough grain to be red oak. It appears to be fir which could affect the staining. But again, I only have a photo to go by.

I love wood kitchens, so I’m glad you’re doing that! Wood is just so warm and homey feeling, which is how I think a kitchen should feel, IMO. And that feeling in a home is always just timeless. Looooooove the furniture piece you’re using for the island ♥️

2 months ago

thanks, That is one gorgeous piece of furniture.

Sheila
2 months ago

Great discussion of your decision process but I’d love to see a photo showing the 3 wood tones you settled on: island, floor, cabinet.

Erin
2 months ago

More wood please! I love deVol’s color-stained wood cabinets, the natural/sandy color tinted stain is my new favorite and works so well with other woods, painted or color-stained cabinets, just another detail to love about wood. My mom always told me that we sort of reinvent ourselves every 5-10 years so don’t spend so much time agonizing over your choices, you will certainly want to change some things eventually. If decisions have to be made that you are unsure of, take yourself straight to the RE-store and buy secondhand knowing you can swap it out later when the right item finds you. The EHD ethos, as I interpret anyway, has always been that it isn’t the “perfect” spaces that are desired, it is the warmth, the funk, the collectedness that tells part of the story of the home dweller (and makers) that you are looking to achieve and you gonna do just fine there, Love!

L
2 months ago

Dying to see what an EHD all-wood kitchen looks like! I absolutely love the warmth of wood and can’t wait to see what you do. That said, my personal experience with painted cabinets has been positive. We had ours painted about 7 years ago (white uppers, blue/grey lowers) and they have held up really well. Some wearing by the pulls, yes… but the only chips or dings are on the kickboard, and TBH it’s not even bad enough that I’ve felt the need to touch it up. Did we just get lucky and our contractor/painter did it the right way?? I promise you we are NOT precious with anything in our home (we have two young kids).

Deb
2 months ago
Reply to  L

I am so glad you said this. I have painted cabinets in two kitchens and four baths and none f them ever had a problem with chipping etc. I think it could be the paint that some people use and the application.

Valeri
2 months ago
Reply to  Deb

Same here- never had paint chip on a cabinet and I’ve had a lot of painted kitchens. Has to be the technique or lack of primer.

Jessie
2 months ago

Have you thought about refinishing your island piece? It would allow you to take out some of the red/orange tones, which would make the mixing of wood tones easier. Or you could use a color stain, which is a much more durable and easy to live with option than paint. I can’t wait to see your wood cabinets. They will be gorgeous.

Vicki Williams
2 months ago
Reply to  Jessie

Oh no no IMO it is perfect just as it is!

hickenack
2 months ago
Reply to  Vicki Williams

I’m with you! It is PER. FECT.

Christa
2 months ago
Reply to  Jessie

Stained wood works better than paint. I’m surprised more people don’t consider it.

Jessica
2 months ago

Speaking of the tile choices, awhile back in another post you mentioned preparing another post about making penny and hex tile special. Is that something we’ll see anytime soon, or did I miss it? Currently looking for inspo for a bathroom and STRUGGLING.

ali
2 months ago
Reply to  Jessica

I second this. Hoping for bathroom inspiration less modern than the Mountain House, which I love, but doesn’t translate to my pending reno.

Martha Moore
2 months ago

I’m in the “more wood” camp! We live in an old log cabin with wood walls, ceiling, and floors, and it’s so pretty (and mismatched). We’re fortunate to get enough natural light to keep it from feeling gloomy–only cozy! When we lived in LA, we had a mahogany-paneled living room. I loved it. 🙂
I’m sure you’ll put together a gorgeous, warm room.

2 months ago

While I love the look of painted cabinets, I worry that the cons outway the pluses.

2 months ago

I think in this setting the wood will be perfect, I probably would have gone with painted, but you know we currently have painted and the chips are a headache for sure!

Christa
2 months ago

I can’t wait to see it all! Wood is always beautiful. My first house \had redwood walls throughout. Mahogany kitchen cabinets, hallway cupboards and wardrobes, red oak floors, vaulted ceilings clad with douglas fir, and fir beams. There was no drywall in the house. No paint except for the ground floor ceilings. It was busy, especially with some green shag carpeting and mirror kitchen backsplash! My solution was to give all the woods a matte finish. The floors and mahogany cabinets were left natural, and I painted the toe kicks (kitchen and hall cabinets) black. The walls were stained taupe to back down the red undertones while still showing the beautiful grain and texture. I found it worked best to limit my furniture/decor palette and emphasize textures and matte finishes. Think of trees and plants in the mountains, there are lots of wood tones in harmony.

2 months ago

Thanks for sharing your thought process as you went about deciding on painted or wood cabinets. I went through a similar decision and decided on painted cabinets. I had a local retailer do an amazing job! But I love how your kitchen turned out. It fit the vibe so well!

Suzanne
2 months ago

I’m wondering what wood was used on the cabinetry in the kitchen photo from Arciform (Jacob H. Cook House). I couldn’t find it on the Arciform website.

Lauren
2 months ago

Love your choices! But what made me want to comment was the line “ We forewent … “ I’m sure you’re right in the grammar dept. but my husband has taken to saying “foregew” — as in the past tense of forego and it makes me lol every time. The little joyful things are what makes this life special.

Diane Mulligan
2 months ago

As a Kitchen Designer with a custom design and cabinet manufacturer in Florida I was interested to browse the website of the company you have chosen to work with purely out of interest. I was also interested to read up on their process as we are currently revising our own process due to market changes and so many factors. I’ve been with the same company for over 20 years now so I’ve seen a lot of market activity and changes I was shocked at how much responsibility this company puts on you as the Homeowner to provide and be responsible for and also that every edit costs $150. I am fortunate to work with clients at the very top end of luxury……clients who might spend more on cabinetry than the average person spends on a home or a car but it is my job to make sure that every detail works correctly. This cannot be simply done via one or two phone calls and a floor plan. Details such as ………are they accommodating the right reveal at the top of your end wainscote panel for an electrical outlet on an island to meet code for instance. There are SO MANY… Read more »

Amanda
2 months ago

I’m so excited for this kitchen! As a person with no design experience, I’ve always done wood + painted wood to avoid a clashy situation. I would LOVE a post on mixing wood tones, especially mixing wood furniture in a home with wood floors, trim, etc. Because I love the warmth that wood brings, but worry about things becoming too dark and 70s.

Sally
2 months ago

Please tread carefully on the multiple wood surfaces. I fear you may feel like you are living inside a cardboard box.

L
2 months ago
Reply to  Sally

I would fear this for myself but never for Emily… with all the natural light and beautiful finishes she’s going to bring into this house, there’s absolutely no way it won’t be stunning!

Amanda
2 months ago

We did white oak in our kitchen reno a couple years ago and ADORE it. So warm, inviting, calm, sturdy, hides dirt but cleans up well! Shines but compliments the other finishes well. I did a dark wood table and it contrasts fine!

Sara M
2 months ago

I love how intentional and deliberate you’re being, Em. I can’t handle another speedy reno (not from you but in mags, other outlets etc) and definitely have design whiplash from the breakneck pace. I love love seeing the inside nitty gritty details of what a renovation actually takes. And this kitchen has such soul already! It’s going to be stunning.

Mariele
2 months ago

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no real “trick” to mixing wood. Wood on wood on wood looks good! So I’m loving this choice.

Roberta Davis
2 months ago

Sounds wonderful! I love white oak and these examples you show.

Kate
2 months ago

Unique Kitchens & Baths looks great, and I’m so curious about whether/why one would choose a custom option like this (so far away) versus finding a local cabinet maker that could make what one wants? I’m sure there are good reasons, I just don’t know what they are and would like to be more informed for our upcoming kitchen reno!

Min
2 months ago

I painted my wood cabinets bc the wood on wood floors was too much but the chips and dings are driving me crazy! Is there a good method to remove the paint?

Go To Top