How-To Choose the Right Wood Species for your Kitchen Style

Wood cabinets are appealing because of their distinct and unique character. Some prefer the predictability of engineered materials like thermofoil and laminate but if you want a natural look, nothing compares to the beautiful colour variations and grain patterns found in real wood. Choosing the right wood species for your cabinetry largely depends on your personal style preferences and budget.

1Maple

Choose Maple if:

You like the combination of low-to-moderate pricing and versatility to fit any style.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Maple is a hard wood which ranges from nearly white to cream coloured and has a fine, smooth textured grain.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
One of the most popular wood choices because it can be used in traditional, transitional and contemporary styles depending on door style and finish selections.

Price

LowHigh
Low to moderate depending on door style.

2Walnut

Choose Walnut if:

You love high colour variation with a warm look that can range from traditional to ultra-contemporary depending on surrounding design elements.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Walnut is a hard wood with significant grain and colour variation.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
Perfect for classic, mid-century modern styles but versatile enough for ultra-contemporary (when paired with white cabinets) and traditional (when paired with more ornate, furniture-like elements).

Price

LowHigh
High to very high depending on door style.

3Rift Oak

Choose Rift Oak if:

You want an unique wood with a very linear grain that can be used with a horizontal or vertical application.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Rift Oak is a hard wood with many tightly-spaced grains that are fairly straight.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
Popular choice for overall contemporary styles and accents.

Price

LowHigh
High to very high depending on door style.

4Clear Alder

Choose Clear Alder if:

You want an aged or distressed look or a less expensive alternative to Cherry.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Clear Alder is light tan to reddish brown with a moderately fine, uniform grain. Similar in appearance to Cherry but much softer which is useful when producing distressed and antiqued finishes.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
Like Knotty Alder, Clear Alder is a go-to choice for accomplishing a farm house chic look. The popularity of Clear Alder increases with the popularity of Cherry because it is sometimes used as a lower cost alternative.

Price

LowHigh
Low to moderate depending on door style.

5Cherry

Choose Cherry if:

You prefer a rich, traditional style.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Moderate hardness and grain with occasional small pin knots and pitch marks. Cherry lends itself to reddish stains and is associated with a rich look.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
Not as popular as it was in the previous decade but still a go-to choice for those few who prefer a darker, more traditional look.

Price

LowHigh
Moderate to high depending on door style.

6Knotty Alder

Choose Knotty Alder if:

You’re designing a rustic kitchen and like the character of nicks and dents accumulated with use.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Soft wood with many knots and imperfections; an alternative to Knotty Pine.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
We don’t see many people choosing Knotty Alder for everyday kitchens but it remains a favorite for kitchens in rustic cabins and mountain getaways.

Price

LowHigh
Low depending on door style.

7Oak

Choose Oak if:

You prefer a more traditional look which might be considered an older style by contemporary standards or are trying to match the look of older cabinetry.

Characteristics

SoftHard
Oak is a hard wood which is light to medium brown in colour and has a coarse, uneven grain.

Style Trend

UnpopularPopular
Not many people select Oak cabinetry because it is associated with an older style.

Price

LowHigh
Low depending on door style.

 

Other Tips

Keep in mind that each wood species’ colours and grain patterns are affected by the environment in which they’re grown. These naturally occurring features in wood make it impossible to guarantee that all pieces of wood within a kitchen will perfectly match in grain pattern and colour. This organic variety is what makes natural wood products so appealing.

The finishing process enhances and protects the wood’s natural beauty, highlight the inherent qualities of genuine wood to create an appealing and functional product. Each wood species used has its own unique characteristics, and some species and colour combinations will further accentuate the natural wood colour and grain variations. Shadings of white, black and even green may be visible after the finishing process. In addition, grain texture and mineral composition in individual pieces of wood may also range from even and consistent to varied and dramatic. All of these factors combine to create the distinctive beauty that makes genuine wood cabinetry so desirable.

Ultraviolet inhibitors in the finishes slow down the effects of aging from sunlight and fluorescent lighting; however, long term exposure to these light sources will ultimately darken any wood. The effects of this aging are seen more quickly on Cherry, Alder, and Maple but will also occur on Oak.

Ask your designer to show you samples of your preferred wood species to demonstrate how other factors like finish and light exposure will impact the look of your cabinets. Stop by our showroom or schedule a personal design consultation with one of our professional designers to learn more.

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