Wood Finish Trends: Stains, Paints, Oils and More

Wood Finish Trends: Stains, Paints, Oils and More

The Rise and Fall of Wood Trends

I’ve got to admit, I’ve always been a sucker for a good wood finish. There’s just something about that natural grain, the depth of color, the warmth it brings to a space. But as a design consultant, I’ve also seen the tides shift when it comes to what’s “in” and what’s “out” in the world of wood.

Remember the good old days of the 90s and early 2000s, when oak cabinets were all the rage? Ah, those were the times. Nowadays, I’d say about 90% of you are ready to paint over those honey-hued relics, while the remaining 10% are holding on for dear life, refusing to let a single drop of paint near them.

And I get it, I really do. I have oak cabinets in my own home. As I’ve mentioned before, just because it’s wood doesn’t mean it’s good. The style, the finish, the surrounding elements – they all play a role in whether your wood cabinets look fresh and updated or stuck in the past.

The Gender Divide in Wood Preferences

Here’s another interesting tidbit I’ve noticed in my line of work: there’s often a bit of a gender divide when it comes to wood cabinets (or really, any wood-heavy element in the home). Based on my experience, more men tend to love keeping their wood cabinets, while many women are a bit more inclined to reach for the paint brush.

Now, I know that’s a broad generalization, and of course, there are always exceptions. But I’ve encountered this scenario enough times to know that perception really does matter when it comes to updating your home – whether it’s for your own enjoyment or for potential resale down the line.

What Makes Wood Look Dated?

So, what exactly is it that can make a wood-infused kitchen look outdated? Well, it’s often a combination of factors – from the type of wood and stain color to the surrounding finishes and overall design style.

Take a look at this kitchen, for example. The oak cabinets themselves aren’t the problem – they’re actually quite beautiful. But the slate tile backsplash, the narrow door trim, and the overall dated aesthetic of the space? That’s what’s really dragging it down. A simple swap to a soft, off-white subway tile and some paint on the trim could have made all the difference.

Finding the Right Balance

And you know, it’s not just about the cabinets themselves. If you have too much wood – be it in the cabinets, the floors, or the trim – it can actually dull the beauty of each individual element. It’s all about finding the right balance and letting each finish shine in its own way.

Take a look at this kitchen. The cabinets and the flooring are both stunning on their own, but together, they just kind of cancel each other out. It’s like they’re not playing nice with each other, you know? But in the kitchen below, the more muted stain on the cabinets and the gray-washed floors create a much softer, more harmonious look.

Mismatched Wood Finishes: A Recipe for Disaster

And speaking of harmony, nothing murders a perfectly good wood cabinet or floor like a mismatched wood partner. I’ve seen it time and time again – homeowners focus solely on updating their floors without considering how it will interact with their existing cabinets. The result? A visual train wreck that devalues the whole space.

Just take a look at this kitchen. The gray-washed floors and the orange-y oak cabinets are like oil and water – they just don’t play nice together. And while the plan was to paint the cabinets to coordinate with the new flooring, this is a prime example of the kind of mismatch I see all the time.

The Art of Blending Wood Tones

But it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to wood finishes. In fact, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some truly stunning wood-centric kitchens that have absolutely nailed the balance.

Take a look at this beauty. The quartersawn oak cabinets in a medium, warm stain perfectly complement the natural hickory floors. And the simple, neutral dining furniture? Chef’s kiss. It’s a masterclass in letting the wood elements work together in harmony.

Navigating the Stain vs. Paint Debate

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, Kylie, so how do I know if I should stain or paint my cabinets?” Well, my friends, that’s a loaded question. It really depends on the condition and style of your cabinets, as well as your personal preferences and the overall aesthetic you’re going for.

If your cabinets are in great shape and you love the natural wood look, staining might be the way to go. But if they’re in need of some serious TLC or the style just isn’t doing it for you, a fresh coat of paint could be the game-changer you’re looking for.

And let’s not forget about the ever-popular “paint the lower cabinets, stain the uppers” approach. It’s a great way to add some visual interest and keep that warm, wood vibe alive in your kitchen.

The Pros and Cons of Staining vs. Painting

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the stain vs. paint debate, shall we? Here are a few key factors to consider:


– Preserves the natural beauty and grain of the wood
– Can be a more budget-friendly option (depending on the condition of your cabinets)
– Provides a warm, cozy feel to the space

– Can be labor-intensive and expensive if you don’t DIY
– May not be enough to update a truly dated cabinet style
– Requires regular maintenance to keep the finish looking its best


– Instantly brightens and modernizes the space
– Offers more flexibility in terms of color and style
– Requires less maintenance than staining

– Can be a more expensive and labor-intensive project
– Doesn’t showcase the natural beauty of the wood
– May not be the best choice for certain cabinet styles (like arched or curved doors)

At the end of the day, the decision to stain or paint your cabinets really comes down to your personal preferences, the condition of your cabinets, and the overall aesthetic you’re going for. But no matter which route you choose, just make sure it’s the right fit for you, your home, and your budget.

Bringing it All Together

Phew, that’s a lot of information to take in, I know. But the truth is, when it comes to wood finishes, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between style, function, and your own personal taste.

So, whether you’re team stain or team paint, my advice is to take the time to really assess your cabinets, your space, and your goals. And if you’re ever feeling stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional designer or color consultant for a little extra guidance.

After all, your kitchen is the heart of your home – it deserves to look and feel its absolute best. And with the right wood finish, I have no doubt you can create a space that’s not only beautiful, but truly reflects your unique style.

Now, who’s ready to get their DIY on and transform their kitchen with some fresh new wood finishes? The team at Timber Building is standing by, ready to help you every step of the way. Let’s do this!


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