Move Aside All-White Kitchens: This Natural Wood Look is On Your Heels

updated Mar 24, 2020
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(Image credit: Tom Scheerer)

The all-white-everything kitchen—subway tile, traditional marble and white flat-panel cabinets—is stylistically pretty inoffensive, which might be why it has proliferated in recent years. We’re not mad that glossy cherry wood or yellowed oak cabinetry have taken a back seat to this crisp, clean look, but the pot is being stirred, people, and wood is making its way back into cookspaces again. This time, though, the rules are very different and about as au naturel as it gets.

Just ask Sophie Donelson, Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful. “This is very specific, but I’m seeing more and more ‘bare wood’ kitchen cabinetry—pale or cerused wood, finished naturally, not lacquered,” says Donelson. “It combines the freshness and homey feel of the ubiquitous white painted cabinet with the warmth of exposed plank-wood shelves that have been trending hard lately.” Oh yes, yes, it does. And it’s the stuff that Pinterest dreams are made of.

Looks like we were onto this trend last year ourselves, but Donelson sees the hygge movement as fueling an even greater obsession with Nordic style and its characteristic use of unfussy woods. Let’s take a look at some examples of “bare woods” out in the wild; you just may find yourself with a bit of a new kitchen crush.

Above: This kitchen by designer Tom Scheerer encompasses to many current kitchen trends—open shelving, cement tiles, bare wood cabinetry—yet still feels timeless.

(Image credit: Aero Studios)

Marble lovers, rejoice! You can keep your gray-veined white countertops, because this stone looks amazing with the bare wood look, if this kitchen by Aero Studios is any indicator.

(Image credit: Rob Kennon)

I call this one black-and-bare. Two-toned kitchens are still going strong, but instead of the traditional tuxedo combo, how great does this natural light wood wood shelving look in this minimalist home by Rob Kennon?

(Image credit: Arch Daily)

All I can say about this kitchen by Scott & Scott Architects (via Arch Daily) is wow. I think we’re seeing a revival of plain front inset doors, and boy, am I liking it, especially in this beautiful soft finish. Is it hard to open these kind of doors without hardware? Asking for a friend.

(Image credit: Corben Architects)

Corben Architects, the firm that designed this Scandi-style space, is based in New South Wales, and it’s a beautiful hybrid of ultra modern Aussie style with a warm Nordic touch. If you thought bare wood was all about the rustic look, think again. It can also go super mod.

(Image credit: Nuevo Estilo)

The really cool thing about natural woods is that you can mix tones, and it doesn’t look like a hack job (something far harder to pull off with two shades of white…just saying). The unfinished island in this wood-on-wood kitchen featured on Nuevo Estilo totally complements the warmer cabinetry around it.

(Image credit: Avenue Lifestyle)

Unfinished wood tends to feel farmy or cabin-like, but in this context—in a kitchen by Avenue Lifestyle—it reads modern yet humble. Simple touches like delicate hardware and pendant lights mixed with a lot of welcoming white round out the look.

So would you dare to go bare? My maintenance (and wear and tear!) questions aside, I think I’m a believer in the au naturel look. And, as Donelson points out, there’s nothing easier to paint than an unfinished cabinet should you change your mind down the road!