Projects & Improvements

This Cheap Material Looks Surprisingly Chic in the Kitchen

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Plykea)

In the ’90s, wood in the kitchen was very big — think granite countertops and dark cherry cabinets — and, since then, the pendulum has definitely swung back in the other direction. But lately I’ve seen a lot of a certain kind of wood in the kitchen, one that’s incredibly inexpensive — and surprisingly chic.

The unexpected material in question is exposed plywood. While it’s typically associated more closely with garages than stylish kitchens, plywood can actually look surprisingly good in a modern kitchen, adding warmth and texture to a minimal space. The trick is to let the plywood take center stage, so that its warm, woody grain becomes the star of the show.

(Image credit: Livet Hemma)

Plywood and marble might seem like a fairly strange mix, since plywood is typically used for rough, informal spaces, and marble is thought to be very luxurious. But in this kitchen from Livet Hemma, the textures of the wood and the marble complement one another, and this unexpected pair comes together beautifully.

(Image credit: Plykea)

Even IKEA cabinets, topped with plywood doors and drawer fronts from Plykea, look surprisingly high end and elegant (also lead image above) —despite their humble origins.

(Image credit: Toby Scott)

I’m a big fan of subway tile (it’s cheap! it’s classic!), but one criticism of it is that in an all-white kitchen, it can feel a bit cold. This kitchen from Toby Scott (via Bodie and Fou) presents a lovely solution: pair subway tile with unfinished plywood.

(Image credit: Made Architects)

Here’s another plywood/marble combo, this time from Made Architects via Domaine Home. Here, both the grain of the plywood and the veining of the marble are less pronounced, for a subtler effect.

(Image credit: Komaan Architecture)

Even just a few plywood cabinet doors add a welcome dose of warmth to this kitchen from Komaan Architecture, via My Scandinavian Home.

(Image credit: Sustainable Kitchens)

In this design from Sustainable Kitchens, the cabinets are made from exposed birch plywood, while the countertop is clad in stainless steel. The range hood is also clad in wood.

(Image credit: SF Girl by Bay)

Different kinds of plywood result in different textures. The plywood used in this kitchen from SF Girl by Bay has a relatively subtle grain.

(Image credit: Bespoke Projects)
(Image credit: Bespoke Projects)

In this kitchen from Bespoke Projects, plywood is paired with stainless steel and a light grey engineered stone countertop, to great effect. I particularly like the detailing here: the built-in pulls, and the way the edge of the plywood is expressed.

(Image credit: Stoner Makes)

Many of these kitchens pair plywood with more luxurious materials, like marble, in order to downplay its humble associations, but this design from Stoner Makes plays up plywood’s rough, unfinished look with a rough, unfinished backsplash. It also pairs plywood with another typically humble material — laminate. Everything comes together to create a kitchen that’s warm, textured, and surprisingly elegant.