Your Kitchen: Mix Wood and Painted Finishes

Mixing different types of natural wood in a home is a tough business. At the very thought, my mind conjures up images of ’70s kitchens, log cabins and ski lodges. I love natural wood, I just need a bit of contrast in my life. That’s why I gravitate toward spaces that mix painted finishes with natural woods. In kitchen remodeling, where a lot of the time everything is brand new, I like to mix it up a bit to give the space a more layered and collected feel. Here are 9 successful strategies to try:

traditional kitchen by Venegas and Company

by Venegas and Company »
Use blocks of color. This is the most classic way of mixing finishes. The perimeter cabinets are one color and the island is another color. The unexpected in this kitchen is the freestanding tall cabinet. Staining it an entirely different tone than the island or the floors makes it feel like it was a found piece even though it could have been built by the cabinetmaker at the same time as all the other cabinets. It’s common in kitchen remodels for everything to be brand-spanking new. Mixing finishes helps to tone down the “newness” of it all and give the space a more collected-over-time feel.

contemporary kitchen by Tim Cuppett Architects

by Tim Cuppett Architects »
Resist the urge to match. An another wonderful aspect of the previous picture is that the tall furniture style piece doesn’t “match” anything — not the floors nor the island. This helps to create a layered and collected feel to the space. Ditto for this kitchen, where neither the island now butcherblock counter really match anything else, yet it all works together. If the tall glass front cabinet wall had been stained wood, it this kitchen would fall flat for lack of contrast.

Tip: When mixing natural wood tones it’s important to consider their base colors — warm tones vs. cool tones. The ashy-golden tones of the island and floors work well with the darker stained wood cabinetry because that cabinetry has a complementary undertone. Both are warm without being orange-y. If there were more orange tones in either, it would get a bit muddy and lack contrast or simply clash and not be appealing to the eye.


Consider your wood flooring. Many times people buy natural wood finishes in all their furniture, forgetting about how much wood there already is in the floors. If the floor in this kitchen had been stained a dark, matching brown tone, all those beautiful cabinets and countertops would get lost against it. The golden tone of the floor serves to create contrast and adds a third color layer. This kitchen also throws an unexpected curve: The sink base cabinets become their own element, painted white in a run of dark stained cabinetry.

traditional kitchen by Venegas and Company

by Venegas and Company »
Add one token wood piece. If your kitchen doesn’t have wood floors, you may find yourself needing to add a bit of natural wood tone to keep it from feeling cold. This wonderful freestanding dish cabinet could have been found on a lucky antiquing trip or built by the cabinetmaker to look as if it were.

contemporary kitchen by knowles ps

by knowles ps »
Let natural breaks such as doors become a transition for a new finish or color. Take advantage of that door to the mudroom or laundry room that splits up your kitchen walls. Paint one wall a completely different color altogether. I love how the range wall in this kitchen has two-tone cabinet doors, while the island and floors are natural wood, but still not perfectly matched. The wall of tall cabinets being painted a blue-gray is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

traditional kitchen by Frederick + Frederick Architects

by Frederick + Frederick Architects »
Use your stained wood casing as a jumping off point. My personal preference is to never put stained wood cabinets adjacent to stained wood casing. The contrast that a painted wood cabinet offers just can’t be beat. I’m not a fan of the cabinets-matching-the-trim sort of thing. For whatever reason, that’s just one of my quirks. I love the layered vintage look of the sage greens, chocolate browns and natural wood casing in this kitchen. The wood floors tie back to the window and door casing and complete the circle for me.

traditional kitchen by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab

by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab »
This home’s existing window and door casing was such a showstopper that we couldn’t help but have it milled to match in the kitchen. Occasionally in older homes you’ll see the casing in the kitchen and bathrooms painted white, and this often solves many dilemmas when picking finishes, but in this home it just wasn’t an option. There are so many windows in the kitchen and no wall cabinets on the window wall that the wood casing is almost a surrogate for wood cabinets. Again, the casing ties back to the flooring, completing the circle.

traditional kitchen by Abbeyk, Inc.

by Abbeyk, Inc. »
Use your white painted casing as a jumping off point. In some homes there’s just a tone of white painted casing, woodwork, beadboard, and other architectural elements. It really helps to give some relief to all that white by adding a splash of color here and there. This soft gray-sage kitchen desk is a great example. And see how the white baseboard transitions across the bottom to tie it in with the rest of the space.

contemporary dining room by Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs

by Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs »
As above … not so below. I went through a tarot card phase in high school and we had a humorous deck that had unconventional sayings on them. One was “as above, so below” and I always loved that one. Well, throw out that advice in the kitchen. Mix it up — do your wall cabinets a completely different color or stained natural wood, versus painted. The tough part is deciding what finish to pick for your adjacent tall cabinets!

contemporary kitchen by Divine Kitchens LLC

by Divine Kitchens LLC »
Here’s a more modern implementation of the same idea shown in the previous photo. The wall cabinets and tall cabinets are all natural wood, whereas the base cabinets are stained. Most often you’ll see the darker color on the base cabinets because it grounds the space. But as you saw in the previous photo, it works the other way too!

modern kitchen by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab

by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab »
Intersperse painted and stained throughout. If the color blocking approach isn’t doing it for you, and the contrasting wall/base cabinet approach isn’t doing it for you either, mixing it up throughout might be a good option. Typically this approach is better suited to modern kitchens. In fact, these kitchens were inspired by mid-century modern furniture pieces. Splashes of natural wood doors are mixed in with a white kitchen, but as you’ll notice, all the frames are white to keep the continuity.

modern kitchen by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab

by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab »
In this kitchen, rather than doing a different door finish, stained wood panels and fillers throughout the white cabinetry perimeter wall tie back to the island color. For homeowners afraid of an all-white or all-wood kitchen, this is a terrific compromise.
Original Article from Houzz:


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