Ah, oak cabinets! When one speaks of oak cabinets it can often bring up fond memories of parents or grandparents kitchens, all golden and mellowed, with exposed hinges, cathedral arches, and a certain tackiness to the surface around the knobs and pulls. They certainly had their share of the design trend that was prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s, and many builders used oak as the standard as housing communities started to develop in suburbia, USA. I have spent many of my 25+ years designing kitchens for clients, and there was once a time when I would inwardly groan and roll my eyes at a customer requesting Oak cabinets. It seemed many home owners, especially if they lived outside the city limits, thought oak was the only option for them, given the fact that everything in the house was trimmed with it. Even while cabinet trends moved to Cherry, then natural Maple, and now white, some homeowners still think it is the benchmark of wood when it comes to a great cabinet species.
Lately though, Oak has had a recent reawakening, and I have a new appreciation for how it looks in today’s design trends. Many designers are using this classic wood species for cabinetry, but they have updated the overall look and feel by using darker, warm finishes as well as cool, grey tones, and different cuts of oak like straight grain or quarter sawn. With its prominent graining, specialty finishes such as Patina or our weathered process, and even (gasp!) paint display well on oak and add visual textures to a room when combined with other finishes. Oak it starting to regain the respect that it once had and I am welcoming its resurgence back into kitchen design.
Oak comes in different cuts that affect how the graining will look on the surface. Typically you will see Plain Sawn, Quarter Sawn or Rift sawn when it comes to case goods like cabinetry. Each one is cut from a full log at a different angle, which allows for graining to be more open and prominent, or closed and fine. Here at Dura we offer both Plain Sawn Oak and Quarter Sawn Oak.
Plain Sawn Oak is what is used in more traditional designs. It is a premium hardwood recognized for its prominent open grain pattern and texture which will vary from a tight, straight grain to a distinctive arched pattern. Color can range from light to medium brown with red hues. Occasional pin knots and mineral streak may also occur.
Quarter Sawn Oak is a premium hardwood that is admired for its distinctive grain pattern which became especially popular with Arts and Crafts furniture design. “Quarter-sawn” has a consistent, straight grain pattern with an intriguing “fleck” across the grain. The slicing method is more costly but it produces a very distinctive and desirable grain pattern. Color may range from light to medium brown with red hues.
Both cuts of wood absorb stains readily due to the large, open grain patterns; from pale browns all the way to deep espresso-like finishes. And unlike other woods, it does not get blotchy with darker finishes.
Stained cabinets have been reinvented in the last few years, with finishes that are brown in color rather than red. Greys have also been added as either a finish or an undertone to a stain. Our Manchester Panel door in Red Oak stained with Harbor shows off this trend beautifully. The brown tones are muted and the grey undertones are highlighted in the open graining indicative to Oak. Rather than shying away from this wood species, designers are using it in kitchen design as an accent, or a statement piece in a bathroom.
Quarter Sawn Oak was a key feature in the design style of the Arts & Crafts movement, which birthed Craftsman style in architecture, furniture and other decorative arts in America. The popular architectural style of Bungalow and Prairie homes used a simple 5 piece door, often inset, for kitchen cabinetry as well as built-ins throughout the home. Our Craftsman door is a timeless design that can be used in many transitional designs and a warm stain applied will lend itself to a bygone era.
While many people still want a more traditional look they are also looking for finishes that are new and fresh, mixing them with todays design elements. The below photo is a beautiful example of mixing traditional design with new finishes. The Quarter Sawn Oak cabinets in our Arcadia Door are beaded inset with slab drawer fronts. The Sesame stain offers the brown colors that designs are trending towards, but also offers a gray undertone that highlights the beauty of the oak. Clean lines mixed with open shelving and a simple island; it is a perfect blend of old and new!
Below is a transitional style bathroom with a vanity in Dura Supremes Carson door in Red Oak with our Cashew stain applied. The distinct cathedral graining of the wood is highlighted by the stain and brings in warmth and texture for a spa like feel
Let’s talk painted oak. Wait, what? Painted Oak cabinets? In my house? Yes, yes and yes! Painted oak used to be frowned upon in years past, but that line of thinking is slowly dissolving. Typically paint is reserved for smooth woods such as maple and alder, where you can get a consistent cover with no graining coming through, but painting oak adds not only color but texture to cabinetry. It is subtle, but when light reflects off the surface it shows off the distinct nuances of the grain.
This bathroom set in a rustic, mountain setting features our inset Silverton door in Oak Paint White. The color is clean and bright and the texture of the grain helps to give it visual interest. It adds to the character of the oak without having the color variations that you would see with a stained finish.
Applying specialty finishes to oak is also becoming more popular, especially since the characteristics of oak work well with them. The examples below show how oak reacts to these finishes and can really add a statement to cabinets in any room
The Oak panels with our Weathered “D” treatment add texture and dimension to the Chroma Paint White doors of this contemporary loft kitchen
Designed by Sandy Kloncz of Dura Supreme Cabinetry