Learn The Qualities of Natural Wood Used For Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing wood species for kitchen cabinets

Adding Warmth and Functionality To Your Home With Natural Wood Kitchen Cabinets

No surface offers the warmth and beauty of natural wood. Today, you have excellent choices from Ash to Zebrawood, and each has a distinct character. Whether your taste leans toward lighter woods like birch or ash which are perfect for staining, or dark rich woods like cherry, or hickory, natural wood can add a beautiful focal point to your kitchen. If you have the budget, exotic woods like wormy chestnut, or zebrawood can make a design statement like no other material!

One of the benefits of working with a natural material is that just like no two trees are exactly alike, the unique beauty and elegance of hardwood expresses itself in each cabinets variation of grain and color. Some hardwoods are beautiful as they are. Others, like birch or ash, lend themselves perfectly to staining or painting giving you a wide range of choices for your kitchen.

In today's modern kitchen full of stainless steel and glass, the natural warmth, texture, and durability of hardwood provides the perfect visual contrast.

Let's explore some of the natural wood choices available to today's homeowner!

The Character of Natural Wood Lies in The Imperfections!

Style starts with the grain. Heavy grain characteristics can help you to develop your style and décor. Often cabinets can be crafted to feature the grain patterns present and unique to different species. For example creating cabinet doors with a bookmarked burl pattern can create a natural motion that is stunning. While other hardwoods like birch or alder offer a tight yet neutral grain that is the perfect base for painting or glazing.

The following are some of the natural characteristics found in hardwoods. These imperfections can give your kitchen cabinets a unique look.

  • Bird Pecks are small marks in the grain patterns caused by pecking birds

  • Burl is a twisting or swirling pattern in the wood grain that does not contain a knot

  • Sound Knots are solid knot on the face of a board that shows no indication of decay

  • Unsound Knots are a circular area formed by the base of a branch or twig

  • Wormholes are holes in the wood that range in size. They provide a beautiful look in a rustic kitchen!

  • Sugar Tracks are yellowish to dark brown streaks

  • Mineral Streaks are bands of color ranging from olive to blackish brown, that follows the grain

  • Gum Streaks are mineral streaks of color in cherry wood

  • Heartwood is the mature darker wood extending for the sapwood to the pith

  • Sapwood is lighter colored wood that grows from the bark to the heartwood

These natural characteristics can give the wood a unique look that designers love. Some are shared by all species, others like gum streaks are exclusive to a single species. Now let's explore some of the choices of wood available.

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Most Popular Hardwood Species Used In Kitchen Cabinets

The wood used in kitchen cabinets has unique characteristics such as grain pattern and color that can add to their appeal. Here are some of the most popular choices for kitchen cabinets.


Cherry cabinets are defined by their rich red undertones but can vary if color from white to deep brown. Cherry has a smooth tight-grained appearance with a uniform texture and random markings. Cherry takes finishes like a stain or paint easily due to the even grain.


Oak has one of the most distinct grain patterns of all the hardwoods. It can range in color from white to almost pink with reddish overtones. Streaks of green, yellow and black often appear due to minerals present in the wood


Maple cabinets are predominantly white with occasional red-brown overtones within a cabinet door. Maples subtle grain pattern creates a uniform appearance.


Alder is characterized by its light brown color and reddish undertones. It features a straight even-textured wood grain with no boundaries between the heartwood and the sapwood.


Hickory offers a natural contrast due to the difference between the heartwood and sapwood. The color can range from almost blonde or white to red-brown and even dark brown.


Birch cabinets have a smooth surface and a tight wood grain that is sharply defined and heavy. The birch sapwood is blonde to creamy white while the heartwood can vary from dark brown to reddish brown.


Walnut features a graceful grain pattern and muted brown color. The fine grain is generally straight and ranges from dark chocolate brown to a lighter reddish-gray brown.


Pecan offers a dramatic range of grain colors due to the strong contrast between the heartwood and sapwood. It can range in color from blond or white to reddish brown and dark brown.

If your taste leans toward the exotic, many other wood species are available as veneers like zebrawood, sustainable mahogany, and others. The best option when choosing a species of wood for your kitchen cabinets is to explore your options. If you're working with a designer, have them bring you to a showroom where you can see and touch the various woods available.

Nothing looks feels and smells like quality more than natural wood. Wood exudes a sense of luxury and warmth that can't be matched by any other material. Do your research, and you're sure to find the perfect wood kitchen cabinets to meet your stylistic and aesthetic needs!

Forward Design Build is a residential design-build firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its commitment to craftsmanship and communication. We are committed to improving our neighbors quality of life with inspired design and creative remodeling. Our homes are highly functional, exquisitely beautiful, and remarkably comfortable. Contact us to speak with an expert about your new home or remodeling project.