According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s newly released 2024 Kitchen Trends Report, more and more homeowners are ditching their simple all-white kitchen cabinets for warm wood finishes, including walnut and white oak.
“We’ve seen a very noticeable transition from white kitchens to white oak cabinetry,” says Sarah Robertson, founder and principal of Studio Dearborn. “The pushback from white has resulted in a drive toward warmer tones in the kitchen.”
“Warm wood kitchens are instantly cozy, approachable and inviting,” agrees Kelsey McGregor, founder of Kelsey Leigh Interiors, who refers to the style as “timeless.”
But the trend doesn’t stop with natural wood cabinetry: Designers are also incorporating wood ceiling beams, installing water-resistant wood floors and opting for wood countertops.
What’s behind the kitchen trend?
On the whole, designers say they’re noticing that interior color palettes are warming up. “We’ve turned the dial warmer across the board, and that’s translated into the cabinetry and finishes in our kitchens,” says McGregor.
“People are spending more time at home so they want it to feel intimate and cozy, and natural wood can quickly transform a space that is void of personality to one of warmth and hospitality,” says Robertson.
Does that mean that all-white kitchens are on the outs? There’s no denying that white kitchens are timeless — they look clean, bright and ensure your space will feel modern for years. On the downside, some say that white kitchens can lack texture, depth and intrigue. Wood kitchens, on the other hand, are more likely to exude warmth and can be more customizable to fit various lifestyles.
“The rich, natural beauty of wood cabinets and countertops gives a complexity and character to spaces that white can’t match,” says Paul Grothouse, founder of Grothouse, a company that makes custom wood countertops.
Not only do wood cabinets look more natural and organic, but they typically appear newer for longer than painted cabinets. “Chips and scratches are inevitable with painted cabinets, and the upkeep can be more tedious,” says McGregor. “When wood is scratched, there is less contrast from wood to wood, and the imperfection is easier to mend or hide.”
What wood grains are best for kitchen cabinets?
Designers say white oak is the most popular, but medium to dark tones are also popping up in kitchens — and walnut remains a fashionable choice, according to Robertson. White oak is a durable and long-lasting material for kitchen cabinets, although Robertson notes woods such as birch and alder are a more sustainable choice, since the trees grow faster.
“We’re starting to use alder, as it stains nicely, has a nice grain pattern and it does well in both modern and traditional settings,” adds interior design architect Julee Ireland. “It has a neutral tone and doesn’t feel as heavy and dated like some of the other wood species out there.” Designer Bria Hammel says she loves using white oak for classic coastal interiors, and alder or mahogany for moody, vintage-inspired spaces.
According to Houzz research, medium wood tones are the most popular among homeowners right now, with a growing interest in light wood over the last year. “Popular photos on Houzz suggest that two of the most common options are white oak for its light, airy appearance, and walnut, which supports a richer look that, when paired with flat-panel cabinetry, works well in a mid-century modern style,” says Mitchell Parker, a senior editor at Houzz.
Associate Lifestyle Editor
Alyssa Gautieri (she/her) is the associate lifestyle editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers all things home and interior design. Prior to joining GH in 2022, she wrote for publications including ELLE Decor, Chairish, BobVila.com, Unique Homes Magazine and LODGING Magazine, in addition to crafting product copy for home brands like BrylaneHome and VIGO Industries.