8 Tips to Creating a Beautiful Kitchen Using Brown Cabinets

The all-white kitchen was a pretty logical answer to those dark cherry and espresso cabinets of the '90s and early 2000s, and the dated honey oak decor of the '80s. If you couldn't rip them out, you painted them white and swapped out the hardware to cope.

Still, brown wood cabinets have their place. "The way we are using wood in kitchens now hearkens back to early mid-century design," says Bay Area architect Devi Dutta.

Here with eight kitchens that prove you can still be down with brown.

The bold, wood accent wall in an otherwise stark modern kitchen in Melbourne, Australia, showcases the beautiful wood grain, and appears unified while it actually hides tons of storage. The bookcase and stools add additional warmth to all of the white minimalism.

If all-wood feels overwhelming — and it can — just do the top or bottom cabinets. It's a perfect riff on the two-tone kitchen trend, and can help an industrial kitchen from feeling too country.

Wood kitchen
credit: House & Home

A fresh way to feature a darker wood is to simply showcase the wood grain — even a variety of different grain, as seen in this kitchen. The tall pantry shelves showcase vertical grain, while the lower cabinets go horizontal.

Rene Redzepi's kitchen
credit: Style Files

Oak cabinets may still be trying to shake their bad rep — but kitchens like this one in Copenhagen help. The visible joinery and the continuous grain speak to a high level of craftsmanship.

Aside from the dark cherry palette, a hallmark of the dated '90s kitchen is the ornate carvings and details meant to look more expensive. This modern Los Angeles kitchen shows that you can keep the dark hues if you smooth out all of the edges for a sleek, modern style.

Wall-to-wall wood paneling gets a modern update in the kitchen of this California Wine Country home. There may be a lot of brown wood featured here, but the concrete floors provide a necessary counterpoint.

Reclaimed wood cabinets.
credit: Studio McGee

Reclaimed wood gives this custom built Muskoka cottage kitchen a bespoke feel, yet the wall tile and white cabinets keep things contemporary. Adding cabinets to the kitchen island is just a boss move.

The mix of the marble, the butcher block-topped island, the subway tiles, and brass all add a richness and timelessness to this modern brownstone — and keeps the brown cabinets from feeling dated.


Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert

Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers women's health, lifestyle and design.