8 Tips to Creating a Beautiful Kitchen Using Brown Cabinets

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

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.

1. Add warmth to a stark white kitchen 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.

2. Split the difference — use brown on either top or bottom cabinets.

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.

3. Go with the flow ... of the grain.

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.

4. Embrace updated oak.

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.

5. Keep it sleek and skip the ornate details.

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.

6. Go floor to ceiling — and beyond**.**

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.

7. Consider reclaimed wood.

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.

8. Keep your kitchen current by using complementary materials.

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

View Work