There's no arguing: Walnut makes for beautiful kitchen cabinets. The color can range from pale brown to dark chocolate, while the grain pattern can be just as varied and presented either vertically or horizontally.
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Walnut's versatility is easily its greatest asset, making it a perfect fit for any kitchen style. Cabinets made of walnut can appear rich and elegant in a traditional kitchen or sleek and streamlined in a midcentury modern space. Add new hardware, or forgo pulls altogether, and suddenly you have an ultra-contemporary design.
The biggest downside of walnut kitchen cabinets? The price. They tend to cost more than oak or maple alternatives, but for good reason: Walnut is dense and durable, making for strong cabinets that are resistant to dents and water damage. (So you can clean them without fear of causing any problems – phew!) While they may give you sticker shock at first, with proper care, walnut cabinets will last for decades, especially since they'll never go out of style.
Scroll on for walnut kitchen cabinet ideas, as well as everything you need to know about designing with and taking care of them.
9 Walnut Kitchen Cabinet Ideas
1. Add a pop of color.
For a nod to decades past, incorporate a bright splash of color alongside walnut cabinets, like Destination Eichler did with these aquamarine barstools and coordinating tile backsplash. The mix of walnut wood with white and bright blue creates a happy space that anyone would love to congregate and cook in.
2. Embrace high contrast.
This large open kitchen designed by William Howard Studio has a simple color palette: dark walnut flooring, cabinets, and ceiling; white walls; and bright pops of orange. The wood-on-wood look provides natural drama, so the rest of the space doesn't need much else.
3. Take an unexpected yet traditional route.
If you think walnut cabinets have to veer towards a modern or retro feel, think again. This design by Bakes & Kropp is traditional with a twist, featuring pale walnut drawer fronts tucked into white cabinet bases. The rustic wood grain contrasts beautifully with stark white, especially on the marble and walnut island.
4. Think horizontally.
While walnut cabinets often have a vertical grain, which creates the illusion of height, take note of how Maydan Architects applied the opposite principle to this kitchen island. The long, horizontal grain emphasizes the length of the kitchen, which appears even sleeker when paired with black accents and white marble countertops.
5. Mix and match upper and lower cabinets.
Does the thought of all-walnut cabinets scare you — and your bank account? Baao Studio has a solution for you. Here, IKEA cabinets are paired with white Semihandmade fronts on the uppers and walnut (with an unexpected horizontal grain) on the lowers.
6. Choose dark accents for a bold design.
One of the best features of walnut is that it can take on whatever feeling you're trying to evoke depending on what you pair it with. For this sleek, polished kitchen, Pretty Smart Design Studio committed to a dark color scheme with varying textures, from the long black floor tiles to the leather barstools to the sexy globe light fixtures.
7. Save money by using walnut fronts.
A full set of walnut kitchen cabinets can be a hard bill to swallow. For her kitchen design, Annette of A Vintage Splendor used a workaround — IKEA cabinet bases with Semihandmade fronts. They look just as beautiful for a fraction of the price, and no one will ever know the difference.
8. Layer on the outstanding design elements.
As beautiful as walnut cabinets are, they're understated enough that they won't compete with other standout design elements you may want to incorporate into your space. Take this kitchen, for instance, which pairs walnut cabinets with a marble countertop, backsplash, and shelf showcasing strong veining, as well as textured paint on the wall above. Each element could be a showstopper, yet not one overpowers the others.
9. Keep it simple and spare.
Good news: If you're forking over a pretty penny for walnut cabinets, you don't have to spend much on other design elements — unless you really want to. Exhibit A: This clutter-free minimalist kitchen. The walnut cabinets are allowed to shine thanks to the pared-back scheme, complete with concrete floors, a textured art piece, and not much else.
Benefits of Walnut Cabinets
- They're durable. Since walnut is a very dense wood, it can withstand the regular wear and tear that kitchen cabinets endure. Remember it this way: dense = no dents.
- They're beautiful. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't love wood cabinets. From its fine grain to varying colors to extreme versatility, walnut wins every time.
- They're water-resistant. Compared to more porous woods like birch, walnut can withstand a fair amount of water, so you can rest assured that you won't damage or warp your cabinets with a simple wipe-down or a spill.
How to Design With Walnut Kitchen Cabinets
- For a bright, modern kitchen, pair walnut kitchen cabinets with stainless steel accents. Alternatively, if you're going for a retro vibe, add pops of color, like dusty yellow or lively teal.
- Walnut is expensive, no doubt about that, but there are ways to include it in your kitchen design without blowing your budget. For instance, you could add walnut fronts from Semihandmade to IKEA cabinet bases, or introduce touches of walnut with open shelving that incorporates the wood, rather than with a full set of cabinets.
- Wood and white are always beautiful together. Consider pairing walnut cabinets with a white quartz or marble countertop for a classic look.
- Choose your own look with vertical or horizontal grains. While upper cabinets generally have a vertical grain, creating the appearance of extra height, horizontal styles feel contemporary.
How to Care for Walnut Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are often put through the wringer with wayward spills and splatters, so one major selling point of walnut is that it's extremely easy to take care of. Keeping the wood in good shape requires little more than frequent dusting, using a dry lint rag — no cleaning product necessary.
To remove stubborn stains, simply add a bit of water to the rag, or if you need a bit more power, use a solution with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Be sure to use a soft dry cloth to wipe the cabinets clean, since water is wood's worst enemy, even if walnut is dense and mostly water-resistant.
Just a Few Things to Keep in Mind
Moral of the story? Walnut cabinets are beautiful, versatile, and timeless. They may be quite expensive, but their durability means they can last a lifetime with the proper care. If you love the look of walnut cabinets but aren't ready to purchase a full set, you can get creative by either using walnut fronts or going for walnut lower cabinets and more affordable uppers. No matter how design trends come and go, your walnut cabinets will always be in style.