Do You Want an Oak Kitchen? Here’s Our Ultimate Guide

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A Quick Guide to Oak Kitchens

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Are you having trouble deciding if you want oak cabinets? When you think of an oak kitchen, do you think of old and outdated?

Maybe you are imagining a design that doesn’t match today’s trends. Or you are overwhelmed by all the choices of wood kitchen cabinets available.

Your kitchen project should be fun and solve your current struggles – not be an added stress! This guide will answer your hesitations and give you ideas for your space.

Do you want an oak kitchen?

Deciding if you want an oak kitchen is just one of the many decisions you make during a renovation or other kitchen project. Let’s make the choice a little easier for you with a quick checklist of things to consider:

  • Do you have existing oak hardwood floors or trim that would be easier to match than replace?
  • What style of cabinet doors do you prefer? (traditional or contemporary)?
  • Do you appreciate distinctive wood grain and texture, or a smoother style?
  • Do you prefer the look of stained wood or a painted finish? (HDF may be a better choice if you prefer paint).
  • Are you looking for your dream kitchen or are you looking for a short-term kitchen solution?

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This kitchen with a white rift oak island is anything but outdated. Contemporary-style cabinetry and neutral colors feel modern and calm.

Are Oak Kitchens Modern?

Oak becomes outdated in a kitchen when a specific combination of stain color, cabinet style, materials, and finishes, leaves the trend cycle or becomes associated with a past period of time.

We don’t believe any species of wood cabinet becomes outdated; rather, the application of the wood is what gives the kitchen a modern or traditional look.

This doesn’t mean you can’t like “outdated” styles! Many people prefer “outdated” or vintage styles.

But if you want your kitchen to look up to date, you may want to consider current trends in kitchen design.

How does oak compare to other wood cabinets?

Oak, like other wood materials used for cabinets, is durable and well-suited for a kitchen.

But oak is not the only choice out there: maple, walnut, cherry, and alder are all popular choices. There are slight differences in appearance and characteristics for each species, so let’s compare them to help you decide:

Maple vs. Oak

Maple is known for its smooth, fine grain pattern and overall colour consistency. Oak wood when compared to cherry has a more porous, intense grain pattern. But it is similar in strength and durability; however maple is slightly stronger. In appearance maple is much lighter in colour and is less warm toned. When stained the same colour, maple and oak can look very similar.

Walnut vs. Oak

Walnut wood is dark, strong, tight-grained and resilient. It resists warping well. The grain is typically straight with medium texture. Oak is slightly stronger than walnut, but both are similar in durability. 

The appearance of oak and walnut is very different. Walnut heartwood, is a dark chocolate or coffee colour and sapwood can be yellowish to creamy white. Oak heartwood is pinkish-reddish brown and sapwood is a light to medium brown with red hue.

Cherry vs. Oak

Cherry is of medium density, has a straight grain, a smooth, fine, uniform texture and warm colour tones. It produces an excellent smooth finish. Cherry can vary significantly in overall colour: from rich reddish-brown to greenish brown. Oak is slightly stronger than cherry, less likely to be dented. Many find oak to appear more “orange” in color and cherry more “red” when comparing natural tones.

Alder vs. Oak

Alder is considered a medium-density hardwood. Even though it is a hardwood it is softer than most. Alder is sometimes referred to as a semi-hardwood. Alder can be clear with no imperfections or contain knots, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Oak is significantly stronger than Alder wood. It is less warm-toned overall.

Options for Your Oak Kitchen

We have put together all the options for a stunning oak kitchen. Check out these ideas to see if oak is right for you!

  1. Plain Sawn Oak Kitchen
  2. Honey Oak Kitchen
  3. Light Oak Kitchen
  4. Rift Cut White Oak Kitchen
  5. Existing Oak Kitchen Renovation 

These oak wood stain colors from Decor Cabinets can work with transitional, coastal, or urban styles. They all allow the natural oak wood grain to show through for a touch of rustic or traditional flair.

1. Stained Oak Kitchen

Oak wood can be stained with various natural tones and earthy colors. Most people think of “honey oak” when they think of stained oak cabinetry, but more options are available!

Plain Sawn Oak Kitchen

Plain sawn oak is your traditional cut oak cabinetry. It can be stained in a variety of colors. If you would like help deciding between rift cut and plain sawn oak, here is an article where we dive into each!

oak kitchen

oak kitchen

oak kitchen

These homeowners had honey oak trim throughout their entire home. That would be a pricey update. Keeping the oak trim adds a stunning warmth to the space. This update shows you can embrace warm wood tones and achieve a modern look.

Honey Oak Kitchen

If you have a house full of honey oak trim, or you prefer the warm tones of oak, a traditional honey oak kitchen may be right up your alley. Check out these 5 ways to make honey oak look modern!

Light Oak Kitchen

Staining oak a light colour or opting for white oak can give you the light modern kitchen of your dreams. Check out how to get beautiful white oak cabinets for less here!

2. White Oak Kitchen

White oak is a different species than the familiar warm-toned honey oak (red oak) and is not to be confused with rift oak, which is a way of cutting oak. (Both red and white oak can be rift cut.)

oak kitchen

Contemporary white rift oak can look stunning in ultra-modern kitchens or Scandinavian inspired spaces. 

Rift Cut White Oak Kitchen

Rift cut oak will provide stunning consistent grain patterns throughout the project design. This consistency is aligned with contemporary or modern styles, focusing on clean lines and simplicity. Check out this article on oak vs rift cut oak for more detail.

3. Renovate Your Oak Kitchen

If you are considering a kitchen renovation instead of a new custom kitchen, there are many ways you can update existing oak or update choices made by previous owners.

oak kitchen

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Modernize Your Oak Kitchen

Updating an existing oak kitchen to match current trends is achievable. Some great ideas to modernize an oak kitchen without a full demo include:

  • Add a white tile backsplash
  • Install granite countertops
  • Remove some upper cabinets in favor of open shelving
  • Switch out old units for stainless steel or black appliances
  • Update flooring

Painting or staining your existing kitchen is a way to bring it up to modern trends. We love a combination of oak and white, which is welcoming and refreshed. Here are 7 ideas to modernize your oak kitchen!

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