A Reader Asks: Must the kitchen cabinets match the house trims?


I have written before and you solved a couple of problems for me but I am still in the process of designing (hopefully ready to remodel in June).  My issue is:  my son (who has started building houses as the general contractor and does pretty well with it) and my husband both say that if I am going to change my cabinets I need to stay with the oak material because all of the trim and doors throughout the house are oak with medium oak stain. 

I have 2 bedrooms and bathroom and den doors directly off of the kitchen all hand made in oak so I don’t want to change them at all.  I also have an oak chair rail on the same wall with the bedroom doors.  I really do not want oak cabinets but If you think I should stay with them I will…

I guess the two things I am adamant about is the butcher block counter top on the island and the white wash island cabinets.  The rest is pretty much up in the air.  So, what do you think?

Thanks for all of the information your blog provides.  It really does help. – JK

Eep! No pressure. ;)  I’ll say what I always say: It depends. And giving advice on a kitchen without knowing all the details can be a bit of a minefield, especially when I’m not the designer of record. So…while I can’t give you specific advice, let’s run through options for general discussion.


Choosing oak to match

 A nice quartersawn oak and/or a beautiful traditional stain (mid-tones, not dark) can be beautiful, rich, and timeless:

Saddle-brown stain on quarter-sawn white oak. Credit: Crystal Cabinets

Something like this could fit in beautifully with white-wash and,well, it depends on the wood you’ll use for the butcher block, the rest of the design details, and how you accent the room. I might start with cherry butcher-block simply because the red grain would be complimentary to the rest of the kitchen.


Breaking away from matching

Do you have to match the rest of the trim? No. Is it harder to do? Yes. The easier way is to match, always. Have I used other woods? Absolutely.

Alder could also be a complimentary wood to use in the room. I’ve discussed alder (aka, the bamboo of the Left Coast) in a previous post. It takes a stain very, very well, and could be very compatible with the oak trim.


You can absolutely use another wood in the kitchen, providing there is a cohesive tie-in to the whole design. It’s not something I recommend to someone first starting out, homeowner or newbie pro, because it’s challenging to do right and depends on so many factors.

To shock the wood-workers in the audience, the doors and trim in the kitchen could also be painted on the kitchen side only. *cough*

The following is not my favorite kitchen ever, but it looks like rustic cherry floors and cabinets, the pantry door looks like a fir and all the rest of the trim is…white. Do I notice the trim? Not much. A key note: the same wood on the floors and the cabinets will never, ever match…unless the room was made out of the same batch of wood from the same logged area. So not going to happen. This could have benefited from a stronger, darker floor base and a different paint color on the walls.


(I should point out that I'm not entirely happy with the stock photo example, although it does point out my note about "matching" woods.)

EDITED TO ADD: If you scroll to the comments, designer Nicole has some nice examples on Houzz for you…

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