Stained vs. Painted Cabinets: I'm tired of thinking about this!

southernmumJanuary 9, 2013

I started out wanting white or cream colored cabinets in our new build kitchen. (And just about all my kitchens I've saved for over a year on Pinterest are white!) However, now that I've seen some installed white cabinets that my cabinet maker has made, they look cheap to me. ( They're custom cabinets, but they just don't impress me much.) I have to use this cabinet maker because this is who my builder uses, and truly they are a good company here where I live. Their stained cabinets look lovely and like quality pieces. However, since my kitchen has an interior location and no windows, I don't want stained cabinetry to make the room dark. Then there's always that old debate about wood being timeless, white being trendy... Ugh -- I'm tired of thinking about all this! I dream of kitchen cabinets in my sleep -- and not good dreams, more like a nagging dream... ;) I feel like my "dream" kitchen is just turning into any old kitchen. (That's not how you should feel when you're building a house!) I know often the answer here at GW is go with what you love and don't consider trends, but truly, at this point, I don't know what I want anymore -- other than a rich, timeless looking kitchen. Thoughts on stained vs. paint?

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Sophie Wheeler

Do both. White perimeter, and on the island that gets more abuse, do stained.

But you need to really talk to the cabinet maker more to make sure that he actually is a true custom maker. Most guys with this label that work for builders are about one step up from "custom hack". They do site built and finished cabinets on the cheap. You want someone who can build you whatever door that you want, and does it in a well equipped wood shop with a clean room for finishing. Anything less, and you're not getting what was promised you.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 10:53AM
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southernmum

hollysprings, I like your idea of doing both! I just found a kitchen on Houzz that has that combination and I entitled it "Happy Compromise" :)
I have three boys, so a stained island (which will have seating) really sounds much smarter than painted. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 11:21AM
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blfenton

And do go with what you really really like. When you're looking at pics of kitchens which ones do you stop and actually look at. Not just the details but the whole kitchen and envision yourself in. We were going to go with stained because in our neighbourhood and at the time it was what we were *supposed* to do but the kitchens I loved looking at were the white ones.

Now if I had an island I would have done white perimeters and stained island which is why the peninsula overhang is a dark-stained maple so that i could get that idea. I think it's a look that will work for a long time.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 11:31AM
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hags00

I am someone that is always drawn to stained wood cabinets so there is never any doubt in my mind when I do a kitchen.

I also want to comment that my current kitchen is also in a windowless interior location. I went with darker stain than I often do. I used a lighter counter and I put lots of recessed lights as well as UCL. I really like it and we are in the dark days of winter here and I don't get a "too dark" feeling.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 11:34AM
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flwrs_n_co

Just wanted to say I completely sympathize with your mind freeze! I've been on this site for 4 years planning our remodel. Always assumed I would do stained wood cabs, but after seeing all the beautiful white/creamy kitchens, I started to doubt my choice. But as much as I like the white kitchens, I just can't see my kitchen being white.

I think you know you want white, but aren't sure about the cabinetmaker your builder wants to use. I would second what hollysprings said about the cab maker. Make sure he's not a "builder-grade hack." I think Bee went with a different cabinetmaker than her builder's usual. It's your $$$.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 12:27PM
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corgimum

I chose a stained perimeter and white island in my north facing kitchen. The important thing is lighting. I agree with hags00. If you light your kitchen correctly, it shouldn't matter how dark of a color you choose.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 1:10PM
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AboutToGetDusty

Yes, it can all be confusing. Go for a jog, see a movie, laugh with family/friends, and take a day's break. Then go back to thinking about it with a less foggy head :-) Definitely don't settle - be happy with what you pick. Now, I agree, definitely research that cabinet maker. You shouldn't HAVE to use someone just because your builder wants to. Is this cabinet maker painting the cabs whatever color/finish you choose, or is it a factory finish (which doesn't sound custom to me but I'm no expert). Also, definitely check out sheen. I found a higher sheen to look cheap when I was looking at semi-custom factory-finish cabs. I chose Schuler because hands down it was the best white finish I could find with the least amount of sheen. In person, the cabinets look more expensive than they really are. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 1:20PM
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lavender_lass

If you're going to have a paint to do your own touch ups...then I would go with the painted island. If not, then stick with stained, especially with three boys :)

I've always liked these pictures... From Kitchen plans From Kitchen plans

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 1:30PM
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autumn.4

southernmom-we also struggled with that but as of this moment we are looking at white perimeter and stained island as hollysprings suggested. I figure with 2 boys the island will get much more abuse than the perimeter will. We'll have seating there also.

On a side note a friend has a distressed painted island (black I think) and she has commented more than once that she needs it repainted because it is definitely MORE distressed than she was hoping with the extra add from the kiddos. She stated the same about her mud room cubbies.

That conversation has stuck in my head and is what pushed
me to stick with stained for island. My current ponder is with that do you need to do contrasting counters then.......and do I want that? A question I can't answer myself just yet!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 1:58PM
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may_flowers

I haven't been in a lot of new white kitchens, but I've seen a few that were 5-10 years old, and the grime inside the cabinet doors and chipped paint wasn't pretty. I want a white kitchen to look pristine. With three boys, are you going to be able to keep up with the cleaning? When your kitchen is new, you are more conscientious about cleaning it, but after a few months, the joy of cleaning goes away.

I have natural cherry in a north-facing PNW kitchen with no window, and I don't find it dark when the lights are off. We have a light colored quartz countertop and light tile floor. The kitchen gets natural light from the DR sliding glass door directly opposite and a SS fridge that reflects that light.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 2:18PM
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crl_

Just a comment on white kitchens being trendy, I don't think that's the case at all. When I have looked at historic kitchen pictures, every decade has white kitchens. I think wood can actually be more dated as different types are in vogue at different times.

Lots of good reasons to go with wood: it's beautiful, hides dirt better, maybe your cabinet maker does better wood finishes, etc. I just don't think white being a fad is a truism.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 2:38PM
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cindyinct

I agree with crl... white is definitely not a fad... its timeless.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 3:56PM
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function_first

Based on your own statements, "I started out wanting white or cream colored cabinets in our new build kitchen. And just about all my kitchens I've saved for over a year on Pinterest are white!" There is no way you should be considering stained -- I don't think you'll be achieve the vision you have in your head with anything but white.

I would take another look at those inspiration pictures -- and set then alongside the pictures of white cabinetry that your cabinet maker has done -- what's different? Maybe it's something as simples a piece of trim that makes it look cheap -- could be crown on the cabinets? light rail? the dimensions of the door? If you can identify exactly what it is that makes something look pricy in your eye then you can ASK for that on your cabinets. It's really not likely that the quality of the cabinets are any different in stained vs. painted from the same maker -- it's just a detail that could probably easily be changed/added to make it your dream cabinet.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Gooster

I suffered through the same decision, but for another reason. I had white and thought a change to stained would be more of a change. The last two kitchens were white.

I've been convinced to go with a white perimeter and stained island. In an older, traditional Colonial like mine, white is considered timeless. I was warned that hues of stains and wood species actually do have trends. Right now, in our area, dark stains are the rage in the new builds. A few years ago, it was tons of faux finishes and faux Tuscan (fuscan).

I had the same "cheap" look concerns as you, but I've moved past it. I also had a houzz ideabooks just filled with white kitchens. (I'm determined to avoid a full-on Christopher Peacock lookalike, however)

Have you seen the cabinets up close? A quality painted cabinet should shine through and through, and the quality of the box and door construction should be obvious.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 6:09PM
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southernmum

Lots of great input here! Thank you. Kris ma, as crazy as this sounds, the part that concerns me about the white cabinets I've seen from my cabinet maker is the way they FEEL. My husband saw them and keeps saying, "They feel plastic-y, or like MDF" Yet I know for a fact that poplar wood was used for the cabinetry. Like someone mentioned above, the new development we're building in has houses mostly with stained cabinetry in the kitchens. I guess I'm just the odd bird here, liking the white! :)

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 6:42PM
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phoggie

Oh I feel your pain...I agonized with this for so long. My kitchen is on the north with only window, which has a porch over it, so my thought was to do white to keep it light....until my cabinet maker showed me "pearl"...and that was it! It is such a soft cozy color...love it!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 8:37PM
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meganmca

They feel plastic-y? What's the paint? IS it a normal paint? Not, oh, melamine laminated on? Too much gloss, maybe? Do you get to choose the paint/color/gloss level?

Sounds to me like you want white--but if you decide stained, how about natural maple? It's as light as anything I can think of. Though I agree with the others--lighting is the thing not to skimp on!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 8:58PM
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ellendi

If I were you, I would looks at as many kitchens in your development that I could. See which ones look best. You might have to go with that. There is nothing worse than an expensive kitchen that looks cheap.
As someone with a white kitchen, I hear you loud and clear. But, since you are committed to this builder, I don't think a white kitchen in your case will make you happy.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:05PM
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kgwlisa

Since it is a new build, I would encourage you to solve your lighting problems with a good lighting design and not by lighter or darker finishes. It's amazing how many people feel that they can't have what they want in a complete kitchen renovation because of natural lighting conditions when they could just add more lighting and it's not a problem anymore.

That said, stained finishes are definitely more durable and hold up better as well as being easier to touch up.

i wonder if your take on the the painted finish is because it is sprayed rather than brushed. A sprayed finish with topcoat will not look or feel like a hand brushed finish and will definitely feel more "factory" and "perfect" and less "natural" especially to someone who is accustomed to a brushed finish (I don't mean a hacked brushed finish either, but a nice one done by someone who knows what they are doing). It is definitely a different look/feel but also a lot more expensive to do a nice brushed finish.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:07PM
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hollylh

Just wanted to say that I moved into a house with almost-brand-new cherry cabinets. The kitchen gets almost no natural light. I felt guilty changing them because the wood was pretty on its own and also they were new...but finally,after TEN years, I painted them and have NEVER looked back! Go with what you love or else you'll just end up getting what you love, only years later :)

Here's my kitchen on the FKB and you can see before pix at the album link.

Here is a link that might be useful: hollylh's kitchen

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:22PM
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cawaps

Meganmca beat me to the suggestion of using a light colored wood. It's definitely a different look than white, but it addressed the dark cave issue. Something like this:

Traditional Kitchen design by Boston Interior Designer Mosaic Loft

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:35PM
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southernmum

"i wonder if your take on the the painted finish is because it is sprayed rather than brushed. A sprayed finish with topcoat will not look or feel like a hand brushed finish and will definitely feel more "factory" and "perfect" and less "natural" especially to someone who is accustomed to a brushed finish (I don't mean a hacked brushed finish either, but a nice one done by someone who knows what they are doing). " Kgwlisa, I think you perfectly nailed it! It is smooth and no texture. I think their white cabinetry is definitely sprayed.

Holly, your kitchen is so pretty! Glad you're enjoying it!
Thanks, everyone, for your help!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 11:48PM
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stacylh

I am doing white (Benjamin Moore White Dove) perimeter cabinets with a distressed stained island. I'm interested in the point brought up about a sprayed finished versus a brushed finish because my custom cabinet maker's words the other day were, "We spray our cabinets with a special paint for more durability and less chipping or scratching."

I think I'd better get a sample door from him before we proceed and I am not pleased with the paint. Thanks for posting this because I never would've thought to question it before we got started!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 12:48AM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

I actually want my cabinets to age, b/c my decor is rustic/farm/country/western something...

I'm heavily considering ordering unfinished cabinets, painting them dark barn red with a black glaze and distressing the heck out of them.

I'm getting flack for doing this in a new house. But it's my house...

Good luck on your decisions and keep us posted :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:43AM
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