White and/or quartersawn oak? Please help!

ryanhouseMarch 6, 2010

We have been planning our kitchen addition for over six years now, and have never posted before -- but we need help making the final decision!

We had always planned a white kitchen, but we also fell in love with quatersawn oak cabinets at a local showroom. They were way more than we wanted to pay, but our new builder brought in a kitchen designer who can provide us with reasonably-priced quartersawn oak (in fact, the oak would be cheaper than the white).

Our house is an 1860s folk Victorian farmhouse on 5 acres. The floors are fir and the massive trim is all painted. The new kitchen (about 16' x 18') will have 8 large windows and a glass door, and very little upper cabinetry.

White pros:




-Presumably good for re-sale (unless it becomes thought of as 'so 2000s' in the future)

-Predictability  we know it would look great.

White cons:

-It looks great in pictures, but the samples usually look plastic-y. How do yours look in real life (the kind with the factory finish, not custom, hand-painted)?

-Durability -- I cook ALOT. Would it look all scratched and dinged and cracked in a few years?

Quartersawn oak pros:

-We love the sample

-It looks real (not plastic-y)

-It would be unique

-It would be more durable

-WeÂve bought a number of pieces of quartersawn oak furniture for our house, and it really fits in.

Quartersawn oak cons:

-Dark, dark, dark (it could also look too Mission-y for our house, but I think we could avoid this through countertop and pull choices). The builder and kitchen designer thought this would not be an issue because there will be so many windows -- but every picture we see of a white kitchen looks bright, and every picture of a dark wood kitchen looks ... dark. Dark can look fabulous and dramatic and classy, but our house is about light and clarity and I want our family and guests to feel joy in this kitchen. Can a quartersawn oak kitchen be light and joyful?

One option would be to have a white perimeter with an oak island. Another would be to have oak lower cabinets and white uppers. I have found few examples of the latter, and would be afraid that it would look strange and patchy (our favorite pictures always show simple, clean lines, with just a few, beautiful materials).

If youÂve stuck with me this far, what are your thoughts?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My vote - quarter sawn oak. We have 100 yr old floors in our 1825 house with quarter sawn oak in the main/public rooms and fir in the private/bedrooms. I think the oak will be a good match for your home. Someone recently posted an oak kitchen in an older home - it's beautiful. I also don't think oak is too dark. It ages darker but for now it will be fine. Go with what you love.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Quartersawn oak could be either white or red oak, and it does not have to be darkly stained. I think it can be used for many styles even though it is most often seen in the Mission style.

Our kitchen is in an 1892 house. The QS oak cabinetry is fairly simple with no Mission elements. The door style, moldings and hardware largely define the style. I studied period kitchens and took from them elements that fit with the look I hoped to achieve. If you really love QS oak, you can find a way to make it work. All the windows in your kitchen will keep it light. We have four windows in the keeping room, but the only windows in the kitchen end are behind the cooktop. It doesn't feel cave-like at all.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We had the same debate last year and decided on QS white oak. Our house is turn of the century Greek Revival so our kitchen has a sort of Victorian/Edwardian look. We were also afraid the QS oak would look mission but we achieved a different look with both the pulls and the bit of trim on the inside of the panel recess. We LOVE our cabinets and are so glad we didn't do white. The only thing I will say, though, is that not all QS white oak is created equal. Be sure you see a door/finish sample from your builder's kitchen people. For some beautiful examples of Victorian style QS oak cabinets visit the Kennebec Company's website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kennebec Victorian Kitchens

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since you won't have many uppers, the cabinet material shouldn't define the lightness/darkness of your kitchen as much as if every wall had uppers . Have the oak finished lighter, no deliberate darkening in the finish I mean, and marble or similar counters. Then choose bright wall colors, and all the windows, and you should have as much brightness as you want. Unless you're going after a 100% white look like we used to imagine in science fiction movies ("2001: A Space Odyssey") and then in spoofs of such ("Sleeper"). Remember, you can always paint the oak white as a last resort.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 12:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is one of my favorite kitchens. I wish I would have seen it before I did mine. I LOVE the QS Oak and I don't think it is dark at all. How much natural light will ther be in the space?

Here is a link that might be useful: QS Oak kitchen

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My wife and I really labored over this same decision for our 1911 Arts & Crafts home! She considered white uppers with QS oak bases, white perimeter with QS oak island, all white, and all QS oak. We have oak trim, doors and built-in. The main difference b/w yours and ours is that we will have lots of upper cabinets and very few windows.

We ultimately decided on all white. The main reason for her was that while she liked some oak kitchens, she never LOVED any of them... but she LOVES a lot of white kitchens. As for me, the main reason was that oak made the kitchen look too dark for me, even in kitchens that had tons of windows/natural light. They all felt dreary to me.

So far, I guess I'm in the minority. My vote is white.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 2:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We went with quartersawn oak and, 4 years later, are still thrilled that we did.

We are also in zone 5 (Chicago) and we shopped all the cabinet retailers locally. However, we received a recommendation to check out cabinet makers in/around Shipshewana, IN ...and we did. We ended up working with an Amish cabinet maker there and saved about 30% below the lowest local estimate we'd obtained.

Although this fellow is 2 hrs away and we juggled some driving concerns (he doesn't drive), we'd use him again and again for cabinetry.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 5:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

With lots of light and few uppers, I wouldn't worry about the darkness. I have a small galley kitchen that I was concerned about using dark cabinets in. I ended up going dark and now my kitchen feels larger. I can't figure it out why

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When you first wrote "victorian" my thought was, "Why the heck QS oak?" I agree on the "too mission-y." QS oak is gorgeous. We just ordered a QS oak dining table with an espresso finish, so honestly I can say I love it. But it's a very distinctive look with a lot of it. A kitchen filled with QS oak would be totally gorgeous, but extremely style-specific. And that style screams Mission, not Victorian. (We actually did the espresso stain to give the grain less contrast since we don't have Mission-style pieces in our home.

As for paint, factory painted cabinets are VERY durable. In fact, likely more durable than hand painted because they're sprayed and usually have a thick coating of paint. More important is the type of wood underneath that paint. Painted cherry will be softer than painted maple, etc.

That said, your kitchen should please YOU most, rather than your prospective buyers, your friends, or "rules." As for the dark factor, that really depends on how much lighting you have in the room.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our kitchen and bathroom remodel

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Actually, quartersawn oak is appropriate for late Victorian. As an architectural historian just have to correct the record. Look how great it looks in cotehele's space. Yours is at the other end of that time period, but it has probably been changed a bit during the intervening years, right? No need to be hard and fast to any particular style. Quartersawn oak was used very heavily during the Eastlake period, which was significantly more organic and less heavy than the Mission period. Take a look at Crown Point's website for inspiration. There are a couple Victorian styled kitchens in QS oak.

In my opinion, factory finished cabinets are very plasticy looking. Mine are hand painted. Easier to repair and softer looking.

Here is a link that might be useful: QS oak kitchen

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I am a white kitchen fan. BUT.... you must do the QSOak.
Just reading your post I can see this is your dream and
you can do this. Go for it. You will not regret the QSOak.

Yes a QSOak kitchen can feel joyful. Rich, warm, elegant
and a space guests feel happy.

The fact you will have very few or no upper cabs
means there will be a lightness to the room. The dark
cabs will ground this kitchen and it will still
feel light.

I would say undercabinet lighting but you might not need
it at all since there are few uppers. I would think
about the lighting you have in the space and see if you
need more. But otherwise it already sounds like a perfect
open space for your QSOak.

English Oak not really victoria but lovely

Victorian QSOak

Starmark a few light cabinets

A combination of both

Here is a link that might be useful: GW Show me your stained cabinets

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 7:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

DAMN!!! If I had the cash to do QS Oak, I would! Soooo beautiful. And I am a white kitchen fan, too. QS Oak is one of the few "woody" looks I love.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mine are quartersawn white oak from Conestoga. I finished them myself in a fruitwood gel stain over pore filler, then topped with shallac and wipe-on poly. The color isn't mission, I was trying to match an 1892 piece of furniture that I own.

My house is 1850, but remodeled in 1905, so in doing the kitchen I tried to do everything more late-Vic. I had originally considered mahogany for the cabinets, but couldn't find anything I could afford.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 12:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love your counter top- what material and color is it?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your builder and KD designer are right about the windows offsetting the darker QS oak. I have QS in my kitchen but it is mostly windows and only a few uppers above the counter. Even with a darker counter and a wall color with a lower light reflectancy value it is like being in a sunporch. The lack of uppers really make a difference, even at night.

Unfortunately it photographs dark as I suspect many oak kitchens do, so I would look at photos with a grain of salt.

Years ago I did a different kitchen that we couldn't decide between white and oak cabinets. We had our decorator pick out wall and counter options for both choices and that made the decision a lot easier when we looked at the kitchen as a whole package, not just cabinet decision. Not to confuse you but you could also consider a non-white painted cabinet which would blend well with the age of your home and the painted woodwork in the rest of your house.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another vote for the QS oak. I happen to love it. We have mahogany. It does look dark in pictures. Maybe its even a bit darker in real life than I would prefer. On the other hand, its really rich and warm looking and no one else thinks of it as dark. We also have good lighting, and not many uppers. The uppers have glass fronts. That helps a lot. I'm not sorry I went with the dark wood.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 3:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another vote for QS White Oak. Beautiful. I am doing my cabs in walnut and worried about having a dark kitchen. On one wall I have no uppers, on another wall I have two uppers, done in white with a walnut wrap around, it looks great. Not cavern like at all (and walnut is darker than natural QS oak). Go for it!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 5:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

joan2121, Thanks. The countertop is soapstone. The fabricator called it Tormenta; he thought it looked like lightening. It is really Black Venata.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We are overwhelmed and touched by your responses. Thank you all for your time and thoughts! I'm amazed that so many of you have gone with quartersawn oak --I see so few in the magazines and on the gallery here, but of course someone's buying it or there wouldn't be so many cabinet companies offering it.

Cotahele and sombriuel mongrel, your kitchens are GORGEOUS -- and very period appropriate. Cotahele, I love the giant windows. The cabinetry blends with them perfectly, and the overall effect is definitely sunny and warm (great gold wall color!). Sombriuel mongrel, I really love the shellac. I 'rejuvenated' all the oak trim on our old house, so I appreciate the work involved and the rich glow that results. It looks 'like it was always there' (only better).

Boxerpups, I don't know how you come up with a slew of pictures for every situation. I also loved looking at the Kennebec and Crown Point kitchens sumitted by others -- I looked at them years ago, but only saw the white...

Thank you all!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 11:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lesterd and Ryanhouse. Another vote for QS oak.

I had been set for years to get a medium stained maple slab kitchen (modern). Then this past weekend we made an unscheduled and unfortunately short visit to a wonderful Amish cabinetmaking company in Nappanee, Indiana-who does work in Chicagoland.

As we were walking out, there was a display of doors and different finishes. I almost screamed, "What is THAT!!!!)
It was beautiful- Quartersawn Maple. I fell in love.

So Lester, I would so appreciate knowing the name of your Indiana cabinetmaker. Post it here or email me. Or, if you prefer not to, please answer whether the name contains three letters. Thank you very much.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 2:51PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Expand or Not to Expand… What would you do with this floorplan?
I’ve been following the kitchen forum and squirreling...
WAC vs. Seagull vs. Kichler or what else - "best" LED UCL
can someone please help/advise i feel like a fish out...
xenon light bars for under-cabinet
based on what I saw in the lighting showroom my electrician...
Help! Removing stains on granite
I am hoping that somebody here can help with this because...
Largest flushmount sink for 36" cabinest
Can anyone point me to the largest flushmount sink...
Sponsored Products
Concept I 52 Ceiling Fan with Optional Light by Minka Aire Fans
$279.95 | Lumens
San Marco Wall Sconce by Oggetti Luce
$306.00 | Lumens
Amore Fiore Pendant by Oggetti Luce
$556.00 | Lumens
Concept I 44 Ceiling Fan with Optional Light by Minka Aire Fans
$279.95 | Lumens
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™