Dark or light stain in a 2 story kitchen?

Beth ParsonsNovember 17, 2012

We are building our forever house and it's time to make some final decisions on the kitchen cabinets! We'll have shaker style stained maple cabinets (I really prefer they be painted a soft cream color but unfortunately my budget won't allow the added expense.) The kitchen is basically a 10'x11' L shaped layout with a 4'x7' island. The cabinets along the 10' wall shown in the pic below will be tucked under the 2nd floor loft. The 11' wall of cabinets is completely open above.

I really like the look of very dark stained cabinets but am afraid that it will look awkward in such an open space. I have to let the cabinet maker know which stain to use by Tuesday and I could really use the expert opinion of the kitchen forum members as all of you have such beautiful spaces and great design ideas!

Rough sketch of layout. The small row of cabinets on the far right will be on the same wall as the door opening and will be a small desk/hutch.

10' wall with loft above. Haven't decided wall color and the floors will be natural white oak. The stairs will also be oak with white square balusters. The chunky newel post and handrail will be stained a dark walnut.

Finally, here is the floor plan for the 1st level showing the relationship of the kitchen to the b'fast & family rooms if that helps...

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Choice can be dictated by several thing - amount of light coming into the area, whether you prefer a more formal or casual look, do you like a contrasting look between floors and cabinets, etc.

I think that dark cabinets, because of the high ceilings, could help to ground the space.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:48PM
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Beth Parsons

Thank you so much for the feedback, blfenton! We like to keep things very simple and casual with clean lines. We'll also have gooseneck barn lights protruding from the upper walls to give extra light so the dark cabinets may not look as out of place as I'm fearing...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:06PM
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I'd choose something like a dark oak if you want to keep costs down and still get a fairly contemporary look. Something like this Kemper Northrop or Copley in Oak with a Chocolate or Havana stain.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:27PM
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BTW, get a lighting designer involved NOW! Two story anything is difficult to light properly, but a two story kitchen is especially problematic, so you want to be sure that you can see what you're doing and don't create a big block of heaviness in the open space.

You've also got to balance dark cabinetry with more uses of dark wood/dark colors in other areas of the open concept space. Not just dark woodwork and darker floors. A dark stone for a fireplace. Maybe a dark dining table. Maybe wooden blinds. Something to spread it around and tie everything together.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:44PM
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We have a open concept vaulted great room with stained maple cabinets and white wood work.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:04PM
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rtwilliams, I am loving the stain on your cabinets. You have maple cabinets and yet that is a pretty dark stain. I love it! Gives me hope. I would love to stain my cabinets darker from our formerly beautiful natural maple to the now sort of orange it has darkened to over the years. Would you mind saying what the color of your stain is and type? It really looks great.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:08AM
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Beth Parsons

Live_wire_oak, lighting is certainly a concern and we added a dormer above the breakfast area which lets in a great deal of natural lighting. We are planning on undercabinet lighting around the entire perimeter, have 3 gooseneck barn lights to go on the 2 walls and we'll have island pendants *if* I can find any that have long enough cords/downrods. Having a hard time with that one...

rtwilliams, Thank you so much for posting pics of your kitchen! Your cabinets are so, so similiar to what we've chosen and we even considered having just the island painted white to blend with the white trim thru the rest of the house. Your island lights look fantastic, too. I'm having a hard time finding any indoor or outdoor lights that are long enough to reach a 2nd story - where did you find yours, if I may ask?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 6:00PM
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I guess it is a personal taste, but I love, dark woods. I was inspired by he library feeling of 2 story cabinets and shelving. You can't see from this pic, but my dark birch cabinets open to a 14 feet vaulted ceiling in the adjoining family room. I have dark leather furniture to carry on the theme and dark brazilian cherry floors throughout.They don't seem to float to me, and the previous photos are stunning. Go dark!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 6:29PM
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parsonse - Thanks, I thought your description of your space sounded similar to ours. I had considered going with white perimeter cabinets and a dark stained Island but I was afraid it would be too much white for the open concept space.

The island lanterns are from lowes, we did have to re-wire them and buy more chain. Pretty easy to do with any chain type light fixture. Our ceilings at the highest point are 17 feet.

gr8day - I picked the cabinet color by bringing home the cabinet door colors and this color went perfect with the existing maple floors. The floors are a few shades lighter than the cabinets. The cabinets are Medallion brandywine stain color on maple.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:00AM
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