Why White Oak Cabinets Are a Great Option for Modern Kitchens

Why White Oak Cabinets Are a Great Option for Modern Kitchens

If you're concerned that it's off-trend, think again. Oak is far more versatile than you think — and the right species could help your kitchen span the divide between traditional and contemporary.

When selecting the wood for your kitchen cabinets, the options can seem never-ending. Trends come and go, but choosing an option that fits your own style and functional needs is the most important part of designing or updating your space. Classic and versatile, oak could be the ideal choice for you. With the right species and finish, oak can take on a traditional look or be the perfect foundation for a sleek, modern kitchen.

As you search for the perfect oak cabinets to complete your project, don't forget to explore the possibility of white oak. A rising star in the world of interior design, white oak has a lot to offer. It delivers many of the practical benefits associated with oak in general, while also offering an aesthetic that is more than trendy enough to get oak skeptics on board.

Not a fan of oak? We're here to change your mind. Keep reading to discover the benefits of white oak kitchen cabinets. You'll also find practical solutions for incorporating them in your kitchen.


When you think of oak cabinets, you probably picture the deep hues that dominated during the 1980s. Honey oak, in particular, was popular at this time — to the point that many of the era's top kitchens were drowning in it. Although it may have been overdone, and nothing is less appealing than a kitchen that looks exactly the same as everyone else’s, there is a lot of potential in oak that was simply not realized. Instead of tweaking oak kitchen designs, many homeowners of the early 2000s abandoned it altogether in favor of a different type of wood entirely.

It's no secret that red oak has gone out of style, but oak in general doesn't need to remain marginalized in the world of interior design. With a few small changes, it could regain its previous kitchen dominance — but in a more versatile, visually-pleasing manner that will allow it to remain in style as trends shift once again. This shift can start with the clean, contemporary look of white oak.

The benefits of this increasingly popular alternative abound. Here are some of the top advantages of working with white oak that we have learned:


Boasting a hardness score of 1360, white oak is more durable than many other types of hardwood. This makes it a top choice for heavily used kitchens, in which other types of cabinets might quickly suffer dents or dings. Cabinets constructed from white oak can retain a sophisticated look without suffering a loss of durability.

White oak cabinets in kitchen


The grain patterns associated with oaks of the past were generally flat cut. A less expensive higher yielding cut, flat cut produces large cathedral grain patterns that most people associate with oak.

Today, quality furniture and cabinet makers are striving for a new style. Quarter sawn and rift cut milling changes the board look from cathedrals to straight grain. Quarter sawn also adds interesting flecks of cross ring growth to the look.


The warm red tones of honey and red oak simply aren't in style these days. We're not sure if they'll eventually come back — but for now, this look is best left to vintage settings. Meanwhile, the wheat to green-brown tones of white oak provide a completely different canvas that is more in keeping with today's emphasis on neutrals. White oak's milder hues are also better suited to building in contrast via flooring, countertops and tile. If you are keen to incorporate a pop of color somewhere in your kitchen, white oak creates an unobtrusive backdrop for unlikely accents.


White oak can be used in a variety of contexts. Its fresh look is especially appealing in modern kitchens, where it can replace white-painted cabinets to add a little extra warmth and character.

Combine white oak cabinets with stand-out backsplash or a contrasting island to form an effortlessly appealing kitchen. Additionally, a variety of stains can be applied to give white oak kitchen cabinets a customized look. We love how stains can emphasize the organic beauty of wood grain and truly show off its intricacies.

White oak cabinet kitchen sink


The inherent versatility of white oak means that it can easily be integrated within your dream kitchen aesthetic. Before you proceed, however, you'll need to make a few key decisions that could impact the look and feel of your kitchen as a whole:


Although we have clearly determined that the warmer tones of red oak are not being used in kitchens as much anymore, the great thing about white oak is that it can work well in homes that possess an older style or help to bridge the gap between moden, traditional, or even farmhouse style homes. The kitchen is often the centerpiece of a home and where you and your family and friends will spend most of your time; whether that is cooking or talking over a cup of coffee. As such, it should have a cohesive look with the rest of the house. The kitchen is also the place to set the tone for the rest of your decor and furniture choices, so take time to settle on the look you love and then learn how white oak can help you achieve your goal.

White oak cabinets plain and fancy


While several types of white oak are available, North American varieties are in highest demand. White oak from Appalachia is especially popular due to its consistency, strength, and durability. If you're on the hunt for a higher-end variety of white oak that will continue to remain beautiful after several years of heavy use, an initial investment in the exceptional oak from Appalachia will prove more than worthwhile.


As mentioned previously, much of today's oak-related reluctance stems from the excessive use of red oak in the kitchens of yesteryear. The understated look of white oak should avoid this problem, but it's also important to incorporate contrast to bring dimension to your kitchen.

A variety of details can accomplish this. Backsplash is a natural option due to its myriad of colors and patterns, as well as alternative textures that can compliment the wood and draw the eye to certain design elements that you wish to highlight. Countertops are also a great place to play with contrast. For an elevated, clean look go with white marble or quartz counters, or if you prefer something darker, explore dark gray or black options. The wood grain of white oak pairs with the variegation in stone, tying the kitchen together organically.

Flooring, hardware, and light fixtures are other areas that can make a big impact. Try matte or brushed brass knobs with white oak or even something with a highly polished finish to introduce more depth and intrigue. White oak can also be incorporated in two-tone kitchens. Don’t be afraid to go with a bold statement to bring out the best of what white oak has to offer.


As you look for inspiring new ways to add style to your kitchen, check out Plain & Fancy’s wide range of offerings. With custom-built cabinetry, we're known for our attention to detail and our exceptional customer service. We can help you make the most of your white oak cabinets, as well as offer additional design advice throughout your whole kitchen journey. With over 50 years of experience, we love helping our customers find a wood option that fits their personality and makes them feel at home in their kitchen.

If you're ready to get started, feel free to check out our Design Center in Schaefferstown or stop by one of our showrooms. You're also welcome to get in touch with us online. Reach out today for more information.


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