Main Line Kitchen Design
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Posted October 5, 2018 by pmcalary

Every type of wood has different characteristics. Recently we received the edited inquiry below on our blog.

2017 Swarthmore PA Kitchen



I am looking for cherry wood cabinets in a light stain. I do not like it when a door has very different shades of color. I read all your posts and agree that getting a veneer panel will give me a more consistent color. However, looking at photos of Kraftmaid and other brands they still have very different shades between the panel and the individual parts of the frame on the doors. What cabinet line would you recommend?


Here is an edited version of our response:


All wood pieces on a cabinet door will have color variations between each piece of wood. Cherry wood in particular. While not as severe as hickory or walnut, cherry has more color variations than many woods. Another property of cherry wood is cherry pits (small holes on the surface of the wood). These characteristics are natural and while some more expensive custom cabinet lines will have slightly less variation in their cherry cabinetry than say the Kraftmaid line you mentioned, you must expect any cherry kitchen to have these properties.


Customers that can’t accept the properties of the wood they select for their kitchen can be a nightmare for kitchen designers. Maple has mineral steaks, oak and birch are consistent but people like the grain and colors of other woods more. You can not have your cake and eat it too as the saying goes.


I think that you should not be looking for a cherry kitchen but for a wood that can look like cherry or at least be stained to a cherry-like color but that will be more consistent. Some people select maple cabinetry and a stain that has a red cherry-like tone. In the Kraftmaid line you mentioned the chestnut finish looks cherry-like on maple. Or Alder is a wood that can be more consistent than cherry, and look like cherry, but you would need a more expensive manufacturer to avoid the knots that can also be found in alder.


All good kitchen designers explain the properties of the wood and finish a customer selects to that customer. It is incredibly frustrating coming to a customer’s home to go over their concerns about their cabinets to find dozens of pieces of blue tape on cabinetry marking variations in the grain, wood tones differences, pits, or properties of the stain and glaze that were selected and that customers should have been expected. These blue tape customers will usually tell us that they “feel” that they should have gotten more consistent cabinetry for the money they spent.


When I have explained or even warned a customer repeatedly about their selections before they order their kitchen and they then have these unrealistic “feelings”, I tell them that I “feel” like I should be 6 feet tall but am actually 5’9″ and shrinking with age. While very few enjoy the joke, they get the point and we compromise from there. Replacing 3 or 4 doors that are fine but have characteristics a customer doesn’t like for an entire kitchen is fine and par for the course for kitchen designers. Customers that want more than that will find some cabinet dealers more flexible than others.

2017 Warrington PA Kitchen


Below is a list of the most common types of wood kitchen cabinetry is made from, and the properties of each type wood. And here is a link to wood descriptions from Osborne wood products.

Cherry – Larger grain. Medium to high variation in wood color. The lighter the stain the greater the variation. Cherry pits.

Oak – Large grain. Less popular today for kitchen cabinetry. Medium color consistency.

Quartersawn Oak– More popular than regular Oak. Very tight grain and very consistant in color

Maple – Light graining. Consistent color. Mineral streaks (grey blemishes)

Birch – Consistent tight light grain.

Hickory – High color variation between pieces. Expect “stripes” on your cabinets. Also large grain and some small knots are possible.

Walnut – Available in custom cabinetry. The most extreme variations in color.

Bamboo – VERY consistant VERY tight grain.

Mahogany – Usually actually Liptus wood today. Tight consistent grain.


Main Line Kitchen Design wants all our customers to love their completed kitchen. But please make sure you understand the properties of the wood you are selecting and keep the blue tape within reason.

Bon Appetit!

Paul and Julie


  1. Rhianna Hawk, November 2, 2018 at 10:52 am:

    My husband and I want to get a new set of custom cabinets for our kitchen, and while we have the overall design figured out for the most part, neither of us know anything about wood types and what we should aim for. It’s good to know that a good designer will be able to go over the pros and cons of each wood type with us, and I actually really like the variations in the grain that natural wood brings. I know that we want to get something darker in color, so maybe cherry would be a good fit for us due to the variation in color, or mahogany for consistent grain but darker color.

  2. pmcalary, November 4, 2018 at 8:24 am:

    Hi Rhianna,
    Yes designers will be able to help you selecting a type of wood. Mahogany will be much more expensive then cherry.

    Since it sounds like you haven’t met with a kitchen designer yet the design you are considering can almost certainly be significantly improved. When you are willing to spend money on expensive custom cabinetry don’t waste the splurge by having the most important element of a kitchen renovation directed by a novice. Namely the kitchen design itself being done by you.

    Good kitchen designers will surprise you with alternative designs that you hadn’t considered. One of the great frustrations for kitchen designers is that most of our customers come to us believing that the know the design that they want and don’t want to even see better designs we as professionals would recommend for their space.

    At Main Line Kitchen Design we insist that customers first at least look at more professional designs, BEFORE we change the design into what they originally wanted. The result is that 90% of our customers get completely different designs than they thought they wanted. They often spend less money and the value of their home improves significantly from the more professional layout.

    When you are willing to splurge on expensive cabinetry, expensive countertops, or professional appliances it makes no sense not to spend a little more on construction by removing a wall, moving a doorway, enlarging a window or some other change that creates a better kitchen. As kitchen designers we know that it takes at least ten years working full time as a kitchen designer to become even competent designing kitchens. So there should be a big difference between what a very good kitchen designer would do with a space and what a homeowner, real estate agent, contractor, or architect would come up with. Often people with some design experience, like contractors or architects, will firmly believe that they don’t need help designing a kitchen. But in reality the more confident non-professional kitchen designers are the worse the designs are that they come up with. As the saying goes “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

    Our video, link below, tries to make this point in a funny way.

  3. Diane, December 6, 2018 at 5:01 pm:

    I just wanted to say thank you for your blog. In reading it I’ve learned at lot about what to look for in a good quality cabinet. We are looking at kitchen cabinets from Brighton and Omega Dynasty. First I wanted to confirm that the Brighton cabinetry that you refer to in your blog is the Brighton in Neoga, Illinois. With there being so many cabinet lines names I wanted to make sure I’m looking at the correct line. Also, of the two, which do you think has a better quality stain/finish? I’ve read that Brighton’s stains are hand rubbed and Omega Dynasty is sprayed. I’m not sure if one way of applying stain is better than the other.

  4. pmcalary, December 6, 2018 at 6:34 pm:

    Hi Diane,
    Yes that is the same Brighton that we rate. I think that as far as a finish is concerned how the finial finish looks and how much you like that look is most important. One technique isn’t necessarily better, hand rubbed is usually more expensive but possibly less consistent. We carry Brighton because we believe they are a particularly good value. Omega makes some fine cabinetry as well. I understand that Omega now sells a framed Dynasty line. I know less about Omega than Brighton but the Omega upgraded framed cabinetry we give good reviews. And if you are getting European frameless cabinetry in a contemporary slab door style this was what Omega Dynasty was originally known for. Remember that unless your kitchen is a modern or contemporary slab door style we would not recommend designing in a frameless cabinet line. Both Omega and Brighton make Frameless cabinetry.

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