The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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7 Paths To Selecting Your Kitchen Cabinet Finish

"Hi Susan: A quick question if I may- with an open log cabin kitchen, wood floors, and a wood ceiling with beams, what color cabinets would you suggest? The wood is a light color on the walls and ceiling. Thank you, Patty"

Hi Patty (hand waving!)

First, I never see ONE answer to a question like this. Instead, I prefer to drive my clients crazy with six (or more) additional questions of my own to help them get focused! The method to my madness is as follows and represents off the top of my head questions as a response to this "quick" question.

  • The wood may be light, but how much light is there in the kitchen, either via windows or lighting? Could the room use help with reflected light from a large block of (light) cabinetry?
  • What are the colors/theme in the surrounding rooms? Is there any trend of wood finishes or colors that you will be seeing that you may want to blend or coordinate with, in the kitchen?
  • Do you like contrast or do you prefer colors to be soft and flow within the space?
  • If you are interested in, say, an opaque white, are you aware that, especially if children are in the picture, your cabinetry will look worn far more quickly than if you had other colors/finishes?
  • Are you going after a certain theme? Tailored, rustic, formal, modern, transitional, zen, other? That could give you a clue. Do you want to contrast the rustic framework of your log cabin with another theme to create an eclectic look? Perfectly acceptable. Note your other furnishings as a guide.
  • Could you be open to alternative colors that you normally do not see such as a soft khaki, an oyster grey, grey/blue, a light mushroom color, sort of a cool/warm soft contrast? Speaking of cool/warm, be aware of this color differentiation in the context of the overall color scheme as well as what's happening beyond the kitchen. 
  • You also may want to consider what finishes you want your countertops and appliances to be. These choices will also send a message about the total look of the kitchen. Likewise, the backsplash to a lesser extent.
  • What size is the room? Color/finish of cabinetry plays a role in space perception along with my first item to consider, above, lighting. I feel if the room is small but very well lit (very) perhaps with a light countertop and walls, then dark tones in the cabinetry are fine to use. Of course, a mix of light shades in a small room will allow the space to flow and not appear choppy/busy, something to seriously consider in a small space (choppy/busy).

So, unfortunately, I have no answer for you, only additional questions which should definitely put you on the path to focus and insight! Only you know these answers and it should take a little time to consider the various issues involved in selecting just ONE finish. No pressure or anything! I just can't make the decision for you.


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Reader Comments (9)

Thanks! our new home is a 1983 California style ranch, cedar wood beams and needs a new kitchen. The mix of wood and contemporary cabinets in the picture gives me pause to re-think things, kick my design up a notch. Love what you write.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Reading your post reminds me that kitchens are best left to kitchen design professionals. I am a designer with 20 plus years experience and I am in need of a new kitchen in our 1978 contemporary. Your questions remind me why I have put it off for the last five years living with broken drawers and doors. I have niether the expertise nor the energy to work it through. Going to make a call to my local kitchen designer this week!

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Eremita

Michele, looks like you have a very fun project that's going to do. Yes, the kitchen is your oyster, so take your time to explore your possibilities! Thanks for your kind words.

Allison, well, I have to say I think you're right about that. The trick is to find the right professional for you. Just keep trying/interviewing and you will connect with someone eventually. To me, a good designer should have the ability to get their clients focused in a gentle way. Guidance is the word as well. Enjoy your remodel, go for it!

March 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Great post! I tell people all the time that they have all the answers already, it's just a matter of getting to them. Great list, very helpful.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Anater

Hi Susan! Excellent answer to the quick question. The truth is there is a direct correlation between the amount of thought and time one puts into designing their kitchen (or home) and the satisfaction the homeowner will feel once the project is complete. ...susan

Susan, you said that very well, I could not have said it better. It is SO true.

March 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I love the way that kitchen looks. The warmth of the cabin with the more modern design is actually a lovely combo!

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

These are great tips. I have a friend who insisted she have dark cabinets and now when you walk into her kitchen you feel really enclosed. If she had done light cabinets things would have felt much better.

March 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

It also depends on the kitchen size. One can make cabinets dark in a big kitchen and when it's small then surely they should be light enough to make it seem to be bigger. That's why I decided to buy a countertop of light color as well.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercountertop

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