5 Most Popular Wood Stains for Kitchen Cabinets in 2022

Freshen up cabinet wood grain with gorgeous results.

If you haven't given much thought to the wood stain on your cabinetry, or you've just been living with the circa-1995 kitchen you inherited with the purchase of your home, it might be time for an update. But instead of getting out the paint cans, consider a more traditional makeover. Wood stains are making a major comeback and they're not the high-gloss reds and browns once common in kitchens. Today's wood stains skew modern, classic, and even straight-up soothing, depending on what you're after.

"The wood stain color in the kitchen space defines the style and mood of the space," says Sue Kim, director of color marketing at Minwax. Especially when working with an open floor plan, the stain choices need to work with the wall colors by calling on similar accent colors and undertones. "You can explore the transparency of stain color to either hide or highlight the wood grade, depending on the overall style of the space," Kim says.

But how do you know when you've found the right stain color? And how do you even get started picking the best shade? Samples, samples, samples. "Always order cabinet color samples and review them in your home prior to making any decisions," says Bianca Betancourt, design team lead at FORM, a direct-to-consumer luxury kitchen cabinetry brand. To get started, browse the most popular stains right now to help narrow down your selection.

minimalist light wood and gray kitchen cabinets
Courtesy of FORM

Blue Wood Stains

Yes, you read that right. Blue stains are popping up in kitchens across the county but, as with blue paint colors, it's important to pay attention to the undertones. "Sophisticated blue will be a key accent color for kitchen spaces for the next few years," she says. "It's timeless and sophisticated and brings back a luxurious touch to the kitchen." Kim suggests Minwax Denim Blue for a classic blue wood stain.

White Stains

The popularity of white kitchens is far from fading, but now those who love the natural look of wood can get in on the action too. Kim says white is oftentimes overlooked as a stain color. She suggests looking for a white wood stain to provide an elevated style that's bright yet calming. "As we spend more time at home, we look into the colors and finishes that enhance wellness at home and embrace all things nature," she says. A white wood stain can provide just the fix if a stylish neutral kitchen is what you're after.

airy kitchen with wood cabinetry and floors
Jay Wilde

Natural Wood Stains

"Light oak and walnut wood tones are still in and will be for quite some time," says Betancourt. "More than ever, I am designing kitchens in one solid wood tone. For those who love wood textures but are afraid to commit to an all-wood kitchen, wood can be utilized in many areas, such as floating shelves, upper cabinets, and at the kitchen island." Betancourt says that opting for a natural wood stain can "create a warm and inviting space with plenty of dimension" regardless of whether or not you opt to go monotone.

Silver Stains

Gray kitchen finishes have surged in popularity over the past decade, and there's no sign of letting up. While gray paint colors can appear more traditional or modern depending on the hue and accompanying details, a silver-tone stain, like Minwax Silver Ash, can highlight the raw characteristics of your wood cabinets in a way that brings a contemporary edge to the traditional material.

dark wooden bar
Tria Giovan

Dark Stains

Do you love the smell of old books? Have you never met a rainy day you didn't like? Have you been described as an old soul? A dark cabinet stain color might be for you. "It's moody, and the lighting can complete the café or library look and embrace the retro style with class," says Kim. Consider both the room's natural light and light fixtures to create a welcoming feel.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of stain do you use on cabinets?

    The easiest product for staining cabinets is a water-based stain, but oil-based stains and varnishes are also used frequently. However, oil-based stains have a strong odor that some people don't like and take longer to dry than water-based stains. Varnishes can yellow over time and can be tricky to apply without experience.

  • Is stain or paint better for cabinets?

    For the most part, paint and stain are similar in durability and ease of upkeep. Stained cabinets may warp over time, while painted cabinets may chip and need repainting. Stained cabinets generally look more traditional, while painted cabinets lean toward more contemporary. Paint offers a lot more color options than stain.

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