Dark wood kitchen cabinetry is everywhere, it seems: on the design shows, in the magazines, on the websites, and even in some of your best friends’ new digs. But what if your kitchen is small and dark to begin with? You might think that adding more dark wood to that already shadowy interior will make it oppressive—but it doesn’t have to. With good kitchen design, you’ll see how a blend of light colors, clever accents, and deep-toned wood cabinetry achieve a kitchen that’s rich and sophisticated, not gloomy. Here are a few things to remember when exploring the “dark side” of the inviting heart of your home.
1. Pause for reflection
One terrific way dark wood works well even in small spaces is with clever finishes that reflect light rather than absorb it. This means employing stains and varnishes with their own glow, gloss finishes rather than matte, and knobs and handles that impart additional shine. That’s the reason one of the hottest looks for upscale homes now is wood cabinetry in shades of umber, mahogany, black oak, cherry, or ebony, paired with brushed or stainless steel knobs and drawer pulls and finishes that gleam under even the most subdued light.
The same goes for the combination of cabinetry and appliances, too. Dark-toned built-in cabinetry is an ideal foil for appliances of either sleek stainless steel or purest white. Pay attention to the small stuff in a kitchen like this: hanging industrial chrome fixtures, gleaming gray, cream, or sand tile, and glass-fronted cabinet doors can make the ambience both ultra-chic and surprisingly light.
2. Vive la difference!
One of the ways you can avoid a too-heavy dark palette is by resisting the impulse to fall back on monochromatic color schemes. True, there’s a clean, minimalist charm to a single color family—but that doesn’t mean that cabinets, floor, walls, and fixtures should all be the same hue! Some truly wonderful kitchens play pastels, whites, or sunny yellows against deep, dark foundations, or vice-versa. A bright sunny-hued stone floor, paired with dark brown cabinets and a rich marble-topped island, makes for a kitchen that feels as warm and welcoming as Grandma’s yet is every bit its own contemporary self.
This can also be the place for playing with splashes of bright color. Combine cherry-toned cabinetry with white granite countertops, cranberry-and-white tile, and splashes of tangerine or steel blue. Or, go in another direction with upholstered dove-gray chairs, off-white flooring, and a hand-painted folk art backsplash. Every wood grain has myriad tones-within-the-tone, what a musician calls “overtones” and what visual artists use for a pulled-together look out of disparate elements. A wide palette works with dark woods, which are themselves both neutral and their own unique shades.
3. Make your own kind of music.
If you love a rustic look, dark wood cabinetry pairs elegantly with materials such as wide-plank oak or cork floors, hanging copper pots and pans, greenery, and ceramics or pottery. Pewter accents work fabulously with it, as do stone floors with their own injections of color. To avoid too heavy a look, think “less is more”: keep the cabinetry in scale with the kitchen space and arranged so that natural light is maximized.
Dark cabinets can go literally floor to ceiling—or, as in the case of a large country kitchen, they can tuck beneath crown moldings or ornate ceiling trim for a wonderful contrast. Use cream, French vanilla, or off-white hues on these architectural details; it draws the eye upward for a soothing, serene feeling. A polished oak table, darker oak cabinetry, and white surfaces are a feast for the eyes. Add a rag rug for a vintage country look, or use an Oriental runner for vibrant color; either way, the depth of tone in a dark cabinet will pull the whole thing together with warmth and style.
Playing on the Dark Side
Dark cabinetry is a lot like dark chocolate: a little can go a long way, but you’ll love every “bite” of it. Take a look at how you can play up a little bit of the “dark side” in your kitchen, and you might be surprised at the “delicious” results!
Diamond Kitchen and Bath has specialized in kitchen cabinetry in the Arizona valley for the past 27 years. If you need help with your kitchen design, cabinets, or installation, we can help. And yes, we have dark wood!