Popular Kitchen Cabinet Composition: A Survey of Hardwood Options

Whether you enjoy cooking or just enjoy the products of cooking, everyone recognizes that the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home. Perhaps you are interested in designing a new home, or maybe you would like to remodel the kitchen you already have. Your kitchen cabinets are arguably the most important aspect of your kitchen. Modern manufacturing allows for a wide variety of material options including many different solid wood cabinets. These cabinets will provide a warm and traditional look with great quality and aesthetic appeal. Before you make a decision about buying cabinets, you should survey the most popular wood choices so that you buy cabinets you can live with and enjoy for thirty or more years.


The eastern half of the United States is famous for its maple trees, with fourteen native species. [1] Kitchen cabinets made from this maple wood have several appealing characteristics. The grain patterns in maple wood are generally tight and uniform giving them a smooth and consistent appearance. Maple cabinets will contain mineral streaks that may be fine lines or curling waves. The grain patterns in maple wood are known for being particularly attractive and increase the value of this wood. When stained, these mineral grains will appear darker and more distinct.

Compared to other types of wood, maple is a very hard wood. Aside from constituting the floors, railings and doors in many houses, maple is commonly used in bowling pins, bowling lanes, baseball bats and even butchers’ blocks. [2] Yet, even with its toughness, maple wood is commonly chosen for instruments such as violins and guitars because of its beauty and tone quality. The toughness and beauty of maple cabinets combine for a great material for kitchen cabinets and the most popular choice today.


One of the finest choices for home décor is cherry wood. The inherently rich tones and colors in cherry wood set it apart from other types of wood. Uniquely, cherry wood will darken over time with exposure to light. The grain patterns in cherry can be more unpredictable with the unusual curls and streaks and occasional pin knots or random patterns. However, these unusual patterns do not make cherry wood rough. As a matter of fact, the grain in cherry wood is exceptionally tight allowing for very smooth finishes and quality stains.

While not the hardest of the hardwoods, cherry is still applied in many parts of homes including floors, doors, and paneling. Cherry wood is frequently chosen just  for its inherent beauty. Because it is a softer hardwood with beautiful grains and tones, artists tend to favor this wood to carve or use as a frame. One observer notes, “In cabinetmaking, cherry is rated one of the favorites because of its beauty and versatility - it has warmth, personality and charm.” [3] For exceeding beauty and fine quality, cherry wood cabinets will add an appealing dynamic to your home and kitchen.


Oak could almost be described as the “American wood.” Not only is it extraordinarily abundant in America (over 1/3 of American commercially used wood), but it has been instrumental in advancing American commerce through its wide range of applications. [4] Oak is the hardest of the hardwoods, and its dense grain makes it damage resistant and relatively heavy. All woods have grain patterns, but oak wood has the most distinct appearance. Graining patterns will reveal different color grades when stained and can appear striped or wavy, very fine or broad.

Because of its abundance and durability, oak is the most commonly used wood. The availability of oak allows it to be the least expensive of the hardwoods. Oak is commonly used for furniture, flooring and other household uses including building frames. Oak cabinets are uniquely equipped to withstand rough treatment and will resist dents or scratches better than other wood cabinets.  Over time, Oak has been America’s choice to beautify the kitchen.


One of the more distinct grain patterns is found in hickory wood. Rather than streaks and waves, the grains in a hickory cabinet are flowing, complete and sweeping creating stark shades within a single piece of wood. Hickory wood is very smooth and easy to stain, and also provides a very solid close-grained wood (also used in baseball bats).  It’s wildly unique graining provides an attractive rustic look to any kitchen.


If your priority is what might be described as a softer or more lush beauty, birch might provide the type of look you are interested in. Like cherry, birch stains extremely well and is smooth to the touch. The grain patterns in birch wood have subtle waves and flows.  Birch gives a warm and cozy charm to any home’s kitchen.

Thermofoil Cabinets

Made from durable PVC vinyl film, thermofoil cabinets provide a unique alternative to hardwood cabinets. These cabinets tend to have more luster and bring brightness to a kitchen that certain wood options might not be able to provide. Thermofoil cabinets come in a variety of colors, but white is the most common. This cabinet option can bring a more modern look to the kitchen, but will also fit nicely in a traditional setting.

Storage Options

Many storage options are available including basket inserts, appliance garages, Lazy Susans, plate rack displays, spice storage units, and lattice wine racks. Even the handles on the drawers and cabinets can be specifically selected. A wide variety of choices can be made in your kitchen to create a highly personalized design.

The Kitchen is Where the Heart Is

Unlike most rooms in your home, the kitchen is the most constant room. You use it throughout the day, but you can’t re-arrange it like your living room or bedroom  Yet, few rooms in the home provide you the options of creativity and expression like your kitchen. Here we have explained the basic features of the most popular kitchen cabinet compositions available today. The details of the cabinet doors, storage space, drawers, and more provide even more creative opportunities. Be sure to explore all of your options for kitchen cabinet material and designs, and have fun designing one of the most frequently used rooms in your home!

Steve Kaufer, President
Maple Craft USA

[1] http://www.worldbook.com/wb/worldbook/cybercamp/html/walkmapl.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple

[3] http://www.thewoodbox.com/data/wood/cherryinfo.htm

[4] http://www.hardwoodinfo.com/species_guide/display_species.asp?species=redoak