When choosing a cabinet, there are a lot of important things to consider. Two of the most important among them are the type of wood and the finish. Whether a cabinet is stained, painted, glazed, or both will effect not only how it will look, but also how it will feel for everyday use. The most popular species of wood for cabinetry are cherry, maple, hickory, red oak, and alder. Oak and alder, for example, in rustic finishes, bear visible knots and mineral variations.
Cherry is an elegant choice for its warm color, which deepens as it ages. It is a dense wood, known for its predominantly red undertones. Its color can range from pale yellow to deep brown.
Maple is also rather dense, but with generally softer tones and a fine, uniform grain. Because of its closed grain, it generally has a very smooth finish. Hickory wood can have a dramatic grain pattern, which is enhanced by lighter colored stains. Its color ranges from a soft white to medium brown. Oak, like maple and hickory, is a hardwood. It is warm and open-grained, which allows it to stain easily. The color of oak varies from reddish-tan to medium brown. For its variation and its shock resistance, it has been consistently very popular throughout history. Wood from alder trees comes from the Pacific Northwest. It is a comparatively soft wood, and a wonderful choice for rustic looks.
Finishes include some combination of staining, painting, and glazing—techniques that seal the cabinet and add color. Paint is opaque, and so can change the look of any variety of cabinet entirely. In addition to making a number of choices possible, these accent tones slightly change the way a cabinet feels to the touch. It’s best to visit a showroom to get a sense of the various possibilities, as well as your particular preferences.
A stain is a way to enhance and protect the natural qualities of the wood, and unlike paint, is translucent. It adds color, but still allows for visible patterns of grain. It can mask or intensify these patterns depending on the pigment of the stain.
Glaze can be applied to cabinets that are painted or stained, and also provide protection for the cabinets. Glaze gives dimension to painted cabinets and changes the value of the painted cabinet’s hue. If selecting a glaze, consider how the glaze collects and adheres to the profiles of sample cabinets, and how it can embolden the design and result in a look that is especially sharply-defined.
The possibilities are as endless as the combinations. The only certainty is that after making your selections, you will have a cabinet that is uniquely yours.