Cabinet Wood Style

When choosing wood, it all comes down to three important details: type, color and grain.


Wood is a product of nature and will vary in color, texture and grain.  Also, as wood ages and is exposed to sunlight, it will naturally change color slightly – this is called “mellowing”.  These natural characteristics are part of the unique charm and beauty of wood cabinetry.  We recommend viewing several cabinet door samples and displays to become familiar with the natural characteristics of the particular wood species and cabinet finish you select.


Cherry hardwoods are admired for their rich, beautiful color, satiny smooth texture and uniform grain pattern.  Cherry is one of our most popular wood species and the color will range from light to medium reddish brown with some areas of light creamy color.  Small mineral flecks, pitch pockets and areas of sapwood occur naturally.  The rich color of Cherry hardwoods will darken with age and exposure to sunlight.


One of our most popular options, Maple is known for its smooth texture and creamy white color, which can exhibit subtle variation from white to light brown.   Maple has varying areas of density that will absorb stain differently, creating a mottled appearance with darker stains.  Mineral streaks (dark mineral deposits absorbed from the soil in which the tree grew) are a naturally occurring characteristic.  With its smooth texture, Maple is an ideal wood species for painted finishes as well as stained finishes.


Knotty Alder is chosen for its rustic, informal appearance.  Knots vary in size and distribution and include tight, sound knots as well as rustic, open and split knots.  Alder is a smooth hardwood with color and graining similar to cherry ranging from a light honey color to a reddish-brown hue.  With time and exposure to sunlight, Knotty Alder will slowly turn a shade lighter in color which is a natural characteristic of the wood species.


Quarter Sawn Oak is admired for its distinctive grain pattern which became especially popular with Arts & Craft furniture design.  “Quarter-Sawn” refers to the manner in which the wood is cut from the log that creates a distinctive and desirable straight grain pattern with an intriguing “fleck”.  The color will vary from white to light brown with reddish hues.  Quarter- Sawn Oak is often selected for shaker or mission designs, but it is also favored for transitional and contemporary looks because of its straight consistent grain pattern.


Lyptus is a unique, sustainable wood species that has become popular with many homeowners.  It resembles Mahogany with its grain texture and rich red coloring but it has more color variation.  Lyptus is a hybrid of the Eucalyptus plant and is grown on plantations in South America that are certified to Brazil’s sustainable forestry standards.  A notable environmental advantage is that trees grow to full maturity in 15 years (compared to 50+ years for most domestic hardwoods).   Color is primarily a rich red brown but can vary dramatically from a light pink to a very dark brown.  Our darker stained finishes temper some of this color variation for a unique and attractive look.


Red Oak is recognized for its prominent grain pattern and texture which varies from a tight straight grain to a distinctive arch pattern.  Color ranges from a creamy white to light brown with reddish hues.  Occasional pin knots and mineral streaks may also occur but overall color and grain is fairly consistent.


Hickory is known for its prominent grain and dramatic color variation which can range from creamy white to dark brown within the same panel.  This color variation is characteristic of the species and is completely random.  Mineral streaks and sound knots are sometimes prevalent in this exceptional dense and strong hardwood.


Rustic Cherry is appreciated for its dramatic rustic appearance and rich warm coloring.  Rustic Cherry has a reddish hue but will exhibit areas of creamy white sap wood along with mineral streaks, burling, pitch pockets and other natural variations.  Knots will be prevalent in all shapes and sizes, with sound knots as well as open and split knots.  Over time and with exposure to sunlight, Rustic Cherry will darken in color.


For our Alectra® cabinetry, Exotic Veneers (Bamboo, Vertical Grain Fir, Zebrawood and White Oak) are available for transitional and contemporary designs with high visual impact.  With the exception of Bamboo, which is a natural wood veneer, our Exotic Veneer program utilizes “engineered” wood veneers to achieve a desirable consistent color and graining.  Natural veneers exhibit color and grain variations which are not always appreciated for contemporary design themes that require sleek consistent color.  For this reason, engineered veneers have been developed to specifically address this need and desire for consistency.  Additionally, engineered veneers are an environmentally friendly choice because they utilize sustainable wood species that are abundant and readily available.

Many of our engineered veneers utilize European Poplar.  With its overall light coloring and subtle grain pattern, it is ideally suited to create distinctive colors and patterns for engineered veneers.

To create an engineered veneer, logs are processed as usual for veneers.  A rotary lathe peels the log and then the sheet of veneer is clipped into shorter sections called “leaves”.  The leaves are then processed through a dyeing vat to create the various colors for the specific engineered veneer.  Depending on the particular color and pattern being produced, the veneers are stacked with alternating colors and then glued together in a large block of wood.  Once the veneers have been pressed into a large block, they can be re-sliced to create the desired grain pattern, texture and color.

All woods can be classified as hard or soft. Hardwood comes from broad-leafed trees such as birch, oak, maple, cherry and hickory. Softwood comes from needle-bearing evergreen trees such as pine, spruce and cedar.

From the light touches of maple to the darker hues of cherry, all woods have natural color variations even within the same tree. The inherent natural colors and variations result in a number of beautiful possibilities for your room. While KraftMaid finishes can either enhance or mask the material’s color variations, it’s important to understand the natural color characteristics and variations of wood to make sure you’re selecting a wood that will be right for your home. To understand these beautiful variations and select one that you will love, read about our range of finishes and speak with your kitchen designer for additional information.


Grain refers to the overall alignment, texture and various patterns that appear in your wood. And because every tree has distinct grain patterns and markings, each piece of wood from that tree will have its own unique design. Some basic grain descriptions include:

  • Fine: Inconspicuous or invisible patterns
  • Straight: Straight, vertical patterns
  • Cross: Lines that run parallel to the sides of the wood
  • Spiral: Tornado or funnel-like patterns
  • Wavy: Wave-like patterns
  • Curly: Circular patterns
  • Arch: Inverted U or V patterns

When creating a specific look and feel for your room, you’ll want to understand the five different types of wood KraftMaid uses to build our cabinetry:


Maple is a medium to hard wood with a straight, wavy or curly grain. Popular for its shock resistance and durability, maple has a light, uniform appearance that produces a smooth, clean look when stained. Another plus is that it can also be finished to resemble other, more expensive hardwoods and softwoods such as cherry and cedar. Maple is a great choice for a light, airy kitchen or a dramatic kitchen with darker finishes.


Oak is a very hard, heavy wood with a coarse grain that varies from straight to a distinctive sweeping arch pattern. Found in both red and white varieties, oak is a great cabinetry choice because it is timeless, blending beautifully with many different design styles. And it stains well in standard finish colors.


Birch is a smooth hardwood with straight, wavy or curly grains with a high shock resistance that takes any stain well. Birch is mostly a light-colored wood, and varies from cream to light yellow. However, the wood found in the center of the tree, or heartwood, takes on a darker reddish brown color, which may result in unique color variations in your cabinetry. It is versatile and can achieve any look, from a more casual space to a refined setting.


Hickory is one of our strongest, hardest and heaviest woods with random natural streaks that add unique accents to your cabinetry. Hickory has an array of naturally prominent colors ranging from very light cream to dark reddish brown to sometimes nearly black which easily can be enhanced by light or natural stains.


Cherry is well known for its smooth grain and unique color that mellows and deepens as it ages—like fine wine. This “mellowing” effect is enhanced by exposure to bright light and, depending on the amount of exposure, will tend to darken several shades over time. Considered a luxury wood due to its expensive price, cherry has pinkish-brown hues and occasional shades of white, green, or gray. Its dark color brings a warm elegance to any room.