Solid wood kitchen cabinets: all you need to know

The trend for natural wood kitchens has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. However, it has remained a timeless option, especially in British design.

Solid wood kitchens can feel like the height of luxury. Natural wood – with its beautiful grain, nostalgic smell, and rich colours – feels classically sophisticated.

It is the equivalent of a Chanel dress or a tailored three-piece suit: timeless, traditional yet aspirational. Even though the wooden kitchen has been updated for the 21st century, its essence remains.

So if you’ve been considering buying a solid wood kitchen, you need to read this first. Here is everything you need to know…

Are solid wood kitchens better than those made with MDF or MFC?

Short answer: it depends.

Long answer: the craftsmanship of the kitchen determines its quality. Just because the raw materials are more expensive, it doesn’t mean the finished product is better overall. However, the longevity of solid wood cabinets makes them exceptional.

How are solid wood kitchens made?

Solid wood kitchens are generally made by hand by artisans using techniques developed for hundreds of years. These skills cannot be compared to a machine in a factory that churns out hundreds of cabinets daily.

Are solid wood kitchens more expensive?

Generally speaking, yes. Using whole pieces of timber to make a kitchen will cost more to manufacture. Also, there aren’t too many options for budget-friendly solid wood kitchens. So, you will probably need to design yours with the help of the bespoke side of the market, which tends to have higher prices.

What are the main benefits?

Nick Smith at The White Kitchen Company suggests the main benefits of a solid wood kitchen are its versatility and long-term durability. “By choosing hand-made units, you can tailor any style of cabinetry to suit your space. Solid wood enables you to choose from bright or dark colours, and have a kitchen that lasts a lifetime,” he says.

Oak wooden kitchen from Davenport with kitchen island and seating
Grosvenor kitchen, from £50,000, Davonport.

Which type of wood should you go for?

The options are endless. You can ask for something very broad, such as an oak kitchen, or something a lot more specific, like a partial tree from a specific region in the world.

It’s important to research the type of wood that is right for you and your kitchen as they all have various properties. Also, it’s best to consider the sustainable impact of each type of wood, too. Remember, some trees take decades to grow compared to others.

Now let’s get into the specifics. Hardwoods can be more durable, making the kitchen last, but they do take longer to grow. Softwoods grow fast but have a different lifespan to hardwoods.

Look into brands’ sustainability credentials as well – most solid wood manufacturers tend to use traditional methods, lowering their overall carbon footprint.

But which is the most popular wood? Alex Main, director at The Main Company, says oak is one of the most sought-after materials due to its strength and versatility.

“However, reclaimed wood is a popular option that considers the environment and introduces aesthetic charm. From oak to pine and spruce, if installing reclaimed wood cabinetry, always ensure it is engineered as this will stop it from twisting, shrinking and splitting, which can occur with wood if not properly looked after, ” he advises.

Wooden pantry unit by The Main Company
Wooden kitchen design by The Main Company.

Painted wood or natural wood?

Natural wood can provide a beautiful colour and texture to the overall kitchen. This look can lean into the traditional or rustic side. However, it can become very contemporary by paying attention to the style of cabinetry and including modern accents. So, solid wood isn’t reserved just for the classic shaker kitchen, but for any style.

With this type of wood, consider its grain and texture, as well as the colour. The natural look of the wood oozes an elegant feeling. However, painted solid wood kitchens are also popular, especially if you’re a lover of colour.

So, why not paint the doors with a gentle neutral hue and keep the insides natural? This will keep a hint of solid wood but still allow you the freedom of choosing your favourite shade for the exterior.

Solid wood kitchen with central island
Old Vicarage Period English kitchen design by The White Kitchen Company.

How do you take care of solid wood kitchens?

Natural wood kitchens require a bit of an upkeep, even though they are lower maintenance than a butcher block or wooden worktop, for example.

Wooden cabinets should be sealed and cared for properly. When chatting to your designer or retailer, remember to ask about care for your specific material as it may have different needs depending on the type and crafting process.

“Ensure the solid timber elements have been sealed or treated and check they’ve been lacquered or oiled,” recommends Elizabeth Sherwin, creative director at Naked Kitchens. “We would always spray lacquer on our exposed timber kitchens and components as this requires far less upkeep than an oiled finish.”

“Sealing is important to reduce the risk of staining or marking – plus it will help to protect the material from moisture.” she continues.

What’s more, Elizabeth says that if the timber is not stained, you may see changes in the tone over time, as it’s exposed to sunlight. “With oak, it is possible that the tone will become warmer and richer, compared to walnut which could bleach,” she explains.

Real wood and turquoise kitchen with large island
Georgian Hall kitchen by Naked Kitchens.

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