Unfinished Kitchen Cabinets

Browse helpful info on unfinished kitchen cabinets, and sort through options for staining, painting or leaving them in their natural state.
Brown Kitchen with Unfinished Cabinets

Brown Kitchen with Unfinished Cabinets

The unfinished cabinets in this kitchen show off the wood's natural beauty and rich brown tone. The stainless steel appliances provide a crisp, contemporary contrast.

Photo by: Garret Bautista

Garret Bautista

By: Sean McEvoy

Once you've chosen a material for your kitchen cabinets, your next step is to choose a finish—and if you're like many homeowners, you'll want to give yourself ultimate flexibility by purchasing unfinished kitchen cabinets. This way, whether you choose to stain, paint or leave the cabinets unfinished, this crucial final step will be completely in your control.

Inspiring Kitchen Remodels

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The owner of this home wanted a cutting-edge kitchen, and the two single ovens anchor the sleek design that emerged. Mother-of-pearl granite countertops and frosted-glass tiles provide a bright balance for the darker cabinets. A socially accommodating space was created by turning the island in the opposite direction and diverting the table space away from the window to the back of the island.

The homeowner's two children are competent assistants in the kitchen, but this was a kitchen built for one. And there was little connection to the rest of the home, inadequate counter space and no storage. After opening a hallway, moving the powder room, adding a large pantry and creating a built-in seating area for the table, the result is a well-lighted open space. A convenient traffic flow through the L-shaped layout allows access to the back deck and dining room.

A red quartz countertop was at the core of this retired couple's wishes for their city condominium. Highlighting their art collection was achieved with extensive lighting on independent controls. Appliances behind panels or an aluminum finish were the solution to the homeowners' desire to avoid stainless steel. Calcutta gold marble for the floor and horizontal glass tile on the backsplash in a mix of matte and gloss finish were chosen to coordinate with the acrylic-finished European cabinets.

Photo By: unknown

At 8 1/2 feet in width, this kitchen stands small but mighty in its high functionality. Equipment selection and placement were the key to this success of this gallery kitchen's design. An integrated refrigerator and dishwasher were fitted behind cabinetry, and an on-wall storage system maintains a clean line to the kitchen. The room's taller components are clustered at the same end of the room as the pantry to allow for more counter area near the entry and window. Truffle-brown pine cabinetry presents a pleasing contrast to white Carrara marble countertops and backsplash. A wall to display the homeowner's photography and handle-less cabinets finish the look.

The homeowner wanted a unique kitchen that would serve as a showcase for her clients. The result is open spaces that make the most of the oceanfront view but still maintain a warm, cozy environment. Her desire for a new approach to cabinetry drew her to an Asian style with a sculpted door. Rich, warm walnut balances cool hues of frosted glass, which has the effect of bringing the blues and greens of the ocean into the home. Limited space for a table prompted inventive design, with a custom-made 72-inch round butcher-block table and built-in booth seating attached to the island.

Ecole des Beaux Arts, a collection of influential art schools in France with origins in the 1600s, was the inspiration for this kitchen. In contrast with the freedom of mixing elements stylistically, a strict adherence to symmetry is evident in this style. The range wall in drywall reflects the form of the base bridges on the sink wall. Marble countertops harmonize with the island's custom mosaic top. The organizational conveniences are numerous, but sliding marble panels obscure storage.

A wow factor was added to the kitchen of this 1940s-era home with a sleek modern design. The dramatic look includes a mix of rich espresso and warm brandy stains on cherry cabinets, porcelain tile with random-patterned glass mosaic on the backsplash, and countertops of granite tile and laminate.

Photo By: Jennifer Brinkman

It began with a typical U-shaped kitchen suited for a one-cook family, but this family of four cooks had other ideas. They wanted open storage for everyday items and no wall cabinets or visible appliances. They also wanted a speed oven, a steam oven and a cappuccino machine. They loved the idea of simplicity in an entire wall of stainless appliances and cabinets. What they ended up with is a true cook's kitchen with the uncluttered look they wanted. Two pantries with a sliding-door storage system and deep drawers solved storage issues, a French-door refrigerator was added, and a new island was positioned and topped with gray quartz.

Parents of five children, these homeowners required not only a family-accommodating kitchen but one fit for a chef. The husband had received a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Paris and wanted the functionality of a commercial kitchen. His wife wanted to blend her own workspace into the area without sacrificing the elegant entertaining space they wanted. Appliances were of utmost importance, and a gas cooktop with a French burner in the center, a steam oven, a convection oven, speed ovens and a warming drawer are all included.

An antique Russian submarine porthole was rusting in the homeowner's garage, and he knew it had to go somewhere in his new house. It found its place in a saltwater-reef fish tank that can be viewed from the family room as well as the kitchen. The reclaimed pine floors from a barn in West Virginia, the tongue-and-groove painted boards on the walls and the mahogany tongue-and-groove panels on the ceiling coffers create a luminescent effect. A classic tin ceiling painted and glazed with a pewter finish and a tin crown sitting atop the ceiling-height cabinets in olive green give the kitchen a warm glow. The bar area offers just the place for casual dining and fish-gazing.

Photo By: John D Smoak III

The grand open floor plan of this contemporary desert home was perfect for an urban loft-like kitchen design. A massive steel girder at the tall open ceiling, exposed-brick support columns, polished concrete floors and the lack of solid walls create a sleek industrial air. Workstations were created to add definition to the space. Instead of a typical cooktop configuration for the island, it encompasses a tier of efficient base cabinetry, ample counter space and a fun-shaped stainless steel prep sink. Connected to this focal point, banco seating was constructed and covered in a versatile vinyl. Sharp angular lines tempered by fluent curves create balance in this modern setting.

This large space lacked functionality and personality. A wall that blocked the view to the family room was removed and the dining room entrance relocated, and the cooking area was placed against the back wall to create a delightful backdrop for this state-of-the-art design. A large prep sink is conveniently placed in the island, along with refrigerator drawers. New walls to the left and right of the back wall completed the U-shaped kitchen, with room for a large pantry, double ovens, a wine cooler, a six-burner gas cooktop and a refrigerator. The family room is bridged with a curved custom buffet and cabinet. Black honed-granite counters complement the grain-matched teak cabinets.

To accommodate their family, the homeowners wanted their kitchen to be a place where they and their four children could feel inspired to create and enjoy meals together. They also wanted soothing natural materials and interesting architectural details to be incorporated into the design. The main preparation island was turned to face the natural light on the west wall. And the window opening into the new solarium was artfully lined with an Eastern motif of open grillwork, allowing for light and an artistic focal point.

Photo By: Donna Griffith

This remodel project of a 5-year-old condominium was to create a more open space that would include sitting and dining areas that take advantage of the high-rise view. The homeowners were looking for a sleek contemporary look with touches of warmth. Cherry wood with a translucent black stain, statuario marble countertops and stainless steel appliances were selected. The backlighted honey-onyx pedestal presents a dramatic focal point and helps give definition to the traffic path and the separation between kitchen and living space. It also serves as an anchor to the half-inch-thick tempered-glass top that appears to float above the workspace.

This kitchen flows without disruption from the inside to an outside terrace, which includes an exterior barbecue. The appliances are hidden behind large pocket doors, including a dumbwaiter, rather than cabinet panels.

Photo By: Erhard Pfeiffer

In terms of material, unfinished kitchen cabinets are almost exclusively made from wood, left in its natural state, without any stain, varnish or paint treatments. This means you or a contractor will be free to choose the treatment that works best for your kitchen.

You'll have almost unlimited options when it comes to completing the look of unfinished kitchen cabinets. The first and by far the easiest choice is to leave them in their stark, natural, unfinished state. Unfinished cabinets tend to give a kitchen a welcoming, rustic, casual feel, and certain types of wood like cherry, mahogany and ivory offer a high-quality unfinished appearance.

Your next option is to stain the cabinets, or add a veneer. Staining is more labor intensive, but it has a more natural look than a veneer, and the range of stain colors is much more diverse than the range of veneer colors.

Finally, you may choose to paint your unfinished kitchen cabinets. Again, you'll have every color in the rainbow and unlimited combinations thereof to choose from. If you do choose to paint, just be certain beforehand that you're willing to mask the wood's natural grain and appearance—or some version of it in combination with a stain—in favor of a particular paint color.

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