Picking a Kitchen Cabinet Finish

Options include painted, stained, glazed, antiqued and distressed surfaces

Dave Stimmel Designed Drawer Behind Cabinet Leg

Photo by: Designer, Dave Stimmel

Designer, Dave Stimmel

By: Elizabeth Beeler

Cabinet finishes are a great way to personalize your kitchen. Manufactured wood doors and drawer fronts are available unfinished or with a factory-applied finish. Semi-custom cabinetry offers a wide selection of finishes and paint colors, which are typically baked on. Custom finishes are usually hand applied or rolled and topped with a varnish.

While unfinished cabinets are somewhat less expensive, the cost of labor to prep and paint them can easily offset savings. "For wood cabinetry, most manufacturers offer painted, stained, glazed, antiqued and distressed finishes," says home improvement center specialist Wanda Edwards Lee. Stains come in a variety of pigments, allowing the wood's natural grain to show.

A glaze is a semi-transparent wash of color applied over a paint to add dimension and depth. Glazes offer heavier contrast and less consistency. Glazes appear darker in the crevices, highlighting detailing. "It's like putting an ink pen to it," Lee says.

Antiqued patinas are hand-rubbed for added character, allowing cabinetry to appear well beyond its years. Cabinets may be distressed through a variety of techniques, which score the wood's surface to add age and a weathered rustic patina. Paint has a heavy pigment that does not show the wood's grain.

"Choose a timeless paint or finish and consider its impact as part of the whole design," says interior designer Jane Coslick. "Over time, you'll likely tire of anything too bold or distracting. Have a sample door finished first to compare against other design elements. Live with it for a few days before finalizing your decisions."

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