Mixing wood and painted finishes in your kitchen can create a stylish, warm, and inviting space. With careful planning and execution, you can blend these two elements beautifully. Here are some tips for combining wood and paint in your kitchen design.

Choosing Your Wood

When selecting wood elements for your kitchen, opt for warm tones that complement the painted finishes. Good choices include:

  • Oak – A classic option that wears well over time. Opt for a medium or darker stain to contrast with painted cabinets or walls.
  • Cherry – Has a rich, reddish-brown color. Works with both light and dark paint colors.
  • Walnut – Has a chocolatey brown hue with slight gray undertones. Pairs nicely with light blues or grays.
  • Maple – Light brown with red undertones. Provides visual contrast to white or cream cabinets.

Consider how the wood species takes stain. Some, like pine, have very pronounced grain patterns. Others, like poplar, take stain more evenly. This impacts the overall look.

Selecting Painted Surfaces

When choosing painted finishes, consider undertones that work with your wood selections.

  • For warm wood tones like oak or cherry, classic whites, grays, and navy blues help the wood stand out.
  • With walnut or especially dark woods, lighter neutrals like almond, light gray, or soft white help keep the space feeling open.

Matte, eggshell, or satin sheens prevent painted surfaces from clashing with the luster of stained wood. High-gloss paints can look jarring next to wood’s natural patina.

Where to Use Each Element

Strategically place wood and painted finishes to create a cohesive look:

Painted cabinets + wood countertops: The crisp look of painted cabinets makes an excellent contrast to the rich glow of wood countertops like oak or walnut.

Wood island + painted perimeter cabinets: Using wood for a central island or peninsula surrounded by painted cabinetry provides visual separation.

Painted upper cabinets + wood lowers: Combine the clean look of white or painted uppers with warm wood base cabinets in oak, maple or cherry.

Wood accent wall + painted cabinets: Use wood paneling, planks or shiplap as an accent wall to complement painted cabinetry in lighter hues.

Application Techniques

Proper prep and application help marry wood and paint successfully:

  • For painted cabinets, sand and prime thoroughly before applying two coats of cabinet-grade enamel. Allow proper drying time between coats.
  • For stained wood, prepare the surface by sanding smoothly and removing any grease or residue. Apply conditioner before staining for even absorption. Apply a sealant afterward for protection.
  • When possible, have wood and painted finishes professionally applied for the highest quality result.

Adding Other Materials

Wood and paint don’t have to do all the work. Adding other materials can enhance the blend:

  • Warm metal hardware and fixtures in brushed bronze, oil-rubbed bronze or unlacquered brass complement both wood and painted finishes.
  • Natural stone or quartz countertops pair nicely with wood and painted cabinets for timeless elegance.
  • Tile backsplashes can provide visual separation between wood and painted areas. Neutral or subtle patterns work best.

With careful planning, you can successfully blend wood and painted finishes in your kitchen. Use warm wood tones, soft painted colors, strategic placement and proper application to create a cohesive and inviting kitchen space.

Your Kitchen: Mix Wood and Painted Finishes

Mixing wood and painted finishes can add stylish contrast and visual interest to any kitchen. Here are some ideas for incorporating both elements into your kitchen design:

  • Combine a natural wood island with white or neutral painted perimeter cabinets and furniture-like detailing for the island to make it a focal point.
  • Use shaker-style painted cabinets along with open wood shelving for an airy, casual vibe. The wood adds warmth.
  • Paint upper cabinets a light color like almond or gray, and pair with wood base cabinets in a dark espresso stain for a classic combination.
  • For a cottage or farmhouse feel, opt for beadboard wood paneling on the lower third of the walls with airy white painted cabinets.
  • Distress new wood cabinets very lightly for a worn patina then paint just the inside of the cabinets a fun, bright color for a pop of contrast.
  • Install a wood accent wall with planks or shiplap boards as a textural backdrop to crisp white painted cabinetry.

The key is choosing complementary paint and wood colors and balancing sleek surfaces with organic textures. With creative blending, you can achieve a mix of materials that suits your personal style.

FAQs About Mixing Wood and Painted Finishes

What paint sheen works best with wood cabinets?

A matte, eggshell, or satin paint sheen will complement wood cabinets best. High gloss paint contrasts too much and competes with wood’s natural shine.

What should I consider when choosing wood and paint colors?

Make sure your wood stain and paint colors coordinate aesthetically. Warm wood tones pair well with whites, gray, navy and softer pastels. Cooler grays work with darker walnut and espresso woods.

Can I mix wood and painted cabinets together?

Yes, combining painted and wood cabinets is a great way to add visual interest. Try wood base cabinets with painted uppers or a wood island with painted perimeter cabinets.

Should all the wood finishes match throughout the kitchen?

Matching wood finishes creates a unified look. However, varying wood tones in small amounts can also look nice, for example wood island in dark walnut and wood open shelves in a lighter oak.

How do I transition from wood to painted surfaces?

Use trim pieces, lighting elements, tiles or other intermediary materials to create a separation between wood and painted areas. This helps each surface stand out.


Blending wood and painted finishes in the kitchen allows you to enjoy the warmth and texture of real wood along with the clean lines of painted millwork. The key is choosing complementary finishes through colors, placement and scale. Timeless combinations include stained wood bases with painted uppers, light open shelving with bold painted islands, and natural wood accent walls with crisp whites and grays. With smart planning and design, you can craft a kitchen full of style, contrast and visual charm by thoughtfully mixing wood and paint.