how to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern

How To Make Oak Kitchen Cabinets Look Modern

Do you love oak cabinets but also want a more stylized look for your kitchen? You’ll benefit from understanding how to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern. While solid wood naturally looks more traditional and classic, with the following advice from a trusted kitchen remodel contractor in Atlanta, Southern Oak Home Renovations, you can create a contemporary look in your kitchen even with oak cabinets. 

Update the Hardware

Modern kitchens depend on solid blocks of color, sleek lines, and minimalism, and changing out your cabinet’s hardware is one of the easiest solutions. For more modern hardware, prioritize handles without any flourishes or embellishments and avoid anything big and bulky. Also, choose more modern materials and colors like matte black or brushed nickel.

You could even opt for non-hardware cabinets by enabling push-to-open doors that enhance the sleekness and minimalism of your entire kitchen. 

Add a New Finish

Traditional cabinets usually have a light stain or gloss, or the natural wood may look distressed or weathered. However, for a more modern look, you should avoid more natural earth and wood tones. With oak wood cabinets, you can create a more contemporary look with any of the following finishing choices:

  • Paint: Painted cabinets cover up the natural grain of your oak cabinets, but they also create a focal point that can highlight your overall aesthetic. In general, you should choose a single, dark color, such as black, for your cabinets and leave the accent colors to your backsplash or other decorations.
  • Dark stain: If you love the beautiful look of your wood’s grain, you can opt for a dark stain on your cabinets rather than the traditional honey or light color typical of traditional kitchen designs.
  • White-washing: You might think white-washing is too traditional, but design experts are bringing it back into fashion and it now helps create a modern, light look while still highlighting the wood’s natural grain.

Resurface Them

Resurfacing your cabinets is the midway point between completely replacing them and simply repainting them. It involves replacing the cabinet faces (the part that opens) but leaving the frame. If your oak cabinets currently have a raised door panel, consider replacing them with a flat surface, which often accentuates the minimalistic appearance of modern design. 

You should also prioritize horizontal grain patterns over verticle ones. Horizontal lines are a fundamental aspect of modern design and it will also differentiate you from most other kitchens that use oak cabinets, as verticle graining is the most common.

Make Them Open Concept

Organizing your kitchen cabinets helps you maximize the space and allows you to store more dishes, equipment, and utensils. If you’re able to keep your cabinets organized, consider removing the doors and creating open shelving. This enhances the minimalist approach and sleek lines of your kitchen, but you’ll have to stay purposeful about keeping them decluttered.

An open-concept storage solution isn’t a good fit for everyone, because clutter can hinder the effect of modern design. However, if you’re able to reduce what you keep in your open shelving, it can take your design aesthetic to the next level. You can always keep some of your cabinets closed, and that’s where you can store the dishes and equipment you don’t want on display.

Repaint Your Walls

If you’re wondering how to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern, consider repainting your walls. Our brains interpret beauty by taking everything in context, and thus, repainting your walls with a more modern color can create a temporary look without actually changing anything about the cabinets themselves.

When repainting your wall, avoid patterns and textures and opt for solid colors. Dark colors like black and grey remain the most popular option for modern kitchens, but a white or other lighter color can work with the right context. In general, avoid earthy tones like light beiges.

If you prefer bold colors, like reds or tiles, those can work, provided you contrast them with dark countertops, fixtures, and cabinets. If you’re unsure about your design choices, the experts at Southern Oak Home Renovations can give you expert advice.

Consider a Black Splash

A backsplash is an excellent opportunity to enhance your kitchen and protect it from water and grease. If you don’t already have a backsplash, consider installing one for the benefits it grants. If you have a more traditional backsplash, consider changing it up with a more modern design.

One easy solution is to paint over your existing tile with more contemporary paint colors. If you’re willing to invest in a new backsplash, you can do the following the bring your property up-to-date:

  • One major trend is creating your backsplash from the same material as your counters.
  • A backsplash that uses an accent color can provide the perfect contrast for your overall decor without feeling distracting from more prominent design features.
  • Avoid common designs like white subway tile that, while timeless, won’t provide the design aesthetic required to make your oak cabinets look more modern.
  • Darker colors can better hide water stains and grime, making it easier to clean.
  • Reflective surfaces like black glass can perfectly enhance the sleekness inherent in modern design aesthetics.

Modernize Appliances

Appliances can significantly improve the overall aesthetic of your kitchen, so if you want a modern feel, consider upgrading to stainless steel for the sleek, industrial look they provide. Solid black or white stoves and fridges harken to a more classic time, so appliances are the one area where splitting up the block of color provides an essential design aesthetic.

While a gas stove exemplifies a modern look, you can still achieve your design aesthetic with an electric one. The most important thing is to incorporate elements of steel. If your appliances are relatively new, don’t go out of your way to replace them early, but when it comes time to replace them, prioritize appliances with modern looks.

Change the Lighting

Just like modern hardware can give your oak cabinets an updated look, changing your lighting fixtures can have the same effect. Popular options for modern lighting include the following:

  • Hanging lights like chandeliers don’t have to feel outdated or classic. With contemporary design and dark metals, you can have luxurious overhead lighting for the 21st century.
  • Recessed lighting can provide adequate lighting without standing out and distracting from your other design features. 
  • While sconces might feel medieval, a simple wall-mount with dark colors and a modern metallic look provides a high-end, modern look.
  • Much like recessed lighting, lights installed directly under your cabinets provide your lighting needs without worrying about whether it looks modern or traditional.

As with all modern design features, prioritize darker colors, sleek lines, and a minimalist appearance.

Add Decorations

The final way to add modern context to your traditional oak cabinets is by choosing the right decorations. From contemporary art to highlighting metallic utensils or a sleek blender, adding decoration to your walls and counters adds the final piece of the stylistic puzzle. You can even change them out for the various seasons and holidays.

Southern Oak Home Renovations Can Expertly Install Your Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you know how to make oak kitchen cabinets look modern, you can reach out to Southern Oak Home Renovations to help you design the perfect kitchen. Whether you’re wondering about kitchen colors that go with oak cabinets or need the perfect countertop materials for your lifestyle, we make every step of the design process stress-free and enjoyable.

To schedule a consultation, call 404-919-0247 or visit Southern Oak Home Renovation’s contact page.

Eric French

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