So a couple years ago, I wrote about getting rid of the old yellowed-oak look of the 90s. Guess what? It’s back! No, no, not the yellowed look of the 90s, but oak is back—only this time, the updated oak look is a painted oak. Cabinet companies are starting to introduce this new painted look, but instead of a satin, smooth surface, designers are liking the textured wood-grain look with matte paint, which really highlights the oak graining of the wood.
So, if you’ve been holding on to the oak cabinets in your house because you just didn’t know where to start with updating, now you have a starting point. However, you can’t just paint the oak cabinets you have and expect to have the same results. The wood graining on your existing cabinets is covered in polyurethane or lacquer, so if you paint that, and especially if you use a matte paint, it will highlight any uneven surfaces, and they will end up looking splotchy. Your cabinets will need to be sanded down, possibly wire brushed to get the graining to stand up a bit, and then you can paint them to get that similar look that’s in style right now. Enlisting a professional painter is probably a must, but if you want to try it, start with the back of a cabinet door to see how good you can make it look before you take off all your doors and have a project you wish you would never have started.
Matte is in. Even the countertop companies are doing matte finishes on most—if not all—of their countertops, and if they don’t offer it, the fabricators can change the texture from a high-gloss polished surface to a satin/leathered or honed/matte finish with a special machining technique. The acrylic companies like Corian also offer a satin or matte finish, and laminates are starting to go that way, too.
What does this mean?
To me, it means that people must like cleaning off fingerprints. I would not use a matte countertop surface in my own house, but I also don’t like having to clean my countertops every five minutes. Matte finishes show any oil residues from cooking or even from your hands. If you set a cup of coffee on the counter, the matte finish will show the ring from your coffee mug long after the mug is in the dishwasher.
Avoid going with too many matching surfaces. My recommendation is to mix textures. If you have matte cabinets, do a polished countertop. Let the polish reflect the natural light coming in through the windows, brighten the space and make the matte finish of the cabinets stand out that much more. And if you paint your cabinets, go with a contrasting flooring.
By mixing the textures of matte and polish, and using contrasting colors of light and dark, you’ll avoid things being too monochromatic, even if you stay within the same color family. Providing contrast with the interior finishes also adds depth to the room and provides flexibility for future changes.
By Annie Nye, Interior Designer