Designing kitchen cabinets to compliment your style and home aesthetics is a tricky terrain. This is gaining importance as paints are slowly becoming uninteresting. Stains, along with finishes, are taking over the interiors now, especially in the kitchens. If you haven’t given it a thought, this might be your moment of truth. 

What makes this topic intriguing is that there are a multitude of options to explore now. For example, you can use wood stains to deliver a classic or modern look or a finish to turn your space luxurious and high-end. 

So, whether you are looking to build a new kitchen or upgrade your old restaurant kitchen, we have listed the best options for both. Check them out below. 

Wood Stains for Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the right wood stain for your kitchen cabinets can transform the space, offering a refreshing update or an entirely new look. At BK Ciandre, we understand the importance of selecting the perfect stain to complement your home’s aesthetic and meet your lifestyle needs. Let’s dive into the seven top stain choices that promise to rejuvenate your kitchen cabinets:

  • White or Silver Stain: Perfect for those seeking a contemporary or minimalist look. These stains brighten spaces, making them appear larger and more open, while offering a modern flair.

  • Natural Stain: Celebrates the inherent beauty and grain of the wood, adding a layer of warmth and depth. It’s ideal for showcasing high-quality wood in its most authentic form.

  • Amber Stain: Introduces a warm, inviting glow to your cabinets. It’s akin to giving your kitchen a cozy, sunlit ambiance, enhancing the wood’s natural color with a hint of honey.

  • Dark Gray or Black Stain: Offers a bold, sophisticated edge. Perfect for making a statement and providing contrast in a bright kitchen, these stains bring a sleek, modern vibe.

  • Red Stain: Adds a rich, vibrant undertone to the wood, perfect for adding character and warmth. This stain can transform ordinary wood into an eye-catching piece of art.

  • Bright Colored Stain: Injects fun and personality into your kitchen. Ideal for customizing spaces with a unique, playful touch while still allowing the wood’s texture to peek through.

  • Dark Stain: A classic choice, dark stains like chocolate brown or espresso lend a rustic or traditional look to your kitchen. These stains evoke a sense of history and permanence, providing a rich backdrop that enhances the overall warmth and depth of your space.

Best Finishes for Kitchen Cabinets


Lacquers are the best when trying to achieve a stain-free and waterproof finish on your kitchen cabinets. They also exhibit a sheen that makes your kitchen appear luxurious. However, these require some effort in the form of polishes and cleaners to maintain their looks. 

Lacquer Kitchen cabinet the Best Wood Stains and Finishes for Kitchen Cabinets

The thick coating of lacquers makes the surface less susceptible to damage from acids, alkalis, or water. There is no need for multiple coats, and they dry up faster, thus saving time. However, lacquers may develop a yellowish hue over some time and cannot be applied on old, finished, or painted surfaces.

Types of lacquers

You can choose one of the following for your kitchen cabinets.

  • Solid lacquer: If your cabinets are constructed using maple or oak, these are just ideal. 
  • Solid finish: High-end kitchens or restaurants that aim for a rich look can opt for this finish. While the entire process of adding this finish takes some time, the results are definitely worth the wait. To avoid any gap on the surface, hire a professional who will use the right rollers and brushes for the purpose. 
  • Paint lacquer: An inexpensive alternative to solid finishes, paint lacquer is also low on maintenance. It can be used on kitchen cabinets made from plywood, MDF, or particleboard


In a polyurethane finish, the small chains of resin molecules bond with each other tightly. This results in a finish that is stronger than most other finishes. So, whether you want your kitchen cabinets to have a rich golden tone or maintain natural lightness, there is a polyurethane type for it. 

Polyurethane finishes for kitchen cabinets are available in four forms: satin, matt, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. They are easy to apply and can be applied on concrete and metal surfaces. Also, they are durable and safe from dents, scratches, or smudges. But do not apply them multiple times, or it will leave you with a plastic-like appearance.

These are of two types: Oil-based polyurethane and water-based polyurethane.

  • Oil-based polyurethane: It delivers a warm, golden color while making the surface durable. There is no hassle in applying, and it takes its sweet time to dry up. That means you have ample time to work in between the coatings.
  • Water-based polyurethane: For a crystal-clear finish, you can consider a water-based polyurethane finish. But its watery texture is the reason you may have to apply more coatings. Nevertheless, they do not contain VOCs and thus are safer for the environment and your health. 


The most popular and commonly used top coating is varnishes. They are well-known for maintaining the beauty of the wood and saving it from the external elements. They are prepared by using different types of resins. 

Varnishes prevent scratches on the top surface and also protect the cabinets from damage due to spills.

These can be further categorized into two types: natural resins and synthetic resins.

  • Natural resins: examples include amber, balsam, copal, dammar, elemi, kauri gum, rosin mastic, sandarac, and shellac. 
  • Synthetic resins: acrylic, alkyd, and polyurethane are some of its types.


It is a water-based finish for those looking for an eco-friendly finish for their kitchen cabinets. It is prepared from the secretion of a female lac bug. Also, it is water resistant but not very durable in comparison to the above three. 

  • Seedlac: This type of shellac is taken from the branches that were previously laden with resin left behind by the lac bug. 
  • Button Shellac: Commercial button shellac is made by heating a canvas tube. The resin comes out and is laid on a steel plate, on which buttons are formed. It retains a small amount of the natural shellac. 
  • Waxy Shellac: Made from the rax seed lac, these are known for their natural wax content as well as their color. 

Choosing the Right Stain for Your Kitchen

Here are a few factors you must consider before selecting stains for your kitchen cabinets:

Red Oak Cabinet the Best Wood Stains and Finishes for Kitchen Cabinets

Wood color

This is the first thing you should think about. Take an example. Red oak has a pinkish undertone. If you choose to apply a golden yellow stain, the undertone will still be visible. Therefore, pick a stain that does not require enforcement on the surface and yet maintains its authenticity.

Wood grain

Wood species vary, and one of the variables is wood grains. Different stains are prepared to keep in mind the wood grain. So, pick one that is closer to the natural grain of the wood. This saves your cabinets from looking dramatic and overdone.

Stain a bigger piece.

To see if the stain will work just like you have imagined, then paint a bigger piece of the actual wood you have used for building the cabinets. Often, people apply the stain on a small chip. Do not make this mistake, as it won’t give you a clear idea. 


Once you stain a section, move it into your kitchen and have a good look at it. Is it complimenting the space? Do you like the way it looks under the fluorescent light? To make an informed decision, you should also watch them closely in natural light. This highlights the undertones and grain patterns so that you can make the right call.

The interiors

The overall look you are aiming for your home is a deciding factor. For instance, medium brown or warm stains work well for a rustic look. Similarly, cool and dark stains are a go-to option for modern, chic kitchens.  

How to Choose the Right Finish for Your Kitchen Cabinet

Look at your cabinet style.

A clear finish is the right finish for a customized kitchen cabinet done in natural wood. This is a common sight in Nordic kitchen designs. Just like its name, it does not add any color but accentuates the natural beauty.  

The size of the kitchen

In a smaller kitchen or with cabinets that are stained dark, consider lighter finishes. This helps in opening up the space. You can also combine two finishes but do it strategically. The kitchen island cabinets can be dark, but keep the rest lighter. 

Condition of the cabinets

This is vital. Aged cabinets, for instance, that are in a distressed state need multiple finish types to hide the imperfections. These may also demand distressing to make them appear old and used. In addition to using the right finish, these may require paint or stain as well. 

Combine with colors

Earlier, having kitchen cabinets using the same color and finish was a common sight. However, more and more people are experimenting with colors now, so much so that you might witness two different colors: lighter for the islands and darker for the cabinets and vice versa. 

Application Tips and Techniques

  • Always clean the wood surface before applying the finish
  • Clean them regularly to prevent grime buildup.
  • Use cleaning products that do not harm the finishes
  • Keep repairing minor scratches or dings as soon as you witness them
  • Reapply the finish as and when needed to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the cabinets

It’s Time to Wrap Up!

We agree that selecting the right stain and finish for your kitchen cabinets can be overwhelming. A multitude of choices makes it even tougher. Therefore, we hope our list of the best stains and finishes will help you make a quick decision. 

Ask your interior designer to replicate one of the ideas we shared. Or get in touch with us to create the kitchen cabinets you desire!