What Wood Grain Says About Your Cabinets

What Wood Grain Says About Your Cabinets

By a show of hands, how many of you know exactly which species of wood you’d like for your new cabinets?

No one?

Okay if you didn’t raise your hand, don’t panic – you’re in the majority. With so many different wood grains available for you to pick from, it’s no wonder you’re having a hard time choosing. To make things a bit easier, here are some brief wood-species descriptions and what they say about you and your choice in cabinets.


A rich and multi-colored hardwood, distinguished by its flowing grain pattern. Color varies from light with pinkish-brown hues and occasional shades of white, green, or gray, to deep reddish brown. Cherry wood will darken or “mellow” with age. This will be more noticeable with natural or light stain finishes. This dramatic color change will occur with exposure to light and usually takes place within the first six months. This mellowing is a natural occurrence and the rich color is one of the benefits of owning solid Cherry cabinets in your home.

What it says about you – Cherry is considered one of the more elegant wood species because of it’s rich color but also because it is generally one of the most expensive.


Natural Birch is a medium density hardwood with a fine close-grain pattern. Even with the grain being tight, you should expect small, random tick marks scattered throughout. Grown primarily in Northeast U.S. and Canada, Birch is a heavy wood with a high shock resistance. The predominant sapwood color is white to creamy yellow, while the heartwood varies in color from medium or dark brown to reddish brown. This range of color takes stain very well while also making a distinctive statement in your Birch cabinetry selection.

What it says about you – You value strength and durability – especially in the products that you choose for your home. The versatility of Birch allows it to achieve either a refined look or something more casual.


With a fine, straight-grain pattern and even texture, the natural color of Alder is a light brown with a reddish tinge that stains evenly. As one of the softest hardwoods, alder can be easily dented or scratched. These characteristics are not considered warranty defects. In fact, it’s this elasticity that makes Alder so preferable for carving intricate details in furniture and cabinetry. Alder ranks second to Oak as the most commonly used wood.

What it says about you – You choose Alder for the look and feel, not for the durability. A great value for anyone who wants a high-quality look without paying the higher price of other fine hardwoods.


Known for its incredible strength, open grain and distinctive color variation within each piece of wood, Hickory ranges from light to deep brown. Hickory’s unpredictable color spread is especially noticeable in a natural or light finish, with darker stains mellowing the variation. The color variation, small pin holes and knots are naturally occurring and Rustic Hickory incorporates even larger sporadic knots and pin holes. These characteristics are not only preferred by those that love wood, but are acceptable and not considered warranty defects.

What it says about you – You appreciate the natural beauty of wood and the dramatic look of extreme contrast between light and dark colors. You value strength and durability – especially in the products that you choose for your home.


Characterized by its wide open grain patterns and extreme durability, Oak is known for its coarse texture. Variations in grain pattern and color, small knots and pinholes are attributes of nature giving Oak its distinctive beauty. Naturally occurring color variations include light tan and pink, to medium dark red and brown, with occasionally green, yellow, and black mineral streaks. These characteristics are more prominent in natural and lighter stain finishes.

What it says about you – Picking Oak is a wise choice for durable cabinetry. Whether you choose white oak or the more popular red variety, you’re drawn to the prominence of Oak’s coarse texture.


Offering a smooth, close grain pattern with evenly-sized pores, Maple is extremely shock resistant. Generally off-white in color with varying tones of light pink and yellow-brown, Maple contains a natural resin that causes the wood to turn amber as it ages. This will be more noticeable with light stain finishes and is accelerated by exposure to natural light. Other naturally occurring characteristics include small, light tan or dark mineral streaks. Maple can be made to resemble more expensive hardwoods such as walnut or cherry.

What it says about you – You’re drawn to the smooth and uniform appearance that Maple Cabinetry has to offer. You may want the paint color or glaze of your cabinets to make more of a statement than the wood grain. You recognize that choosing maple that resembles cherry or walnut makes more sense for your wallet.


Although “Rustic” isn’t a wood grain, it’s worth mentioning because almost any of the above wood types can be classified as “rustic” if they contain the right characteristics. Evoking an “outdoorsy” feel is what rustic cabinets are all about. The natural blemishes do not affect the product durability. By staying true to the natural imperfections of wood grain, you’re letting your cabinets know “it’s okay to be earthy”.

 What it says about you – A “rustic” choice for your cabinets will let others know that you don’t fit the mold and neither does your wood grain. You welcome every knot and pinhole with open arms because they imperfectly match the distressed metal and stone accents you may also have. Anything to make your kitchen feel rugged, right?


Now that you know a little more about some of your wood grain options, are you still on the fence between two or more choices? Any questions you have can easily be answered by one of our MBS Interiors designers. Stop in to one of our 28 locations to borrow samples, see stain options, and get pricing details. We’ll see you soon!

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