kitchen design

What To Do with Honey Oak… When You Can’t Just Rip it All Out

By February 8, 2012 4 Comments

(UPDATE:  See After photos of the kitchen project I was working on here – we used cherry cabinets with the oak floors & trim.)
Remember way back when honey oak was all the rage, and people put it EVERYWHERE in their homes?  From flooring to cabinetry to trim… they just couldn’t get enough of it.  And now, years later, these homes are being remodeled, and people want everything BUT honey oak.
I’ve been working with a client on a kitchen remodel that involves removing walls and opening the kitchen up to other parts of the home.  It’s going to look so amazing, but since we aren’t renovating the other rooms, it’s important that we make sure the new kitchen fits well with the existing materials and trim elsewhere.  The existing trim is honey oak, as is the cabinetry and flooring.  The flooring will be refinished, but since the trim won’t change, the flooring needs to work well with the honey finish of the trim.  And the new kitchen needs to blend.
Because of the honey oak, it’s important that we keep the kitchen warm, and that we pick up on the various tones in the grain of the existing oak.  So I’ve proposed that we use cherry cabinetry, in a medium finish that coordinates with the darker grain of the oak, and that we use a natural finish on the floors, so they’ll work with the honey finish without matching exactly.  The slideshow below is a compilation of images from that demonstrate how you can add warmth and red tones in cabinetry, with a similarly toned wood floor, without being too monochromatic.

Click on the small circles at the bottom of the image to scroll through the slideshow:

7/11/12 Update:  We’ve finished the project that inspired this post.  See photos of how we addressed the honey oak challenge here.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    I am about to start a remodel on my kitchen and also have the honey oak throughout my home.
    What are your thoughts on using a dark espresso cabinet instead of matching the warm tones?


  • Hi Terri! I think you can go darker for a lot of contrast, but suggest one (or both) of these: 1) If you're not matching the warm tones with the cabinets, you should bring these tones in via countertop color and/or tile backsplash. 2) Look at using a darker finish that still has some red tones in it (I think cherry is a great wood for achieving this type of finish.) It doesn't have to be a lot of red, just that slight undertone to tie into the warmer tones of the oak. Hope that helps!

  • Anonymous says:

    I just purchased a home with honey oak throughout. I am considering getting the cabinets painted white. But then do I have to paint the trim throughout the house? What about the doors? ugg?

  • While you can paint both the trim and the cabinets, they do not need to go hand & hand, and they also don't need to be the same color. Same applies to the doors – they don't all need to be done at once. The way I see it, just do what you can a little bit at a time to make the honey oak less noticeable. You can also tone down the "honey" part by using a gray/taupe/brown color that highlights the darker grain color tones rather than the golden tones of the finish. (Example, when I replaced the white countertops in my kitchen with a charcoal gray, the oak cabinets looked less golden and therefore much more tolerable.)