Using Timber As A Feature
Despite the rise in popularity of painted kitchens over the past decade or so, timber still has a place in a lot of people's dream kitchen. Although the days of the shiny orange, knotty pine cupboard may be over, accent timbers for worktops, or for internal cabinet fittings can add warmth and texture to a space. This can be particularly welcome in an open plan layout, where having the warmth of some timber can help stop the space feeling too cavernous or barren.
Timber can also work great along some of the recent trend colours that have been popular the last couple of years. Blues and greys have seen a huge rise in popularity, but can feel quite cold and clinical. Adding the warmth and texture of a natural timber such as ash or oak can help make them feel welcoming and homely.
One of the most popular ways to do this is to use timber for the worktop on your island. This can be in contrast to another material choice for the main worktop runs (such as quartz or granite) and can be especially good at creating that farmhouse kitchen feel. In most traditional English farmhouse kitchens, a large scrubbed pine table at the centre of the kitchen was an absolute must, and this is still a great option now! But for many families, they just cannot afford to lose the extra storage space that their island provides, and so having a timber topped island can help create this feeling in the space without sacrificing the storage space you need. It also allows you to place the hob in this centre space, creating more room on the counter surface of your main worktop runs around the edge of the kitchen. It is of course possible to place the sink here too, but we would tend not to suggest this, as having the sink in a wooden worktop will always create additional maintence, it would be better sited on the wall run. This has the added benefit of meaning pipes and wastes won't need to be rerouted under the floor, saving additional building costs.
Another great way to incorperate a warm wood tone is in the cabinet internals. We are particularly fond of using natural timber for the inside of larder and pantry units. Next to a painted cabinet, opening the doors and seeing timber internals gives a kitchen real wow factor, and is probably one of the most frequent requests that we get. You aren't just limited to oak either, depending on your colour scheme, walnut or ash may be a better option, or even something a bit more unusual like elm or sycamore. The image below shows a small pantry unit mid way through construction in our Lincolnshire workshop. It is made with an American ash carcass and English ash racks, drawers and shelves, and offers a really beautiful alternative to a painted interior. As well as this the worksurface gives you a great spot to hide away worktop appliances when not in use, without having to lift them into a cupoard.
In the example above the same theme has been carried on through all the drawers in the kitchen also. Not only do hardwood drawers look beautiful, they also last. Drawers falling apart is one of the common complaints about mass produce kitchen cabinets. Using a solid timber with traditionally dovetailed joints and thicker bases, means that these drawers are as strong as they could possibly, giving them decades of service life.
Open shelving is another great place to inject the warmth of timber into your kitchen project, especially in either industrial or traditional kitchens (it can also work greay in a Scandi style space)! Either using wooden gallows brackets, or metal brackets, open shelves create display space and offer you a way of utilising wall space, without making the room feel too closed in, great for smaller kitchens. Open shelving isn't for everyone though, if you are thinking of using this as part of your design, consider how much time you want to spend dusting, as open shelves are like magnets for dust! So if you want to keep cleaning time to a minimum, consider some shallow glass fronted display cabinets for your walls instead (you could still use exposed wooden internals). This will certainly reduce the amount of time you need to spend with the duster!
If you don't want to commit to using timber in the cabinets in your kitchen, but think that you may like to still utilise it somewhere, there are lots of ways that you can do this. Stools is an obvious starting point, and adding a pair of beautiful wooden stools to the end if your island can have a massive impact on your kitchen. Getting the right island seating is one of the most important aspects of dressing your new kitchen (in my opinion only second to lighting choices) and it can have a profound effect on the tone of the space. Dressing up a classic shaker kitchen with rugged utilitarian stools, and rusty warehouse lighting can make the space feel very industrial and contemporary. The same kitchen with a pair of traditional ercol stools and muted enamelled lighting will feel much more classically English country, especially with warmer paint tones on the walls. So you can really steer the "feel" of your project using these accessories and by picking the right textures for them.
Another decision that you may want to make is whether to use solid wood, or a laminate. Laminate is often viewed as a poor choice, and a budget product. But as with almost anything in life there are varying qualities at various prices. High end well made products are available, and can make a very sensible, stable, hard wearing and low maintenance material choice. But for many knowing that the wood in their kitchen is "real," with all its character and variations is as important as the look of the wood itself. The way that the timber is finished can make a big difference in this respect, as sensible finish choices will not only affect how your cabinets look, but also how easy your kitchen is to look after!
Choosing to add the warmth of wood to your kitchen can have it's place in almost any kind of design. Sawn limed oak in an industrial open plan, warm elm in a traditional cottage layout, or whitewashed radiata pine in a scandi minimalist design. Using timber can have a huge impact on your kitchen, and teamed with a good designer can make the most of your home. Hopefully this article will help you decide whether it fits into your dream kitchen, and where you would like to use it.
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