Nate Berkus Reveals The Perfect Kitchen Cabinet Material For A Light & Airy Space

HGTV's Nate Berkus is known for his phenomenal eye when it comes to designing spaces, a set of skills that he applied to comedian Ray Romano's home in La Quinta, California. The home is a simplified and unfussy take on a desert oasis filled with rich woods, natural materials, and antique accents. On Berkus' Instagram, he says, "We mixed vintage European pieces with a neutral, light-filled kitchen to create a Sicilian farmhouse feel."  Here, walls of beautiful cabinetry set the background of a stunning kitchen with wide desert views, lots of light, and materials like woven chairs, marble tile and backsplashes, and neutral oak floors. The cabinets, made from white oak, set the tone for a relaxed but beautifully wrought room that has all the markers of warmth, brightness, and texture that make the space especially stunning and simple.

White oak can be one of the most beautiful woods available, keeping kitchens light and airy but with ample texture and dimension. It's a versatile wood that can read neutral, warm, or cool depending on the stain and what surrounds it. It's a great choice if you desire flexibility over time in aesthetics, or if you want to help increase your home's resale value. 

The allure of white oak

White oak is one of the most popular modern woods found in homes, decking out everything from floors and tables to woodwork. This malleability in terms of reflected light and texture is one of the prime reasons for its popularity, particularly since it offers greater richness and depth than other lighter woods like pine or birch. While white oak can sometimes cost more than other oak varieties, it's also a wood that is not particularly beholden to certain aesthetic styles. While Ray Romano's kitchen is evocative of an Italian retreat, the cabinets, with varied hardware, could easily be placed in a modern and contemporary styled kitchen.

The medium but bright surface of cabinets also means that white oak is less likely to show scratches or fingerprints than other wood finishes, like darker oaks or walnuts, do. Nor is it likely to show visible stains or dirt like super light woods. The cooler neutral tones also carefully avoid the more dated orange-ish look of 1990s and early 2000s ubiquitous honey oak cabinets.

Choosing white oak for your cabinets

If you are looking to bring white oak cabinets into your kitchen, keep in mind that the most flexibility down the road hinges on both the finish and the style of the cabinet itself. Nate Berkus' choice of simple, flat fronted doors with black hardware opens up the kitchen's adaptability to a number of design directions, including a more minimalistic contemporary look. If you want cabinets with more visual interest, select shaker-style cabinets over raised or recessed panel cabinets, which will look amazing in kitchens of many design aesthetics, including modern farmhouse style

White oak can also look subtly different depending on the stain, so keep in mind the cast of other woods in your space and accent colors to choose warmer or cooler finishes. Hardware on such a simple cabinet can also skew the look in one direction or another, so look for more ornate or detailed knobs and pulls in antiqued brass or black for a more rustic kitchen or, conversely, simpler silver and polished brass knobs for a more contemporary look. Keep in mind that white oak can be prone to yellowing over time, but proper care and cleaning can help prevent any discoloring.