10 ways interiors experts introduce wood into a kitchen to boost its character

We're not big fans of clinical-looking kitchens – which is why introducing wood is one of our favorite ways to create a charming space

Ways to use wood in a kitchen
(Image credit: B&M)

There's nothing new about wood being used in kitchens – the very first and most stylish of kitchens are often made out of this wonderful natural material. However, there is a rising trend for adding wood to kitchens – and we’re not talking about wooden units, painted or otherwise. 

Wood is finding its way into kitchens in all sorts of ways – both simple and more structured, from beautiful oak breakfast bars to design detailing in oak, ash, maple and walnut. 

Wood works as the perfect antidote to streamlined or painted units – its homely tactile qualities can warm up a visually cold scheme instantly. These are just some of the ways our favorite design experts are adding wood to their kitchens.

See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for all kitchens 

1. Mix old with new

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: BarlisWedlick/Jonny Valiant)

If you’re lucky enough to have old beams then make a feature of them by incorporating their beautiful nature into your kitchen design. 

‘The design for this home was heavily influenced by a 19th century refurbished barn brought in from a nearby farm that now sits on the home's property, explains Tina Schnabel, Interior Designer at BarlisWedlick.

‘To give the Eastern white pine frame, rafters and joists an aged look, we stained them with a treatment that will oxidize the wood over time. The cabinetry is painted in Benjamin Moore's Kendall Charcoal and Abalone and the wood flooring is tongue and groove white-washed oak. We carefully selected the paint colors for the cabinetry and ceiling planking to contrast the flooring and ceiling beams in a soft way without harsh transitions.’

See: Farmhouse kitchen ideas – introduce modern rustic elements for a laid-back look

2. Use reclaimed wood to boost character

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

One of the main reasons to use wood is for its eco credentials, as Melissa Klink, Creative Director at Harvey Jones explains: 

‘Focusing on designing as green as possible and creating spaces that are eco-friendly has opened up further appreciation for wood – reclaimed wood in particular. Beyond the economic and environmental benefits, using reclaimed wood adds an interesting story to the kitchen space. 

'Any material that has an organic influence helps to ground the room and provide an instant sense of calm, and reclaimed wood is warm and full of rich detail. The look is beautifully unique and something you cannot recreate using new material.’

3. Show wood off against white painted cabinetry

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

Create a stunning contrast with white painted units teamed with natural wood, like in this kitchen by Kitchen Makers. Without it, this scheme could potentially look a little sterile, but the walnut and rattan chairs with the rustic wood table ground the space perfectly. 

And don’t forget the small touches too – different shaped wooden chopping boards leaned up against a white tiled backsplash continue the contrast through the kitchen, and most importantly, add warmth.

See: White kitchen ideas – for a stylish scheme that will stand the test of time

4. Set a modern kitchen on original floorboards

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Neptune)

One of the main ways to use wood in your kitchen is flooring, and if you are lucky enough to have the original floorboards, like in this kitchen by Neptune, then all the better. 

Full of character and history, floorboards can really make a kitchen scheme come to life and be the grounding element of the space. However, if you don’t have them you can invest in reclaimed boards.

5. Use vintage wooden furniture to create a focal point

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Bert & May)

We’re all for mixing up styles in a single space because anything that creates a more individual feel is a design win! Take this eclectic kitchen by Bert & May as an example, the freestanding wooden units aren’t conventional and have a wonderful hand-crafted quality, and the mahogany cabinet with its glass front creates a further unique dimension to this kitchen. 

Scour antique markets for pieces like this, it’s worth doing if you’re after some unique finds that are both beautiful and useful. 

6. Use wooden countertops to lighten up dark cabinetry

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

You love your dark painted units – but want to lift the look a little? A wooden countertop will do the trick and act like a middleman between the dark units and wall. 

Wooden work tops age beautifully, they’re antibacterial and are easy to maintain – they won’t date like some other countertop choices that go in and out of fashion within a year or so. 

Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink blends perfectly with wood too, perhaps due to its shade and warming tone, as Joa Studholme, Color Curator at Farrow & Ball shares:

Sulking Room Pink should not be seen as overtly pink, but rather a muted rose with enormous warmth, its powdery feel making it incredibly soft and easy to use with complementary darker tones. This color has its roots firmly in the past but is the perfect tone for furniture and walls alike in the contemporary home.’

See: Kitchen countertop ideas – worktop inspiration in marble, granite and composite materials

7. Add warmth with wood to a black and white scheme

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Yellow London)

Whatever the type of wood you choose, it will warm up your current scheme, and if you’re using plenty of white teamed with a darker shade like navy, it can work wonders with the overall look of your kitchen. 

You can do this by simply buying wooden stools and a chopping board or two and even though the handles and knobs are brass in this kitchen, they tie in well with the tone of the stools. 

Kitchen design by Yellow London.

8. Use wood for open shelving

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: The Main Company)

Open kitchen shelving ideas have become pretty popular and it’s easy to see why, it’s ideal for small kitchens as it creates the illusion of space – no heavy wall cabinets – and you find what you want so much quicker. 

Having them made from wood is a no-brainer too, it’s the perfect material for creating texture, as Alex Main, Director of The Main Company explains:

‘This rustic farmhouse kitchen has been created to blend in with its rural surroundings – bringing the outdoors in and celebrating beautiful raw materials. For this project we supplied reclaimed wood for the floor, cabinets, shelving and cladding – salvaged from old barns, factories, warehouses and also an old mill, wood was always going to be a key design element, with striking large oak beams present in most rooms to accentuate the modern country feel.'

9. Add wood trim detailing to cabinetry

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Jenifer McNeil Baker)

Another option is to have natural wood inset into your units and for the drawers and doors to be painted in a contrasting color, as in this kitchen by Maestri Studio

This look is particularly striking especially when you have a strip that sits underneath a marble (or any lighter material) countertop. You can then carry on the wood framing around your window to complete the look. 

10. Layer wood with other key pieces

Ways to use wood in a kitchen

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

These iconic steam bent timber lights from Tom Raffield are a great example of how to use wood in your kitchen in a different way. You can then ‘layer’ the look as shown in this Harvey Jones kitchen. What’s interesting is how the light wood tones are used high up, and then richer shades are used lower down with the stools and flooring. 

The result is a grounded look that's visually interesting and warms up the scheme. 

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.