photos by Dave Pluimer

Think back to your kitchen circa the 1980s, 90’s, and even early 2000’s. Or maybe it was your parents’ or grandparents’ kitchen. it is likely that it was outfitted with honey oak cabinets. They enjoyed quite the golden-hued heyday, but today? Passé. Outdated. Overpowering. Searches for “Replacing honey oak cabinets” and “Can I repaint my oak cabinets?!” are just about as common as the cabinets themselves were back in their day!

Trends have a way of dying only to rise from the ashes like a mighty phoenix. Not so much with honey oak cabinets which went out of favor for a few reasons: we started seeing a shift away from wood and towards whites, grays, and, more recently, colors. Another factor in their decline was that they did not play well with sleek, streamlined countertops and appliances as tastes and aesthetics progressed. From the partial overlay design to the arched doors, they did not evolve with changing trends and styles.

But oak itself is back on trend. Get ready to meet the new oak cabinetry.


The wood look is coming back into style after a decade or so of all-white kitchens and gray dominated designs. (And no, white and gray are not out of style; when done well, they can be timeless.) Additionally, many homeowners want the durability, solidity, and authenticity of real wood. Again, oak has a great deal to offer when it comes to cabinetry.

The primary difference you will see in new oak cabinetry is the stain. It is trending towards softer light and medium hues, which allow the beauty of the wood to shine through. Whereas honey was heavily saturated and quickly overpowered the space, these more subtle shades offer an elegant touch that pairs perfectly with the trend towards natural materials and textures.

The style of on-trend oak cabinetry has – thankfully! – evolved as well. Unlike the rather ornate, fussy appearance of the old oak, homeowners are opting for frameless cabinets with flat-front doors. It is seamless and contemporary. You can combine this with another hot 2022 trend that eschews hardware (e.g. pulls and handles) for an even more sleek appearance.

How we use oak has also changed. It does not have to be all or nothing like the kitchens of the 1980s and ’90s. While you can go whole room with the lighter stains with great results, you may be of the mindset that a little goes a long way. In this case, you can combine oak perimeter cabinets with a painted island or switch it up with an oak island and darker perimeter cabinets. Mixing and matching two or three colors and stains throughout your space is a great way to add dimension.


New oak cabinetry offers the quality, durability, and warmth of real wood with an updated appeal that flawlessly aligns with today’s tastes and needs. Oak is back! Well… it never really left. But we are leaving that honey hue behind and thoroughly enjoying the light, fresh shades brightening our spaces.

If you are considering a kitchen remodel, your cabinets are the perfect place to start. Contact ACo for a free in-home design consultation to learn more about the latest in cabinetry styles.