You’ve seen brown kitchens before—you know, the builder’s grade blah caramel cabinets in just about every renovation “before” shot ever. Or worse, the super shiny espresso colored kitchen your parents just had to have in the late 90s/early 2000s. Brown kitchens definitely had a moment, and thank goodness it’s over. Or is it?
A quick scan of Instagram, designers’ portfolios and big box store catalogs suggests that brown may be back. But this time around, the kitchens somehow don’t look visually heavy or dark. And they’re not all Scandi-style blonde cookspaces either (though let’s throw in a couple of those for good measure). Here’s a look at eight brown kitchens that are killing it right now and why they work stylistically.
Above: The Destination Eichler team is known for using lots of wood paneling in their designs, since that’s what’s characteristic of midcentury construction. But in this 1940s bungalow kitchen reno, the Semihandmade wooden doors feel fresh when paired with a white waterfall countertop, stainless steel appliances and a geometric backsplash.
Aussies just do things better—accents and surfing come to mind first, but brown wood kitchens are no exception to the rule. This mid-tone cookspace from the firm, AlterEco, features a bunch of shorter stained wood boards, which adds a subtle rustic flair to the room. Cool leather stools and copper pendants bring a bit of edge back into the picture.
The light brown cabinetry in this kitchen isn’t exactly what I’d expect from a Hamptons beach house, but that’s why it’s special. I love the way designer Eve Robinson has taken traditional Shaker style flat-panel doors and modernized them with oversized satin bar pulls and handles.
Talk about a room with a view. Even galley kitchens can get in on the brown wood action. This kitchen’s mahogany cabinets are original to the 1959 Massachusetts home.
Who knew brown paired so well with funky bold colors like mustard, teal and orange (if you lived through the ’70s, you probably do)? The owners of this modernist cookspace apparently, which takes its design inspiration from Palm Springs’ architecture.
If you want to go deep chocolate brown, follow IKEA‘s lead and balance the darkness with a white subway tile backsplash and a classic apron front sink. Seriously, the closer you get to black-brown, the chicer the kitchen.
It’s all wood everything (well, almost) in this simple kitchen from Elle Decoration. The uppers may be white, but carrying the wood from the floor to the lower cabinets and up into the backsplash is a bold design decision that really works. Bonus points go to whoever styled this room up with wooden candle sticks and cutting boards without it looking over the top tree-house.
For proof that the Italians can do a sleek brown kitchen, here’s a dream cooking set up from Snaidero. A solid collection of white pottery and a vent hood that looks like a futuristic pendant light doesn’t hurt either.
And there you have it: eight ways to do brown that are anything but dark and depressing.