White oak has gotten all the attention in renovations in recent years. But if you ask interior designers (who are often a couple of years ahead of the curve) many will point you to a totally new trend: walnut kitchen cabinets.
It’s easy to write off darker hues by fear that your space will turn out looking dark or dated. But there’s a reason why walnut cupboards have remained a design staple over decades—they are deceptively versatile.
After all, there are so many ways to incorporate this classic wood into your space that won’t read as too traditional for your taste. Flat-panel cabinet fronts, paired with sleek hardware (or even no visible pulls or handles at all) can look refreshingly of-the-moment, with a nod to the past. They’re not quite mid-century modern—rather, modern-meets-mid-century.
Different wood grains also offer an opportunity to make walnut kitchen cabinets feel a bit more daring. A vertical grain adds a timeless appeal, while horizontal styles feel a bit more contemporary. Choose the right countertop, backsplash, and flooring to match, and you have a space that feels totally reinvigorated, yet classic. These six rooms show how you can make the most of this always-solid option.
The Island Addition
Photography: Bethany Nauert; Design: Pretty Smart Studio
If you don’t want to go for all-over wood, take this Long Beach, California, kitchen by Pretty Smart Studio as a prime example of the less-is-more approach. White cabinets make the already-large space look extra bright, but a walnut island adds subtle contrast.
The Warm Wood Combo
Photography courtesy of Sweeten
The white-and-walnut contrasting island may be the stand-out feature of this Clinton Hill, Brooklyn kitchen by Sweeten, but the wall cabinets, arranged cleverly around the refrigerator, is a close runner-up. The horizontal grain fronts by Semihandmade give the space its modern appeal and are complemented by matching floating shelves.
The Backsplash Accent
Photography: Bethany Nauert; Design: A Vintage Splendor
This kitchen designed by A Vintage Splendor shows how wood grain and pattern can cohabitate nicely. Here, walnut kitchen cabinet fronts from Semihandmade have a Scandinavian-inspired appeal, thanks to the addition of simple silver button pulls. The doors are pared back enough to let the backsplash from Fireclay Tile stand out—but not so subtle that they’re overpowered by it.
The Modern Classic
Photography and Design: Krystyna Ninh Wood
Here’s one for the minimalists: Krystyna Ninh Wood’s Portland, Oregon kitchen is a masterclass in simplicity. Simple walnut fronts, sans hardware, make the space look warm and timeless. A white rangehood that practically blends into the wall behind it is the cherry on top of the serene space.
The High Contrast
Design: Modular Interiors Design Group; Build: Sweeten
When working with an open floor plan, darker-toned cupboards can be used strategically to break up the space—without making it feel disjointed. The dark walnut kitchen cabinets in this East Hampton, New York, home by Modular Interiors Design Group visually separates the living room from the dining area, while a few white upper cabinets and marble countertops help reflect light from one room to the next, allowing for a seamless visual transition.
The Earthy Appeal
Photography: David Livingston; Design: Chris Dorman
If you’re not one for a white-and-walnut contrast, this Mill Valley, California kitchen designed by Chris Dorman has something different to offer: A beige backsplash, with tiles in varying shades, mirrors the warmth found in the cabinet fronts. Small accents—a red rug, some earth-toned ceramics—pull the neutral-toned space together to make it look modern and inviting, without being too minimalist.