Updating Oak Cabinets, Doors, Floors & Trim - Living with Oak 101

New Spaces Design-Build
September 7, 2022

How to Make Golden Oak Work for You:

Updating Oak Kitchen Cabinets & Oak Decor

People are always wondering how to update their 1980’s kitchen cabinets. They want to see before and after pictures when oak cabinets are painted, and we know it’s an important topic. You should check our 2022 article showing examples of honey oak remodels we've completed here in the Twin Cities.

Back in the late ‘80’s, the golden oak trend hit Minnesota hard. It hung around for the whole of the ‘90’s and even the early 2000’s. Oak-mania, mixed with the trend of matching all the woodwork in a home, has left our homes oak-ridden.

Oak doors, oak floors, oak window casing, oak, oak, oak!

If all that golden hue has you going blind with oak centered-rage, you’re not alone.

Most of our clients have the same problem. While that yellow-y sheen may make you shudder now, once it is tempered a little bit, those warm tones really can shine. There are a few different ways to visually minimize all that oak so that you have an updated, welcoming space without breaking the bank.

How to Update and Utilize Oak Doors, Oak Cabinets, Oak Window Casings, and Oak Floors in a Remodel




Go Light

One of the main complaints we get about oak is that there’s just so much of it. Too much of anything can make a space feel claustrophobic.

The photo above is showcasing a kitchen remodel we completed in 2017.

  • This kitchen once felt tiny with golden oak window casings, door casings, and cabinets dominating the whole space.
  • The cabinets definitely had to go, but the window and door casings were still in good shape and this client was wary about replacing all the trim in that room.
  • They wanted their new kitchen to feel like a natural part of their house, a space that fit in with the rest of their home which featured a lot of golden oak.

So the decision was made to keep the window and door casings along with all the stair railings. Once the old, domineering cabinets were replaced with light cabinetry, the oak didn’t seem so oppressive anymore. Now, the space is warm, functional and fun to work in again. Those oak windows and doors really disappear in the new space and help their remodeled kitchen to blend with the rest of the home.

See the Oak Cabinet & Rail Before and After:

Go Dark

Before the remodel, this home truly was a golden oak palace. The floors, doors, trim, casing and cabinetry were all the exact same shade of golden oak. Needless to say, the matchy-matchy trend has passed. As with most projects, we wanted to utilize as much of the high quality material as possible, while still transforming the kitchen entirely. The oak floors were well-maintained and we ended up actually adding wood floors into the once-carpeted living room.

Golden oak is a necessary evil that most of us have to live with and ultimately, it can be an asset in your space. Use all that warmth to your advantage by pairing it with contrasting colors and materials. To maintain good balance, we like to see a light, medium and dark element in each space we design. Oak is usually a good medium so add a little light, add a little dark, and you’ll end up with a beautifully updated space.

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