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horizontal grain kitchen cabinets

Vertical vs. Horizontal Grain Kitchen Cabinets: Understanding the Difference

Overhauling your kitchen means making many decisions, and choosing the cabinetry is one of the first and most important. Cabinets take up most of the wall space, making them a focal point that plays a substantial role in the overall look and feel of the room — especially when you work with the natural grain pattern of the wood to achieve a one-of-a-kind design.

Wood grain is one of the most overlooked elements of the cabinet design process, but it makes a significant difference to the finished product. Horizontal grain kitchen cabinets can completely transform a room’s style and appearance, but they aren’t right for everyone or every space.

As a leading manufacturer of custom cabinets in Baltimore, we work with clients to help them find the ideal cabinetry for every room to match their vision and storage needs. Here, we share some of the basics of wood grain and what you need to know about it to create the beautiful kitchen of your dreams.

What Is Wood Grain?

The grain is the unique natural pattern and texture of a piece of cut wood. The grain can be more pronounced or subtle, depending on the wood species and milling process. Natural features, like knots and growth rings, influence the wood grain and the overall look of the finished cabinet doors. 

You have to think about grain when selecting the cabinet material because, while you can change the wood color with different stains, you can’t change or eliminate its unique pattern; in fact, the only way to “hide” a wood grain is with paint. Some species, like pine, tend to have a more visible pattern with lots of variations that look marvelous in rustic or casual spaces. In contrast, other species, like cherry, have a more consistent and smoother grain that adds natural elegance and refinement.

Although every type of wood has a pattern, when you’re trying to achieve a specific look, your best bet is to choose one of the following common species used in cabinet making:

  • Oak, which has a tight and narrow grain 
  • Cherry, which has a slightly wavy and refined pattern
  • Hickory, which is exceptionally durable and has a distinct straight grain with light and dark sections 

The Difference Between Vertical and Horizontal Grain Kitchen Cabinets 

The wood grain orientation on the finished cabinets might seem like a subtle detail, but it can make a big difference in how they look. 

Vertical grain cabinets, also called edge grain or quarter-sawn, orient the grain pattern and growth rings vertically in the widest part of the board. This is the most common grain style for stained wood cabinets, as they typically appear more consistent. Vertical grain boards don’t have as many knots and growth rings, and the pattern is more subtle than on a horizontal grain board. 

Horizontal grain kitchen cabinets have a natural pattern that runs from side to side. Also known as flat grain or plain-sawn boards, they have a more prominent but less consistent appearance. 

Choosing the Best Grain for Your Kitchen Design 

For many homeowners, the choice between vertical and horizontal grain kitchen cabinets comes down to personal preference. However, if you’re trying to achieve a specific aesthetic for the space or address some unique design challenges, one option may be better. 

Vertical grain cabinets are the most popular because most cabinets are taller than they are wide, and the up-and-down pattern draws the eye upward. It’s ideal when you have upper and lower cabinets, especially when the upper cabinets go up to the ceiling.

In contrast, horizontal grain kitchen cabinets look contemporary and sleek, especially when you choose plain, slab-front doors that let the grain take center stage. It’s also a great choice when you replace the lower cabinets with wide drawers for organizing your kitchen since the horizontal pattern covers the entire drawer front and expands it, unlike a vertical one that can appear choppy or cluttered. 

Incorporating boards with a horizontal grain can also make a kitchen feel more spacious. If you’re updating a small or narrow space, try using wood with a horizontal grain on the lower cabinets to help visually expand it. 

Open the (Cabinet) Door to a Brand New Kitchen 

The kitchen is the heart of your home, and the cabinets you select can make it even more functional and welcoming. If you want to see examples of vertical and horizontal grain kitchen cabinets, learn more about durable wood for kitchen cabinets, and explore options for your space, schedule a design consultation with Current Cabinetry in Baltimore, Maryland, by calling (410) 609-7077. Get your perfect cabinets today.

Daniel Kermaier

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