2018 Wood Tone Trends: Out with the Orange and in with the New!

Some of you may recall that a few decades ago, the majority of cabinet stains were limited to maybe a dozen colors and the rage at the time was referenced by the color found on the nose of an elusive North Woods mammal with large antlers. (True story – read to the end to see if you guessed the name right!) Odd as it seems, this color along with a handful of natural-esque, whitewashed and somewhat pink-hued colors were the only options and white cabinets were primarily thermofoil. (With brass knobs, I might add!)

After some time (like way too long IMO) we moved on from the phase of drab dark brown stain and life emerged in wood finishes with brilliant auburn undertones. This brought about stains from Medallion like Hazelnut and Pecan. (Interestingly, those two particular stains have had an amazingly long life-cycle as stain trends go, and still sit in our top colors for popularity.) Fast-forward to advances in technology driven by consumer demand for “more” and we saw another shift not only in color palettes, but also in the lifestyle of the kitchen. It was becoming more than a utilitarian space and was fast evolving into the hub of the home – hosting everything from practical meals to homework stations to being the entertainer’s grand central stage. With that, the home layout needed to open up to welcome the kitchen into the living space and vice-versa.  With the kitchen on display, it would need to better reflect the style and furnishings of the home and the living space.

This drove demand for door style variety, wood species expansion, smooth paints and more complex finish techniques for cabinet manufacturers. And some of you may recall when a particular furnishing company started to impact interior palettes with their innovative designs and finishes. Soon consumers were walking into kitchen and bath showrooms asking for colors that looked like the furniture on the pages of Restoration Hardware’s catalog.

Now emulated by multiple sources across the globe, we can probably thank RH for moving the American kitchen market beyond brown and red undertones into what is now the hottest trend: Naturally Neutral! I know this is a much-condensed version of three decades of cabinet colors, but it brings me to the topic of today’s blog, which has garnered demand for more colors like this:

Cappuccino Stain Species
Cappuccino, Medallion’s first desaturated neutral stain, was designed to emulate that naturally blonde washed look that was made popular by furniture like RH. Peppercorn became the second of the washed finishes in a semi-transparent gray to complement the warmth of Cappuccino.

Texture is the new color

Of course, today we see that the popularity of neutrals expands beyond stains into paints that range from the bright white of Sea Salt to a wide range of “greige” colors like Macchiato and Frappe. Essentially, with neutral paints and de-saturated stains, the character of the wood is the feature and texture becomes the new color.

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Going back for a moment, it seems reasonable to say that the move away from those amber-toned stains is how closely linked they are to the quintessential honey oak, and the arched, raised panel styles of the 70s and 80s. This look was everywhere—many of us can recall a home that had these cabinets, so we get that angst in our gut that the look is old and dated, and definitely not a match for today’s interior trends. Shoot, some of us are still walking into homes with these cabinets…or (gulp) know someone who still has them! But with Farmhouse style, we are seeing a call for rich wood tones and finding the line between “warm” and “orange” can sometimes present challenges. Think of it this way: If the rest of the kitchen is less traditional and more neutral, warm stains that lean toward the amber end of the spectrum may be the right fit because the neutral backdrop makes those colors pop!

The key to making warm wood stains feel current is to pair them with neutral or neutral-cool paints or stains that contrast the warmth.

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The perfect complement

With the huge boom in the popularity of neutrals, especially white painted cabinets, it requires some contrast to keep the room-scape from looking blah. To complement those bright whites, using rich browns for furniture, floors, and cabinets continues to be timeless.  On Fixer Upper,  I’ve noticed that wood floors are being refinished to “de-orange” the color, but retain the warmth using a mid- to deep- colored brown stain.

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The thing with many homeowners is, as soon as something becomes so mainstream that it is everywhere, it also becomes tiring to see – such as honey oak.  So wood finishes like Cappuccino and Eagle Rock work wonderfully in many designs, but the desire to see options a shade darker or a shade lighter is the nature of the business (or the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears), hence the addition of Smoke:

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Smoke is the darkest stain in our neutral spectrum, offering rich charcoal undertones with just enough transparency to appreciate the character of the selected wood species.

But of course as the request for “more like this” increases, so must our development of this Naturally Neutral palette. So we introduced yet another blend in the palette: French Roast! I just want to make note that I had nothing to do with the naming of this coffee…uh, I mean, color ; – ) !

Rich notes, bold flavor

French Roast offers a mid-to-deep-value brown to the neutrals (not amber, not orange) and sits nicely between Eagle Rock and Smoke when we compare it on maple. As we view it on various species, it is slightly darker and has more depth compared to Eagle Rock and creates a new rich neutral for your clients to work with.

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Here’s a handful of my favorite pairings with French Roast:

Peppercorn: A bit unexpected, which is probably why I love it…and bonus we get texture from the wood grain and an on-trend palette that says “I’m so not from the 90’s”!

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Castle Rock Dry Brush: A cool contrast – like super cool – because I dig how French Roast brings out the dry-brushed accents of the Castle Rock stain.

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Irish Crème: Classy and timeless can never be wrong.

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And let’s not forget those new blues! I can’t wait to see YOUR designs using French Roast and one of the new Classic blue paints! Will it be on cherry? Or will you make it Farmhouse with knotty alder? Will you be the first to share?!!

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I hope we’ve drummed up some ideas–and excitement–about the possibilities for using our new finishes, and I can’t wait to see your ideas and designs come to life with The Blues, French Roast and all of our Naturally Neutral finishes. If you dare, send your pics to suzanne.derusha@elkay.com. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire us to expand the palette even further?! One thing is for certain, moose-nose brown is in the past (phew!) and neutrals are continuing to push forward on the trend horizon.


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