How to Work with Your Honey Oak Cabinets and Trim

Solutions to Transform Your 90s Oak-Filled Home

how-to-work-with-honey-oak

So, how DO you work with your honey oak kitchen and trim to update your 90s home? We get it, your home is filled from top to bottom with honey oak trim, and honey oak wood cabinets. In this blog post, we’re going to dive right in and show you how easily we can create a balance making your oak work for you, not against you!

New Wall Color to Update your Honey Oak Cabinets

First, and possibly the least expensive solution is to simply change your wall color. The hallmark of a 90s-style home is the pairing of honey oak with paint colors in shades of brown or red. The result, an all-over aesthetic that feels outdated. A paint color that brings out the best of oak – and its inherent warmth – will completely transform your room. 

RELATED: Best Paint Colors that go with Honey Oak Wood

Paint Colors that go with Oak Wood Trim and Cabinets

The most important thing to note: 90s oak tends to have yellow undertones or orange undertones. First thing, you’ll want to choose a wall color that compliments warm wood tones. An entire room in an overall shade of orange or yellow lacks personality, especially in a kitchen design. A paint color with a purple undertone will have the same affect. Look to contrasting colors that are a bit cooler in tone. Shades of blue, green, grey, white, and greige (grey beige), are all options.

Treat your wood tone as a color in your palette. By making the oak stand out in an intentional and purposeful way, it feels fresh and curated instead of dated.

Neutral colors are always a good choice when working with oak cabinets and trim.

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A fresh paint color on the walls can transform your oak wood tones!
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To give the oak elements new life in this kitchen, a soft light blue-green paint color was chosen for the walls, letting the warmth of the wood pop. / Source

Original oak trim gets a beautiful upgrade when paired with dark blue wall paint in this living room.  How to work with honey oak trim.

Original oak trim gets a beautiful upgrade when paired with navy blue wall paint in this living room. Using contrasting colors is a great way to modernize honey oak woodwork. / Source

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RELATED: Benjamin Moore Hale Navy, HC-154: Paint Color Review

Crisp and bright white paint on the walls completely changes the look of this home, and paired with contemporary black and white furniture, the wood adds the perfect touch of warmth.  Oak trim and windows are updated with a fresh wall color.

Crisp and bright white paint on the walls completely changes the look of this home. Paired with contemporary black and white furniture, the oak trim adds the perfect touch of warmth. / Source

RELATED: Simply White vs Chantilly Lace – Comparing Top White Paint Colors

Creamy white paint pairs perfectly with the oak trim in this home, and with a collection of comfortable and stylish furniture, the end result is stunning.  Medium oak wainscoting and creamy painted walls.

Creamy white paint pairs perfectly with the oak trim in this home, and with a collection of comfortable and stylish furniture, the end result is stunning. / Source

A pairing of deep navy blue and bright white paint make this craftsman-style home’s oak woodwork shine. How to update your home with oak trim.

A pairing of deep navy blue and bright white paint make this craftsman-style home’s oak woodwork shine. / Source

RELATED: The Benjamin Moore Color of the Year

Get peel & stick (real) paint color samples to try in your home – HERE!

Break Up the Sea of Oak

What is a sea of oak exactly? Well, if everywhere you look brings you an unobstructed view of a shade of oak, you’ve got a sea of oak. We’re talking a combination of wall-to-wall oak kitchen cabinets, oak built-ins, oak trim, oak flooring, and more. You get the picture. To work with your honey oak and elevate its style is to break it up visually. 

How do we do that? The easiest way is to paint the elements that feel the most oak-heavy visually in a complimentary color. Think of your old oak kitchen cabinets with a pop of color on them or in a creamy white, leaving the floors and trim intact.

Oak wainscoting gets a complete revamp thanks to a shade of creamy white paint. As a result, the oak elements of the room feel exciting and architecturally unique.  Breaking up the oak with a complimentary paint color.

Oak wainscoting gets a complete revamp thanks to a shade of creamy white paint and updated light fixtures. As a result, the oak elements of the room feel exciting and architecturally unique. / Source

RELATED: The 10 Best White Paint Colors That Go With Oak

A soft and muted blue-green transforms these kitchen cabinets and makes the oak window trim and floors stand out intentionally.  How to work with honey oak to update your home.

A soft and muted blue-green transforms these kitchen cabinets and makes the warm oak trim and floors stand out intentionally. / Source

RELATED: Honey Oak Kitchen Design Palettes (with finishes and paint colors!)

A coat of paint on the oak cabinetry with warm undertones and contrasting cabinet hardware softens the effect of the oak trim and manages to capture the perfect balance of earth tones. / Source

By keeping the floor, the top rail and the newel post cap in natural honey oak and painting the newel post and balusters a creamy white, this foyer feels bright, happy, and updated. Honey oak and white stair railing update.

By keeping the floor, the top rail and the newel post cap in natural honey oak and painting the newel post and balusters a creamy white, this foyer feels bright, happy, and updated.

A coat of sage green paint on these oak cabinets in the laundry room softens the effect of the oak trim and manages to capture the perfect balance of earth tones. Painting over oak cabinets.

RELATED: Best Greige Paint Colors

New Flooring with Oak Cabinets

One way we like to bring in a new vibe… changing your flooring. Oftentimes the already oak-heavy 90s home will also have honey oak floors. A new and unexpected flooring option can instantly elevate the room and the honey oak will feel warm and inviting. Tile is a great option. By choosing graphic tile, natural stone, or LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile), you can easily achieve a nice contrast with oak cabinets for a more modern kitchen. If you want to stick with hardwood flooring or go with super durable LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank), you can opt for a different finish color to compliment the warm tones in the oak. What we want to achieve is contrast. This will give your eye a rest from that never-ending sea of oak.

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Kitchens with honey oak cabinets will look fresh and updated with new wood flooring or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) flooring in similar undertones. The key is to choose a neutral floor with similar warm color tones found in the oak to bring the two elements together.

RELATED: What Flooring Goes with Oak Cabinets?

RELATED: Insider Tips on Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVT, LVP)

Large stone tiles give the oak trim peppered throughout this kitchen and update. How to work with honey oak doors and trim.

A large sized gray color tile draws the eye away from the oak trim peppered throughout this kitchen, allowing for a much more modern look with a new color scheme and white walls. / Source

By keeping the kitchen cabinets in their original oak finish, this kitchen gets a bright white makeover with sleek grey floor tiles and modern-day appliances.  90s Oak kitchen cabinets with grey tile floor and white subway tile.

By keeping the oak cabinets in their original finish, this kitchen gets a bright white makeover. Sleek grey plank floor tiles, and white subway tile with grey grout give it a fresh new look. / Source

RELATED: 10 Kitchen Lighting Ideas for Low Ceilings

Oak kitchen cabinets feel updated thanks to the new grey floor tile and a fresh coat of cool blue paint.

Oak kitchen cabinets feel updated thanks to the new grey floor tile and a fresh coat of cool blue paint.

By painting the upper cabinets white and choosing a darker stain for the wood floors, this oak kitchen has an instant modern vibe.  White upper cabinets in oak kitchen.

White upper cabinets and slightly contrasting wood floors in similar tones give this oak kitchen a modern vibe. / Source

The oak cabinets in this kitchen feel far from outdated when paired with a bold graphic black and white floor tile. Black and white tile with oak kitchen cabinets.

Oak kitchen cabinets feel far from outdated when paired with dark colors. Bold graphic black and white floor tile and matte black cabinet hardware is a great choice. / Source

RELATED: Modern Countertop Colors for Honey Oak Kitchens

Create a Contrasting Focal Point

Paint and flooring can have a profound impact on your oak-filled home. The answer to your oak woes, is to create a focal point within the room with contrasting color. By incorporating bold artwork, a feature wall, or driving the focus towards a brightly tiled fireplace, the oak is less jarring. Balance goes a long way!

In this ASID Showcase Home award winner for Best Use of Color, we added a bold blue and green tile backsplash with bright white quartz countertops and chrome hardware and fixtures to soften the oak vanity. The result was a much more balanced look overall, visually pulling the attention away from the oak and towards the mix of colors throughout the space. Oak vanity cabinet and modern backsplash.

In this ASID Showcase Home award winner for Best Use of Color, we added a bold iridescent aqua blue and green tiled backsplash with bright white quartz countertops and chrome hardware and fixtures to soften the oak vanityIntroducing cool colors that are found on the opposite side of the color wheel is a great way to create a contrasting palette. Design by Carla Bast

Modern navy-blue wallpaper and an ornate gold accent mirror help to take the focus away from this 90s oak home office built-in.

Modern navy-blue wallpaper and an ornate gold accent mirror help to take the focus away from this oak home office built in.

Painted oak cabinets on a living room fireplace wall.

In this living room, oak built-ins were given new life by becoming part of a larger feature wall, complete with a new coat of grey paint and a classic fireplace. / Source

You aren’t forever relegated to an outdated 90s-era home. With a bit of creativity and the creative ideas shared here, you can work with your honey oak, to create a modern design. Your 90s oak home can be updated in a way that feels oh-so-modern and totally you.

Hi, I’m Carla

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I’m glad you’re here! You are in the right place if you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of embarking on a remodeling or interior design project. Living with an outdated home and don’t know where to start? I’ve helped families like yours update their home and create spaces that reflect what’s important to them for over 25 years.

I’ve been honored to be featured in:

Real Homes

The Spruce

Apartment Therapy / Cubby

Twin Cities Luxury + Fashion

MSP Magazine

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hunker

Home Crux

 

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27 Responses

  1. I love your ideas!!! Wondering what I can do with colonial trim, I want to redo my kitchen, any thoughts what would work with colonial trim??

  2. After much research for ideas and options, I decided to try Mini-wax Liming wax and a round brush. I rubbed liming wax on my cleaned, red-oak cabinets from the 90s that were still in great condition. I used blue tape on the adjacent walls and surfaces, and did it myself in a day, without having to empty the cabinets or remove the doors. I love the way it lightened them from an orange-brown to an ash color, while preserving the beautiful oak texture.

    1. I would love to use Min-Wax on my honey oak kitchen cabinets as well but am unsure of the look of the end result. Congrats on getting you kitchen revived! Are you able to send me a pic of your space? If you are okay doing so, what color did you use? Thank you-

  3. So where can I find the old fashioned “Honey Oak” stain. I need it for some wood work spot repairs that my dog chewed. I don’t need to know that it is old fashioned. I like it and need it to match what I have. Perhaps there is a different name now but the same color.

  4. I really need help, want to put in new flooring but need to get some of the golden Orange out of kitchen cabinets. Kathy can you please share photos and show me what you used?

    1. Hi Cindy – There are some really great softer red tones that would be great vs. burgundy, which is a bit outdated. Think terracotta or something much “earthier.”

  5. I have 90s honey oak flooring throughout my home. Any easier ways of updating this? One side of the home receives a lot of sunlight that current floors have faded and are different color from back side of the house. It’s a disaster

    1. Hi Lauren- Thank you for your question! Aside from refinishing the floors, you can use areas rugs in the logical locations to help conceal the differences in the faded areas vs. non faded areas. This will also break up the “sea of oak” a bit. Also, add some fun color in your throw pillows, and decor, and/or interesting eye-catching objects to your spaces to draw the eyes away from the floor.

  6. Did anyone receive photos of Kathy’s oak cabinets that she used the liming wax? I am really struggling selecting laminate vinyl flooring due to the orangish/reddish color in my honey oak cabinets.

  7. Hi Carla,

    I love your ideas. I started out thinking about replacing my galley kitchen and eating area flooring. I was unable to find anything that worked with my honey oak cabinets. The current ceramic floor tile has a yellow tinge to it and walls are taupe. Your ideas will definitely help with that. My kitchen has too many textures and colors at the present time. I am worried that adding a luxury vinyl wood look to the kitchen would give my home a barn look. To compound the problem, my eating area has two off white and taupe faux brick walls. I have natural oak floors throughout the remainder my home. I know I probably need a total kitchen renovation, but that is out of question. Any thoughts would really be appreciated.

  8. So try darker shades for a room with brighter light shinning in to tone down some of the glare, then go w/ lighter shades in a light restricted space such as in a northern facing room.

  9. Try using lighter shades in a room with a northern facing direction, and the opposite of medium to darker shades in a well-lighted space will make it go easier on the eye.

  10. We just painted our kitchen walls the color rainwashed which has tones of green and a hint of blue depending on the light coming in. It looks phenomenal to me personally to bring our 90’s Honey Oak cabinets into modern day 2022! Still touching up and cleaning up so pics forthcoming.

  11. I’m having a hard time finding a paint that will go with honey oak cabinets and floors, and beige furniture…. I have looked at so many colors. I have gratifying gray and SW creamy… Will they work? And also can you make any suggestions…. I have bought some samples the show up blue… I don’t want blue wall… Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Kathy, it all depends on the light in the rooms, is it northern facing or does it get a lot of natural light? These factors will make a huge difference in how the undertones of the paint color will show. If it is north facing, keep the color on the warmer side.

  12. Canada Residential Flooring captures the elements of nature: unique patterns, impressive strength, and the warmth and comfort of organic design. Canada flooring captures the elements of nature: unique patterns, impressive strength, and the warmth and comfort of organic design.

  13. Canada Hardwood Flooring is a timeless option considered by many homeowners to be the gold standard. It is beautiful, durable, and will add to the value of your home. When shopping for hardwood flooring, you will have to choose between solid and engineered wood. Solid hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of solid wood. Engineered hardwood flooring, on the other hand, is made of pressed plywood layers with a natural wood top.

  14. Canada Laminate Flooring is another cost-effective flooring option that can mimic expensive materials, like hardwood, at a fraction of the price. A top wear layer also ensures that the flooring is resistant to everyday wear and tear and that it is easy to clean. Narrow your search by light laminate flooring, medium laminate flooring, and dark laminate flooring to get just the look you desire in any room in your home.

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