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Longing for the look of rustic pine kitchen cabinets?

by Susanne Clemenz

Those chocolate-hued bulls eyes of concentric circles or ellipses in the cabinetry of summer cabins, home-cookin' restaurants, or a favorite fishing lodge may make you nostalgic for rustic pine kitchen cabinets. Blond wood sprinkled merrily with large and small knots evokes vacations, relaxation, and days-gone-by.

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But unless the cabinets are decades old or custom made, they probably aren't real pine. Pine is a very soft wood that takes stain unevenly unless finished expertly or with a clear coat. It collects dings and scratches much more readily than many knotted woods that are used by today's cabinet manufacturers. An online search for "pine cabinets," or "knotty pine cabinets" isn't likely to yield many responses.

Alternate woods that mimic rustic pine kitchen cabinets

If it's that old-time, natural, country look that you want, you're in luck. Cabinet makers such as KraftMaid, Medallion, Aristokraft, DeWils, and many others offer dazzling choices. They often have the word "rustic" or "knotty" before the species name, since the woods can also be clear (without knots). Most of these cabinets resist bumps and bruises better than pine cabinets. Choices include these popular species of wood:

  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Maple

Comparing prices

Knots in lumber may be loose or fall out. Manufacturers may pay less per board foot for knotted wood, but must buy more for sufficient lumber. When you find a style you like, get prices for different wood species from a home supply store or manufacturer. If construction materials and techniques are alike, here's the likely order of wood species' costs, from least expensive to most:

  1. Maple
  2. Hickory
  3. Alder
  4. Birch
  5. Cherry

Knotty wood has a beautifully busy look. Keep the surrounding decor simple. And yes, go ahead and use it in your urban home!


About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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