Painted finishes provide a wide variety of color options for striking accents in a kitchen. Some homeowners may choose painted cabinets in bright or distinct colors as accent cabinets, then use wood for the rest of the cabinetry. Others choose a solid or distressed color to use throughout the kitchen. Paint is great for a light, clean look or for matching colors with the decor in the rest of the home.
Staining brings out the natural grain of the wood, with the color being secondary to the wood patterns. Some of the characteristics of stained finishes can be positive or negative, depending on the personal taste of the homeowner. For example, stained cabinets have an irregular look to them. Some areas of the wood soak up more stain, while others soak in less; a knot, a mineral streak, or an end grain on a veneer will soak up more stain and look darker than the other parts of the cabinet. This creates a highlighting effect throughout the cabinetry. Although the variations seem distinct when looking at individual pieces, when the cabinets are installed the whole effect is complementary and has extra depth and dimension not available in a painted cabinet.
A glaze finish adds visual depth and interest to stained or painted cabinetry. Glazes are pigmented, meaning they have color, but due to their transparent or semi-transparent nature, the color is light rather than opaque. Glazes are applied over a finished base coat of paint or stain. They are put on by hand or with a brush, then rubbed off by hand. The glaze remains in recesses and imperfections on the wood, highlighting the base color and bringing out details on the surface. Glazing is a premium finish requiring extensive handwork, so it may increase the cost of cabinets. It creates a unique surface with interesting color variations and depth of interest. Manufacturers apply a varnish topcoat after the glaze for durability and longer wear.