Knotty pine kitchens – a look that’s due for a comeback


I LOVE KNOTTY PINE KITCHENS. They were very popular in the postwar era — they fit with our interest in both western ranch and early American interiors… they were were affordable… and the material was available.

In fact, in researching this post I read a 2001 story from the New York Times that said knotty pine has its fans again today – and also appeals to fans of the Scandinavian tradition.

And of course — Betty Draper’s kitchen on Mad Men is knotty pine!

As far as I can find, there are not too many mainstream cabinet companies making knotty pine cabinets today. Luckily, one company that does is: Cabico. They are a large Canadian company, and I had a positive experience with their product when I  retro renovated by bathrooms a few years ago.

cabico-knotty-pine-5051d-door.jpgTheir knotty pine – honey finish – is shown in the first door.. This honey colored finish looks pretty good, I believe, for a retro renovation knotty pine kitchen. But something even more amber/orange could be even better.  Note the image above — a 1952 Formica ad — for one reference for door styles.

nov-12-omega-plank-143x300 I’d also recommend a planked door like this traditional (3/4) overlay design from Dynasty/Omega. Reference only, I do not believe that Dynasty/Omega offers knotty pine. Cabico also says that they can make a full-overlay plank door.

cabico-birch-cordovan-810-door.jpgMy concern about a slab style like the third door (also a reference from Dynasty/Omega), is that pine might split from expansion/contraction as it is a pretty soft wood.

Best, if you are truly interested in pursuing this look, to consult with a cabinetry professional.

Final note: I recently saw “knotty cherry” cabinets at the Eugene Home Show. They were really nice looking — definitely had the knotty-pine groove going on — and cherry is a harder wood, an even better material for cabinets.

This post has been updated from the original, which ran Dec. 26, 2007.

  1. Jennifer says:

    We bought some old knotty pine cabinetry from a salvage warehouse. My husband turned the large cabinet doors into a desk and credenza for me. We left the old iron hardware in place. The pieces turned out beautiful and are just right for my office in our “Ranch Style” home. Love the look but not for a kitchen anymore.

  2. OK, I have retro stove sickness right now, but still…when you click on the picture, dig that ol’ Western Holly with the single porthole! Love at first sight! The double porthole-double oven is dreamy, but at 43″, who has the width? Sigh…

  3. Sara in WA says:

    Hey I think it would be fun to do a “knotty pine” group of photos like you’ve done with the pink kitchens and pink bathrooms.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Sara, look within the post – I already have a group going on flickr. But, I can also start my own and readers’ collection on the site. Send ’em in to: retrorenovation at gmail dot com. Glad you like.

  4. Sara in WA says:

    This is my favorite!!! Love the color combination of red and turquoise with the warm wood.

  5. Lawrence Bill says:

    I can testify that knotty pine can last and, in the right setting, look beautiful. We have it in our kitchen and it has held up very well for 54 years. Yes, there is some slight warping on a few doors, and one drawer has badly cracked, but given the generally high humidity of summers in Kansas it surprises me that that most of the panels have remained so straight all these years. I think the quality of the pine is the determining factor here, in addition to solid bracing in back. The overall effect is inviting warmth and utility. It’s a great combination.

  6. Kristin says:

    We have birch cabinets with the reddish stain that are original and we lightened the kitchen by painting it a robins egg blue that is a really good match; I also bought some vintage-y cafe curtains at Urban Outfitters that are white with a black/turquoise/green print that also lighten things up. The original golden brown Kitchen Aid stove and dishwasher were broken before we moved in so we had those replaced with new Kenmore stuff, but what can you do? The fixtures are the hammered black metal ones you see everywhere. I love them!
    The best knotty pine house I ever lived in had the cabinets, a red formica countertop edged in silver metal and COWBOY themed fixtures!!!! The address plate out front was even an original with a cowboy reclining against a cactus…ah rentals!

    1. renee says:

      Hi Kristin-your kitchen sounds magnificent! Any chance there are photos anywhere? i have knotty pine cabinets that I would like to save but think I need to refinish them, cahnge out the coutertops (white formica) and relacie teh floor-a poorly done 12″x12″ job…

  7. sablemable says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across these kind of cabinets in our retro neighborhood, but they are classy! And the turquoise counter tops are to die for!

  8. PugFreek says:

    Pine? I personally don’t like it, but my mothers old house had heaps! Also Australia is getting Mad Men.

  9. Mary-Frances Main says:

    We had fabulous knotty pine built in dressers in each room in our last house and the I cringed when the new owner (as we were selling it) commented about tearing them out. Gasp.
    People have absolutely NO taste. I wish we had knotty pine in our current 50’s house!

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