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. Bev says:

    I just painted my Knotty Pine cabinets. I know I will get hate mail for posting this. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stand them. Plus they had that horrible musty old wood smell. Cleaning and painting them helped get rid of the smell. My kitchen is much brighter now and I love it. I’m trying to keep a retro look, check it out on my blog and click on the button, “Our Kitchen” underneath the top banner.

  2. Jennifer K. says:

    Hello, I have those honey colored pine cabinets and am struggling with what to use for countertops. Go with the aqua or put aqua tile backsplash? I’ve seen both treatments and they look good. With the backsplash, I could go with a more modern countertop look, and still use the stainless trim. Thoughts?

  3. Taylor says:

    Our kitchen is knotty pine (walls & cabinets) but it’s a horrible dark orange. Any suggestions on how to lighten it up?

    1. linoleummy says:

      The afternoon lighting in my kitchen turns my 30 year old oak cabinets that dark orange amber. I just love them for those few hours. Wanna trade your knotty pine for my nasty oak?

      1. pam kueber says:

        That is an inbound story from before RetroRenovation.com when I had a blog on blogger!

        Not sure I even remember the image but I will keep an eye out for it!

        Golly, you are into the archives! Are you reading all 3,000+ stories we ever wrote???

  4. Dave says:

    Our house built in 1953 has Knotty Pine. We opted to update to Stainless and keep the Pine. We also replaced the old red formica with a newer stone like pattern. We also installed recessed lights removing a old Box florescent. The Stainless looks great with the Pine but most importantly my wife is happy with the compliments from our friends.

    My only problem is I am trying to find a few pieces of knotty pine for additional cabinet doors. Watching for remodels and checking Habitat’s…

  5. Ericka says:


    I don’t have knotty pine, but I do have original wood cabinets in my kitchen (with ACME drawers!!), and I am looking for that little decorative piece of wood that might have gone between the cabinets next to the window. In case my description makes no sense, there’s an example of it above the window in the picture above called “Formica Kitchen.” It joins the two cabinets. Does anyone know if that has a name? (I didn’t know there was a word for soffits until I came to this site, so I imagine there must be a name for this little decorative touch.) Sorry if it’s somewhere here and I’ve missed it. There’s a lot to read… 🙂

    Thanks for any info anyone has.

  6. VR Mack says:

    Our daylight basement has knotty pine paneling and brick fireplace and — get this — myrtle wood bar. It’s a classic rumpus room but it was done in the early ’40s. They were ahead of their time.

    My problem: It’s depressingly dark.

    How do you get around that?

    Also, the basement has the early likely asbestos tile in a depressing color. We had professionals put in new VCT in the kitchen in creamy yellow and pale blue check pattern but they have cracked in several places and ALWAYS look dirty. It looks right with the vintage kitchen but, seriously, the floor drives me batty.

  7. Katy says:

    Hi everyone-
    Back in August I bought a great 1957 ranch that only had one owner before me. It’s like a wonderful little time capsule. The WHOLE interior of the house except the bathroom and the formal living room is the real-deal wood paneling… pecky cypress in the dining room, hall and bedrooms, knotty pine in the kitchen and den. Most of the room have the original hardwoods (That I’ll eventually refinish… they need love), but in the den there was carpet and in the kitchen a very unexciting linoleum. I thought of putting down wood in the den but I think the place has plenty of that. Then I thought of ceramic tile…. but UNDER the carpet and a second subfloor is the original asbetos tile. I don’t want to revert to that but what I do want to know… does anyone know how well those faux asbestos tiles hold up? Do they look as good in the long run?
    I’ll post pictures as soon as I’m able (and the house is clean…).

    1. pam kueber says:

      Hi Katy, congrats on your time capsule. I think you mean today’s “VCT” or vinyl composite tiles. I have them in my kitchen — I think they hold up fine. I think, in fact, that they will last longer than you want them to — they are specified for commercial applications, and we are only “residential” with much less wear and tear. One thing I do believe you may want to look at is tile thickness – some are thicker (and therefore, I think, hardier) than others. I am not a contractor or anything but one thing I am pretty sure of is that you need a super duper smooth surface to install new VCT – I think that folks usually lay an all-new plywood subfloor… this is something to consult a professional about. Also, be sure to consult with pro’s regarding environmental and safety issues regarding those old asbestos tiles and how to deal with them properly. You can find all my posts about Flooring including these tiles in two places up on the navigation bar — in Product Guides (top pics summarized) and in By Room/Kitchen/Flooring. Good luck. And yes – be sure to send pics, it sounds like your house is really a gem. Pecky cypress? I am jealous! you can send photos to retrorenovation [at] gmail [dot] com.

  8. James says:

    Kris, years ago we owned a 1939 squarish, hipped-roof brick Georgian with a knotty pine paneled recreation room in the basement. The floors were oak hardwood, stained the same amber color as the knotty pine walls. I believe the hardwood floors were original (the floors had a bit of a bounce- I suspect the furring strips beneath the floors had probably rotted a bit from the moisture- again, this was a basement). All that amber-colored wood on the walls and floor gave things a lodge-like look, but we used light rugs to lighten things up.

  9. Kris says:

    You fans (and foes) of knotty pine…any thoughts on flooring other than carpet that could co-exist with the pine? Our bedroom has that amber tongue and groove and the carpet’s days are numbered. I long to discover some float-type flooring that won’t clash with the walls.

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