Gloria Graham, AKBD
Brendan Donovan Furniture & Cabinet Co.
3685 Investment Lane, West Palm Beach, Florida
Phone (561)254-7736,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Wenge wood, as shown in this Holiday Kitchen, is a popular veneer choice. Photo by Divine Kitchens LLC MA

Don't get excited. Skins are what we sometimes call  wood veneers, or super thin sheets of material used to cover cabinet doors or panels instead of using solid wood.  As clean lines and contemporary styling continues to increase in popularity, surfaces themselves become the ornamentation and focal interest in a kitchen.  The use of interesting wood grain veneers  which are both beautiful and unique, is an excellent  way to make a simple slab door stand out.

A wide assortment of available options. Photo credit

Olive Ash Burl Veneer in its natural state. A little goes a long way.

Many of my clients are surprised to learn that this is can actually be a more expensive option compared to a solid wood door.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is that these veneers, or skins, are often made from exotic wood and secondly this can be a labor intensive process, thus the increased cost.  The advantage being you can "control" the wood grain, so to speak, creating patterns that match up with each other.  So if the unexpected randomness of natural wood grain makes your pits sweat this could be a good alternative for you.

Another option if exotic wood veneers are too rich for your blood is something called "engineered wood veneers".  These are man made skins that replicate the exotics using not-so-exotic woods. The material cost is a lot less and in many cases it's hard to tell the difference.

Brendan Donovan's Sapele Mahogany door with Rosewood veneer panel

If you still love more traditional styling, veneers can still be useful for you.  A traditional 5 piece door benenfits greatly from a center panel that is veneer rather than solid wood.  The reason is that the veneer is applied to a dense MDF substrate that will not expand and contract the way solid wood does, thus the center panel will not ever swell cracking open the seams or shrink resulting in a lose rattling center panel.

One of my favorite traditional doors made here at Brendan Donovan Furniture & Cabinet Co. is this Sapele Mahogany door with a Rosewood veneer center panel.

Another way to get the look without blowing your budget is to mix it up.  Just use the veneer on, for example, your upper cabinet doors.  The more intricate the graining the stronger the statement.  In other words, a little goes a long way.  Too much and it becomes busy and you lose the concept of focal point.

Vanity featuring same door by Brendan Donovan Furniture & Cabinet Co.

If your kitchen design involves round radius shapes it's going to involve wood veneer which can be bent and moulded to conform as needed.  Another beautiful effect can be achieved through the use of marketry, or inlay.  In researching this post I came across the amazing work of Juli Morsella.  Talk about adding a little art to your kitchen!  In addition, Juli is committed to using reclaimed woods, eco-friendly materials and she donates 10% of her earnings to environmental causes.

African art inspired these marquetry doors by Juli Morsella.

More marquetry lovliness from Juli Morsella

If you're interested in using wood veneers (or not) for your kitchen I would love to hear from you!  Congrats to Amy Parrag of Eye See Pretty.  She is the winner of the Orgaline drawer organizer giveaway!


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Gloria Graham. Gloria Graham said: SHOW SOME SKIN IN YOUR KITCHEN [...]

  2. These are some interesting concepts. I personally favor solid wood, but that’s because of my woodworking skills. Veneer makes a lot of sense, though, depending on what a person decides to do with it. Raised panel doors have their place, but not everyone cares for the look. For those who prefer panel doors, it makes a lot more sense to use plywood for the door inserts, which in turn makes a stronger door because you can glue the frame all the way around the panel.

  3. Thanks Joseph. It's always nice to have a master woodworker's perspective!