Modernize Your Oak Cabinets With Black Hardware

Oak kitchen cabinets were hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s. With their distinctive grain patterns and warm, honey-colored finishes, it’s easy to see why oak was a coveted choice for everything from custom cabinetry to stock kitchen designs.

But over time, those same oak cabinets can start to feel dated and drab. The once-trendy oak finish takes on an orange-yellow tone that screams 1980s in all the wrong ways. Set next to today’s preferences for crisp white cabinets and sleek hardware, oak can seem downright drab and old-fashioned.

Problems with Existing Oak Cabinets

Dated Styling

In their heyday, oak cabinets lent a warm, inviting feel to kitchens and bathrooms. But oak wood has distinctly orange-yellow undertones that don’t necessarily align with today’s aesthetic trends. While oak was immensely popular in the 80s and 90s, the look now appears seriously dated.

Trends have shifted toward cooler finishes like gray, white, and even black for cabinetry. Stainless steel appliances have overtaken the harvest gold and avocado green appliances that oak cabinets complemented in the past. Sophisticated marble and granite countertops have replaced Formica and laminate.

Set against the sleek, contemporary designs that dominate today’s kitchens and baths, oak cabinets can seem cluttered and old-fashioned. Their honey oak finish clashes with the clean, minimalist look that’s currently coveted in kitchen design.

oak cabinets with black hardware

Clashing with New Appliances

Stainless steel appliances have dominated kitchen design for over a decade now. Their cool silver sheen contrasts crisply against white cabinetry. The look is modern, elegant, and timelessly chic.

Those same gleaming stainless steel appliances look instantly dated and mismatched when paired with warm golden oak cabinets, however. It creates an appearance of trying to mesh two different eras and aesthetics in one space.

Even black stainless steel appliances, which are growing in popularity, don’t fare much better against dated oak. Their sophisticated low-sheen finish still manages to clash with oak’s orange undertones.

Benefits of Updating with Black Hardware

Creates Bold Contrast

Black is the ultimate contrasting color. Against light oak cabinets, black hardware makes an eye-catching, bold statement.

The deep black color intensifies the wood grain variation in the oak cabinets, creating visual interest. It highlights and accentuates the natural pattern and texture of the wood.

The striking black hardware against the light oak background creates appealing contrast. It adds dimension and depth to kitchen cabinets that can otherwise look flat and one-dimensional.

Modernizes the Look

Black has an inherently modern, contemporary look and feel. In kitchen and bathroom design, black finishes and hardware telegraph understated elegance.

Installing new black hardware is an easy update that aligns oak cabinets with current design trends. The black pulls, knobs, and handles lend oak an updated, modern facelift.

Glossy black can look too bold and harsh against oak cabinets. But matte black, black nickel, or powder coated black hardware offer softer contrast while still giving oak cabinets a sleek, contemporary look.

Affordable Update

A full kitchen remodel involving replacing or refacing cabinets can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. For oak cabinets in good structural condition, that represents a needlessly expensive project.

New cabinet hardware, however, is relatively inexpensive. Updated black knobs, pulls, and handles offer an affordable design upgrade. For a few hundred dollars, you can fully transform the look of your existing oak cabinets.

With smarter budget allocation, you can save the cost of new cabinets to splurge on other elements like countertops or flooring instead.

Selecting Black Hardware


Opt for matte black rather than gloss for hardware against oak cabinets. Matte finishes avoid looking overly harsh and create a softer, more sophisticated look.

Black nickel is another excellent choice. Its slightly gray undertones provide depth and dimension against the orange-gold oak cabinets.

For a more traditional update, oil-rubbed bronze with dark charcoal undertones could provide rich contrast while tying into classic styling.


Look for black hardware in simple, streamlined shapes and forms. The clean lines create balance against the busier grain patterns in oak cabinets.

Bar pull handles on drawers and doors create a streamlined, contemporary look. Offset knobs also lend a more modern feel.

If your design vision skews more traditional, classic black knobs or bin pulls can update oak cabinets while maintaining a touch of classic character.


For the most visually impactful update, replace all visible hardware on oak cabinets with coordinating black finishes.

Start by swapping out existing knobs or pulls on doors and drawers for updated black versions. Use bar pulls or sleek black knobs for a modern look.

Then change out visible hinges, handles, or latches on cabinets to complete the black hardware makeover. Aim for cohesive, consistent hardware finishes throughout.

Pairing Black Hardware with Other Elements


Black kitchen cabinet hardware pairs beautifully with neutral countertop materials. Options like white quartz, soapstone, or light-colored natural stone complement black hardware while providing sufficient contrast against oak cabinets.

Avoid busy granite patterns, as these could compete with the bold hardware update. Seek out more subtle, streamlined granites or quartzes to complete your updated look.


Black cabinet hardware instantly modernizes the look of oak cabinets, lending an upscale feel. This makes it easier to incorporate modern appliances like stainless steel or black stainless.

The cool tones of stainless appliances contrast elegantly with black hardware and warm oak. Opt for stainless appliances with simple bar handles to echo the modern, streamlined cabinet hardware.


Hardwood floors make a natural partner for oak cabinets dressed up with black hardware. Rich mocha tones or espresso hardwood complement the cabinets nicely. Charcoal gray wood-look tile is another sleek, modern flooring option.

Take care to avoid flooring with competing orange undertones. The goal is to minimize the yellow tones in the oak cabinets rather than emphasize them.

Installing new black hardware provides instant return on investment. It modernizes and elevates the entire look of your kitchen or bathroom in an afternoon.

Start by removing existing knobs, pulls, hinges, and handles from oak cabinets and drawers. Use a screwdriver to detach old hardware.

Clean cabinet doors and surfaces thoroughly to remove dust, grime, or residue before installing new hardware. Consider lightly sanding cabinets and applying a fresh coat of polyurethane if needed.

Attach new black hardware using a drill or screwdriver. Most cabinet hardware includes screws for easy DIY installation. Use care when drilling into oak to avoid splintering or marring the cabinet surface.

Step back and admire the transformation once all new hardware is installed. Snapping some “before” and “after” photos captures the magnitude of the difference.

Tie your updated oak and black hardware kitchen together with other modern touches. Add black stainless, slate gray, or white appliances. Install a subway tile backsplash. Swap dated lighting fixtures for streamlined black or nickel pendulum lights.

You can have a kitchen that looks tailor-made for a magazine cover shoot. And you’ve achieved it all bypassing a pricey, disruptive renovation by simply updating your oak cabinets with on-trend black hardware.

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