Developing Stains Inspired by Nature

Shahan Fancy

There is no dispute that the COVID-19 global pandemic has influenced interior design style trends. At the height of the pandemic lockdowns, a trend emerged where homeowners wanted to find creative ways to bring nature into their homes for a stronger connection. Organic and natural wood elements in the cabinet industry started their renaissance, where painted white cabinetry has reigned supreme for several years now. That said, lighter wood stains are the top choice for 2022.

Other trending Interior Design styles influencing these lighter wood stains are Art Deco, Organic Modern, Boho Chic, Eclectic, and Transitional styles. Organic Modern or Organic/Natural has had the most significant gains in popularity, especially with millennials. The 2022 National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Trends Study reported that 57% voted Organic/Natural as their second most preferred choice, slightly below the Transitional design style at 59%. This is a massive gain in popularity for Organic/Natural, as this style finished in ninth place only two years prior.

To stay on top of this trend, the Superior Cabinets launched two new wood stains: Butterscotch and Cornsilk. The Cornsilk Stain on wood offers a white tone that softens the appearance of the wood grain while embellishing the authenticity of natural wood. It is the lighter option of the two stains, a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Butterscotch offers a slightly warmer tone that lends to a sleek mid-century modern style, a perfect fit to add an Organic Modern vibe to any kitchen. But bringing this kind of look to life is about much more than identifying trends; there is an arduous development process to ensure new stains match the anticipated quality.

Development Process

Developing a new wood stain can take several months or even years. Many essential elements are carefully planned before launching. For example, matching PVC edge tape must be selected for each wood species and stain colour, as matching edge tape must go on the cabinet cases or carcasses. Also, custom Homeowner Touch-up Kits need to be sourced, fabricated, and assembled for each colour. 

One of the main factors that add to the development time for new stains is the required steps for the laboratory testing process standards set forth by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA). These testing items include Accelerated Natural Wear and Tear, Hot and Cold Testing, Substance Tolerance, and Long Period Exposure to Detergent and Water.

When introducing a new stain colour it must go through conclusive testing to ensure it will perform in an average home environment and stand the test of time. We work closely with our strategic partners, like Sherwin-Williams, to help conduct this extensive cabinetry finish testing. One of the testing processes is the four-step testing process and standards set forth by the KCMA. Their four-step process covers the following conditions:

Accelerated Natural Wear and Tear

A cabinet door is placed and subjected to 120°F and 70% relative humidity for 24 hours in a controlled hotbox. These conditions simulate accelerated natural wear and tear. Here it is evaluated to see if the cabinet finish can withstand these conditions, and the cabinet finish must show no visible discoloration, evidence of blistering, checks, or failures. After this, the finish is thoroughly inspected to ensure the highest standards are met.

Substance Tolerance

This test ensures the cabinet finish can withstand substances typically found in the kitchen and bathroom. Substances like lemon, orange, and grape juices, ketchup, coffee, olive oil, and 100-proof alcohol are placed on the cabinetry finish for 24 hours. After this is completed, the finish is thoroughly inspected to ensure there’s no discoloration, stain, or whitening that will not disappear with polishing. The finish must also have no visible indication of blistering, checks, or other failures.

Hot and Cold Testing

Cabinet finishes are tested in hot and cold cycles for long periods. A cabinet door is placed and subjected to 120°F and 70% relative humidity for one hour in a controlled hotbox. It is then removed, brought up to room temperature, and then placed in a cold box for one hour at -5°F. This process is then repeated five times, and the finish must show visible discoloration, blistering cold checking, or failures.

Long Period Exposure to Detergent and Water

For the final stage, the cabinet finished is tested for its ability to withstand long periods of exposure to a detergent and water. A cabinet door is exposed to a standardized detergent formula for 24 hours on the edge of the cabinet door. The door edge must then show no peeling, swelling, appreciable discoloration, or evidence of blistering, checking, whitening, or other film failures.


It is essential that diligent testing is done on a cabinetry finish before it is introduced to a client. The above-outlined process is one of the reasons why a new stain colour can take a bit of time to introduce to the market. This due diligence ensures that the new kitchen will stand the test of time and serve the customer for many years.

As lighter wood tones climb in popularity, the team at Superior Cabinets is pleased to offer these exciting new wood stain options. These trending lighter wood stains are a refreshing alternative to clear or natural unstained wood. The jury is still out on which of the two will be most popular, but time will tell. 

Shahan Fancy is no stranger to the kitchen and bath industry, where he started as a Kitchen and Bath Designer in 2006. His passion for branding, marketing, and communications eventually led him to his current role, where he serves as the Director of Marketing for Superior Cabinets.

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