Cabinet door finishes are all about clarity. A good stained finished should not cover the woods characteristics, it should enhance them. Choosing the right stain for different species of wood is more are than science and you need a experienced finisher to do quality work.
You should also look for low V.OC. stains and lacquers. V.O.C. stand for volitile organic compounds, V.O.C.s are things you do not want in your home, let alone in your kitchen.
Stains allow the grain of the wood to show through and vary in color depending on the wood species you choose. Stains have a clear finish applied over the top of them.
Tinted lacquers cover the grain and are a solid color. Many people will call a lacquer finish “painted” but that’s not quite correct. A lacquer is different from a paint, it is more durable, easier to clean and better suited to cabinetry. Paint is soft and does not stick well to hardwood.
We often get requests to paint cabinets, this is not a service we provide and not something we recommend. Paint is too soft and does not look very good or last very long. Its it possible to get your cabinets refinished with tinted lacquer but that is expensive and time consuming.
A glaze is a finish that is applied over the initial cabinet finish and the rubbed off, leaving traces of the glaze in the details and corners of the cabinet door. A glaze will darken the color of the door slightly. Glazes are a great way to enhance the look of almost any door, though we do not recommend them for pure white doors or shaker style doors. Glazes look best when there is some detail to the molding on the doors