Get the pros and cons of Modern Masters Dead Flat finish in this complete guide.

Elegant white kitchen with marble countertops, sophisticated lighting design, and a wooden island with a cheese platter and flowers.
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It’s been a few years since I wrote about the finish of our Restoration Hardware table and how we protected it. While we love the protected finish, it wasn’t what we had originally hoped for. While the powder Restoration Hardware natural finish is unrealistic for daily living, it is oh so beautiful.

One of my readers suggested Modern Masters Dead Flat as an alternative to standard varnish. She used it on her Restoration Hardware table for a beautiful finish, but with minimal protection she sometimes regrets. Designers like Brooke Giannetti have incorporated it into their home.

protect restoration hardware table dead flat varnish
reader photo

When designing our new kitchen, I wanted to warm up our cream cabinets with a wood island for contrast. I wanted to ensure the wood would look natural, not shiny from varnish, which is hard to achieve while protecting wood.

A light oak wood kitchen island with a built in microwave, surrounding cabinets are cream.

Originally, I had selected unfinished white oak, which would darken over time from sun exposure. As you know from my kitchen renovation series, things don’t always go as planned, and our carpenter made it in red alder.

In an attempt to be flexible, we then sought a stain for our island to achieve the same look. Unfortunately, that also affected the finish I was hoping to achieve.

A light oak wood kitchen island with striped fabric bar stools, surrounding cabinets are cream.

What is Modern Masters Dead Flat?

Modern Masters Dead Flat is a faux finish. It’s a non-yellowing clear water-based varnish that minimizes sheen. Stains are oil based, so combining the two was risky, but I just despise anything “red” in our home and the red alder was no different.

In an attempt to work with the carpenter, we agreed to a stain and continued with the Modern Masters Dead Flat. Overall, I like the finish, but it is a bit splotchy in places.

a white kitchen with a wood island protected with Modern Masters dead flat finish

Where is Modern Masters Dead Flat best used?

It’s best used on raw wood. I’ve had readers share their experience on their powder Restoration Hardware finish and while they all said it goes on pretty well without taking up the powder, unfortunately, as previously mentioned, it offers very little protection. When tested on raw wood it looks flawless.

We decided to use Modern Masters Dead Flat on the base of our island because it’s an area that needs to be wiped down on occasion, but is not as likely to encounter spills, little girl art messes, {one of our main concerns at this season in our lives} and stains that will set.

This finish wipes clean with a wet cloth, but as predicted, doesn’t offer much protection. We do have a marker stain that won’t budge.

For me, this finish is not suitable for surfaces, at least those that are frequently used or used by children, but great for cabinetry, console tables and accent pieces.

A white kitchen with a raw wood looking island, that is finished in Modern Masters Dead Flat finish.

You can find Modern Masters Dead Flat here. If you have any questions, please leave them below and I’ll be happy to answer!

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  1. Would you mind saying what stain you used for the island? My cabinet maker made a similar mistake and used red oak instead of white, so I am now faced with the same problem as I do not want the wood reading red or pink but want a natural look. 

    1. I had them custom made, but you can find the similar version I used in our breakfast room in my shop, enjoy!

  2. Your kitchen is so beautiful! So sorry that you had to deal with so many setbacks, but it’s easy to see how you’ve handled all of them with such grace – a wonderful learning lesson for your daughters to see no doubt! I can’t help but notice how beautifully organized your kitchen sink area looks in the last picture. Would love to see a future post on that!

      1. Absolutely! I feel like my sink area looks like a cluttered mess (between hand soap, dish soap, sponges, etc), but your sink area looks so organized and minimal. Would love to know how you keep that area looking so neat and tidy. Also your paper towel holder is so gorgeous!

  3. Oh my word!!!  The wrong wood for your dream kitchen island!  Ugh!  Renovations are so taxing; I’m sure I would’ve really had a hard time keeping it together with that disappointment!  (My husband too. He’s still not over them installing three of the wrong toilets in our house!) I think you’ve made the best of a difficult situation and the pictures don’t show the island as reading “red” at all. It looks beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Sharon! It definitely tried my patience, but I remembered he’s human and makes mistakes, too and knowing that being a carpenter isn’t a get rich quick job, kept that in mind instead of fighting for him to build a new cabinet at his expense. It will be a while before I can muster up the bathroom/closet reno now!