What’s Your Cabinetry Style?

Posted by Neal's Design Remodel on Tue, Jul 9, 2024

What’s Your Cabinetry Style?

You may already know that there are a lot of options when it comes to cabinetry styles. Even putting aside color and stain choices, cabinets come in a huge variety of options. What’s the best choice with so many to choose from? A professional designer will narrow down your best options based on your project’s overall goals, but it’s still helpful if you understand your preferences going in. In this post, we'll break down the two main components of cabinetry style to get you started.

Start with the Cabinet Frames

You may have never noticed this before, but the doors of your cabinets can be installed in different ways in relation to the cabinet’s frame. You can think of it simply as how much of the cabinet’s frame you can see. The different arrangements change the overall look of the cabinetry and effect the style. , This might be one reason why you like the look of one cabinet installation over another even if they have the same door style or color.

Kitchen with an inset cabinetry frame style

When the cabinet doors are set flush inside the frame, this is called an “inset” cabinet door. This style is often used for traditional feeling spaces or to create a timeless or classic look. It may be more expensive because there’s very little room for error in the fit of the doors inside the frames. The benefit, however, is that the cabinets are entirely flush on their fronts, with only the door style and hardware creating any type of nooks or crannies.

Bathroom with a full overlay cabinetry frame style

On the other end of the spectrum is the “full overlay” door. In this arrangement, the cabinet doors are installed to sit directly against each other, covering the frame. While inset doors will typically always inject a classic style into a space, the full overlay style is a chameleon and can work with any design style. This is because the frames don’t show, meaning that the cabinet's door style alone creates the overall look. This can be considered the default option when homeowners don't have a specific choice.

If the doors overlap the frames but still reveal some of the frame between them, this is known as a “standard overlay” door. It is less commonly used in custom remodeling today because it tends to offer a more cluttered look and has a higher dusting maintenance requirement. Be aware also that some specialty cabinets may require a bit of frame showing around them in order to function properly.

Consider the Door Styles Next

The look of the cabinet door or drawer front comes with its own style options. Here again, there are several types. For cabinetry doors, the style is based on what the door looks like if you were to cut it down the center and look at the door’s profile.

Raised panel cabinet doors in a kitchen

Raised panel doors have a center panel that is pushed out from the surrounding frame. This is typically done so that the frame and center panel are flush but there’s a groove between them. The format of the groove, such as the angle of the sides or whether there’s any woodworking details in it will create the specific style of the door. Typically, a raised panel door is going to be considered more traditional in nature, bringing with it a sense of design pedigree. This is largely due to the use of this type of door style throughout history compared to the other styles.

Recessed panel cabinet doors in a bathroom

Recessed panel doors have a center panel that is indented from the frame. This is often alternatively referred to as a “Shaker” style door in reference to the colonial Shaker community that utilized the construction method. Recessed panel doors are often considered the more versatile, since they straddle the line between timeless and modern with their history and their minimalist appeal. One key thing to note is that the width of the frame around the recessed panel can be thick or thin, and this will matter for the look of the cabinets when they are installed together.

Slab style cabinet doors in a kitchen

A “slab” or “flat” style door is a panel with no 3-dimensional detailing. This is the style of choice for a sleek and contemporary look to the cabinets. The minimal and modern look can be further enhanced with contemporary hardware, or by using a magnetic push closure so that no hardware is needed at all. In spaces that are not contemporary in style overall, the slab style door can potentially look unintentionally plain, so it’s important to commit to a modern look in the room when choosing this door option so that it fits in.

Molding-applied doors on a kitchen pantry cabinet.

To make any cabinet door more unique or interesting, it can become a molding-applied door. This means that it has extra trim attached to the door, typically around existing construction features such as the center panel, to give it more dimension and character. If you’re looking for something more detailed with your cabinet doors, this is what your designer may suggest.

The best way to try to determine which combination of frame and door style you like, or if you have any preference at all, is to take a look at finished spaces and take note of the styles you gravitate toward. When you begin talking about style with your designer, you can let them know what styles you're really drawn to so they can narrow down the look of your new space with that in mind.

Topics: Cabinetry, Designer Insights

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