Make your dream kitchen a reality.
Your Pinterest board might be overflowing with inspiration for a bright, airy kitchen, but did you know pulling it off requires making some pretty difficult decisions? Choosing the right cabinets is one of them—and it perhaps comes with the biggest reward. Here’s why.
“The cabinet door style is the single largest decision for the overall style of your kitchen,” says architect and designer Anastasia Harrison, owner and creative director of AHD&Co and a veteran of more than 50 kitchen remodels. Unfortunately, choosing a kitchen cabinet style can quickly become overwhelming when you don’t know your Shaker from your slab. To save you some of that stress, we’ve zeroed in on what you need to know about kitchen cabinet styles so you can find the perfect fit for your home.
Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets
There are two options for cabinet construction: framed and frameless. Framed cabinets have an added face frame at the front of the cabinet box where hinges and doors attach. Framed cabinets give you the choice of full overlay, partial overlay, or inset doors. With overlay styles, the doors rest on top of the cabinet frame. With inset cabinets (like the ones shown here), the doors are set into the cabinet frame so they sit flush with it when closed. Inset offers a classic look but can be more costly (and provide a little less storage) because they require more work to ensure a perfect door/frame fit.
Frameless cabinets, which started in Europe, but have gained popularity in the U.S., consist of full overlay doors that attach directly to the cabinet box via hinges on the interior of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets can look more contemporary and have a bit more space inside.
Within those two cabinet construction categories, there are several common door styles to choose from.
Shaker Style Cabinets
With clean, classic lines, Shaker is the most popular cabinet door style because it can work beautifully whether your aesthetic is modern, transitional, or traditional. Also called a “five-piece,” a Shaker door is essentially a flat panel with a frame consisting of rails (horizontal pieces) and stiles (vertical pieces).
Its simplicity means that it can complement a wide variety of kitchen designs depending on how you customize the cabinet and what other kitchen design elements you pair with it. “Shaker-style cabinets can be made a little more modern or more traditional with the addition of different types of edge detailing inside the frame,” says Harrison.
The width of the frame can also change the whole vibe of the cabinet. “I’ve done Shaker-style doors with a ½-inch to ¾-inch frame for a really modern look and 2 ¼-inch to 2 ½-inch for a more transitional style,” says Harrison. “The thicker and more ornate the frame, the more traditional a look you get.” Here, you’ll see Shaker style cabinet doors in both wood and white, paired with flat panel drawer fronts.
While Shaker-style cabinets are loved for their versatility and timeless appeal, they can be a pain to keep clean since dust and grime can collect on the inside of the frame. Still, if you’re OK with the upkeep, this kitchen chameleon will enhance almost any style and look chic for a long time.
Slab Cabinet Doors
Think of a kitchen with a sleek, modern aesthetic and chances are you picture slab cabinet doors. Also known as flat panel cabinets, this style consists of a single, smooth piece of wood, plywood, or MDF. Flat panels are available in a variety of finishes and veneers from glossy white, gray, or colored lacquer to natural wood tones. The unadorned cabinet front makes a clean backdrop for statement hardware or looks sophisticated with no visible hardware.
Flat panel cabinets are often associated with a stark, minimalist vibe, but that’s not their only look. “This minimalist-style cabinet can be warmed with different colors or wood finishes,” says Harrison. “For example, a wood like black walnut has light and dark characteristics that add warmth and interest.” And despite their high-end look, flat panel cabinets don’t have to bust your budget. “A modern flat-front cabinet door can be very cost-effective,” says Harrison. “Wood can be expensive, but there are excellent laminates—at a fraction of the cost—that look as good on flat panel cabinets as the real thing.”
Bonus: With no detail or crevices to attract dust or cooking grease, flat panel cabinets are easier to keep clean than other cabinet styles.
Traditional Cabinet Doors
Best known for their warmth and timeless appeal, traditional-style cabinets can create an elegant, yet homey look. If you love a more formal aesthetic and hope to incorporate furniture-inspired details such as decorative legs and corbels into your space, traditional cabinets can be a great choice.
Typically, traditional cabinets feature raised rather than flat center panels, and tend to stick to a warmer color palette, often wood tones. Glazes and antique finishes are options as well. Unlike the more simple, squared Shaker-style cabinet, traditional cabinetry often features arches, curved details, or other embellishments. “If you’re looking for a light and airy feel, traditional cabinets may not be the way to go,” says Harrison.
If charming cottage or modern farmhouse is the feeling you want to evoke in your new kitchen, then consider beadboard kitchen cabinets. “Styled after traditional beadboard that was used on walls, these cabinets can fit in a home that’s modern or traditional,” says Harrison.
Another plus: “They are moderately priced as they are overlay cabinet doors that are similar in construction to modern flat-front doors, but with grooved panels at the front. Complement this look with an aged brass cup pull for the full cottage effect,” she says. Beadboard cabinets can be stained or painted. White beadboard cabinets, like the ones shown here (from $249, potterybarn.com), are common but far from your only option.
Pro tip: “I suggest doing painted beadboard cabinets in a color other than white,” says Harrison. “Try emerald green or navy, as white beadboard can be a bit tricky to keep clean with all of the little grooves in it.”