In any kitchen, the cabinetry is the most prominent and defining feature of the room, so choosing the right style is the key to a successful kitchen design. Finding a style that fits your needs, desires, and aesthetic preferences is not an easy task.
Do you need space to store a complete dinner set for 24, but need to stick to a tight budget? Do you want to display your grandmother’s cookbooks, but can’t stand the look of exposed shelves? Do you prefer the minimalist look of slab cabinets, or would you rather have a more traditional shaker-style?
Start with the basics. First, determine if your kitchen will include all or some of the four basic types of cabinets: base (under the counter), wall-mounted, tall (often standalone, can be used as a pantry), and specialty units like corner cabinets, hutches, or bottle racks.
You’ll also need to choose a cabinet quality grade. Budget will be a determining factor here. There are four cabinet grades available, based on construction quality:
Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are found at big box retailers like Ikea. RTA cabinets can save you money, but they will be less durable. Building and installing cabinetry isn’t as simple as building a shelf or bed, so even skilled DIYers may need to hire professionals for the installation.
Stock cabinets are bought directly from the manufacturer. You have less flexibility with these since they are sold in specific sizes that can not be changed, but you can find stock cabinets in a wide range of materials. They are generally an affordable choice, with a higher quality than RTA.
Semi-custom cabinets hit in the middle in terms of price. These could be stock cabinets made with custom doors and shelving or made-to-order units from a manufacturer. You can specify size and choose from a broader selection of materials.
Custom cabinets are at the highest end of the spectrum and offer unlimited options. They are completely made-to-order, and you can dictate all of the materials, hardware, style, and construction.
Choose the construction
There are two types of cabinet construction. Framed cabinets have rails and stiles that form a 1.5-inch face frame at the front of the cabinet box that is attached to the door front to give extra strength and dimension to the finished cabinet. With this construction, you have more flexibility with door types; it allows for standard, full overlay, and inset cabinet doors (more on door types below).”
Frameless construction is a European method of manufacturing cabinets that has become increasingly popular with homeowners. It offers a more contemporary look and better interior access by excluding the face frame, relying on denser box construction for stability. “Only full overlay doors can be used, with hinges attached directly to the sides of the cabinet box,” notes one White Rock custom interiors expert.
The term overlay means how much the door overlays the face frame. Standard overlay doors (aka traditional or partial overlay) are less expensive and do not require hardware. Because they have more exposed face frame (roughly 1 1⁄4-inches on all sides of the doors and drawers), there is enough finger space to open doors or drawers without a knob or pull.
Full overlay cabinets have a more custom appearance, and the doors cover the entire face frame. Double door cabinets with full overlay come with an added advantage: They do not have a vertical face frame stile between the two doors, so you can easily fit large items like serving platters and pans.
Inset cabinets have the door set inside the face frame to be flush with the front of the cabinet instead of having the door on top of the cabinet box. Special hidden or decorative hinges are used to precisely fit the door inside the frame opening.