Choosing A Cabinet Door Style For Kitchens And Baths

choosing a cabinet door style for kitchens and baths

The grand decision to remodel a room, or renovate your home is the start of a seemingly endless journey that keeps you wading through the minutia to create a final product that comes together beautifully. Cabinet door style is certainly one of the seemingly straightforward decisions that can shock you when you contend the wide range of options available.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Selecting the Right Cabinet Door Style

While selecting the right cabinet door style for your kitchen, bathroom or living room built-in certainly deserves a bit of time and attention, it isn’t anything you should agonize over. This quick and easy guide will help you hone in on the best style for your household.

Stuck between an option or two? Have a few questions about which door styles make the most sense for your design preferences or lifestyle? Never underestimate the value of a consultation with a professional interior designer. We can help you evaluate your top favorites and work you through the decision-making process so you choose the best options.

Custom or Stock Cabinetry?

I hardly ever advise selecting stock cabinetry because it lacks quality and originality, so custom and semi-custom are by far the ways to go if you want solidly-built cabinets that stand the test of time. Stock cabinetry is cheap for a reason, and it simply won’t perform decade after decade the well custom or semi-custom options do.

Semi-custom cabinet options have stock elements in place but are built with hardier materials. If you choose well, and they’re built by experienced cabinet makers who care about quality over quantity, semi-custom cabinets are a nice compromise between custom and stock options.

Framed versus Frameless Cabinets

Prior to the post-war era, framed cabinets were the norm. Then, frameless cabinetry – by way of Europe – entered the U.S. market as modern and transitional designs grew in popularity. With a frameless cabinet design, cabinet boxes are hidden completely and there is no “face frame” evident when the cabinet doors are shut. This also increases the amount of accessible storage space inside, of especial benefit to small kitchen owners.

Frameless cabinetry offers a more streamlined and a less-is-more look. You can see an example of frameless cabinetry in this kitchen – see how cabinet doors are uninterrupted by any cabinet box frames? However, by eliminating the face frame, you also eliminate the structure that traditionally supported the cabinet door hinges. While hinge technology has come a long way, homeowners with frameless cabinets should be prepared to readjust cabinet doors more often. Again, quality craftsmanship is key here.

Flat Panels or Raised Panels?

As you’ve probably noticed, there are a lot of different cabinet door styles out there. When all is said and done, however, they fall into two general categories:

Flat(ish)-panel cabinet doors

These cabinet doors can be completely flat – meaning there are no recessed or raised elements on the face, to mostly-flat, where there might be a simple, out or inward motion in the door’s surface. For example, Shaker style cabinet doors, like the ones in this Suburban Oasis are relatively flat, even though they do have a raised, rectangular border around the exterior edge.

Flatter-paneled cabinet doors are best suited for homeowners who prefer modern, contemporary or transitional designs as they are sleeker and “square” in nature – with minimal adornment. They’re also the best option for those who want to keep cleaning and maintenance to a minimum.

Raised- or recessed panel cabinet doors

Raised-panel or recessed-panel cabinet doors have more adornment on the outside. This adornment may involve a central panel that’s popped out or a border that is raised with various decorative shapes and grooves. Either way, there is more for the eye to behold.

For this reason, raised- and recessed-panel doors tend to be magnets for homeowners who like traditional design elements. Also, the more ridges and grooves there are to see, the more ridges and grooves there are to clean and maintain, so keep that in mind.

Consider mixing-and-matching

Never think you have to stick to one cabinet door style only. Just as you can with cabinet finishes and color (see below), cabinet door styles can be mashed together a bit, via alternations between upper and lower cabinets, or changing the cabinet doors styles on a kitchen island. Similarly, in an open floor plan, you might alternate the look on cabinet doors that face other living areas to better match the lines or built-in cabinets visible in those spaces.

Should You Choose Wood-finished or Painted Cabinetry?

It is true that wood cabinets can be painted down the road – some easier than others. However, I feel it makes more sense to establish which works best with your overall design preferences. Natural wood is gorgeous and so it makes little sense to choose wood, only to repaint over the beautiful grains in a matter of years.

Do you need wood or have too much?

If you have a home without a lot of wood, adding some banks of natural wood cabinetry is a good way to balance textural elements or to add a little warmth. On the flip side, if your home is rich with beautiful antique or heirloom wood-finished furniture pieces, painted cabinets will provide a more neutral backdrop, preventing you from dulling the cacophony that ensues when you’re not careful about mixing finishes and wood types.

How do you feel about cleaning/maintenance?

If you’re someone who loves to clean, maintain and putter around the house, then wood-finished cabinets are fine. While contemporary wood finishes don’t require nearly the cleaning and maintenance of decades past, cabinetry still requires routine wiping down to minimize the dust and grime that can eventually ruin the finish and/or the wood below.

If you prefer a lower-maintenance approach, painted cabinets or laminate wood products (that look amazingly like the real thing) are probably more up your alley.

Torn between the two options?

If you’re having a hard time deciding between the two, consider using both. Some of my favorite kitchens are those that include both natural wood and painted cabinets, protecting the eye from monotony. You can alter the finishes on upper and lower cabinets, or between perimeter cabinetry and the kitchen island. This Palo Alto Kitchen demonstrates the mix-and-match approach beautifully. In this way, you achieve the best of both worlds and your kitchen benefits from a little variety.

The same is true with kitchen countertop options – you can always add a different countertop slab to the island to balance color, contrast, etc.

Don’t Forget About Open Shelving

Have a big kitchen or thinking about taking cabinetry all the way to the ceiling to increase storage space? Don’t forget about open shelving options. By installing open shelving at key, accessible locations in your kitchen, you’ll minimize the monotony of “too much cabinetry” that becomes a challenge in certain scenarios. Open shelving – quite literally – opens things up. Even smaller kitchens benefit from open shelving because it adds more visual space, which helps a small kitchen feel bigger.

Having a tough time narrowing your cabinet door style down to a single option or two? I’d love to help you out. Give me a call here at Kristina Wolf Design and I can help you decide on your cabinet door style as well as a few other important design decisions in a single consultation.

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