One of the biggest and most important decisions that you can make when designing your kitchen is the type of cabinetry that you want to install. As the main feature in most kitchens, the cabinets inform the style of the room, from rustic to contemporary, it all revolves around the cabinetry. Below is an in-depth look at the types, styles and design possibilities available to help you come to the decision that works best for you.
- Hard Maple
- Laminate Veneer
- High Gloss
- Wood Veneer
- Plastic Laminate
- Thermo Textured
- Glass Front
Types of Kitchen Cabinets
When choosing kitchen cabinets, the first step you need to take is to decide what type you want. This decision will mainly be based on the overall design of your home. Keep reading for more information on the four types you can choose from.
Base Kitchen Cabinets
Base cabinets, like those shown above, are cabinets that sit at the base, or bottom, of your kitchen. Cabinets like these will determine your kitchen layout and will also be what you install your countertop and sink on top of, so you want to make sure and get them made out of sturdy material.
Wall Kitchen Cabinets
Wall cabinets, like this one, are cabinets that hang on the wall. You have a little more freedom here to decide if you'd like cabinets on your wall or not, but most kitchens include at least some for the added storage space.
Tall Kitchen Cabinets
Tall kitchen cabinets, like the ones pictured above, usually range from 84 to 96 inches in height and 12 to 24 inches deep. They're typically used for pantries or a storage closet.
Custom Kitchen Cabinets
Custom kitchen cabinets are cabinets built to homeowner or designer specifications. You can't buy these at your local home improvement store and will need to hire someone to build them for you or build them yourself. These are typically found in a kitchen with a unique design or a layout that mass produced cabinets can't fit well.
Types of Cabinet Materials
There are many different types of materials you can have your cabinet made out of. Some of the considerations you want to keep in mind are durability, how hard or easy the material is to clean, and, of course, whether or not a particular material will fit the overall look you're trying to achieve.
Wood Cabinets are a classic choice in kitchens. They don't tend to scratch or break easily, and most have a sealant that prevents staining from spills. They're also fairly easy to clean, needing just a quick wipe with a wet rag or at most to be cleaned with a wood cleaner. There are also numerous choices available between the different colors, grains, and finishes which allow for more customization. Check out these different wood types to see how easily you can make your kitchen unique with this cabinet material.
Cherry wood cabinets are one of the more traditional wood types used in kitchens. This wood is close-grained and smooth and can take on many different finishes ranging from natural to nearly black. It's also a hardwood, which means it will stand up to wear and tear really well. This wood does react to UV rays in sunlight, however, and it can react in unpredictable ways. Also, while it is a hardwood, it's not quite as hardy as oak or maple, and the cost for these cabinets is on the more expensive side of the wood range.
Hickory cabinets are extremely sturdy and hold up well to wear and tear throughout the years as well as taking hard hits without sustaining too much damage, but they're more expensive as well. This hardwood has a distinctive flame-like grain that runs through it, and the designs made by it can make quite the statement in a kitchen. However, the wood grain can also overwhelm a kitchen as well as making your kitchen space feel smaller. This wood is one that demands gentle cleaning, as too harsh a cleaner can cause damage.
Oak kitchen cabinets are one of the best-selling cabinets on the market and are known for their open grain and heavy, strong hardwood. With many color options and hardiness factors such as being naturally water resistant, it makes sense for a kitchen that's used frequently. Oak is also less costly than other solid hardwoods, and many like that aspect. The open grain does make a negative feature for some though because it will show through any finish and can be difficult to cover if you decide to paint your cabinets later. The lower cost, while good now, could also be a negative if you decide to sell your home.
Pine is a good choice for low-cost, rustic cabinets. Typically seen in a home with an overall rustic or country design, this wood is lighter than most and has a great natural appearance. It also takes paint well, so if you decided to paint over it you wouldn't have much trouble. Pine is a less durable, softer wood though, and dings easily.
Birch is a light-colored hardwood that comes in a variety of hues and displays a closed, uniformly straight grain. This wood is on the more affordable end of the wood range and is easily stained a darker color to match woods like cherry or mahogany to give a more expensive look. They don't accept the darkest stains though, and they tend to be a bit softer than other hardwoods.
Alder cabinets, sometimes called 'the poor man's cherry', have a look similar to that of cherry wood cabinets without the same expense. They have the same reddish undertones but aren't quite as dark and don't darken as much over time. If you want a wood that has a lot of knots in the grain, these are the cabinets for you. This wood is softer, however, and cabinets made from it tend to dent and ding easier than harder woods like cherry.
Mahogany cabinets like the island above are favorites among homeowners and for good reason. These cabinets are known to be the most durable on the market, and their brown color with the red undertones combined with the distinct swirling grains makes them a great choice. However, mahogany wood is becoming increasingly rare, and the demand for this type of wood cabinet has driven the price up, so be prepared to spend a good amount if you decide to chose this type of cabinet for your kitchen.
Maple wood cabinets are another favorite in kitchens for many reasons. The smooth surface lends itself well to many finishes and paints, allowing for a variety of looks. Maple is also one of the hardest woods on the market for cabinets and doesn't take on dings or dents as much as other, softer woods like oak or pine. The color of this wood does tend to fade though when exposed to sunlight for a long time. Keep this in mind if considering these for a kitchen with a lot of natural light. The cost for these cabinets is a negative feature, too, with prices being higher like most other hardwoods.
Laminate veneer cabinets are made out of a synthetic veneer placed on particle board, which is created from pressed wood. These cabinets come in a wide variety of colors and styles and can either be solid, like the tall white cabinets shown above or have a wooden look for a fraction of the cost of solid wood. These cabinets hold up well to use in the average kitchen and don't run the risk of warping like wood. They also hold their color well with little to no fading or color changes.
Fiberboard cabinets, also called MDF cabinets, are made of an engineered wood created from a mix of redwood, fiber, adhesives, and resin. Fiberboard is typically used for the cabinet doors while the body of the cabinet is constructed from solid wood. Carpenters use this option because of the variety of colors and finishes as well as it's long term durability. It doesn't warp, has a smooth finish, is highly water resistant when properly sealed, and is a much cheaper alternative to solid wood. However, this cabinet material is susceptible to scratches, it's soft so it can't hold screws well, and if not sealed properly will accumulate water damage. For more information on MDF vs solid wood, check out this article.
Last trending in the 1970s, high gloss kitchen cabinets have made a big comeback and are now a favorite for homeowners with more contemporary taste. With a shiny finish that reflects light, many choose this material to create a larger and more open feel in their kitchens. These cabinets are extremely easy to clean, which is good because the reflectiveness of the material makes fingerprints, smudges, and scratches more obvious. This option for cabinets is expensive, and hard to repair, so carefully consider before settling on this as the cabinet choice in your home.
Plywood cabinets are made from pressed sheets of wood that are then covered with a veneer. They are strong and hold up well to years of use, as well as being moisture resistant. They won't hold up well in long-term exposure to water, but everyday splashes and spills won't warp them. Plywood is more expensive than materials like particle board, but they have a good range of prices if you'd like to try to make plywood cabinets fit your budget.
Wood veneer cabinets are created from a thin slice of wood glued onto engineered wood. These cabinets are fairly affordable and still give a solid wood look to your kitchen without the large price tag. The veneer increases the strength of the overall cabinet and protects the engineered wood from issues like water damage. This material is more demanding in upkeep, however, and needs to be polished and cleaned regularly. This type of cabinet also requires experienced installers because of the tendency of the veneer to crack.
Plastic laminate cabinets are made from layers of kraft paper and resin pressed together under high pressure to make a single sheet. This sheet is then glued to engineered wood. The costs for this type of cabinet is extremely cheap and it's easy to clean, but this material has the risk of chipping or cracking and is really difficult to repair.
Melamine cabinets are made from pressed wood covered in paper and resin. This material is very durable and is resistant to heat, stains, and moisture because of its outer coating. They also come in a variety of colors and faux wood grains and are a fairly inexpensive option. However, these are heavy cabinets and require heavy-duty brackets, and chip easily. You may need to have an experienced installer put these in for you. This material will warp if water gets into the wood core as well, and needs careful preventative measures when installing around sinks.
Cabinets that are thermo textured are created by heating a sheet of flexible vinyl and molding it over engineered wood. These kitchen cabinets are available in a variety of colors and designs, allowing homeowners to customize their kitchens easily. This material is not completely water resistant, however, and if moisture gets into the core wood behind the laminate it will warp. They are also susceptible to heat, and when located too close to a heat source the vinyl layer will pull away from the wood underneath. While cheaper than some other options, these require experienced installers that can drive the price up, and once damaged have to be replaced as they can not be repaired.
Kitchen cabinets made from aluminum are not boring and metallic like you might think. These are available in a multitude of colors and designs and can withstand environmental variations without suffering damages. This material is easy to clean and can last for years without needing to be replaced, but they do tend to dent easily. These cabinets are also a bit noisy given they are made out of metal, so take that into consideration if you'd rather have a quieter cabinet.
Polyethylene kitchen cabinets are cheap and easy to install, as well as durable. However, these cabinets aren't available in a wide variety of looks, so if you choose them your design options will be limited. You also have to be mindful of loosening screws since this material does not hold them well.
Styles of Kitchen Cabinets
Once you've decided what type and material of cabinet you'd like in your kitchen, you get to move on to the fun part: design! There are several styles to choose from, and each can make a big statement on the overall look and feel of your kitchen.
Shaker Kitchen Cabinets
A shaker cabinet style is one with a simple look. Typically with a lighter finish such as white or natural wood, the recessed doors on shaker cabinets will have very basic hardware or none at all. These cabinets are perfect for a minimalist kitchen or a kitchen with bold designs elsewhere.
Traditional Kitchen Cabinets
Traditional kitchen cabinets are normally rich in detail and decorations, with additions that create an elegant look. This style uses elaborate hardware, a variety of curved and straight lines, and deep, heavy colors. Natural elements such as wood or stone are staples in a traditional kitchen, so if you'd like this look consider one of the wood cabinet types listed towards the top of this post.
Rustic Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets with a more rustic feel are going to have natural looks, so wood or a faux wood is essential. These have a more laidback feel when compared to the elegance of traditional cabinets. If you decide to paint your rustic cabinets, do so with warm, natural colors and leave them rugged or use a matte finish rather than gloss.
Slab Kitchen Cabinets
A slab kitchen cabinet is one with a flat, solid door with no raised edges and very minimal hardware. These cabinets are typically found in homes with a transitional or contemporary style. This works great in a home with a minimalistic approach to design or in a kitchen with a bold design choice that needs other, more subtle elements.
Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets in the contemporary family are usually sleek and simple to give a clean, airy feel to your kitchen. They typically steer clear of additions like crown molding or raised panels, and the hardware paired with contemporary kitchen cabinets is simple. This style is ideal for a small space to not only give it a larger, less crowded feel but also because the absence of molding allows for taller cabinets and more storage.
Country Kitchen Cabinets
Country kitchen cabinets are styled to be warm and welcoming. They are designed for use and durability, so they are typically made from wood rather than other materials. These cabinets are also painted frequently, but with light colors such as white or light blue, and distressing is a common feature. Patterned curtains instead of doors are typical, and replacing solid wood panels in the doors with decorative glass or wire is unique to this style.
Craftsman Kitchen Cabinets
Simple, straight lines are a big factor in craftsman styled kitchen cabinets, and they're created with a sturdy build. Functionality and durability are at the top of the list of features for craftsman style, and a true craftsman cabinet is always made from heavy wood rather than synthetic material. Simple hardware is essential to the style, and the arts and crafts nature of craftsman kitchens allows for mix and matching of different sizes and shapes of cabinets.
Glass Front Kitchen Cabinets
Glass front cabinets are kitchen cabinets with glass panels instead of solid. This style allows for displaying dinnerware and decorative dishes as well as giving a lighter feel to your kitchen. These cabinets are typically reserved for the upper cabinets since heavier pots and pans that may not be very decorative are stored in lower cabinets, and the bumps and hits that lower cabinets endure more of can lead to the glass breaking.
Louvered Kitchen Cabinets
Louvered cabinets, like the ones shown on either side of the lower cabinets pictured above, have horizontal slats that run across the cabinet doors. These horizontal slats help create a bigger feel to a smaller kitchen, as well as allowing for greater ventilation. While a unique look, these cabinets are harder to clean because of the slats, and they're more expensive as well.
Open Kitchen Cabinets
The open kitchen cabinet style has become very trendy lately. This style gives kitchens a laid back, modern feel while allowing homeowners to display unique or decorative dishware. These cabinets also lend themselves well to a variety of materials used in cabinet production, which allows for greater design flexibility and customization.
Distressed Kitchen Cabinets
Distressed kitchen cabinets give your kitchen a lived-in, comfortable look. This style adds character to any kitchen and can be achieved fairly easily as well. Simply sand away paint in spots to reveal the wood underneath or hit the cabinets with a hammer or chain to add dents or dings. A bonus to this style is that if you accidentally cause a small spot of damage on your cabinets later it blends in, making this a durable look for many kitchens.
Beadboard Kitchen Cabinets
Beadboard kitchen cabinets have unique vertical slats that have been pieced together to form a solid sheet. This style is typically found in kitchens that adhere to a French, country, or beach style. The vertical slats draw the eye up, giving the impression of higher ceilings which in turn make the room feel bigger. This style is perfect for a rustic look with charm.
Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets
Thermofoil cabinets are sleek and glossy, reflecting light and giving a kitchen a brighter appearance. These would work well in a smaller kitchen to give a bigger feel. While they don't last long, these may be a good design move if you want something easy to clean. The smooth surface wipes off easily, something homeowners with small children may want to consider.
As you can see, there are many options when choosing kitchen cabinets. With the wide variety available, customizing your kitchen to fit your specific tastes can be done easily.