17 Charming Kitchen Cabinet Styles And Design Ideas

This page is part of the affordable kitchen remodeling series, created to help homeowners design an elegant kitchen that fits their budget. You can access the entire series here.

When most of us start comparing kitchen cabinets the first thing we usually decide is if we want painted or natural wood cabinets, and then we start looking at door styles. But the type of door you choose has the potential to have an even bigger impact on your kitchen than the style you choose.

First, I'm going to break down the difference between types and styles for you. Don't worry, this is easy to understand but it's extrememly important.

Types Of Cabinet Doors

There are three different types: full overlay, partial overlay, and inset.

Full Overlay

A kitchen with white cabinets that have full overlay doors.
This is a fine example of full overlay by Venegas. You can tell it's full overlay because the doors and drawers only have a 1/2" or so gap between them.

Full overlay doors nearly completely cover the front face of the cabinet creating a seamless look. If your goal is a modern, contemporary, or European look this is probably the type you'll want to choose.

Partial Overlay

A kitchen with two tone painted cabinets that has parial overlay doors.
You can immediately tell that these are partial overlay because you can see about an inch of the face frame between the doors and drawers.

This traditional style is found in more modest homes and was very popular up until about the year 2000. You still see them in a lot of cape and colonial style homes with kitchens that were remodeled before the turn of the centry, which is probably when the kitchen in the pictures above was built. The homeowner, and blogger at twoellie.com, put a fresh coat of paint on the upper and lower cabinets and they look fantastic.

Partial overlays have a large gap between each of the doors and drawers so you need less wood to build them which cuts down on the cost to manufacture them.

If you're on a budget this is a good option because as long as the cabinet boxes are constructed with quality material it's a sturdy design. It was also the gold standard until full overlay started becoming more popular.

Partial overlay has gotten a bad rap as cheap over the last few years but that's only because they are so often combined with cheaply made cabinet boxes and installed in rental units or low budget kitchens.

Inset

A kitchen island with inset shaker style doors.
See how these doors are flush with the rails of the face frame of the cabinet? That's the hallmark of an inset cabinet. I found this example on tomhowley.co.uk.

Because of how much work is involved in fitting the doors exactly to the frame, inset is the most expensive of your three options, but are also the most striking. They're typically found in high end homes and paired with craftsman styles like mission and shaker.

The type of hardware you need with them also drives up the price. A simple hinge isn't enough because as the wood naturally expands and contracts adjustments to the alignment of the doors to the face frame need to be made. These adjustments are made with specialized hinges that allow these adjustments to easily be done.

That's a wrap for door types, now lets get into some of the most popular styles.

Cabinet Door Styles

Shaker

A kitchen with shaker style doors and a farmhouse sink.
Subway tile backsplashes go well with shaker style doors. Damon Liss Design

Very simple and lending to a clean design, shaker style is probably the hottest trend in doors right now.

They are often built inset and look fantastic in natural wood or painted. They lend just enough style to the design without being overly fancy.

Glass

Kitchen cabinets with seeded glass doors.
This style is called eclectic, it's a bit busy and the glass suits it nicely.

Typically you'll find one or two upper cabinets with glass doors used with mostly wood ones. They're used to showcase prized posessions like china or any other items you enjoy and don't want hide away in a dark cabinet.

One effect that's make a nice touch is to use them with glass shelves and to add a light to the inside of the cabinet. You can also use them as accent lighting like in the picture below.

Mullion cabinet doors with glass inserts and accent lighting.
This kitchen has tall ceilings and instead of leaving empty space above the upper cabinets the designer filled the space with illuminated glass door accents.

Beadboard

A blue kitchen island with granite countertops and beadboard drawer and door faces.
Beadboard is one of the most popular options for traditional kitchens. Designed by Echelon Custom Homes

Beadboard got it's start as a popular option for cabinets because it's an easy decorative addition to millwork that's being made on-site. Since it's early adoption it's only become more popular.

You'll find it in lot's of traditional kitchens including craftsman and seaside styled homes.

Recessed

A white kitchen with recessed cabinet doors and intergrated appliances.
These shaker style which is the most basic example of a recessed panel. Charlie & Co. Design
Recessed panels are probably the most popular option for traditional kitchens right now. They're very versatile because their simple and clean design makes them appropriate for transitional and contemporary spaces too.

Raised

A kitchen island with raised panels on the side.
The panels on the side of this island have a prominent raise in the center of them.

Through the 80's and 90's raised panels were installed in just about every kitchen in America. They're still popular but you have a lot more options with the popularity of recessed and flat panel doors on the rise. Raised panels look good in both traditional and transitional kitchens.

Slab Or Flat

Full overlay white oak slab cabinet doors in a contemporary kitchen.
These slab doors are solid oak. The accent lighting above and below the upper cabinet gives this prep area magnificent illumination. Kristin Lam Interiors

One slab of wood makes up the entire door with a flat panel. Typically this style is constucted from particle board and covered with a veneer but high quality ones will be made of hardwood. Best suited for contemporary, modern, and European style kitchens.

Mullion

Upper kitchen cabinets with mullions.
Typically mullions are used to divide the glass in an upper cabinet door into separate panes. Renaissance Design Studio

Mullions are used to style glass panels in cabinets. Typically made of wood and used in upper cabinets, you can use them to divide up the glass any way you want. Mullions are a very traditional architectural feature.

Mullions don't have to be made out of wood. Leaded glass, like in the picture below, is a type of mullion as well.

Cabinets with leaded glass doors.
This example of leaded glass comes from oldhouseonline.com. Leaded glass doors make for beautiful accent pieces and allow you to show off your favorite cookware.

Louvered

A walnut island with louvered doors.
The louvered doors on this walnut kitchen island are topped with quartzite countertops. Bill Fry Construction

Louvers may not be the most popular choice but that doesn't make them any less striking. If you're getting solid wood cabinet doors then consider using them as an accent like in the kitchen above.

How To Choose The Right Door

What door you choose is going to depend on what style of kitchen you're designing. Let's look at some of the most popular styles of architecture and I'll help you create the look with proper door selection.

Modern

A two tone modern kitchen.
This kitchen is so modern it doesn't even have hardware. You open the doors and drawers just by touching them.

A typical modern kitchen is part of an open floor plan that transitions seamlessly into other living areas. Choose flat panel full overlay cabinet doors.

Solid colors are the most popular option but some subtle wood veneers are a good choice too. You'll have a lot of color options in melamine, thermafoil and laminate finish options.

Contemporary

A contempory kitchen with grey slab cabinet doors and wood floors.
This contemporary kitchen by Valerie Pasquios combines warm wood tones with solid colored cabinetry.

If contemporary is the look you're after then start by looking at kitchens with slab style full overlays to achieve uninterrupted lines.

It's a common misconception that a contemporary kitchen has to feel cold and lifeless just because the doors lack depth. You are free to use warm wood tones, an interesting backsplash, and lot's of lighting to add character and warmth to the room.

Traditional

A traditional kitchen with wood countertops and stainless steel appliances.
This traditional kitchen by Taylor Lombardo Architects features inset cabinet doors with visible hinges and a large central island.

Traditional kitchens typically feature solid wood doors and utilize inset or standard overlays with recessed or raised panels. You can paint them or leave the wood in its natural state and add a bit of stain to highlight the woods natural grain patterns and color.

It's in stark contrast to European styled kitchens.

European

An orange, black and white European styled kitchen.
Clean lines and bright solid colors are what you expect to find in European styled kitchens. This one is designed by Mark English Architects.

European style has become popular in America in the last twenty years despite it being ragingly popular in Europe for decades. The doors are almost always full overlay and mounted on cabinet boxes that have no face frame, maximizing the amount of storage they offer. Wood veneer, thermafoil, melamine, and laminate are all popular finishes.

I mostly blame IKEA for the spread of European style because it's just about all they sell, and they sell them at very cheap prices compard to what we are accustomed to paying for traditionally styled cabinetry.

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Page Last Updated On March 2, 2019 by Scott Jenkins