Which Kitchen Cabinet Door Style Is Right for You?
A pro explains six popular designs.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 5:40 PM
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You can tell a lot about a person by their kitchen cabinet door style. Would they consider themselves to be low-maintenance? They’re likely flat-front types. Are they a vintage magpie? Look no further than the glass uppers they purposefully installed so dinner party guests can easily peruse their floral bone china collection. Each design has its own specific quirks and qualities. We tapped George Evageliou of Urban Homecraft to share the lowdown on six of the most popular.
First, a note on price. It’s directly related to the complexity of the install process. A simple slab is the cheapest; any extras, from intricate grooving to raised panels, add dollars. “People have this idea that a really high-end material is going to double the cost of the job,” explains Evageliou. “But it’s much more about the process.” His formula: Estimate 20 percent for the material and save the remaining 80 for labor.
Once you’ve decided on the level of detail that suits your budget, it’s time to choose the style. Here’s the right one for you, according to your aesthetic.
Best for: Anyone craving contemporary minimalism.
The pros: Given that it’s just a simple panel set, this type of door is super-stable. It’s also great for anyone who might want to DIY a paint job: You don’t need a fancy sprayer to get into nooks and crannies, just a roller and some patience.
The cons: “They add less visual information,” says Evageliou—though this doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative. To keep yours from looking one-note, play around with asymmetry. “You might have drawers next to doors, and mix and match sizes,” he offers. With a canvas this blank, you can get away with a little variety.
Best for: Dipping your toe into traditional elegance without going dated.
The pros: Think of this as crown molding for your cabinets. “I had a client with a townhouse in Brooklyn, and the surrounding area had lots of custom molding from the 1800s,” remembers Evageliou. “By putting Shaker doors there, we gave a nod to the details without completely trying to emulate it.” If you’re dealing with a white-box kitchen, this style brings instant character.
The cons: Size matters with these—anything too big might look clownishly disproportionate to the rest of the room.
Best for: Collectors with something to display, be it a prized antique pitcher collection or sentimental mugs.
The pros: These are a fail-safe way to make any space feel personal by showing off things that matter to you via the shelves. Plus the material is surprisingly easy to freestyle with. Evageliou has worked with textured and even translucent glass cabinets.
The cons: “A lot of people aspirationally go for this design and then realize later that they’re kind of slobs and shouldn’t have done it,” says the designer with a laugh. “Once you enter the world of clear cupboards, you’re committing to keeping them tidy.” Avoid at all costs if you hate looking at clutter.
Best for: Die-hard farmhouse fans.
The pros: When you go with a flat panel that has groove detailing in the front to look like multiple slats, you end up with a sturdy design. It’s also great for people who love Shakers but want something more ornate—think of it as shiplap for cupboards.
The cons: This look requires precise installation: If you’re doing both upper and base cabinets in beadboard, make sure that the lines match up so it doesn’t appear wonky. To circumvent this (and create a cool pattern in the process), turn the drawers 90 degrees. “You can get away with it and not worry about continuity,” suggests Evageliou.
Best for: Rustic-meets-industrial aesthetics.
The pros: Aside from lending your kitchen an unexpected touch, there’s a hidden benefit to these fronts: ventilation. Whether you use perforated metal sheets or fancy chicken wire (yes, it’s a thing), this route is handy for things like bar stations and pantries, where you might have temperature-sensitive goodies.
The cons: Prepare yourself for regular cleaning. Just as with open shelves, dust will accumulate. “If you’re cooking some salmon, the insides will get greasy too,” says Evageliou. Try it out as an accent cubby in a part of the room far away from potential cooking splatters.
Best for: If your dream holiday spot is a villa in Provence.
The pros: Done right, the weathered look is easily the most charming of all. It’s also totally custom: By slowly chipping away at layers of wood and paint to reveal the original graining underneath, you never know what you’re going to get.
The cons: Thanks to the unpredictability (and the involved process), this is the priciest style. Plus, there’s no way to know how yours are going to turn out: “Because the distressing process is kind of random, you can go too far and the whole thing can look really patchy,” warns Evageliou. If you’re someone who doesn’t like surprises, look elsewhere. There are at least five other options that we’re sure you’d love.
See more kitchen cabinet ideas: For Every Kitchen Cabinet Style, We Found the Perfect Countertop Forget Farmhouse—For Rustic Charm, Try Antique Kitchen Cabinets High-Gloss Kitchen Cabinets May Be the Key to Brightening a Tiny Room