Raised Panels, Shaker, Glass—Our Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Doors
Including a debrief on hinges.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:09 AM
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Your kitchen cabinet frames are what keep your plates and pantry items off the countertop, but it’s the doors that give your space personality (and make everything look neat and tidy when they’re shut). Simply replacing dated fronts for modern ones can elevate the room without the hassle and expense of a complete gut job. As we learned from George Evageliou of Urban Homecraft, the price of kitchen cabinet doors is directly related to the complexity of the install process and the intricacy of the style (lots of grooves and detailing will hike up the cost). His formula: Estimate 20 percent for the material and save the remaining 80 for labor.
Before we dive into a few of our go-to looks for kitchen cabinet doors, here’s some useful terminology to study up on before selecting fresh fronts for your space:
- Raised panel: A door with a center panel that is a little higher than the surrounding wood.
- Recessed panel: A door with a center panel that is slightly depressed.
- Partial overlay: A door that is engineered to partially cover the face of the cabinet frame, creating a border between each cupboard unit.
- Full overlay: Typically paired with slab cabinet door styles, this is a larger door that minimizes the framework, creating one uniform profile.
- Inset: One that sits flush to the frame and completely exposes the face of the cabinet
This flat-front option has a lot of pros. First of all, no fussy grooves means they’re easier to paint over if you’re in the mood for a DIY and you can clean them in a flash. Plus they look best without fancy handles (consider cutout notches or ultrathin finger pulls instead), so you can skip that extra cost altogether.
Semihandmade, Plykea, Reform, Kokeena, Superfront, Holte, and Husk are the companies that will give you chic-looking doors for your budget-friendly IKEA cupboards, whether you’ve opted for the Swedish retailer’s Metod or Sektion system.
This fan-favorite style, which is known for its lack of ornamentation, is defined by five no-nonsense segments: vertical pieces on the sides called stiles, horizontal pieces on the top and bottom called rails, and the recessed panel in the center.
Consider this solution a compromise between open shelving and closed cubbies: They let you put your go-to dishware on display without collecting dust. For a bit more mystery, consider fluted glass panels (the reeded texture makes it harder to see what’s on the other side).
Wondering how you make plywood just a little special? A CNC machine is your answer (it takes data from a computer or CAM program to automate and monitor the movements of a machine to route a pattern on the fronts). You get a totally custom look, and there is no margin for error.
Bring old-world character to a cookie-cutter new-build kitchen with a section of antique kitchen cabinets. Not sure where to start? Scour online shops like eBay, Chairish, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. Just be sure to choose search terms wisely: Go with a catchall, like mid-century or retro, to find the style you’re looking for while still casting a wide net.
Painting your doors is one way to DIY, but don’t forget the option of a collage. Dallas-based designer Katie Sarokhanian cut and nailed circular and semicircular wood shapes onto her cabinets to create her own Art Deco–style door fronts.
Here’s another kitchen cabinet door idea: Take them off of their hinges. This unconventional solution is a great way to store more and spend less, all while getting the open and airy feel you want in a small space. Cue instant open shelving.
Solid wood doors—think: resilient oak, easy-to-paint maple, heavy hickory, fine-grain birch—are known for their durability, unlike plastic veneer, particleboard, and laminate, which all have shorter life spans. Other pros: They can tolerate high humidity without swelling or warping and you won’t see any seams, just the beauty of the grain.
To keep stainless steel or even unlacquered brass doors from looking worthy of a restaurant kitchen, mix them with pale wood doors, natural stone countertops, brightly colored upper cabinets, and chunky metal hardware.
From afar, the MDF cupboards in this London kitchen, custom-designed by Hubert Zandberg, look almost like a soft corduroy fabric, but up close you’ll notice the rippling waves of the doors are sturdy and supersize and have been meticulously designed on a CNC machine.
While it sounds like a catchall phrase for flat-front doors, to us modern kitchen cabinets are so much more—they’re about personality. Our favorite takes include ones that involve geometric patterns, Flintstones-esque handles, and grooves that extend all the way up to the ceiling.
You can’t talk about cabinet doors without the key part that holds them all together. Bring in texture and character with face frame hinges (exposed hardware)—a detail that is most popular with renovators who are interested in refinishing their cabinetry rather than replacing it. Or keep things simple with inset ones. Just beware that they require more care (because wood naturally expands, you have to carefully consider every 1/16 inch of these joints).
The general rule of thumb is that knobs are best for cabinet doors, while pulls offer a bit more flexibility in a kitchen because you can put them on both drawers and doors. The important part is to not follow the crowd when it comes to hardware. It is basically the jewelry of your kitchen and makes refreshing the doors all the more worth it.