Cabinetry is the main component of any kitchen. Before you tackle countertops, choose appliances, or even think about colors, you’ll need to get a handle on the best kitchen cabinet styles.
For some, choosing kitchen cabinets is an easy move based on past experiences or a particular kitchen design that’s already stolen your heart. For others, reaching a final decision is more challenging, but you can fast-track the process simply by reducing potential candidates.
‘Start by working out whether you want to go for a sleek modern look or a more traditional feel, and eliminate any kitchen ideas that clearly won’t work,’ recommends interior designer, Louise Robinson. ‘You can then continue the process of elimination by taking into account the period of your property and the style of your existing furnishings.’
Maintenance ease should also be considered early in the decision process, especially in busy homes with lots of pets and/or parties. The more intricate the cabinet design, the more nooks and crannies you’ll need to keep clean.
The kitchen cabinet styles everyone should know
If a kitchen refresh is on the cards, you’ll definitely want to update the cabinets – even if you’re just replacing the doors. Use our guide to the main kitchen cabinet styles to help work out which design is the perfect match for your next remodel.
1. Traditional raised panel
Perfect for period homes or injecting old-style elegance into a new-build, traditional stile and rail raised panel doors are the go-to, bringing a sense of grandeur into the kitchen.
‘I’ve found that the traditional allure of this door style seamlessly integrates into spaces mixed with reclaimed materials,’ says interior designer, Kara Childress. ‘In a kitchen like this one, with timber beams, stone, and an 18th-century pantry door, this particular style gracefully balances the weight of the architectural details. This traditional kitchen style not only exudes charm but is also functional, reliable, and charmingly simple.’
From a housekeeping point of view, panelled doors do collect the dust more than plainer options, but a quick wipe with a damp cloth should suffice.
Texas-based interior designer Kara Childress marries timeless style with Old World European charm for liveable homes that exude comfort and personality.
2. Slab front
The polar opposite of raised panel doors, slab front (aka plain) doors are devoid of decoration or adornment, making them the preferred choice for modern, minimalist kitchens.
The benefits are many, as Shelagh Conway, principal and founder of Triple Heart Design, reveals. ‘Modern slab-front frameless cabinets lend a sleek design aesthetic, and the opportunity to emphasize the beauty of the material chosen,’ says Shelagh.
You can fit slab doors with or without hardware, the latter being accessed via push-touch, recessed or electric opening. ‘The ease of cleaning – no nooks and crannies – and the ability to move about with nothing sticking out, makes the no-handles route desirable for many,’ Shelagh adds.
Establishing Triple Heart Design in 2016, Shelagh Conway combined her diverse career spanning real estate, construction, marketing, and mortgage finance to lead clients to their dream spaces. Triple Heart Design’s use of luxurious materials, finishes, and details reflects a commitment to quality and creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces.
3. In-frame vs frameless
Inset or in-frame kitchen cabinets are the classic choice, and essentially involve front frames on each cabinet, into which the door is hinged. You’ll typically find in-frame construction from bespoke cabinetmakers, and they are thought to offer a stronger build that will stand the test of time.
‘Inset or in-frame cabinet doors sit flush with the frame around them. Due to the fact that they must fit precisely inside the cabinet frame, inset cabinet doors are more difficult to craft, take longer to complete, and typically cost 20-30% more than the alternatives,’ says interior designer Benjamin Johnston. ‘If you appreciate fine cabinet making and millwork, then this is a beautiful style to consider for your kitchen cabinetry.’
The modern alternative style of construction is frameless, and the door is hinged directly onto the carcass so there’s no frame around each door or drawer. Construction is quicker and uses fewer materials, so often costs less, but choosing frameless is more about the desired aesthetic – cleaner lines and less visual noise.
4. Shaker style
Needing no introduction, Shaker kitchens are your flexible friend. Shaker cabinets can be dressed up or pared back to suit both modern or traditional schemes, and you can rely on this simple cabinetry to look fresh and relevant for years to come. You’ll never need to ask are Shaker kitchens still on trend? The answer will always be yes.
Shaker kitchens are typically in-frame, but it’s possible to source modern interpretations featuring frameless doors with the iconic four-piece panel. Beadboard paneling and simple peg boards are also synonymous with the Shaker look.
For truly inspirational Shaker kitchens that demonstrate the chameleon-like possibilities in play, check out deVOL’s work. ‘deVOL Shaker cupboards are designed and made to the distinctive and classic principles that were so fundamental to the very heart of the Shaker communities,’ says creative director, Helen Parker. ‘The lack of ornamentation and simple clean lines of the Shaker style has become the go to look for so many of us as it allows us to choose between keeping it simple or adding our own changeable ornamentation and decoration.’
Helen is the Creative Director at deVOL, a leading kitchen design company that mixes classic and contemporary. Helen has been creative director at the company since 2011, and is passionate about the signature understated approach deVOL takes to designing kitchens.
5. V-Groove paneling
Now for something a little different. Demand for V-Groove kitchen cabinets is red hot right now and we think it’s worth adding this smart option to the mix if you’re planning a remodel. Boasting Nantucket beach house vibes with a more sophisticated twist, V-Groove is a dynamic way to introduce detail without going overboard.
Cortney Bishop Design demonstrates the beauty of V-Groove cabinets in this fabulous open-plan kitchen. ‘We custom designed these cabinets with the goal of achieving an integrated, seamless look between the kitchen and living room,’ recalls Cortney. ‘They were meticulously crafted with a beautiful bleach oak surfing detail, and the vertical v-grooves paired with the white wide-plank shiplap that runs horizontal on the walls gives the kitchen such a dynamic feel. The joy of V-Groove paneling is it can accommodate nearly any design style – it really works across modern, traditional, and rustic settings.’
Cortney Bishop is the principal designer and founder of Cortney Bishop Design (CBD). Established in 2007, CBD is a full-service interior design studio in Charleston, South Carolina with global reach. Each project is unique.
6. Timeless timber
Wood kitchen cabinet ideas are another strong trend direction that’s hotly tipped to enjoy renewed interest this year, as demand for closer connections to nature continues to grow. Avoid solid wood kitchen doors, which can flex and move with fluctuations in air temperature and moisture; most makers prefer wood-veneer door panels for their rigidity.
Embracing timber cabinetry from floor-to-ceiling isn’t for the faint-hearted – there’s a fine line between serene space and hobbit house. California-based designer Brad Krefman, of BK Interior Design, nails it with this quietly luxurious design in unstained oak and copper mesh. Working in a rugged slab of reclaimed oak above the cooker helps achieve a smooth transition from new timber to ancient beam.
If you’re still concerned you might feel like you’re cooking in a ski chalet year-round by choosing full timber, opt for a mix of wood and painted cabinets.
7. High gloss
Gloss kitchens are synonymous with a distinctly European style that’s impossibly slick and ultra-contemporary. While generally found on modern slab doors, more recently there’s been a shift towards using high gloss finishes on transitional cabinetry styles that better suit older properties.
There are a few ways to achieve a gloss finish, but spray lacquer applied in thin layers is widely recognized as the most effective and durable way to achieve that all-important depth of shine. Acrylic and PVC-wrap high gloss doors can prove a more affordable option.
‘Gloss finishes come into their own when remodeling small kitchens or those with limited natural light, as the shiny surface will reflect the light and make the space feel more expansive,’ enthuses Emily June Spanos, founder of Emily June Designs. ‘Choosing gloss on a modern cabinet face with recessed handles underscores the sleek feel and keeps the space streamlined and elegant. As a bonus, high gloss surfaces are easy to clean with a quick wipe down, adding practicality to their list of appeals!’
Emily June Spanos, principle and founder of Emily June Designs, established her eponymous studio in 2016. Renowned for her fearless approach to color, pattern and texture, Emily’s interiors are always adventurous and filled with joy.
8. Modern Scandi
Scandinavian kitchens are similar to Shaker in their timeless appeal and emphasis on traditional craftmanship but the look is a little more pared back and, often, rustic. Typical Scandinavian design cues include natural materials in pale tones (especially unstained or limed timber), clean lines and exposed finger joints on drawers. Inspirational brands worth following on the Scandi scene include Nordiska Kok, Garde Hvalsoe and Sola Kitchens.
‘Scandinavian design can be more contemporary or classical in style, but the overall look is always pared-back and simple, with very little fluff or extraneous details. There’s a strong focus on practicality and every element of a Scandinavian kitchen has a purpose,’ explains Sofia Bune Strandh, founder of Sola Kitchens.
What is the most popular cabinet style?
Shaker is the main type of kitchen that never goes out of style, not least because it’s just so very unoffensive! There are few kitchen companies that do not have some form of Shaker-inspired design available, and you can buy into this look for very little investment, or commission a handmade bespoke kitchen in the Shaker style. Versatility is at the heart of the Shaker kitchen’s success. You can dress it up to look very high-end and dramatic or dial things right down for a more utilitarian aesthetic. Most of us plump for somewhere in the middle with a simple Shaker kitchen that’s laid back and inviting.
What cabinets are outdated?
Traditional Cathedral Arch cabinet doors are probably best left in the ‘80s, and we’ll be delighted if really orangey wood kitchens, like pine or hickory, do not become fashionable again any time soon.
There are also a few outdated kitchen cabinet color trends that will make a new kitchen look old before its time. However, it’s more often the decorative accessories, like tile, soft furnishings and hardware that make a kitchen feel outdated before you’re ready for it to be replaced. Fortunately, these items are far cheaper and easier to refresh. You can also boost your chances of avoiding an outdated scheme by focusing on timeless kitchen design elements that are well recognized for their staying power.
Don’t forget that the most important factor when designing any kitchen is whether you will love it in 10 years’ time, not whether it will still be considered trendy by anyone else. Listen to your instincts and go with the cabinet style that makes your heart sing.
Choosing the right kitchen cabinet style is key to your whole kitchen. It’s what makes up the space, and no matter what layout you choose, what colors you choose, it’s the cabinets that will always be the focus. So yes, it’s an important decision, but an exciting one too, and with so many options out there, you’re sure to find something to suit your personal style.