How to Choose Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen in luxury home with white cabinetry


Cabinets are the skeleton of a kitchen. Appliances and other features are worked into the cabinetry, which is the basis of the room. Counters sit on top of cabinets. Microwaves, dishwashers, and other tools of life are worked into the flow of cabinetry. Cabinets are so important because they are the storage, which kitchens thrive on. You must store food, cooking tools, cleaning supplies, and so much more. Cabinets make this work for you gracefully and beautifully.

2 different kitchen cabinet styles, choosing kitchen cabinetry
On the left we have Boxed Framed Overlay Shaker style — probably the most popular style right now. On the right is Frameless Overlay — with a sort of transitional look.


They also absorb the bulk of a budget during a kitchen remodel. Cabinets are not replaced frequently, and your choices will be with you a long time. This is why it’s so important to think through your choices, why you’re choosing them, and what you need your cabinets to do for you and anyone else in the home.


Doing a Refresh

Occasionally during a kitchen remodel people find that their cabinetry is arranged just how they want it, is sturdy and in good shape. When all that needs to change is how your cabinets look, you can do a refresh on them. This is either refinishing or replacing doors and drawer fronts and installing new hardware to create the welcoming kitchen look you desire.


Whole New Cabinets

When your cabinetry is either the wrong dimensions, in the wrong place, aging, or built in a way that doesn’t serve you well, new cabinets are the only way to go. When choosing new cabinets you have your choice of custom, semi-custom and stock cabinetry.

Stock cabinetry can be a perfect answer in many kitchens, but not all of them. Working with a good interior designer can help you decide. A talented designer can often find a stock option that fits your needs. There are, of course, occasions that the available stock cabinets just aren’t what you need. Then semi-custom and custom options became important, and having a talented designer that understands your needs becomes even more important.


Deciding on style

You’ll have to consider what construction type and door style you prefer.


Inset framed Mission style or Arts & Crafts style. This is very popular with Berkeley and Oakland Hills architecture.
Inset framed Mission style or Arts & Crafts style. This is very popular with Berkeley and Oakland Hills architecture.


Framed Cabinets have a front frame around them, creating a lip at the front edge of the cabinet opening. The door attaches to the frame, which itself attaches to the cabinet’s walls or edges. These are most popular in traditional kitchens. Traditional-overlay doors cover some of the frame on framed cabinets, full-overlay doors cover the entire cabinet frame and inset doors sit inside the cabinet frame.

Full overlay Frameless Euro style kitchen cabinets
These are Full overlay Frameless Euro style cabinets, which give a very clean look.


Frameless Cabinets, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The door attaches directly to the side of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets are common in contemporary kitchens. Without the front frame there is more open access to the cabinet interior. When installing frameless cabinets, you can have full-overlay doors or inset doors.


Make it Functional

Pull-out lipped shelves for pots and pans, oversized drawers for baking sheets and designated cabinets for pull-out trash and recycling are some ways you can make your space highly functional. Accessories like lazy Susans, built-in spice racks, drawer organizers and other extras make the kitchen easy to use and forgiving on your body.

Base cabinets are the most important functionally, while hanging wall cabinets are often the sacrifice for aesthetic features like windows and dramatic backsplashes. Although you may find base cabinets without hanging cabinets above, it’s very rare to find hanging cabinets over an empty space. Hanging cabinets can be more important in a house where someone is tall or finds bending over more difficult.

More and more lower cabinets are using drawers, because they make storage more accessible. Ergonomically, drawers bring contents out to you rather than you having to bend over and dig to find your wok or strainer.



Hardware is the finishing touch. Pulls, handles, and knobs give the drawers and cabinets the personality and feel you want in your kitchen. They come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and looks. This is a chance to express yourself.