Stainless Steel Kitchen Cabinets

Gain insight on stainless steel kitchen cabinets, an alternative material used in modern kitchen design.
Chef's Kitchen Glass Display

Chef's Kitchen Glass Display

Designer Peter Salerno creates display space for the homeowners' dish and glass collection by incorporating ten mullion doors and ten single glass doors over the freezer, china cabinet and refrigerator.

Photo by: Peter Rymwid

Peter Rymwid

By: Amy McEvoy

Stainless steel is a material prominent in most modern kitchens designs. Homeowners seeking an updated kitchen often desire stainless steel appliances and sinks, and stainless steel kitchen cabinets work well with this look.

Kitchen Cabinet Choices

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Freshen Up What You Have

If existing cabinets are of good quality, in excellent working condition and the layout functions well, the most affordable option is to simply paint or restain them. Another alternative, refacing, involves installing a new veneer on the exterior of the cabinet box and replacing the doors and drawer fronts, and should be handled by a professional. Design by Candice Olsen

Costly Doors and Drawer Fronts

If you decide to reface rather than replace your cabinets, be forewarned: Doors and drawer fronts account for the greatest expense. "Sixty to 70 percent of the cost of the cabinet is the door," says Jeff Cannata, past president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and president of Designer's Showcase Kitchens & Baths Inc. in Carol Stream, Ill. "So, if you're paying someone to put a new door on or a new drawer in ... it might be more affordable to purchase all new cabinets." And with new cabinets, there's an added bonus: the freedom to explore different kitchen layouts.

Starting Fresh With Custom Cabinets

Once the decision has been made to install new cabinets, there are other choices ahead. Are custom cabinets required or will stock cabinets fit the bill? Custom cabinets are built to exact specifications and offer endless design possibilities. This option requires the longest lead time and is the most expensive route, but it also allows you to include cool hidden conveniences like this built-in refrigerator, cleverly disguised as part of the cabinetry. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram

Best of Both Worlds: Semicustom

Semicustom cabinets are just that: partially custom. While the cabinets are made to the homeowner's size requirements, the manufacturer produces them in predetermined increments. Often a spacer may be needed to conceal unused wall space, and that sacrifices storage. The range of materials, designs, finishes and accessories available is not as broad as entirely custom cabinets, but semicustom cabinets cost less while still allowing more flexibility than stock cabinets. Design by Rebekah Zaveloff

Extraordinary Results With Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets, which are the least expensive of new cabinet options, are premade and come in standard sizes. Though stock cabinets often get a bad rap in terms of quality of construction, there are many on the market that are made of solid wood. "Eight out of 10 kitchens could probably be done with stock cabinetry. And what I mean by that is a good designer can design with any line," Jeff says. "Anyone can say, 'Oh, I need this cabinet to be 21 1/2 inches.' But a good designer should be able to design using a 21-inch cabinet." Design by Thomas A. Conway

Opt for Durability

No matter what type of cabinet is selected, it's important to evaluate the quality of hinges, doors, drawer systems and finish. Homeowners should choose cabinets that offer at least a five-year warranty, according to Al Pattison, president of NKBA.

Select the Right Door Style

Next, consider the construction type and door style. Framed cabinets, which are popular in traditional kitchens, have a front frame around the cabinet opening. The door attaches to the frame. Frameless, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The door attaches directly to the side of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets, which are often used in contemporary kitchens, offer an advantage over framed cabinets. Because there is no front frame, there is open access to the cabinet interior. Photo courtesy of Erinn Valencich.

From: Erinn Valencich

Add Hidden Functionality

After giving thought to the cabinets' exterior, turn some attention to their intended use and interior features. "It used to be that we would place cabinetry in the room and make it functional," says Al. "Now every cabinet has a purpose." There are pullout drawers for pots and pans, oversize drawers for baking sheets and even high-tech under-counter cooling drawers that keep beverages and snacks within easy reach. Accessories like lazy Susans, built-in spice racks, drawer organizers and other cabinet extras make the kitchen a much more efficient and enjoyable place. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram

Complete the Look With Hardware

As a finishing touch, add pulls, knobs and handles that complement your kitchen's design style to cabinets. Hardware comes in a wide variety of styles, finishes and colors at all price points, and the right hardware contributes to a truly finished look.

Historically used in restaurants, laboratories and for medical storage, stainless steel cabinetry has moved beyond its industrial beginnings and is now found in high-end home kitchen designs.

While you can get a very sleek, angular look with stainless steel kitchen cabinets, it does show fingerprints and scratches easily so you want to make sure you are comfortable with a non-perfect surface if your kitchen is used frequently. Fortunately, over-the-counter stainless steel cleaners are readily available so that fingerprints can be easily wiped away.

Besides being easy to clean, stainless steel is a durable and sanitary material—two very appealing characteristics for a frequently used room such as a kitchen. For the earth-friendly homeowner, stainless steel cabinets are considered a green product, meaning they are recyclable, non-toxic and easy to clean without the use of harsh chemicals. Additionally, steel cabinets are a great pick for outdoor kitchens, since they hold up quite well against the elements.

Stainless steel is a more expensive material than wood. One option to achieve the look of stainless steel while avoiding the cost is to install wood or particleboard cabinets covered in metal door and drawer fronts.

Stainless steel kitchens may seem cold and institutional to some. Pairing stainless steel cabinets with warmer materials such as wooden flooring, glass inserts, or even a kitchen island made of a warmer wood can be more appealing to the eye and provide a unique feel to your kitchen design. Copper or bronze hardware or accents can also break up all of the silver tones that stainless steel kitchen cabinets provide. Whether you are seeking a truly sleek modern space or a more transitional look, using steel as an alternative to wood in your kitchen cabinetry can give a breath of fresh air to your home.

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