Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

Get tips on how to find the right cabinetry for your remodel.
Traditional White Kitchen With Dark Wood Contrast

Traditional White Kitchen With Dark Wood Contrast

Photography by Jean Allsopp

Photo by: Jean Allsopp

Jean Allsopp

By: Kristen Hampshire

Cabinets form the backbone of the kitchen. Configure the cabinetry to make the most use of your kitchen’s size and floor plan. Consider different layouts and looks.

Base cabinets get the most attention, whereas hanging wall cabinets are sacrificed for aesthetic features—windows, dramatic backsplashes—to create atmosphere and a living room appeal in the kitchen. That said, base cabinets are moving away from doors and toward drawers. Drawers make storage more accessible for more people.

"Ergonomically, it brings contents to you rather than you having to bend over and dig through layers to get what you need," says Dennis Poteat of Blum Inc.. Hardware accessories neatly organize plates, pots, pans and lids, plastic-ware, you name it.

Kitchen Cabinet Styles and Trends

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Dark Cabinet Finishes

Hues of chocolate and espresso are a current trend in kitchen cabinetry, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. This versatile treatment can be incorporated in both traditional and contemporary kitchens. Image courtesy of QualityCabinets

Photo By: Classic II

Shaker-Style Cabinets

While traditional remains the most popular style in kitchen cabinetry, Shaker has overtaken contemporary as the second most-popular style, according to the NKBA. This style features simple, square-paneled doors that complement nearly any kitchen. Image courtesy of Atlantis Kitchens

Classic Cherry Cabinets

According to the NKBA, cherry is the most popular wood for kitchen cabinetry, followed closely by maple. Traditional cherry cabinetry paired with cherry floors and granite cabinets give this kitchen timeless appeal. Design by Shane Inman

Photo By: Designer, Shane Inman

Exotic Touch With Bamboo Cabinets

Bamboo cabinets add a unique look to this kitchen designed by Joshua Foss. Other alternative woods to consider include mahogany, sapele and anaglade.

Photo By: Designer, Joshua Foss

Flat-Panel Cabinets

For a modern or contemporary kitchen, flat-panel cabinets are a perfect fit. High-gloss bisque cabinets with sleek stainless steel handles enhance this kitchen's sleek appeal. Design by Danenberg Design

Photo By: Sponsor, Danenberg Design

The Natural Look

The glazed cabinet treatment is phasing out with the rise of textured looks: wood grain peeking through brushed finishes. Designed by Andreas Charalambous, this kitchen's simple, custom-made sycamore upper cabinets are balanced by the sheen of the stainless steel base cabinets. Photograph by Geoffrey Hogdon

Photo By: Designer, Andreas Charalambous

Cabinets for Country-Style Kitchens

Light-colored cabinetry is a great choice for country- or cottage-style kitchens. The blond wood finish of this kitchen’s cabinetry is complemented by black granite surfaces. Design by Jaymes Richardson of Civility Design

Photo By: Designer, Jaymes Richardson

Concealed Appliances in Cabinets

Cabinet manufacturers now offer panels that fit over refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers, allowing them to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the kitchen. Design by Alicia Friedmann

Photo By: Designer, Alicia Friedmann

Maximized Cabinet Storage

Wall cabinets today extend to the ceiling, making use of high-up space for storing infrequently used specialty serveware and cookware. Design by Gail Drury

Photo By: Designer, Gail Drury

Furniture-Style Cabinets

Kitchens are increasingly being designed as an extension of other living spaces, and kitchen cabinetry is resembling furniture found throughout the rest of the home. A tall, armoire-like cabinet with glass doors is a beautiful and functional focal point for this kitchen. Design by Gail Drury

From: Drury Design

Base Cabinet Drawers

Today's homeowners are opting for base drawers rather than wall cabinets. Drawers are more accessible than cabinets and can be used to organize dishes, pots, pans, utensils and more. Image courtesy of Merillat

Specialty Storage Cabinets

While pullout spice racks and built-in utensil dividers were once only offered by custom cabinetmakers, these features are now available in mid-priced fixtures. Image courtesy of Merillat

Photo By: 9-7925, Capture One PRO

Wall cabinets today extend to the ceiling, making use of high-up space for storing infrequently used specialty serving-ware and cookware. Or, wall cabinets are blown to full-length proportions, stretching from floor to ceiling to create an accent wall that can house everything from cookbooks to appliances.

As for materials, Brad Burgin, president, California-based Burgin Construction, says “no one wants particle board.” And no one wants melamine, which is basically particle board with a coating. Plywood is preferred and it doesn’t off-gas from coatings. “Getting cabinets made out of plywood is a good move for resale here in California,” he adds, noting the durability and longevity of this material.

Style. Cherry wood is big for cabinets with rich, dark finishes. For a more exotic look, go for alternative woods such as mahogany, bamboo, sapele and anaglade. These can be stained or even lacquered to provide a sleek finish (show image). The glazed cabinet treatment is phasing out with the rise of textured looks: wood grain peeking through brushed finishes—a more natural look.

Kitchen Hardware Styles and Trends

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Sleek and Stylish Drawer Pulls

A great choice for modern and contemporary kitchens, elongated stainless steel drawer pulls enhance this kitchen's clean lines. Photo courtesy of Formica Corp.

Photo By: Formica

Subtle Contrast Hardware

This kitchen's elegant rubbed-bronze hardware highlights the dark brown flecks in the countertops and contrasts with the light-colored cabinetry. Photo courtesy of LG Hausys Surfaces

Photo By: LG

Traditional Elegance

The understated brushed nickel knobs in this kitchen complement the ornate beveled edges and molding of the cabinetry. Photo courtesy of Quality Cabinets

Photo By: Quality

Antique Detail Knobs and Pulls

This vintage-inspired hardware collection features unique painted patterns on the knobs and pulls that complement the design of the kitchen. Photo courtesy of Atlas Homewares

Photo By: Atlas

Classic Drawer Pulls and Knobs

The dark rubbed-bronze cupped drawer pulls and knobs, paired with clean white cabinetry, enhance this kitchen's simple, classic look. Photo courtesy of The Grothouse Lumber Co.

Photo By: The Grothouse Lumber Company

Eclectic Look vs. Traditional Knobs

Beaded kitchen hardware is a visually appealing alternative to traditional knobs and pulls. Photo courtesy of Atlas Homewares

Photo By: Atlas

Function. European-style frameless cabinets afford more storage than traditional rail-style cabinets that are typically found in U.S. kitchens. Soft-close on drawers and doors is a must. Some hinges have this feature built-in, but it’s an add-on cost for other models—about $5 retail, according to Burgin, adding up to $350 to $500 for an entire kitchen, depending on size. Touchless cabinets are a luxury add-on that Poteat thinks will move into the mainstream before long. This application is especially convenient for waste/recycling drawers.

Hardware. Don’t forget about hardware. It’s the jewelry of your kitchen.

Keep these tips in mind when considering cabinetry:

  • Request fully adjustable door hardware that allows the installer to adjust doors so the gap between them is uniform. Also ask for recessed bottoms or a valence to hide under-cabinet light fixtures.
  • You don’t have to invest in luxury cabinets to get high-quality features. Moderately priced, semi-custom cabinets offer many organization solutions like spice organizers and pull-out pantries.
  • What are you going to do with that dead space in the far back corner of your cabinets? You might not even know this space exists—sometimes the blind corner is closed off completely. A pie-corner base cabinet pulls out and utilizes the space; and an old-fashioned Lazy Susan spins and brings stored items within reach.

Next Up

Choosing Kitchen Countertops

Granite or laminate? Get tips on how to find the right surface for your remodel.

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