Kitchen Cabinet Buying Guide

Consider factors like size, layout and style when choosing cabinetry for your remodel.


Before you start shopping for new kitchen cabinets, make sure you have a well-thought-out plan for your kitchen renovation. You should identify goals and priorities, with the help of your completed Day in the Life of Your Kitchen Questionnaire and Kitchen Goals Worksheet. You also should have a clear vision of what your new kitchen will look like, after exploring various kitchen designs and layouts and planning out space and storage. Finally, you should have a budget to work with.

Considerations When Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

  • How long do you plan on staying in the home?
  • What improvements are standard for similar homes in your area?
  • What type of kitchen layout do you plan on using?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you have exact measurements of appliances that will be involved in the new design?

Planning and Designing the Space

Kitchen cabinetry is an integral part of home design and remains a significant component of measuring a house's value. But there's more to consider than price, style and material selection. Even the most basic kitchen remodel can be a costly and time-consuming process, so take these steps before considering any materials and products.

Step 1: Address resale issues. Keep improvements consistent with the comparable market data of other residences in your immediate area. "I first make sure customers are certain on whether the space is a rental, a resale, or a place they'll stay in and love forever," says home improvement center specialist Wanda Edwards Lee. "It's also important to decide the length of time customers plan to reside at the home."

Step 2: Determine scope. This primarily depends on the budget and the kitchen's current condition. If the space just needs a face-lift without reconfiguring layout or relocating major appliances, replacing door faces or adding a fresh coat of paint may go a long way. But when faced with cabinetry that's not sturdy, layout issues or new construction, you'll want to invest in new cabinetry.

Step 3: Decide on a kitchen layout. Kitchen cabinetry is one of the most practical and convenient work areas in any dwelling. Before choosing a look, start with an accurate scaled floor plan of the existing space with door, window and other architectural dimensions noted. Location of present utilities, such as electricity, water and sewer connections are also important to document, especially if the remodel involves spatial reconfiguration.

Plans should establish the location of heating and air registers, cook-top ventilation, electrical outlets and gas piping, if applicable. Confirm exact measurements of new or existing appliances to be involved in the new design, including the refrigerator, dishwasher, range, hood, microwave, icemakers, under-cabinet wine coolers and sinks before selecting cabinetry.

Step 4: Sketch it up. Devise a rough sketch, arranging major appliances with the most efficient use of space. "Keep it simple and accessible," says AIA architect Mark Hutker. Form a convenient path between the three most used kitchen elements: the sink, range and refrigerator ("the work triangle"). Placement of storage, task centers, accessories and appliances, along with their frequency of use should be thoroughly regarded. Common kitchen layouts include galley, L-shape, U-shape, straight (one wall) and island.

Modern design has pushed the envelope of these traditional arrangements, creating larger, more open spaces. However, these basic configurations are still beneficial in determining the overall relationship of appliances and their proximity to one another. Unless you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer, it's advisable to enlist the help of an architect, interior designer, kitchen designer, home center specialist, or cabinet designer in order to establish the most effective plan for your space and determine cabinetry dimensions and specifications.

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

Now that you've designed the space, check out the following articles to learn what you need to consider when choosing kitchen cabinetry:

Next Up

Cabinet Types: Which Is Best for You?

Consider style and quality when selecting kitchen cabinets for your remodel.

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