Kitchen cabinets are an essential element of any kitchen design. The right cabinetry provides both form and function, offering storage solutions while also contributing to the overall aesthetic. When selecting kitchen cabinets, there are a number of features and options to consider that can enhance convenience, durability, and style. Understanding the range of available features will help ensure your new kitchen cabinets meet all your needs.

Cabinet Doors

The cabinet doors are a major defining feature of kitchen cabinet style. Door design, material, hardware and finish all impact the look and feel of the kitchen.

Door Design

There are several door designs to choose from when selecting kitchen cabinets:

  • Slab – Slab cabinet doors are a simple, flat panel. They can be made from a variety of materials and lend a smooth, clean look. Slab doors are a popular choice for contemporary kitchens.
  • Shaker – Shaker style cabinet doors are characterized by a center recessed panel with a frame around the perimeter. The classic design provides a timeless look.
  • Raised Panel – Featuring a center panel that is raised above the surrounding frame, these doors add dimension and a more traditional style.
  • Flat Panel – Flat panel doors have a frame around a flat center panel for a uniform, streamlined look.
  • Inset – Inset cabinet doors fit snugly within the cabinet face frame. The seamless, built-in look is common for traditional and classic kitchen styles.
  • Partial Inset – Partial inset doors have narrow edges that partially overlap the cabinet frame. They provide a transitional style between full inset and full overlay doors.
  • Full Overlay – With full overlay doors, the cabinet door completely covers the cabinet face frame, providing a more contemporary or modern look.


The materials used to construct the cabinet doors also affect appearance and function:

  • Wood – Classic and durable, wood cabinet doors add warmth. Oak, maple, cherry and hickory are common choices.
  • Engineered Wood – Engineered woods like MDF and particleboard can be laminated or veneered to provide consistency and affordability.
  • Thermofoil – Thermofoil cabinet doors fuse a vinyl wrap with a stable wood substrate for uniform, affordable style.
  • Glass – Glass cabinet inserts create an open, light feel. Tinted glass, frosted glass, or textured glass add varied style.
  • Metal – Stainless steel, copper or other metal cabinet doors lend an industrial vibe.
  • Laminate – Laminate cabinet doors offer a budget-friendly option resistant to wear, impact, and moisture.


Cabinet hardware includes handles, knobs, pulls, hinges and other functional elements. Hardware finishes, styles and shapes complement the cabinet door design. Brass, nickel, bronze, chrome, iron or black hardware choices pair with traditional, modern or eclectic kitchen aesthetics.


The finish applied to the cabinet doors also affects their look and feel:

  • Stained – Penetrating wood stains add depth of color while allowing the wood grain to show through.
  • Painted – Paint in any color can be applied to wood, thermofoil or laminate doors for solid color.
  • Glazed – A translucent glaze over a stained or painted cabinet adds dimension with color and aged patina.
  • Distressed – Distressing mimics signs of wear for a rustic, aged look. Worn edges and corners or simulated peeling paint create visual texture.

Interior Cabinet Options

While doors control the exterior cabinet appearance, interior fittings affect function. Consider options like:

  • Shelving – Fully adjustable shelves, half-depth shelves and specialized roll-out shelves increase storage versatility.
  • Drawers – Drawers in lower cabinets, even small spaces, improve access to items in back.
  • Trays and Dividers – Shallow trays or cutlery dividers organize contents and make items easier to find.
  • Pull-Outs – Cabinet pull-outs and pull-out shelves bring items out of the cabinet interior for improved accessibility.
  • Lazy Susans – Lazy Susan turntables in corner cabinets create an efficient use of space.
  • Wastebasket Pull-Outs – Pull-out cabinet wastebaskets or recycling bins tuck neatly inside lower cabinets.
  • Stemware Holders – Stemware racks allow glasses to be stored securely.
  • Mixer Shelves – Special mixer shelves that lock stand mixers in place free up counter workspace.
  • appliance Garages – Designed to conceal small appliances like a coffee maker or toaster, appliance garages free up counter space while keeping appliances plugged in and ready for use.

Cabinet Construction

Kitchen cabinets must stand up to extensive everyday use. Durability depends partially on cabinet construction.


The internal frame, also called carcass, interacts with doors and affects structural integrity:

  • Face Frame – Face frame cabinets have a frame attached to the front of the box including the edges, lending added structural support.
  • Frameless – Frameless cabinet construction relies on precise engineering and assembly for stability without a front frame. They allow for uninterrupted access inside the cabinets.


Common cabinet construction materials include:

  • Plywood – Layers of wood veneers fused together provide durable and stable cabinet boxes resistant to warping and moisture.
  • Particleboard – Particleboard made from wood fragments fused together offers an affordable construction material, especially when laminated.
  • MDF – Medium density fiberboard has consistent density and smoothness. MDF machined edges can mimic a solid wood appearance.
  • Melamine – A resin-infused paper finish over particleboard creates moisture-resistant cabinets without additional finishing.
  • Solid Wood – Although more expensive, solid wood cabinets offer durability and can be refinished. Popular choices include oak, maple, cherry and hickory.
  • Aluminum – Lightweight aluminum provides a contemporary alternative to wood cabinet construction.
  • Stainless Steel – Stainless steel cabinets lend an industrial feel and have a hygienic, non-porous surface.


The joinery and assembly process joining cabinet components also affects structural stability:

  • Dowels – Small wooden dowels fit into pre-drilled holes to align cabinet parts during assembly.
  • Pocket Screws – Pocket hole joinery uses angled screws driven into drilled holes to securely fasten cabinet components.
  • Dado Joints – A dado is a slot cut across the wood grain so another piece can fit snugly for stable cabinet joints.
  • Rabbet Joints – A rabbet cut forms a recess for an overlapping piece to fit into, creating a flush corner joint.
  • Butt Joints – Square butt joints aligned and fastened with nails, screws, or adhesives are a basic assembly method.
  • Glue – Wood glue bonds cabinet parts. Polyvinyl acetate glues allow time to align components before drying rigid.
  • Mechanical Fasteners – Nails, screws, bolts and metal brackets reinforce cabinet joints.

Specialty Cabinets

Beyond standard cabinetry, specialized cabinet designs accommodate specific kitchen needs:

Corner Cabinets

Corner cabinets efficiently utilize awkward space. Options include:

  • Diagonal corner cabinets
  • Lazy susans
  • Vertical roll-outs
  • Angled cabinet inserts
  • Revolving multi-tiered trays

Blind Corner Cabinets

Located next to a wall or window, blind corner cabinets have hinged or pull-out doors to access hard-to-reach interior space.

Wastebasket Cabinets

A discreet cabinet houses a trash or recycling bin that can be pulled out when needed. Some feature built-in compost bins.

Microwave Cabinets

Microwave cabinets have shelves designed for the exact appliance dimensions. Some feature electrical outlets inside for a built-in streamlined look.

Spice Cabinets

Tall slim cabinets with pull-out vertical trays allow organized access to spices stored in a small footprint.

Appliance Garage Cabinets

Appliance garages contain small appliances behind cabinet doors that can be closed when not in use, freeing up counter space.

Butler’s Pantry Cabinets

A full pantry cabinet with specialized storage houses small appliances, food and serving ware.

Cabinet Finishes

The outer cabinet finish serves both form and function:

  • Protects the underlying wood from moisture and wear
  • Provides decoration matching the kitchen’s overall design aesthetic

Popular kitchen cabinet finishes include:


Penetrating wood stains add color while allowing the wood grain to show through. Multiple coats build up tone.

  • Gel Stain – Thick consistency stays right where applied without blotching.
  • Penetrating Stain – Thinner, absorbs deeply into wood for even color.
  • Wipe-On Stain – Thin, hand-rubbed application control stain intensity.
  • Spray Stain – Airbrushed on for fast, flawless coverage.


Painting cabinets creates a colorful custom look:

  • Latex Paint – Water-based, less toxic finish. More resistant to chips and scratches.
  • Alkyd Paint – Oil-based enamel paint provides a hard, durable finish.
  • Lacquer Paint – Offers a strong, resilient finish that dries quickly.
  • Chalk Paint – Ultra matte finish can be distressed or glazed for character.


A translucent glaze over paint or stain accentuates contours and adds an aged patina. Multiple layers build up an antiqued effect.


Worn corners or simulated paint chips purposefully add character to a new kitchen. Light sanding exposes wood grains through paint for a timeworn look.

Cabinet Organizers

Specialized organizers maximize kitchen cabinet efficiency:

Drawer Organizers

Customizable drawer dividers neatly organize silverware, utensils, or tools in specific compartments.

Pull-Out Organizers

Cabinet pull-outs and roll-out trays bring items out of deep cabinet interiors to your fingertips.


Lazy susans and turntables in corner cabinets rotate for easy access to items in a hard-to-reach spot.

Tiered Shelving

Vertical space is optimized with stepped cabinet shelving that doubles storage capacity.

Stemware Holders

Thin cabinet inserts securely hold delicate stemware to prevent shifting and clinking.

Cutlery Dividers

Sectioned cutlery trays organizing types of utensils in divided compartments for neat storage.

Choosing New Kitchen Cabinets

With an understanding of the range of available features, you can select cabinetry tailored to your kitchen’s layout, design and workflow. Carefully evaluate your needs:

  • How will cabinets complement the overall kitchen aesthetic? What finish and hardware options fit your style?
  • Review storage needs and determine the best cabinet configurations to meet them. Maximize corner spaces and standardize organizers.
  • Factor in ease of access. Include specialized pull-outs and roll-outs to effortlessly bring items front and center.
  • Choose durable materials and sturdy construction that will withstand busy kitchen use for years to come. Optimize joinery methods.
  • Don’t overlook lighting. Under-cabinet lights, LED strips, and interior cabinet lighting all enhance function.

New kitchen cabinets should reflect priorities like style, storage, accessibility and longevity while staying within your overall kitchen remodeling budget. With an array of options to mix and match, it is easy to create personalized cabinets suited to how you cook, entertain and live.

FAQ About Kitchen Cabinet Features

Kitchen cabinet selection involves weighing many options. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cabinet features and choices to help inform your cabinetry decisions:

What are the most popular kitchen cabinet door styles?

The Shaker style cabinet door with its simple recessed center panel remains the most popular door design in kitchens today. Other top choices include flat panel and slab doors for their clean, streamlined look.

What is the difference between stock, semi-custom and custom cabinets?

Stock cabinets in standard sizes offer the most affordable option. Semi-custom cabinetry adapts stock components like doors and drawers in customized configurations. Custom cabinetry is built completely from scratch for a fully personalized kitchen.

What types of cabinets provide the most storage?

Floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets, tall cabinetry extending up to the ceiling, and specialized pull-out cabinet organizers all maximize kitchen storage capacity.

How much space should be left between countertops and upper cabinets?

The standard space between countertops and upper cabinets is 18 inches. However, taller cabinets can extend closer to the countertop if needed for additional storage capacity.

What is the typical depth for standard kitchen cabinets?

The standard depth of base kitchen cabinets is 24 inches deep and 12 inches deep for wall cabinets. However, depths can vary from as shallow as 9 inches for certain specialty cabinets to deeper than 24 inches for expanded storage.

What are the standard heights for kitchen wall cabinets?

The typical wall cabinet height is 30 inches, while ceiling height wall cabinets extend up to 42 or even 48 inches for expanded storage. Standard distances above countertops to bottom of wall cabinets are 15 to 18 inches.

How do I clean grease or dirt from kitchen cabinets?

Use a degreasing cleaner formulated for cabinetry along with a soft sponge or microfiber cloth. Avoid abrasive cleansers or scouring pads which can scratch surfaces. Review manufacturer cleaning guidelines for custom finishes.

When should I replace instead of refinish kitchen cabinets?

If cabinets are structurally compromised, have irreparable damage or lack sufficient storage, replacement is better than refinishing. Refinishing makes sense if cabinets are in good shape but just need updated door styles or colors.


The range of options for customizing kitchen cabinet designs allows you to select the perfect combination for your kitchen’s form and function. Carefully assessdoor styles, materials, hardware, storage configurations, finishes and organizers that fit your household’s needs and interior design vision. Investing in well-constructed, versatile cabinetry designed around your workstyle will help maximize this significant kitchen element for years of beauty and utility. With some thoughtful planning upfront and quality cabinetry, you can create your ideal warm and welcoming kitchen space.