15 Cabinet Door Styles for Kitchens

Cabinet doors are not only one of the most visible elements of your kitchen, but often one of the most expensive. This comprehensive guide is designed to help you decide which is right for you. It goes through all the major cabinet door styles and the impact they will have on your budget, as well as any particular pros and cons to consider. 

First, a cheat sheet. If your style is:

Modern / Minimalist / Contemporary / Industrial

  • You can start by looking at: Flat, thermofoil, glass, or metal. Shaker can also work.

Rustic / Cottage / Shabby Chic / Antique / Flea Market

  • Start with: Shaker, beadboard, distressed, inset, mesh, and perhaps louvered or glass or mullion for accent doors. Raised, arch, and flat styles can also work.

Traditional / Ornamental / Baroque

  • Start with: Shaker, raised, arch, cathedral, inset, glass, mullion.

The cabinet styles:

1. Shaker

Decor: Flexible, from traditional to contemporary.
Cost: Budget friendly.

Shaker style cabinetry is recognizable by the square recessed panel of the door. This is a simple, classic look, and one of the most common styles for kitchens because it is so versatile. It was originally developed to be without ornamentation, but these days many variations of the original design have come about, including edges that are slightly bevelled (angled).

Pros: Versatile; goes with many decor types, including traditional and modern styles. It can work with a variety of woods, stains, paint colors, and hardware, and can be achieved with a variety of budgets.

Cons: There are no specific cons for this style.

Shaker stye cabinet doors

Shaker stye cabinet doors

Shaker style- Photo by Frieda

Shaker style- Photo by Frieda

 

2. Flat

Decor: Flexible, but usually modern or contemporary.
Cost: Varies widely, though many budget friendly options exist.

Flat-panel cabinet doors (sometimes called "slab doors") have no frills- no frame or ornamentation. They have been popular in Europe for decades, and are becoming more mainstream in the United States. They can come in budget-friendly decorative laminate or wood.

Pros: Smooth, clean lines. Great for showcasing a particular color or finish. They work really well with contemporary or sleek modern interiors. And since they don't have any expensive details, they can be budget-friendly (though many high end cabinet stores feature this style, so your average flat panel door is not necessarily low cost). 

Cons: There are no specific cons for this style, but it can look plain if not done right; color, finish, and/or hardware are critical for these doors since they have no extra frills and are on their own.

Flat panel cabinets- Photo by Venegas and Company

Flat panel cabinets- Photo by Venegas and Company

Photo by Mal Corboy Design

Photo by Mal Corboy Design

 

3. Louvered

Decor: Flexible.
Cost: One of the most expensive.

Louvered doors have horizontal wood slats like those typically seen on window shutters. The slats add a unique look to modern kitchens.

Pros: Great for cabinets that require ventilation, like those near radiators or laundry rooms.

Cons: Grease and dust catchers. Expensive.

Louvered cabinet doors- Photo by Georgetown Development

Louvered cabinet doors- Photo by Georgetown Development

Louvered cabinet doors- Photo by Old Hollywood

Louvered cabinet doors- Photo by Old Hollywood

 

4. Distressed

Decor: Shabby chic, rustic or antique style.
Cost: More expensive than cabinets without distressing.

These cabinets are made for rustic or antique spaces. Any painted door can have the corners rubbed off or have other distressing techniques done for that rustic aged-look.

Pros: Done right, the distressed look can give the cabinets a shabby chic character.

Cons: There is also usually a 15 to 20 percent upcharge for the extra work required to distress doors. I also often find that most distressed cabinets are overdone and look unnatural, but this has more to do with technique. The best distressed cabinets look like they were worn out naturally.

Distressed cabinets- Photo by The Cousins

Distressed cabinets- Photo by The Cousins

 

5. Beadboard

Decor: Usually rustic, cottage, or traditional.
Cost: Varies.

The center panels of the cabinet doors for this style are made to look like traditional beadboard paneling. Beadboard is a row of wood planks lined up vertically. In between each plank is a little indentation or ridge (aka a "bead"). This kind of paneling also looks great as a kitchen backsplash.

Pros: Adds charm and texture. 

Cons: All the little cracks and crevasses on the doors can make them slightly harder to clean.

Beadboard style- Photo by Caroline McCredie

Beadboard style- Photo by Caroline McCredie

 

6. Raised

Decor: Usually traditional.
Cost: More expensive than flat panels.

In this style, the middle section of the door is raised, creating a groove between the frame and the central panel. This gives an extra depth to the cabinetry. 

Pros: Comes in many different styles, and the shadows created by the extra details fit well with traditional kitchens with more ornamentation.

Cons: The more details you add, the more expensive.

Raised panels- Photo by Danenberg Design

Raised panels- Photo by Danenberg Design

 

7. Inset

Decor: Flexible, from contemporary to traditional.
Cost: One of the most expensive.

Strictly speaking, this is not a door style, but a type of cabinet construction that changes the look of the cabinetry. Most cabinet doors and drawers are "full overlay"; they are in front of the cabinet's face frame (placed over the frames), and are slightly larger than the opening of the frame so that they "overlay" them. Inset doors, on the other hand, are fitted inside the face frame. The doors therefore have to be made extremely precisely so that they nest inside the frames, taking into account the fact that wood expands and contracts with temperature changes. This type of cabinet gives a full view of the cabinet frame, with only minimal gaps between the cabinet doors and frames. This is a classic look that goes well with a range of door styles and woods.

Pros: Clean lines. Flush inset doors change the look of the cabinets. 

Cons: It's one of the more expensive styles on the market, since it requires a higher level of precision craftsmanship.

In this photo, the upper cabinets are inset, and the lower ones are full overlay:

Upper cabinets are inset- Photo by Mahoney Architects & Interiors

Upper cabinets are inset- Photo by Mahoney Architects & Interiors

 

8. Thermofoil

Decor: Flexible.
Cost: Budget friendly.

Thermofoil is a type of surface finish; a plastic-type coating that is baked onto MDF (medium-density fiberboard- a dense combination of wood fibers, wax, and resin binders) under intense heat to create a seal. The finished product is a silky-smooth surface with a high quality sheen. It can even incorporate metallic elements (similar to the metallic paints of cars). These doors are often mass-produced.

Pros: Resists chipping better than painted surfaces. Available in a wide variety of looks, including solid colors or imitation wood grain. One of the most cost effective, extremely resistant to moisture, and easy to clean. MDF in general is also very durable.

Cons: They have poor heat resistance, so if they are installed close to a heat source, such as an oven, the laminate may pull away from the veneer core. If the laminate does peel off, the doors are no longer moisture resistant. However, this can usually be solved by installing heat shields (metal strips) between the cabinets and the heat source. They're also extremely difficult to repair should they ever get damaged. Some lighter colors can also yellow slightly from sunlight and heat over time. 

White thermofoil cabinets- Photo by Doors2Me

White thermofoil cabinets- Photo by Doors2Me

 

9. Glass

Decor: Flexible.
Cost: Varies widely.

Glass cabinet doors can be a beautiful addition to a kitchen. Though they can add visual clutter if objects are not neatly stacked inside cabinets, there are easy ways to solve this issue: (1) Keep things neat inside (perhaps not so easy for some of us), or (2) Semi-transparent options, such as frosted, reeded, or seeded glass, or opaque options such as painted glass-front cabinets, where the glass has been painted on the back side. 

Pros: Small kitchens can benefit from glass doors, as they enlarge the room visually. Transparent glass makes it easy to find things, and can be used to display objects. Many decorative options are available, from diamond panels to stained glass. Sliding glass doors can be both visually intriguing and functional.

Cons: Smoke, grease, and vapors from cooking can eventually create a visible film or discoloration on glass, requiring more cleaning. Glass doors are also obviously not as resilient to rough opening and closing, though stronger glass options are available specifically for cupboard doors or plexi-glass (or glass designed to break into sheets or with plastic covering).

Sliding glass panels- Photo by Studio Durham Architects

Sliding glass panels- Photo by Studio Durham Architects

Frosted glass panels- SVEA Kitchens

Frosted glass panels- SVEA Kitchens

10. Mullion

 

Decor: Usually traditional.
Cost: Varies.

A mullion is any vertical element that forms a division between units of a door. It's usually used decoratively on glass doors.

Pros: They can have the look of windows, and provide nice accents.

Cons: You can only adjust the shelf height inside the cabinet to line up with the mullions, otherwise it looks funny. They are also dust and grease catchers and hard to clean. 

Mullions for glass cabinets- Photo by Woodworks Inc

Mullions for glass cabinets- Photo by Woodworks Inc

 

11. Metal

Decor: Usually industrial, modern, contemporary.
Cost: Varies.

Several options are available, from aluminum to stainless steel, or even corrugated steel for an industrial look. When paired with wood, metal can take on warmer qualities.

Pros: Can look refreshing and adds interest to a room. Great to mix with wood or glass.

Cons: It doesn't appeal to everyone, so if you are planning to sell your home someday, this might become an issue.

Stainless steel cabinets:

Stainless steel cabinets- Photo by Industrial Kitchen

Stainless steel cabinets- Photo by Industrial Kitchen

Aluminum frame doors mixed with wood:

The upper cabinets have aluminum doors- Photo by Indicia Interior Design

The upper cabinets have aluminum doors- Photo by Indicia Interior Design

 

12. Mesh

Decor: Flexible. Usually rustic, but could work with modern, industrial, traditional.
Cost: Varies.

For those who love the idea of clear glass cabinet doors, but don't think their objects can be neatly stacked inside, a grille can be the answer. Metal mesh not only allows you to see through the cabinet doors, but unites the objects behind it to provide a cohesive look for disparate objects. It also adds interest and depth to the cabinetry. Many options are available as far as materials go, from perforated metal cabinets, to chicken wire. Mesh can be powder coated in a variety of finishes (such as stainless, nickel, brass, bronze, and copper) to match elements like cabinet hardware, faucets, and appliances.

Pros: Can give a small room added depth. Adds texture and interest to cabinetry. Makes it easy to find things. Can be used to display objects.

Cons: Grease and dust catchers. Not the easiest to clean. Looks visually cluttered if objects are a mess inside.

Wire mesh cabinets- Photo by Andrew Howard Interior Design

Wire mesh cabinets- Photo by Andrew Howard Interior Design

 

13. Arch

Decor: Usually traditional.
Cost: Generally more expensive than flat panel.

Technically this is a kind of raised panel style. The middle panel raises up slightly in an arch that resembles an eyebrow. The pros and cons are similar to those for the raised panels.

Photo by Ashley Anthony Studio

Photo by Ashley Anthony Studio

 

14. Cathedral

Decor: Traditional.
Cost: Generally more expensive than flat panel.

This style is similar to the arch style, but more ornate. It has an indented, steeper arch that resembles a cathedral cut.

Pros: Appropriate for certain traditional, ornate, or Gothic interiors.

Cons: Hard to update. If you are planning to sell your home someday, this might be an issue because a lot of people prefer the Shaker or flat look these days. Also works best with a bit of extra ceiling height for the right aesthetics.

 

15. Custom

Decor: Flexible.
Cost: Varies widely. People are often surprised to learn that the cost of custom is not much more than factory manufactured cabinets, and often less than semi-custom cabinet lines.

Pros: The benefit, of course, is that you can get your cabinets made locally, and they will fit perfectly for your space. You can play a role in the design of your cabinet doors, and there is no limit to what you can do. Custom cabinets do not have to be prohibitively expensive, since you are buying straight from the source without any middlemen.

Cons: Usually more lead time. Cost varies widely.

Asymmetrical custom cabinets:

Custom asymmetrical cabinets- Photo by Aneka Interiors Inc.

Custom asymmetrical cabinets- Photo by Aneka Interiors Inc.

Shaker style + Glass + Mullions:

Custom yellow kitchen cabinets with mullion glass doors- Photo by Gary Brewer Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Custom yellow kitchen cabinets with mullion glass doors- Photo by Gary Brewer Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Shaker style with glass cutouts:

Custom cabinets- Photo by Goforth Gill Architects

Custom cabinets- Photo by Goforth Gill Architects