Top Tips for Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

By Jennifer Noonan | Updated Nov 15, 2013 10:59 PM

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Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: JNoonan

The first things we chose during our eight-hour selections appointment for our new construction home were our kitchen cabinets. Cabinets are chosen first during these meetings, because they are the biggest investment in the kitchen. And the kitchen is one of the biggest investments in the house.

In our open floor plan the kitchen cabinets are viewable from nearly the entire first floor, making a big impact on the overall design and feeling of our home. And there are so many choices between door style, finish, and hardware. For me, i was an overwhelming decision, and it must be the same way for many remodelers.

Related: 5 Creative Alternatives to Traditional Kitchen Cabinetry

Kitchen cabinets are of course subject to trends. Remember the pickled maple craze of the early 1990s? I renovated our pre-war New York City apartment with those, and I loved them—for about four years. By the time we put that apartment on the market 15 years later, they looked hopelessly dated.

I decided to go with something more classic this time, something contemporary that wouldn’t feel out of style in five years. We went with maple again, since I like its understated grain, but this time we selected a simple panel door with full overlay mounting (in a cherry finish with glaze add depth).  Brushed stainless steel hardware gives the cabinet array something of a “now” look, but the pulls won’t be expensive or difficult to change when they begin to feel “totally 2010.”

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets - Single Panel Doors

Photo: JNoonan

There are so many things to consider when choosing cabinets! Here are the biggies I recommend focusing on:

Materials – Solid wood remains a popular choice for kitchen cabinetry, but other materials like metal, thermofoil, stainless steel, and melamine are readily available.

Door style – A door style exists for every taste, whether it be very traditional or country or ultra-modern. More complicated wood detailing, like raised panels and beading, are generally more expensive and require more work to clean.

Door Mounting – There are many mounting options for cabinet doors, the most common being overlay, where the door lays over the cabinet case. Regular overlay allows the face frame to be seen around the doors, whereas full overlay mounting fits doors closely together, hiding the cabinet case behind. Inset doors are less common, with the doors being installed flush inside the frame.

Finish – Solid wood cabinet colors can be left in their natural state or can be finished or stained. Decorative finishes are available—distressing, glazing, crackle, and more. Remember that lighter cabinets, counter to intuition, actually hide dirt better than darker ones do.

HardwareHardware can really impact the final look of your cabinets. It can either dress them up or down and make them look more contemporary, country, or traditional. Knobs and drawer pulls are easy and inexpensive to change later in comparison to cabinet doors or finishes.

I’ve learned even more about cabinets since living with this new kitchen—more than can be mentioned in one blog post. One thing I still haven’t mastered, apparently, is organization. Despite beautiful new cabinets, I never seem to be able to find the right measuring cup when I need it!

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

Cabinet Door Styles:  What’s Yours?
Kitchen Countertops 101
Planning Guide: Kitchen Remodeling