/ All Categories

Common Cabinet Woods

Your wood options include:


maple cabinetMaple: Generally a straight, tight grain, but expect occasional wavy flows and bird's eye patterning. Maple's soft grain pattern allows it to easily adapt to both traditional and contemporary designs, making it easy to see why maple is the number one wood choice for cabinetry. A very durable wood, maple finishes well, making it an excellent choice for stains and glazes.

cherry cabinetCherry: A very refined, straight and close grain gives cherry its smooth and elegant look. This smoothness makes it well suited for mixing with other woods. Its sophistication is belied by its rough and tough characteristics: cherry is extremely durable and finishes well.

oak cabinetOak: Oak's coarser natural texture results in a relatively defined straight grain that's more open and casual than elegant. Oak's porous nature makes it extremely absorbent. The darker the stain, the more apparent the grain pattern; light stains reduce its visibility. Among the most common cabinetry woods, oak's durability and finishing characteristics make it a sound choice.

pine cabinetPine: Pine's straight grain is relatively long and continuous, with knots that give your cabinets a more rugged look. Southern yellow pine is much more durable than white pine; be sure to ask what you're getting. In general, pine tends to be softer wood.

alder cabinetAlder: Once dismissed because of its weed-like growing habits, the Pacific Northwest's most abundant hardwood is one of the most in-demand options. Consistent in color, alder tends to range from a pale pinkish-brown to almost white. Because it has a close grain and readily accepts stain, red alder can imitate cherry, mahogany, and even walnut.

birch cabinetBirch: Though white paper birch may be the most familiar, the prevalent yellow birch species is the most valued commercial lumber birch. Commonly found in stock cabinetry, this cream-colored wood may stain unevenly.

hickory cabinetHickory: A relative of the walnut family, hickory is one of the strongest and heaviest used American woods. With colors ranging from white to a ruddy brown, this relatively straight and fine grain accepts medium to dark finishes and bleaches well.


More in this category:« WoodsExotic Woods »

An Overview of Drawer Construction

The drawers will likely be made of solid wood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF); have framed or flat slab fronts; and be held together with either dovetail, mortise-and-tenon, or butt joints.

Glue holds the parts together, though staples or brads are typically used to hold the joints together until the glue has cured. Dovetail joints provide the most strength.

Butt joint




More in this category:« The BoxDoor Types »

Options for Cabinet Door Styles

Close Up of Cabinet Door

Besides door type, you'll want to consider different door shapes and styles. One cabinet manufacturer may offer hundreds of door styles in an endless array of finishes.

Search for shapes and materials that contribute to, rather than detract from, your overall style preference. If your kitchen has a minimal stainless steel look, consider a slab door. If ornate details cover your kitchen, take a look at a raised cathedral panel to complement this style.

Your options for cabinet door style include:


slab doorSlab
If you like clean lines, a slab door may be the choice for you. A flat door that essentially looks like a slab of wood, metal or other material, these doors eschew panels. Add pizzazz to an MDF door by routing a detailed edge profile.



raised panel doorRaised Panel
A panel, usually made by joining pieces of solid stock lumber with adhesive, is secured to the door's frame. Raised panels generally measure between 1/2" and 3/4" thick. A routed edge profile tends to give the door a more elegant appearance.



recessed panelRecessed Panel
The recessed panel door is a flat panel affixed inside a frame constructed with miter or mortise and tenon joints. The resulting appearance has a picture frame-type look and a simpler, more country or transitional appearance.



curved panel doorCurved Panel
The top portion of this door's decorative panel curves upward in a gentle arch. The panel itself is generally raised.




cathedral panel doorCathedral Panel
A cathedral-type arch is incorporated into the upper rail of this raised or recessed panel.




beadboard panelBeadboard Panel
Typically found in a recessed panel, beadboard uses routed beaded details to create a casual country style.




routed cabinet doorRouted
A single piece of engineered wood material (such as MDF) is shaped to take on the appearance of a recessed or raised panel within the door, then painted or covered in laminate.




Inserts Provide a Great Design Option for Cabinets

Dark and Light Wood Cabinets

Contrasting wood types and glass inserts give this kitchen visual interest

A kitchen loaded with base and wall cabinets can look like a storage room or feel dark and heavy. Inserts such as glass, metal or chicken wire present a great design option to add visual interest, especially on stock cabinets that might otherwise lack unique touches. Glass will also reflect light, brightening your kitchen and making it appear larger.

Clear glass can showcase fine china or collectibles, but also reveals fingerprints and clutter. Luckily, inserts come in a variety of textures and patterns that make the glass translucent or opaque rather than transparent. Options include:

  • Beveled: polished angle-ground glass with prismatic characteristics

  • Bubbled: air bubbles sprinkled in the glass to enhance the illusion of age

  • Camed: strips (or "cames") of lead, brass, or copper lie between the glass

  • Colored: tinted glass

  • Etched: a design is carved into glass using hydrofluoric acid

  • Frosted: glass blown with fine sand under high pressure for an opaque look

  • Leaded: a popular type of camed glass

  • Mullion: thin strips of wood separate panes of glass

  • Ribbed: vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines


Some manufacturers also offer the option of sandwiching materials such as rice paper or fabric between the layers of glass.

Install halogen lights inside the cabinets for an additional glow or to highlight the contents. Use glass shelves to allow the light to shine all the way through. Or consider a colored interior; for example, a hunter green interior against a white cabinet can emphasize a country motif. You can also decorate the interior with stenciled patterns, faux finishes or wallpaper.




What to Know About Refacing Kitchen Cabinetry

Man refacing wooden cabinets.

Reface your cabinets for a quick new look.

Chances are your vision of your cabinetry conjures up images of doors and moldings; not of the frame. Refacing offers a speedy way to leave the frame as is but makeover the rest.

If you're in need of a refreshed kitchen look but are happy with the current layout of your kitchen and your cabinets' quality, refacing may be just the route to take. Refacing does just that — gives your kitchen a new "face" — while using the same "body," a method that has the potential to save both time and money.

Refacing refers to the process of removing your old doors, drawer fronts, and hardware then resurfacing the frames and exposed cabinet ends with hardwood veneer. The veneer is stained and finished to match your new choice of doors, which are then installed to the recently refreshed frames.

Check with your refacer, but you should be able to add molding or valences to further dress up your new cabinetry. While your layout must remain static, some refacers offer you the option of adding new cabinetry or an island to your existing design.

Unsure of whether you need to replace or reface?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you tired of your kitchen's current look?

  • Do you want a more up-to-date look?

  • Does your current kitchen offer adequate storage and countertop space?

  • Are your cabinet drawers still in good condition and open easily?

  • Have other neighborhood homeowners remodeled their kitchens in the last few years?

  • Has the value of your home stopped rising?

  • Do you plan to sell your home in the next year?


If you answered yes to the majority of them, refacing may be the right solution for you. Keep in mind the following:

  • You can't change the layout;any current headaches you have from misdirected traffic or bumping elbows

    won't disappear.

  • Check out the warranty: it generally will cover the new products only, not the new "cabinet."

  • You will be applying veneer to the surface, not solid wood.

  • Your cabinets' interiors will remain the same; be sure you're currently comfortable with the way they look and the ease of cleaning them.



More in this category:« Refinishing


Early settlers in the rural South erected hall-and-parlor or I-houses that defined the Tidewater South tradition. Their full, wide porches kept the Southern sun and rains at bay.

General description:

  • Two stories

  • Simple box shape

  • Central entrance

  • One-story shed extensions

  • Full front porch

Exterior features to consider in kitchen design:

  • White clapboard

  • Double-hung windows with shutters

Recommended kitchen design elements:


Cabinet Doors

  • Type: Inset

  • Style: Recessed panel

  • Finish: Stain

  • Wood: Maple or oak


  • Laminate

  • Soapstone


  • Linoleum

  • Ceramic

Architectural Details

  • Simple crown molding

  • Dado board

  • Chair rail



More in this category:« Cape CodSaltbox »

An Overview of Home Styles

Your cabinetry should enhance and compliment the overall style of your home.

Consider the style of your home when selecting your cabinetry, this helps keep the continuity of the home and kitchen design.

Although it's not essential, you can bring continuity to your home by designing the interior in the same theme as its exterior architectural style.

Use the home and kitchen styles guide to identify the architectural style that most closely resembles that of your own home. Under each category, you'll find a description of the style's general characteristics and recommendations for what kinds of kitchen cabinets, countertops, flooring, and architectural details would best complement it.

You can also peruse the different styles and recommendations to get a general feel for which you prefer. You may end up selecting a style that differs from your home's architecture yet still captures what you had in mind for your dream kitchen.


Home StylePeriodDescriptionCabinet Door Details

American Colonial
Cape Cod
Dutch Colonial


Cottage styles
Medieval influence; rectangular, one to two-and-a-half stories; few windows with small, divided panes; add-on looks

Plank doors or simple paneled doors; some vertical or diagonal boards; bucks; small, multi-paneled windows

Greek Revival


Neoclassical homes
Blocky, rectangular, or nearly square; two to three stories; columns; symmetrical with classical ornamentation

Symmetrical panel doors with varying panel sizes; Palladian-type windows; ornate features

Queen Anne
Gothic Revival


Board-and-batten siding; decorative barge boards, high gables, and gable pendants; shingles, ornamental trim, and turrets

Vertical planking with arched top; expressed framework

Arts & Crafts


Beauty in function/anti-industrial
Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired; sensitive to materials and natural setting; box shapes; low-rising hip roof; geometric forms, art glass, and angular protrusions

Clean, geometric shapes; off-center lights; contrasting textures and lines

Moderne Movement
Art Deco


Sophisticated simplicity
Interplay of indoor-outdoor living; blend of International Style & Machine Age technology; geometric forms; walls of glass; natural woods and metal

Elegantly simple; geometric patterns and plain, clean lines; metal and glass accents

More in this category:Cape Cod »

Alternatives to Replacing Cabinets

Kitchen with white walls and light wood cabinetry

Save money on a kitchen remodel by refinishing or refacing cabinets instead of buying new cabinetry.

Not every kitchen remodel calls for all-new kitchen cabinets. If new cabinets just aren't in the budget, and your cabinetry remains in good shape but looks dated, you have options. Easy and affordable redos include adding organization accessories to the interior of boxes and drawers to provide more storage, and replacing knobs, pulls and other hardware to add fresh style.

Other exterior makeovers require more effort and money. Refinishing means that keeping all of your existing cabinetry and simply changing the color or finish. This is done through hand sanding or chemically stripping the existing finish from the wood, then applying a new paint or stain. This works best on wood cabinets. Laminate and thermofoil can't be sanded or stripped, and it's "nearly impossibly for paint to stick," says John Williams of Sears Home Improvement Products.

Refacing means keeping the cabinet boxes but replacing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones. This allows you to change both the style and the color. You can also replace cabinet side panels, face frames and moldings so that everything matches.

Can't decide between refinishing and refacing? Consider door style, kitchen layout and budget. If you hate your door style, why refinish them? Likewise, if you don't like your kitchen's configuration and want to add an island or other cabinetry, don't refinish; it will be very difficult to match to new cabinetry, unless you paint instead of stain. However, if budget is your top priority, refinishing is the cheaper option.



More in this category:Refinishing »



The Arts and Crafts, Prairie, and Farmhouse designs each influenced the Foursquare plan, one of the most popular home styles of the first half of the 20th century.

General description:

  • Two stories

  • Square and symmetrical

  • Four main rooms per floor

  • Full width porch across the front

Exterior features to consider in kitchen design:

  • Symmetrical shape

  • Simple ornamentation

Recommended kitchen design elements:

PL-G-Art-Deco-recessedCabinet Doors 
  • Type: Inset or full overlay

  • Style: Recessed square panel

  • Finish: Stain or paint

  • Wood: Cherry, maple, or oak 


  • Laminate

  • Soapstone


  • Linoleum

  • Slate

  • Wood

Architectural Details

  • Classic crown moulding
  • Dado

  • Chair rail





More in this category:« CraftsmanPrairie »



Reminiscent of the Italian villa, this style was popular in England in the early 1800s and in America in the late 1800s.

General description:

  • Two stories

  • Irregular shape

  • Different window designs at each floor level

  • Wide frieze and brackets supporting large cornice

Exterior features to consider in kitchen design:

  • Multiple chimneys, bays, overhangs, and window styles

  • Gracious entry with balcony above


Recommended kitchen design elements:


Cabinet Doors

  • Type: Lipped or full overlay

  • Style: Raised square panel

  • Finish: Stain or paint

  • Wood: Cherry, maple, or oak


  • Laminate

  • Soapstone

  • Granite


  • Linoleum

  • Ceramic

  • Wood

Architectural Details

  • Crown moulding with dentil, egg & dart

  • Chair rail





More in this category:« Gothic RevivalCraftsman »