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Kitchen Cabinet Styles to Consider in Your Renovation

Sep 8, 2022
12 min read
  • Kitchen Cabinets Styles to Consider in Your Renovation
  • Shaker Kitchen Cabinets

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Tackling a kitchen renovation is one of the biggest and most expensive home projects you may undertake. The good news is that it’s well worth it. Not only will a new kitchen add functionality and beauty to your home, it will increase your home’s value, too. Experts say you can recoup 75 to 100 per cent of renovation costs when you sell your home. One of the most dramatic updates to your kitchen will be your new cabinetry, so choosing wisely is key. 

What to consider when selecting kitchen cabinets

Ever struggle to decide which TV show to watch because you simply have too much choice? The same could apply to selecting kitchen cabinets. With more options than ever, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you begin your search for the perfect cabinets. Here, we provide some considerations to help you narrow your kitchen cabinet choices, and ultimately select the style that’s just right:

Personal style

While you may know your fashion sense, you could be stuck for an answer if someone asks about your favourite kitchen design look. Is it traditional, modern, rustic, contemporary or a blend of old and new? What about other aesthetics like Farmhouse, French Country, Industrial, or Scandinavian? Style options for kitchens abound! 

To narrow it down, seek out examples of kitchen cabinets that appeal to you. Visit home improvement stores and showrooms, browse home décor magazines and websites, and peruse social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. After you’ve saved a few examples, you may see a pattern emerge in your selections. That’s a cue for the look you want in your kitchen cupboards. 


The kitchen is the busiest spot in your home, so you’ll want to think about who uses the cabinets and how durable they need to be. Kids can be tough on finishes, while pets pawing at cabinets for treats can cause scratches. Do you run the dishwasher frequently? The humidity generated could have an impact on how long materials last, potentially damaging natural wood and laminated pressboard.


Homeowners are increasingly aware of how design choices impact their carbon footprint. Repurposing existing cupboards is an eco-friendly option that has the added benefit of being easier on the  budget. You can repaint kitchen cabinets for a quick refresh. Or perhaps have a professional contractor reface them. For this project, an installer replaces just the fronts of the doors and drawers. They’ll look brand new at a fraction of the cost of all-new cabinetry.

For those in the market for a complete cabinet overhaul, consider eco-friendly materials such as bamboo or medium density fibreboard. Also, look for cabinets constructed without formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in some adhesives, paints, and lacquers linked to health issues. 

Type of hardware 

Decorative hardware – pulls, knobs, latches, and hinges – is like jewellery for your kitchen cabinets. It’s an important finishing touch with considerations on style, material, finish, functionality, and how well they complement other components of the kitchen like the faucet, lighting, and appliances.

Appliance considerations

For some people, appliances are to be used but not seen. They may want the  refrigerator and dishwasher covered with panels to match the rest of the kitchen cupboards for a streamlined look. Some newer kitchens are equipped with hydraulic systems that raise countertop appliances like coffee makers or stand mixers, to the countertop with the touch of a button. When you’re done, they go back into hiding.

Upkeep and maintenance

Those painted, trimmed cabinets with beadboard detailing may look nice, but think about what it will take to clean spills, fingerprints and dust from all those nooks and crannies. 

A lower maintenance choice? Dark hardwoods with a visible grain are less likely to show dirt. How often are you prepared to do a full wipe-down of your kitchen cupboards? It’s a question worth pondering before selecting cabinets.

What are the most popular kitchen cabinet door styles?

When you’re shopping for cabinets, you’ll discover three main types of kitchen cabinet styles to choose from. Here’s what you need to know about each: 

Framed (also called traditional)
Framed cabinets have been the most popular choice for many years. Framed cabinetry has an overlying frame, or face frame, affixed to the box that resembles a picture frame (usually about 1 ½ inch wide). For double cabinets, there is typically a vertical strip (called a stile) that runs down the middle of the box. Doors and drawers are installed on top of the frame with hinges affixed to the face frame. They come in an array of styles and can be easily installed by a qualified contractor for kitchen renovation

There are three types of framed cabinets:

  • Full overlay:  The doors completely cover the cabinet face and do not have a vertical stile in the centre of double size cabinet boxes, making them handy for storing and accessing larger items.
  • Partial-overlay: The doors sit on top of the cabinet face, leaving a gap of about 1.25 inches between the doors. This allows the face frame to be seen. This is the least expensive option. 
  • Inset doors:  The doors are installed flush with the cabinet frame, fully exposing the frame with the option of exposed or concealed hinges.

Frameless (sometimes called European)
In recent years, frameless cabinets have grown more popular. There is no frame around the cabinet box, and doors attach directly to the side wall of the cabinet. The doors are measured to cover, or nearly cover, the box of the cabinet for a modern minimalist look. They offer a bit more room with the elimination of a face frame. Drawers can be larger and the interior cabinets are more accessible. In smaller kitchens, where every inch counts, frameless cabinets are a good choice. 

Frameless cabinets require precise installation since the cabinets must align perfectly. If you want to refresh your kitchen in the future, it’s easier to do with frameless cabinets since you only need to change the doors. Meanwhile, framed cabinets require extra effort to paint or reface the face frame portion visible between the cabinet doors. Frameless and framed cabinets cost about the same. 

Pick your cabinet door type

Your choice of framed or frameless will dictate what type of doors you can buy. Some homeowners work in reverse and choose their door style first, then see whether they are available in framed or frameless styles. This can maximize the options available.

  • Shaker. This style is found in many North American kitchens today because of its timeless, classic feel. The doors feature a border around a recessed panel.
  • Flat. Flat cabinet doors skip the details and boast a simple, minimalistic look that fits well with modern interiors.
  • Country. As rustic look, this style imparts a rustic vibe, whether doors are made from natural wood or painted.
  • Mission. With little embellishment, mission-style doors are defined by their straight lines. Oak is the go-to choice for material.
  • Distressed. If you’re going for rural charm, distressed cabinets have a shabby chic appeal, whether they’re made from barn board, sanded, or finished with a crackled glaze.
  • Modern. Sleek, minimalist cabinets look right at home in a cool, urban condo or modern build.
  • Glass. Kitchen cabinet doors made from glass can display beautiful objects and make it easy to find something quickly. However, they can also showcase a mess if you’re not tidy.
  • Metal. When you’re a fan of industrial chic, metal doors are a perfect choice. While they’re very durable, they’re also quite expensive and may make your kitchen seem cold and sterile.
  • Beadboard. This retro look fits nicely in kitchens of older homes. The drawback is the time-consuming cleaning thanks to spills that may dribble into the narrow grooves adorning the doors.
  • Open shelving. You can forgo cabinets and install shelves instead. It can be a less expensive choice, but you’ll need to be super organized to avoid a cluttered look.

Basic cabinets for a kitchen reno 

Your kitchen cabinets will come in various sizes to address different functions and placement. For a well-designed space, you’ll need a variety. Work closely with a kitchen reno specialist to pin down the ones you’ll need. You’re likely need to include a combination of the following:

  • Base cabinets. These lower cabinets sit on the floor and provide a sturdy base for your countertop, as well as storage room for larger items, like cookware.
  • Upper/wall cabinets. Mounted on the wall above your countertop, these cabinets are more shallow than base cabinets and ideal for storing dishes and dried goods.
  • Pantry cabinets. Tall and narrow, these provide handy supplemental storage. They may have shelves or remain open to accommodate long items, like brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners.
  • Fridge/dishwasher paneling. Ideal for a high-end custom look to hide appliances and make kitchens appear more cohesive. However, panelling tends to be pricey and can be problematic when you need to replace an appliance with dimensions that are different. Panelling can cause issues, especially with dishwashers. Moisture build-up from the humidity it generates can warp cupboards over time and impact the durability of the appliance itself.
  • Corner cabinets. These can boost the amount of functional storage space, with options to include pull out shelves or lazy Susans to keep items within easy reach.
  • Open shelving. By skipping doors all together you’ll save some money, but be prepared to channel your inner neat freak to keep them ship-shape.

Selecting kitchen cabinet grades 

What grade of the cabinet should you pick? There are four grades to choose from, based on the quality of construction used. The right one will depend largely on your renovation budget. 

  • Ready-to-assemble (RTA). You’ll often find these cabinets in big box home improvement stores. They require some skill to assemble and selections are limited, but they are a smart choice for more budget-conscious kitchen renovations.
  • Stock. Pre-sized by manufacturers, stock cabinets are a good value for homeowners looking for a basic, economical option. They come ready to install and cannot be altered.
  • Semi-custom. If your reno budget doesn’t allow for custom cabinets, then semi-custom ones will do the trick at a mid-range price point. They allow for some customization and use a wider range of good quality materials.
  • Custom. Made-to-order cabinets offer homeowners high-quality, bespoke storage solutions for their kitchens. Though it opens a world of options for materials, colour, size, design and hardware, it comes at a big-ticket price.

How much do new kitchen cabinets cost?

Before you start looking for kitchen cabinets, have a budget in mind. Typically, about 30 to 40 per cent of your total reno cost will go toward cabinetry. And don’t forget, you’ll need a kitchen countertop (about five per cent of your budget) to top the base cabinets. The cost of kitchen cupboards depends on a variety of factors:

Size of your kitchen

Prices per cabinet range greatly. A budget-minded renovator could get kitchen cabinets for as low as $160 each, while those prepared to spend for the highest quality options can pay $650 to $1,500 for just one. It’s a significant investment given the average kitchen has about 30 cabinets, but the size of your kitchen can make a major impact on the final cost and how many cabinets you’ll need to buy.

Big box vs. custom
Cabinets you can pick up at a local home improvement store are the most affordable choice, starting around $60 per linear foot, while made-to-measure cabinets with custom details are priced at the high end.

Materials used
The least costly option is particle board, made from sawdust and resin, but it chips easily and isn’t durable over the long term. MDF (medium density fibreboard) is a better, though more expensive, choice. It is made from wood fibres, resists warping, and can be painted. Solid wood is beautiful with its eye-catching grain, but is pricey and is susceptible to shrinking and warping with heat and humidity. If money is no object, then metal cabinets like stainless steel or brass, which can start at  $30,000, may be for you.

Door hinges and pulls might seem like minor details, but they do matter. They impact the durability and operation of your cabinets, as well as the overall look of your kitchen. Depending on the quantity of pieces you need, prices can range from $100 for no-frills hardware to thousands, if you choose trendy designer styles (think handles adorned with mother-of-pearl or Czech crystals). From classic to whimsical, there are many kitchen drawer options.

Your kitchen cabinets will have a top coat such as lacquer/urethane, stain, or paint to protect them. The price goes up for special finishes, such as glazing to highlight grooves and edges, or crackling and distressed to create an antique, weathered look.

Painting your kitchen cabinets

If you’re not replacing your kitchen cabinets, consider freshening them up with paint. This option works well with wood or wood laminate cabinets but is not ideal for plastic surfaces. Skilled DIYers can take on repainting projects, but it’s best left to professional painters with experience in spray painting kitchen cupboards. It can be a messy job, and if done poorly, you won’t be happy with the final results. Do choose a safer, VOC-free spray paint. Let Smart Reno help you find the right painting contractor for the job.

What are popular cabinet colours for 2022?

Though white and off-white are the most beloved kitchen cabinet colours among homeowners, some people prefer to follow trends with the latest hues. The big colour for 2022 is green; not just any shade, but those inspired by nature, like soft sage and deep emerald. Black is also on trend for a dramatic, daring look in the kitchen. Seeking something sunnier? Interior designers are loving warm yellows that add cheeriness.

Mistakes to avoid with kitchen cabinets

No reno is perfect, but you’ll definitely want to steer clear of the most common errors  homeowners make with kitchen cabinets

Inadequate storage
To invest money for new kitchen cabinetry and realize you’re still tight on storage space is a disappointing and expensive mistake. It’s easy to underestimate how much room you’ll need for cookware, gadgets, small appliances, cutlery and more. Take the time to plan what each cabinet will house. Add special racks for items, like spices and dishes, to maximize storage.

Bad layout
Kitchen designers frequently talk about the “kitchen triangle” that consists of three key points – the fridge, stove, and sink. There should be four to nine (barrier-free) feet between them for the most efficient flow. Poorly placed cabinets impair a kitchen’s functionality. While it’s tempting to take advantage of every square inch and put cabinets right up to the ceiling, those with shorter statures will need step stools or ladders to access items up top. If you leave a gap between upper cupboards and the ceiling, know that they can trap grease, dirt, and other grossness.

Poor lighting
A renovated kitchen won’t look or operate its best in poor, dim lighting. It pays to invest in under cabinet lighting, recessed lights, and pendants to illuminate the space.   

Final words on kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets take up a lot of real estate in your kitchen, so it’s wise to invest in good quality to ensure a successful kitchen renovation. Not sure what it might cost? Start with our Kitchen Renovation Cost Estimator. Then when you’re ready, get up to three free quotes from a Smart Reno contractor.

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