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Kitchen Cabinets: Door Style Guide

It's time to add some style to those kitchen cabinets.  To do this, you should first ask yourself:  What is the most visible part of my cabinets when I walk into the kitchen?  The answer:  The cabinet doors.  The doors of your cabinets are like the face of your kitchen and the character of their ‘facial’ expression is defined by what door style you choose.  Just as your face has many expressions to communicate your mood, so do the cabinet doors.  By deciding which door shape, finish, and material to use, you’ll be able to make your kitchen stand out among the crowd. 

Kitchen Cabinet Door Shape

As you might expect, kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  The shape you choose will have quite an effect on the overall look of your kitchen.  You should have in mind what style you are going for (contemporary, modern, traditional, etc).  Certain shapes will be better suited for certain styles.  To help you understand each of the most popular cabinet door shapes, we’ve listed them below.

Raised Panel Cabinet Doors

There are three main styles of the panel of the cabinet door which are shown below: Square, Cathedral, and Arched.  You will see raised panel doors in both solid wood and wood veneer.  The raised panel style is common for the classic, traditional and contemporary styles.

Arched Cabinet Door Cathedral Cabinet Door Square Cabinet Door

Flat Panel Cabinet Door

Flat Panel Cabinet Door Cabinet Door with Battens

This door style is also commonly referred to as Slab Doors or Frameless Doors and is constructed in a few different ways.  In one method, the doors are made by joining several pieces of wood together with a bonding agent.  Once the pieces are in place, the wood is then cut to the desired size of the cabinet.  As a result, the wood grain and colors don't always match perfectly but you do get the added strength of multiple wood layers.  As another construction option, some cabinet door manufacturers will use several strips of wood (called battens) lined horizontally or vertically.  By then placing a second layer of a few wood strips over the original layer, you can achieve more of a cabin or rustic look for your kitchen.  A third option is common in laminate doors where a layer of laminate is used to cover an original layer of particle board, MDF or plywood.

Recessed Flat Panel Cabinet Doors

This style is created by using two pieces of wood.  The first layer is like what you’d get if you just wanted a flat panel.  However, to get the recessed look, a second layer is framed around the first layer.  By doing this you can have some very unique style including having a stile that runs down the center of the cabinet door versus only on the left and right side.

Recessed Flat Panel Cabinet Door

Glass Cabinet Doors with Mullions

This looks style is similar to a window.  There are multiple options available for glass type and mullion style (mullions are the strips of wood that run vertically and horizontally).  You can choose multiple glass textures and colors as well as mullion designs.

Glass Mullion Cabinet Doors

Kitchen Cabinet Door Terminology
Cope and Pattern Joint
This joint is formed by using special wood cutting tools to create a shape on the rail end and a mirror image of that same shape on the stile end
Mitered Joint
This is where the corners of the rail and style connect. Both the rail and style have a 45 degree cut. This is popular for doors with more involved detailing on the style and rail and also for less expensive doors because of the ease in making this type of joint.
Panel
The middle section of the cabinet door
Rail
The horizontal portion of the top and bottom of the cabinet door
Stile
The vertical portion of the left and right side of the cabinet door
Tenon and Mortise Joint
This is the most common type of joint and is secured together using a male and female end. Also referred to as a tongue and groove joint, the rail end has a tenon (tongue / male) and the stile end has a mortise (groove / female) that fit into one another.
Kitchen Cabinet Door Diagram

Cabinet Door Diagram

 

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