Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

No matter where you look in your kitchen, your cabinets play a central role. They define the look and feel of the room, must withstand a significant amount of wear and tear, and account for a big chunk of your kitchen budget. It only makes sense to do your homework and choose well. Consider these tips for finding what's right for you.

Take Inventory

Look around the kitchen you have today. What do you like about it? Where does it fall short? Do you have enough storage? Do items get lost in the clutter? Do you wish you had a way to display your special collection of tea cups? Make a list of your likes and dislikes to determine what you want from your new kitchen. Then prioritize your list into must-haves and nice-to-haves. It'll give you a perfect starting place for discussion when you visit a kitchen center.

Know Your Options

Whether you buy stock cabinets, made-to-order cabinets, or something in between, it helps to understand style options.

  • Full overlay

    With full overlay the cabinet doors and drawers fully cover the frame of the cabinet box. So looking at the face of the cabinets you're only seeing the doors and drawers. The frame of the cabinet is not visible. The one possible drawback with this choice is that the doors and drawers are more likely to interfere with adjacent drawers and doors (or appliances and trim) if not designed properly. Also the cabinets have a more uniform and uninterrupted look.

  • Partial Overlay

    Partial overlay (other similar terms are "Traditional Overlay", "Standard Overlay" or "Semi-Full Overlay") the doors and drawers cover only part if the cabinet frame. They are mounted on the face of the cabinet box. Many homeowners don't find them as aesthetically pleasing as they do the inset or full overlay doors, but they are usually the least expensive option.

  • Materials

    While wood wins hands down as the most common cabinetry material, you can choose from several different types of wood. In addition, depending on your style, you can mix and match finishes, grains, and colors. Visit a kitchen showroom to see and play with the options. No matter what you choose, remember that it's going to occupy a prominent place in your house for a long time, so be sure you love it.

  • Finishes

    Custom and semicustom cabinets can be finished to your unique taste with paint, stain, glaze, and a variety of accent techniques. Paints give an opaque finish, while stains enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Glazes can be applied to both paint and stain to highlight different edges. In addition, techniques like sanding edges, distressing the finish, or adding dents and gouges to cabinets can create a worn-in and perfectly aged look.

Get Personal

People often think of handles, knobs, and pulls when personalizing their cabinetry because they are visible, but don't forget to consider personalizing the insides, too. In fact, a wide variety of accessory options can help you make your cabinetry truly suited to your unique needs, while at the same time improving ergonomics. Besides making your kitchen more functional today, many of these design options naturally accommodate aging in place by helping to prevent stooping, reaching, and falling, keeping your kitchen safe and accessible as you get older.

  • Rollout drawer trays

    offer a continuous look and increase organization.

  • Rollout drawer trays

    Swing-out shelving and pantry pull-outs maximize pantry storage.

  • Slide-out baskets and bins

    hide trashcans and recycling centers. look.

  • Cutlery and utensil dividers

    keep items from getting lost in jumbled drawers.

  • Tilt paneled sink fronts

    conveniently store cleaning supplies.

  • Lazy Susans

    make efficient use of corners and dead space.

  • Spice drawers

    eliminate the need for a separate spice rack.

  • Appliance garages

    house toasters, coffee makers, blenders and other small appliances beneath a roll-up door, keeping them out of sight when they are not in use.

  • Under cabinet lighting

    brightens work space to increase productivity.

Don't Skimp

Your cabinets have to withstand daily use for years to come. Don't cut corners on quality or you'll likely find yourself dissatisfied in a couple of years. Instead, look for products certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association. This means they have been subjected to tests that replicate years of normal kitchen abuse; they'll be more likely to survive exposure to humidity, a wide range of temperatures, and dousings of kitchen mainstays like vinegar, lemon, fruit juices, ketchup, and coffee without showing signs of blistering, discoloration, or other damage. As the focal point of your kitchen-visually and functionally-it pays to buy the best cabinetry your budget can handle.