The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Types

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated August 12, 2021
Father and daughter do chores while other daughter is having a snack
Maskot/Maskot via Getty Images

From the cabinet door style to its general construction, knowing the top cabinet terms can simplify your design process

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Cabinetry has the power to completely transform the look and energy of a kitchen from simple to elegant or from busy to sleek. And once you start the kitchen renovation process, it's very easy to catch—pardon the pun—cabinet fever. With all the common cabinet terms, styles, materials, and design options out there, we'll help you narrow down the right types for your kitchen—and have you sounding like a pro in the meantime.

Kitchen Cabinets by Amount of Customization

As you start your cabinet journey, prepare to choose from one of four options to get started:

  • Custom

  • Semi-custom

  • Stock

  • Ready to Assemble (RTA)


Unsurprisingly, custom cabinets are just as they sound. Work with the best cabinet designers and installers in the field to pick from the material, look, and construction style of your dreams. Custom cabinets are typically the most expensive, but allow for the most design flexibility.


While you can choose the color, material, and finish of your cabinets, you will not have as many options as the fully custom route. But because you'll work with premade options, the process takes less time.


If you're facing decision fatigue and are looking to save some money, stock cabinets allow you to choose from premade options with all the details set in stone. These may not be an option if you need unique sizes or styles, but are quick and less expensive otherwise.

Ready-to-Assemble (RTA)

Take on RTA cabinets if you're a confident DIY-er and only want to install basic cabinetry. Ready-to-assemble cabinets come in set sizes, colors, and with all the hardware you need to install without a professional.

Kitchen Cabinets by Type of Storage

A minimalistic wooden kitchen
Magryt -

Choosing the right doors, drawers, and wall cabinets is a bit like playing Tetris with your kitchen design. The four main options for cabinet storage are:

  • Base

  • Tall

  • Wall

  • Specialty


Base cabinets sit closest to your kitchen floor, typically below the counter or on the bottom part of an island. The standard size is 24” deep, 34” to 36” high, and 36” wide.


Think of these cabinets as the ideal pantry or broom-holding design. Tall cabinets run from the floor to the tops of the cabinetry, up to 84” high.


These are the cabinets that jut out above the counters, sink, and appliances. Depth ranges upwards from 12”, leaving space for food prep on the counter.

Specialty Use

All of the unique, oddly shaped cabinets fit into this category. They may hold cookie sheets, wine fridges, cleaning supplies, or even enclose certain appliances behind the streamlined look of your cabinetry.

Kitchen Cabinets by Construction

Now we'll get a little more technical. Whether you work with a designer or install cabinets on your own, you'll have the choice between one of three construction varieties. This detail indicates where and how the cabinet doors meet with its facade. Choose from:

  • Partial overlay

  • Full overlay

  • Inset

We should note that you will also be able to choose from framed or unframed cabinets. Framed cabinets include extra wood around the outside of the front facade, whereas unframed cabinets connect the walls directly to the door.

Partial Overlay

You've likely seen this style in the majority of home kitchens. The doors are attached to framed cabinets and leave an inch or two of space around the outside of the doors.

Full Overlay

For a more flat and even look, full overlay kitchen cabinets do not leave any space between the door and the frame. Depending on the door style, many look as if the doors blend into one another.


In this case, the doors are set slightly inside the cabinet box. When closed, they sit flush against the frame. This option saves space and provides a clean look similar to the full overlay.

Cabinet Door Styles

A stylish kitchen interior with grey cabinets
sonyachny -

Let's get down to the part of the cabinet that has the most say in your kitchen style—the doors. In addition to choosing the best material for your unique kitchen, you have your pick of geometrical designs that make a cabinet door stand out.


Cabinets with a beadboard design include panels of wood either set within or across the entire panel. The style works with a wide variety of manufactured and natural wood for both rustic and modern designs.


Just as it sounds, distressed cabinet doors provide a rustic, right-off-the-barn look for country and farmhouse kitchens. Homeowners can create the look with paint, stain, or by choosing uniquely knotted wood.


Louvered cabinets mirror the look of your outside shutters. Small rows of wood sit within a frame to create a quaint, classic style.


To put it simply, mullion cabinets separate glass window panels. Much like the window on the front of your home, the style separates either one large or several small squares of glass so you can view the cupboard's contents.

Raised Panel

Take a look at the center panel of a kitchen cabinet to catch this traditional style. If you find an elevated rectangle carved in the center of the door, it is a raised panel.

Recessed Panel or Shaker Style

On the opposite side of things, a recessed panel—known as shaker-style doors—occurs when the center panel pushes back into the door with a surrounded elevated frame. You can combine this look with a beadboard or louvered style.

Reverse-Raised Panel

Reverse-raised styles offer a little extra style when moving about the kitchen. While the center panel is very similar to the Shaker style, you only see the flat side of the wood on the outside of the door. However, when you open up the cupboard, you'll find the raised centers that usually sit on the flip side.


Looking for that sleek and modern cabinet look? Minimalist kitchens typically opt for slab panel doors that have no ornamentation on the outside of the inside of the door.

Make Them Your Own

Even after all these kitchen cabinet styles, we haven't even touched on choosing the right material and color for your cabinets. But once you understand your basic style options, you and your cabinet installation team can jump into a home renovation project with endless possibilities.

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