Kitchen cabinets



Select your kitchen cabinet styles and matching cabinet finishes

Although there are trends set by designers and manufacturers in the interior design industry, the fact is that each homeowner has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to kitchen cabinet colors. Some people want an exact copy of the latest designer kitchen just because it is trendy right now. While others have developed a love for a certain style and color and repeat it for each new project.

Consider the reason why you are installing this kitchen. If you want to love it just as much as time passes, decide on kitchen cabinet styles and finishes that will stand the test of time. If you are installing a new kitchen for a house to sell, you may get a higher price if the kitchen color and style is the latest trend.

If you choose a basic color and style of cabinet you will be able to update it and add some current trendy decor items when you feel you want a change. Things like paint, hardware and window coverings can instantly update any kitchen.

Here are some tips regarding your new kitchen cabinet styles and finishes.

  • The slab door has always been a choice for homeowners who prefer a clean, uncluttered look. The hardware you choose can vary the look but it will always give a more contemporary feel. Most slab doors are an MDF base with wood veneer, however solid slab doors are also available. The veneer is more suitable since there is a small chance the solid doors can warp in extreme moisture or dryness.


  • A 5 piece door is the most popular choice since it is less expensive to produce than a miter door. A 5 piece door has the frame of 4 pieces of wood and the center panel is the 5th. The frame is solid wood and the rails and styles are attached with a square butt joint. The center panel is engineered wood with a veneer applied. It can not be made with a solid wood center panel since this would immediately warp. If you upgrade this square door to a solid raised center then you would have a choice of a veneer or solid panel in the center.


  • The average person would not really notice the difference in a veneer or solid center panel and the veneer is much less expensive and stains more evenly. The solid raised panel consists of several planks of wood glued together to make the larger piece and you can easily see the different colors and grains in the natural finish. Even with a stain it tends to give a very checkered appearance when the entire kitchen is assembled. If you just see one door you can’t always get a good idea of what the final look will be.


  • A miter door has corners that are cut on a 45 degree angle and usually connected with dovetails or finger joints and dowels. This creates a very strong joint that will remain tight for many years. Since the intricacy of the frame requires hand sanding for these doors this also adds to the cost and the miter door style is definitely a more expensive style. They are available in a flat center panel or a raised center panel and each style changes the look of the door. A miter door style with a raised panel can look quite busy when there are a lot of doors in the kitchen, especially when the profile is accented with a contrasting glaze color.


  • One very important thing to notice when you choose a door style for your new kitchen is the shape of the drawer fronts. Make certain you find out if the drawer fronts and pot drawer fronts will be just a slab or if they will be of a 5 piece construction just like the doors. It really looks bad when you have a lot of pot drawers and they are all just flat slabs of wood when the doors are 5 piece.


  • Thermofoil doors and drawer fronts are single piece, manufactured from MDF computer routed to a selected profile. Thermofoil, a vinyl-like material, is applied to the face and edges using heat, pressure and adhesive to produce a prefinished, easy-care door. They are among the least expensive cabinet doors and come in many colors and simulated wood grains. Although fine for a laundry room, student kitchen or utility kitchen they will definately start to show wear and tear in a short time. They sometimes have a very grainy or ‘orange peel’ finish which in the lighter colors collects dirt and is very hard to keep clean. They can delaminate from heat or sun and even yellow over time. So it's not the best choice for a long term kitchen makeover or new kitchen cabinet color.


  • Maple is the best wood for an applied paint door finish since it has a very smooth surface grain. However on a 5 piece door you may see minor cracks over time where the rails and styles open up in low humidity. This is very normal and can’t be helped since wood is a natural material and expands and contracts with the seasons and changes in humidity. If this is an issue consider either a miter corner door style or a solid high density fiberboard which, when painted, gives a smooth paint finish that will never warp or crack. However, the one piece styles available will be limited.


  • A white or cream painted finish is a timeless kitchen cabinet color and can be used in many different decorating styles. The choice of door shape will determine if your overall style will be classic, traditional, country or contemporary. White has always been popular and I know it will also be easy to update your kitchen if the cabinets are a light painted finish. If you are renewing an existing kitchen, consider painting the cabinets in a light shade. It does not have to be white, there are some great kitchens with light gray, blue, gray-green or taupe cabinets. And the kitchen color can be changed in the future if you wish. Painting over oak will give you more of a texture since oak has a more pronounced grain. This can also look good if you paint the island or base cabinets in a chocolate brown and the upper cabinets an off white.


  • It is important to add that hairline cracks in the finish are to be expected when a paint finish is applied to a solid wood door frame. This shows up where the rail and style meet on the frame because of the contracting and expanding of the wood. It is not a defect but rather a natural outcome of the materials and finish. To avoid this you can request an mdf center panel with a solid maple frame or use a full mdf panel for your painted door style.


  • Another option is to add a glaze to a painted cabinet finish. This is hand applied and so is a more expensive option. The glaze accents the profile of the door style and can look a bit busy if the door has a lot of grooves for the glaze to adhere to. Again, it all comes down to what you like.


  • The best thing about a light painted cabinet is that it give you the ability to install a darker wood floor in the kitchen. This combination is so timeless and yet also so up to date. There will be no specific color you need to match so you can easily change the decor in the future. This combination of finishes will allow for numerous countertop options as well.


  • For a more traditional looking kitchen consider a medium stained wood cabinet. Choose a stain shade in a walnut or mocha color rather than something with too much red or yellow. It will be easier to live with and to decorate around. Maple wood does not stain too well and tends to have a blotchy appearance which is not the most attractive overall look. Some manufacturers get around this by treating the wood and applying a combination stain and finish for a more uniform appearance. This however does not stand up to dents and scratches as the stain has not penetrated the wood and shows up as natural underneath. The medium kitchen cabinet colors are not as popular as very light or very dark.


  • A better choice is oak or cherry since they will absorb stain more evenly. However all wood has a grain which can vary a lot and does show through the stain in the lighter colors. A less expensive product will not be matched as well. If you choose a higher grade of cabinet door the wood will be select and better matched. As always, you get what you pay for, be sure to find out what you are paying for and what the upgrades are so you can make decisions based on knowing the facts.


  • As with lighter or darker choices the key to making your decor feel more contemporary is to have a higher contrast between the kitchen cabinet color and counter or floor. If you chose the medium door stain and also the same color hardwood on the kitchen floor it would all blend together too much. If you choose a tile floor with some areas lighter, some darker and some matching to the door color it would have some contrast but have a more blended, traditional feeling overall.


  • With the choice of a darker painted finish you really have the best of both. You can install a darker floor and still have a contrast with the cabinet. The choice of colors are unlimited and with an added contrast glaze another dimension is added. Again though, stick with basic colors and don’t go into pinkish tones or shades of blue or green if you want the look to last.


  • Although the doors for the cabinets will be wood, sometimes the end panels and accessories like crown, valance and open shelves will be made of a matching (sort of) wood grain melamine. Find this out before you order your kitchen. If the price seems to good it is probably not all wood veneer. This can be fine if the kitchen is painted and the color is matched to the melamine, however you need to be informed so you are not disappointed later when the doors discolor and the panel remain the same. This happened a lot with the ‘pink’ oak kitchens in the past.


  • The dark brown stained finish is also a popular choice for a new kitchen cabinet color. The rich chocolate stain looks best on an oak or cherry wood as the finish will be more uniform. This color looks great for any style of kitchen depending on the door style. Do consider though that it will look best with a lighter floor. A similar color floor can be overpowering in the space. The goal is to show off the rich dark stain color and a lighter floor will achieve this. The counters would need to be lighter than the dark cabinets because dark or even black counters on dark brown cabinets look like one dark mass.


  • If you love the look of rich wood grain for your cabinets consider a medium dark stain on cherry or walnut. These woods have beautiful grain patterns and if the cabinets are a decent quality they will be well matched. Too dark a stain will obscure the grain so compare carefully before you decide. If you choose a medium cabinet stain you may be able to install a very dark floor like slate or black porcelain for a warm looking kitchen.


  • If you are considering a maple door with a very dark finish find out if it has a penetrating stain or a colored topcoat. The later will show every scratch as a light mark. Since maple does not stain well this may not be the best choice for your kitchen cabinet color.