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Choose the Right Look for Your Cabinets

July 31 2010

Selecting cabinet styles for your home is trickier than you may think.  Style options don’t appear to be that numerous, but you can really enhance the ambiance of your kitchen or bath and make other subsequent design choices easier by choosing the right style cabinet doors for your home. 

Door styles

The cabinet door sets the style of the room.  Mostly made of wood or veneers, cabinet doors come in a variety of styles: 

Square raised panel – the outer edges of the door are flat, but the inside panel is mitered and raised, giving some depth to the door.  This is a traditional, transitional or contemporary looking door panel. 

Square flat panel – the center panel of the door is recessed slightly and is flat.  This style leans more to contemporary styles due to its’ simplicity. 

Shaker flat panel – the simplest of styles, the center panel is inserted even with the outside panels.  However, further style can be added with a center wood strip or bead board which gives a more country or vintage look.

Cathedral raised panel – the center panel is recessed and raised with a curved detail at the top of the center panel.  This tends to be the most formal and traditional look for cabinetry.  Some doors repeat the curved detail at the bottom of the center panel for an extra formal look.

Cathedral flat panel – the curved detail is also at the top, but the center panel is flat.  This style tends to look less traditional or formal than the raised panel.

Eyebrow raised panel – the raised center panel has a wide, gentle arch at the top. 

Eyebrow flat panel – the center panel is flat, but accented at the top with a wide, gentle arch.

Other details can change the look of the doors, such as adding mullions of wood strips in the center, glass inserts, or rope trim design.  The more trims and details you add, the more expensive and formal the cabinets will appear.

Paint and stains

Generally, the darker the stain, the more formal or contemporary the cabinets will appear.   Stained wood wears very well, as do factory-painted cabinets. 

Many cabinets are offered in a factory-painted white or bisque finish, which is always good in a kitchen.  An antiquing or aging finish can be done for a Country French effect. 

Keep in mind that light stains can yellow over time as cooking grease, oils, and soot breaks down the stain.  This can be prevented by using proper ventilation while cooking.

Types of Wood

Wood grains add great beauty to cabinets, and are further embellished by rich stains. The same stain on oak will look completely different on pine, so make sure you can see a sample of your wood with the color of stain you want before you commit. Among some popular woods are:

Oak – a great open grained wood, oak is always great in a country or country French setting.  Color and pattern will be inconsistent.

Pine – a soft wood, it’s look is light and knotted.  This is a casual wood, great for country looks.  Color and pattern will be inconsistent.  Pine is also easily painted. 

Alder – a soft, closed grained hardwood, this wood looks best stained medium to darker hues.  The color consistency is very good with alder.  Alder looks great with either traditional or contemporary styles. 

Cherry – naturally rich in color, cherry will deepen in color over time.  Cherry looks best in medium to darker hues.  Cherry woods look more traditional and formal. 

Hickory – a heavy, open grained wood that has a dramatic variation of colors.  Best in stains that allow the variety of wood tones to show through in a matte finish.  This wood is more casual in appearance and great in cabins, southwest styles, and country styles. 

Trims, accessories, and pulls

Cabinets usually are attached with a strip of molding at the top of the cabinets.  The trims, panels, and fillers should complement the door panel style selected.  Accessories such as a built-in wine racks, bread boxes, or open shelving for dishes can add variety and interest to your cabinets.  

Some door panels are styled to be used without pulls by having a slight indent behind the door.  An unadorned door will look very contemporary, but may not be as easy to open.   Think of door pulls like jewelry for the kitchen, so you can enhance your cabinet fronts with chrome, brass, nickel, copper, porcelain or resin pulls.
No matter what kind of cabinets you choose, your kitchen will look wonderful when you have pulled the whole look together with the door fronts, type of wood, the finish used, trims, and pulls.  Many stores will offer a decorating service that will give recommendations to help you put the look together to get the look you want.