How to Select Your Kitchen Cabinets’ Scale, Style & Features (Part 2)

November 1, 2021

Last month, I shared some advice on selecting the right material for your kitchen cabinets based on your budget and lifestyle needs. Today, we’re going to take the next step toward your dream kitchen by looking at the style options you have for cabinets. Spoiler alert… there are way more than you think!

Step 1: Define the Cabinet Dimensions

Before you select your kitchen cabinets’ style, you will need to consider their scale. The height, width, and depth of your future cabinets will depend on the size of the kitchen, its footprint, and your ceiling height. That’s a lot of different variables, which is why this is something you should absolutely work with a professional to establish. 

However, I want to help you prepare for that conversation, so here’s what you can expect...

First, I usually suggest that you take your upper cabinets all the way up to the ceilings. Not only does this create a more updated look, but it also helps raise the visual height of the ceiling and means more storage for you! That’s three wins in one.

Second, it’s important to establish the right amount of distance between your countertops and your upper cabinets. You want to make sure that your counter and cabinets are both at usable height and that the available space fits how you will use it. For example, if you love having your blender or Kitchenaid mixer out on the counter, you will want to make sure it can fit! 

Depending on the height of the walls, 16” to 18” between your cabinets and counters is usually just right, but your design expert will help you establish this number. Once you have it, you will know the approximate height of your upper cabinets. Same for lower cabinets, but make sure you factor in the thickness of your countertops and their elevation up off the floor. 

I know — so many details! Again, a professional will help you with all this, so find someone with experience, and you’ll be in good hands.

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In my kitchen, I specified cabinets that reach the ceiling and include a mix of lower cabinets with drawers and doors. Which brings us to...

Step 2: Select Your Cabinet Door Style

The style of your home will dictate the style of your kitchen cabinets. After all, cabinets are a fixed element of the home and become part of the home’s architecture. If they don’t feel like they belong with the rest of the home, they will stand out, in a bad way. Here are the cabinet door style options and which home styles they pair well with...

4 Types of Cabinet Door Styles

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Design Insights - Cabinet-Styles-Designs-By-Keti-Dallas-Timeless-Luxury-Kitchen

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Raised Cabinet Doors: Best for traditional style homes

Recessed Cabinet Doors: Also best for traditional style homes

Slab or “Flat” Cabinet Doors: Best for modern style homes

Shaker Cabinet Doors: Best for transitional or contemporary style homes

If you aren’t sure what your home’s architectural style is, take a few pictures of the interior and exterior and bring them with you when you meet with your cabinet specialist OR work with an interior designer. I can tell you in about 2 seconds. 😉

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P.s. Although we’re talking about kitchen cabinets, the same rules apply to cabinets in bathrooms, home offices, living spaces, and beyond.

Step 3: Door Installation Type

Now you have your door style, but that’s not it. Once the door style has been selected, we need to also look into the cabinet door installation types. This refers to the construction or fit of the cabinet doors in relation to the cabinet frame. Again, a picture is the best way to explain the different options:

3 Cabinet Door Installation Types

How to Choose Inset vs. Overlay Cabinets for your Home

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Full Overlay: With Full Overlay cabinets, the doors completely overlap the frame, minimizing the frame’s exposure entirely when closed. This installation type is typically paired with Slab doors, which makes sense for a modern-style home or the occasional contemporary home, as it creates a clean, streamlined look.

Partial Overlay: As the name suggests, when choosing this design, the cabinet door partially covers the frame of the cabinet. Partial Overlay is the most common installation type and usually fits with traditional homes, transitional homes, and some contemporary homes.

Inset Cabinet Doors: For a more classic and timeless look, Inset cabinet doors are the way to go. The doors sit flush with the frame, creating a look that feels clean yet classic. This style also works great with Shaker style cabinets, and I tend to love this look better than overlay.

Designs by Keti Home Office Custom built ins Dallas Lake Highlands Renovation

Because I added all the built-ins after we got the keys to the house, in my home office above, I selected Shaker style doors with Inset installation type. I love that clean, seamless look. Plus, in my mind, built-ins are kind of like a giant piece of furniture, therefore they should mirror that. But...

Designs by Keti Kitchen Design White Cabinets Blue Island

…in my kitchen, I went with Shaker style doors and a Partial Overlay installation type. The reason being, I was working with a production builder and they don’t budge on some of the details they offer. Both of these styles look like they belong in the same house, but since the kitchen is a larger space, the Partial Overlay style makes the wall of cabinets appear visually wider. Design is an art!

Step 4: Selecting Your Cabinets’ Color and Hardware

The final aesthetic element of your kitchen cabinets is the finish. Is it painted in a color? Stained? Natural? What type of hardware should you add and how do you choose?

First, the fixed elements in the kitchen must be taken into consideration. This includes your countertops, backsplash, wall and trim color, and in some cases, your fireplace (yes, your fireplace) if it’s in close proximity. Just like a well-styled outfit, all of the elements in a space visually communicate with each other, whether you want them to or not. Our job is to make sure it’s a happy dialogue, not an argument! 😉

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This is why I always suggest working with a designer at the very beginning of your project, or at the very least, picking out every element in the space and making sure they coordinate well together before you order a single piece. 

Hardwood flooring is the exception in the sense that, if it’s hardwood flooring we’re talking about, we can treat it like a pair of jeans — it goes with any top. If your flooring is tile, then yes, we do need to take it into consideration when we select the other elements in the space, cabinet color included.

My advice to all my clients is that there has to be style and color continuity in your home. That’s how you know your home will be beautiful, classic, and timeless for many, many years — which means happy days for you and resale value if and when you need it!

Designs by Keti Kitchen Design White Cabinets Blue Island

Because my kitchen opens up to my living room, I created a color palette of white, blue, grey, black, and warm woods before we painted a single cabinet or installed a single backsplash or fireplace tile. I also chose sleek hardware in matte black for a polished, timeless look. That’s how you get a design that looks professional and LASTS.

Step 5: Functional Cabinet Features

The last step in designing your cabinets (so you can finally order them) is to consider any built-in features they might include. Things like under-cabinet lighting, pull-out shelves, built-in spice racks, utensil holders, etc. These are features that don’t usually come cheap but do make everyday life easier and are typically expected if your home is at the luxury price point. 

Side Note: A “luxury” home is a home that’s valued at twice the price of a median home. In Dallas, since the median home is around $216K (or perhaps a tad higher), then by definition, a home that’s valued at $430K and above is a luxury home. At this price point, it’s important to invest in features that support what is expected from it! That’s how you get and preserve great ROI, whether you’re listing now or down the road.

So, what should you add? When we’ve done custom or semi-custom work for clients (or my own home), we have incorporated under-cabinet lighting, pull-out shelves, lazy susans, and tilted cabinet drawers at the very least. I’ve also added glass cabinet doors as a stand-out design feature or installed built-in wine or beverage fridges between cabinets. Take a look at my full kitchen design here for some more ideas!

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And that’s it! Your next step is to order those beautiful cabinets, let your cabinet makers work their magic, and watch those beauties come to life in your new, fabulous kitchen. This process may take some time, and yes, there are a lot of details to corral before you can make any movement, but the result will transform your home and the way you live every day. And that’s worth it, don’t you think?

Need help designing your kitchen from top to bottom? I would love to support you. Reach out to me here for an intro chat and let’s see if we’re right for each other.

— Keti

P.S. Don’t forget to download my Renovation Guide below!

We increase the value of real estate through profit driven and timeless design for renovations and home staging. Whether you’re flipping a property, renovating, staging to sell, or want to wisely invest in updates, your ROI is our business.
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