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Your kitchen cabinets take up significant real estate in your kitchen. If you’re considering a remodel, it’s key to choose the right cabinets, finishes, and accessories to complete your space. But there are so many decisions throughout the process that it’s easy to get overwhelmed or to second guess your choices.

With years of experience helping families design and build kitchens of their dreams, we set out to create a guide to kitchen cabinets to make the selection process a little easier. Here are our top tips on how to choose kitchen cabinets for your space.

Evaluating Your Current Space

The first step in learning how to choose kitchen cabinets is to gather information from your current kitchen space. Take a look around your kitchen and ask yourself the following:

  • What spaces are overcrowded (pots and pans, baking tools, etc.)?
  • What spaces are underutilized? Why?
  • Are there any tools or appliances that are difficult or awkward to access?
  • How usable is my current food storage? What improvements could be made?
  • Are there any features or elements of my current kitchen I love that I want to see in my new kitchen?

Knowing what is (and isn’t working) will give you a great foundation for planning your new kitchen cabinet layout.

Exploring Options

Once you have an understanding of your current space, what is working, and what needs improvement, you can start to look at the variety of cabinet and drawer options on the market. If you’re used to standard builder-grade cabinets, you’ll be amazed by the possibilities when it comes to kitchen cabinet configurations! Some of our favorites include:

  • Lifts for stand mixers and other heavy small appliances
  • Lower drawers instead of traditional base cabinets for easy access
  • Kitchen appliance garages to hide counter clutter
  • Adjustable kitchen cabinet shelves that maximize storage

Understanding the options available on the market will help you fit everything you want into your final cabinetry design.

A wall of kitchen cabinets, some with glass fronts to display dishes within.

Choosing Your Cabinet Layout

Now that you have a general idea of the number and type of cabinets you need, you’ll need to figure out how to choose kitchen cabinets that fit your kitchen’s layout. If you work with a professional kitchen designer, they can help you assess and maximize the kitchen space you have to work with, all while considering your personal priorities like:

  • Dining space
  • Prep and cooking space
  • Storage and pantry space
  • Entertaining areas
  • Kid-friendly space for homework and other activities

Enlisting an expert will prevent you from spending thousands on a new kitchen only to realize that the oven opens into a major throughway or the cabinet layout makes no sense when putting dishes away. They’ll make every inch of cabinet space useful for you and your family.

Picking Your Cabinet Style

Cabinetry is one of the most functional additions to any kitchen. But since they take up so much real estate in your space, you’ll want to choose a style you love as well. Here are our tips on how to choose kitchen cabinets when it comes to frames and doors.

Cabinet Frame Options

You probably haven’t noticed the frame style of your kitchen cabinets, but it can make a big impact on the final look of your space. Generally speaking, there are three kitchen cabinet styles available when it comes to cabinet box frames:

  • Inset: Inset doors sit flush inside the door opening of the cabinet box (rather than on top of it) for a sleek, finished look. They are not as common (and can be expensive) because they require special door stops since the door doesn’t stop against the front of the cabinet.
  • Full overlay: Full overlay cabinet doors lay on top of the front cabinet frame and cover the cabinet front completely, nearly touching the neighboring cabinet door. They are one of our favorite options because of their clean, contemporary look.
  • Partial overlay: Partial overlay cabinet doors are considered “standard” for many home builders and remodelers. Unlike with full overlay cabinet doors, the door only covers part of the front of the cabinet box, leaving gaps between the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Cabinet Door Styles

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is which style of cabinet doors and drawer fronts you want to use in your kitchen. Luckily, there are hundreds of different cabinet door styles to choose from.

Some of the most common cabinet door styles we recommend include:

  • Shaker: Clean and simple
  • Slab: Sleek and modern
  • Raised panel (square or arched): Classic and traditional
  • Mullion (glass): Great for showcasing dishes

When researching how to choose kitchen cabinets, consider all of the kitchen cabinet styles available. Your cabinets take up a great deal of the visual landscape of your kitchen and the style you choose will make a big difference in the final appearance of your kitchen.

Choosing Your Finish

Once you’ve chosen the style for your kitchen cabinet frames and doors, you have one big decision left – will you choose to have your cabinets stained or painted? Here are the pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to paint or stain kitchen cabinets.

Staining Your Kitchen Cabinets

Stained wood cabinets are a traditional option that has withstood the test of time. If you choose to stain your kitchen cabinets, you’ll want to start by selecting a high-quality wood for your cabinetry, since your stain will showcase it prominently. Oak, alder, maple, and cherry are all strong choices that will stain beautifully. 

A kitchen with gorgeous wood cabinets with a dark stain.

There are hundreds of choices when it comes to staining your cabinets from pale whitewashes to traditional cherry lacquers. Choose a stain that reflects the tone of your kitchen, whether you are looking for a casual space or a more formal look. 

Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Painting offers a modern look that many families find stylish and practical. There are so many options when it comes to paint, from classic, bright white to deep blue, green, grey, or even black. Painted cabinets can offer contrast to your wall, counter, and flooring choices and really set the tone of a space. One of the benefits of painted cabinets is that you can opt for MDF or composite wood doors if you prefer.

MDF is a common option for cabinet doors because it won’t warp or crack even after years of use, and it’s more resistant to changes in humidity than wood. MDF doors offer a longer life for cabinets in a high-traffic kitchen and look super smooth when painted with no knots or grain showing through.

Selecting Hardware You Love

When looking for advice on how to choose kitchen cabinets, don’t forget the finishing touches! The perfect cabinet hardware can turn an ordinary kitchen into a high-end culinary space. Here are our tips on how to choose the best hardware and kitchen cabinet features like hinges and pulls.

Handles & Drawer Pulls

Your cabinet handles and drawer pulls can be both practical and beautiful. There are hundreds if not thousands of options to choose from, including knobs, bars, recessed pulls, and more.

You’ll also want to select a finish that matches the rest of your space. We recommend selecting hardware that matches or complements other elements in your kitchen, like your faucet. Whether you opt for brass, nickel, or even matte black, matching these metals will help you create a visually cohesive space.

Hinges & Slides

While you’ve likely thought about your cabinet handles, you may not have considered the kind of hinges you’d like – but they can make just as big of a difference in the functionality of your cabinets. We strongly recommend opting for slow-close cabinet door hinges and drawer slides (and use them on all of our cabinet installations) to help your cabinets last for years to come. They prevent children and adults alike from slamming doors closed and damaging your cabinet and drawer boxes, and add the finishing touch to your kitchen experience.

Adding on Extras

Finally, you’ll want to consider any extras that would be helpful as a part of your new cabinetry. Check out these ideas to take your kitchen cabinets to the next level.

Cabinet & Drawer Inserts & Organizers

There are countless inserts and organizers that you probably came across in your early research on how to choose kitchen cabinets. Now it’s time to add these finishing touches to keep your drawers neat and tidy.

Consider elements like:

  • Pot and pan storage racks
  • Utensil organizers
  • Knife blocks
  • Pull-down or lift-up storage
  • Modular or adjustable kitchen cabinet shelves

These upper kitchen cabinets have lighting underneath to illuminate the counter below at night.


Lighting is another finishing touch that is easy to forget about. But, something as simple as a strip of LED lights under your upper cabinets can illuminate your counters when you or your family find themselves needing a late-night snack. They can also provide a nightlight for those just passing through.

Childproofing & Safety Features

Finally, you’ll want to consider any safety features necessary for your home. Childproof cabinet locks can prevent children (and pets) from getting into cleaning products, alcohol, and more. This finishing touch ensures that your new cabinets are functional and safe for your family.

Ready to start your kitchen cabinet transformation? Schedule a free consultation with Kitchens by Eileen to learn about our custom kitchen remodel process.