If you are just starting your process of remodeling or choosing cabinets for your new kitchen a lot has changed over the past few years.  There are a lot more door styles than there used to be and some of the terms used probably mean nothing to you without a picture or explanation.

People often confuse door styles with overlays.  It’s important to know the difference between them and what they mean. Both the style of door and overlay you choose will have the largest impact when it comes to the appearance of your kitchen.

Before even picking a cabinet door style it’s important to understand three key terms.  It’s important to know the difference between inset, partial overlay, and full overlay.

Inset and Overlays

Inset Cabinet Doors

Door Styles- InsetInset was a popular way of doing cabinets in the early 1900’s that hasmade a comeback.  The doors and drawers are flush with cabinet frame. This gives the cabinet a more custom look, but can also be one of the more expensive choices.  Something to consider when using inset doors is that you may have a little less cabinet space and the drawers tend to be smaller.  Should something be sticking out of the cabinet drawer when you go to close it, you may end up denting or damaging the cabinet frame.

door styles- partial overlayPartial Overlay Cabinet Doors

Other similar terms are “Traditional Overlay”, “Standard Overlay” or “Semi-Full Overlay”, the doors and drawers cover only part if the cabinet frame.  They are mounted on the face of the cabinet box.  You may lose some space in your drawers and cabinets when choosing this option as well. Many homeowners don’t find them as aesthetically pleasing as they do the inset or full overlay doors, but they are usually the least expensive option.

Full Overlay Cabinet DoorsDoor Styles Full Overlay

With Full Overlay the cabinet doors and drawers fully cover the frame of the cabinet box. So looking at the face of the cabinets you’re really only seeing the doors and drawers. The frame of the cabinet is not visible. The one possible drawback with this choice is that the doors and drawers are more likely to interfere with adjacent drawers and doors (or appliances and trim) if not designed properly. On the good side, you may gain a little more usable space with Full Overlay. Also the cabinets have a more uniform and uninterrupted look. Should any damage occur to the face frame of the cabinet it is hidden behind the cabinet drawers and doors.

Door Styles Framed FramelessFrameless Vs. Framed

Frameless is not really a cabinet “overlay” per se, but more of a different construction of the cabinet. Frameless is often referred to as “European style” cabinet construction. We cover it because it is closely related to Full Overlay. Frameless cabinets are just as they sound. They areconstructed without a frame. So when you look at the face of the cabinet without the door on, there is no face frame (see picture). But looking at it with the door on it looks like a Full Overlay cabinet because all you see is the door and drawer. Frameless cabinets are less sturdy, as you can imagine, since the face frame is a source of strength to hold everything together.

Door Styles

Door styles have no real connection to the function of your kitchen, but are more of a visual preference to determine the look and feel. That being said, the style you select affects the look of your kitchen more than anything else you choose.

Keep in mind there are many variations of these styles, but these are the terms you will see used most often.

Popular Jargon for Door Styles

describe the imageRecessed Panel Also known as “Flat Panel” has a center panel that is surrounded by a solid wood frame. This style is typically less expensive than raised panel or others because less material is used for the panel.




Door Styles Raised PanelRaised Panel A decorative wood panel (may be solid wood or veneer) with a raised center surrounded by a frame. This choice can have a richer looking choice than recessed panel.




Door Style ShakurShaker Common door style that is a type of Recessed Panel door/drawer.  The frame is made from four pieces of wood plus a single flat center panel.





Door Style Bead BoardBead Board The center panel of the cabinet door is made to look like bead board paneling.





Door Styles LouveredLouvered The center panel is made of horizontal wood slats.  There are spaces in between each slat.  Many people like to use them in laundry rooms or near a heat source due to the increased ventilation.





Door Styles Flat SlabSlab/Flat A door made of a single piece of solid wood or laminated particleboard with no surrounding frame.






Door Styles ArchedArched – The top of the door panel frame forms and arch. This style can have a recessed panel or a raised panel as well.




Door Styles CathedralCathedral A version of an arched door where mainly the center portion of the door panel frame is arched for a more dramatic arch.




Door Styles DistressedDistressed Distressing can be done to many door styles. Distressing is an antique look where the corners have been rubbed off or techniques have been used to give it a weathered look.  Many people also refer to this as cottage style.





Ent Center Speaker GrillSpeaker Grill – Did you know you can also replace the center door panel with speaker grill for entertainment centers? Then hide your speakers inside the cabinets so sound can get through. This is something you can do to continue the look of your cabinets in other rooms of your house.



Other Custom Door Styles – There are countless other variations of styles of doors you may see, including double raised panel, radius doors, and anything you can think of that can be used in place of the center panel of the door. If you have special ideas or needs for a unique cabinet door style, talk to your cabinet designer about possible options.

For a free “Guide to Cabinetry” click below.