When it comes to choosing kitchen cabinets, your options aren’t limited to color and placement. There are many different cabinet styles you can choose from—and each style has its own pros and cons.
“There are tons of options when it comes to kitchen cabinet designs,” Larry Greene, President of Case Design/Remodeling Indy, says. “It’s really about making the kitchen your own, and cabinets are a huge part of kitchen design, both functionally and aesthetically.”
To decide which cabinet style is right for your kitchen, you’ll want to consider a couple of questions. First, what do you want your kitchen to look like? “Envisioning your dream kitchen is important because you want a space that makes you feel at home,” Chris Alexakis, certified contractor and co-founder of CabinetSelect, says.
Then, pair form with function. “Aside from the aesthetics, you need to think about utility,” Alexakis says. Which cabinet style will help you make the most of your space, holding everything you need to store?
Once you’ve narrowed things down by look and function, you may still have a few kitchen cabinet styles to choose from. To help you understand all your options, we’ve rounded up the most popular kitchen cabinet styles—and the pros and cons of each—below.
Meet the Expert
- Larry Greene is the president of Case Design/Remodeling Indy, a home remodeling service.
- Chris Alexakis is a certified contractor and the co-founder of CabinetSelect.
- Caroline Lovelace is the director of furniture sales at Murphy Maude Interiors.
- Leslie Murphy is the owner and creative director of Murphy Maude Interiors.
Shaker cabinets are some of the most popular kitchen cabinets around. Why? “This style strikes a good balance between traditional and modern,” Greene says. “It’s decorative, but also feels lighter than a traditional style cabinet.”
This versatility makes Shaker cabinets an easy addition to many kitchens—and a perfect pick for anyone who loves transitional design. They are simply designed, defined by a plain door with a raised outer border. This minimal canvas offers a lot of room for creativity, giving you the flexibility to play with different paint colors, hardware styles, and more.
“Shaker is great because it is a classic look that is so versatile,” Caroline Lovelace, the director of furniture sales at Murphy Maude Interiors, says.
Pros: Simple, versatile, transitional
Cons: Middle-ground (neither fully contemporary nor fully traditional)
Found in just about every kitchen, base cabinets run along the bottom of your wall—sitting just underneath your sink and countertops. “Base cabinets are probably what comes to mind when you think about a kitchen cabinet,” Alexakis says. “They come with many different variations, like with racks for dishes or with shelves to stack items.”
Base cabinets also come in many different styles, so you can reliably find a set that suits the aesthetic of your kitchen. The only real downside? Since base cabinets are so low, you often have to bend down to get stuff out of them.
Pros: Classic, spacious, available in many styles
Cons: Hard to reach
Known for their simple design and sleek appearance, slab cabinets are a favorite among contemporary designers and minimalists, alike. Slab cabinets are completely plain, so you shouldn’t expect to see any panels, details, or embellishments.
“Slab style is great, because the finish can really shine—whether it be a beautiful glossy melamine or a rift and quartered white oak,” Lovelace says. “The hardware can also add a lot of interest to this style.”
Lovelace notes that since slab cabinets are free of cracks and crevices, they’re also incredibly easy to clean. That said, she doesn't recommend slab cabinets for anyone hoping to keep it simple. Since the design is so basic, a simple coat of paint may not be enough to make the cabinets look interesting.
Pros: Simple, contemporary, easy to clean
Cons: Can look boring
Beadboard cabinets are made up of tall slats that fit together to make the cabinets look striped.
“If you're looking for a classic cottage or farmhouse-style kitchen, beadboard is a great choice,” Leslie Murphy, owner and creative director of Murphy Maude Interiors, says. “You can also choose the depth and length of your slats, which allows you to play around a bit.”
Since they’re both versatile and flexible, beadboard cabinets are a great pick for many kitchens. And they tend to be pretty budget-friendly, too. The only problem? The vertical slats are great at collecting dust, making beadboard cabinets tough to clean.
Pros: Versatile, budget-friendly, somewhat customizable
Cons: Hard to clean
Wall cabinets make a classic addition to many kitchens. Whereas base cabinets run along the bottom of your kitchen wall (below your sink and countertops), wall cabinets run along the top of it (above your sink and countertops). And if you’re really trying to maximize storage space, your wall cabinets can stretch all the way to your ceiling.
“Wall cabinets are not as bulky as their base counterparts, so they don’t have as much storage space,” Alexakis says. “But they are great for utility, and you can reach them while standing up.”
Wall cabinets make use of storage space you might have otherwise lost, so they’re great for space efficiency. And since they’re available in an array of different styles, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a set you like.
Pros: Low-profile, space-efficient, convenient to reach, available in many styles
Cons: Less spacious than base cabinets
When choosing cabinets, you shouldn’t just think about look. You should also consider how much work you have to do—and how much money you have to spend—to pull that look off. “Ready-to-assemble cabinets are the most affordable type of kitchen cabinets,” Alexakis says.
As their name suggests, ready-to-assemble cabinets (or RTA cabinets) come pre-made. “And their biggest advantage is that it's easier for you to pick the type and style that you want without thinking too much about it,” he adds.
So if you’re looking to save time and money, ready-to-assemble cabinets can be a great option. And since they’re available in many different styles, you can likely find a set you love. Just don’t count on any customization—unless you want to do the modification work yourself.
Pros: Budget-friendly, easy to assemble, available in many styles
Cons: Not customizable
Raised Panel Cabinets
Raised panel cabinets are one of the most traditional options on offer. They’re defined by a raised outer border and a raised inner panel with a recessed border around it. “You've likely seen a raised panel in a more traditional kitchen design, as it was quite popular during the 17th and early 18th centuries,” Murphy says. “It's great if you're looking to add dimension and depth to a space.”
Greene notes that since raised panel cabinets are so “ornate,” they’ll make a statement in any kitchen. “If you want cabinets that will fade into the background, these may not be the right choice,” he adds. And if you’re hoping to craft a contemporary kitchen, they’re probably not the right pick for you either.
Pros: Traditional, eye-catching
Cons: Not contemporary, won’t fade into the background
Arched cabinets are exactly what you’d expect them to be: cabinets outfitted with arches. “Arched cabinets are one of the most common (and cost-effective!) cabinets around,” Murphy says. “They're classic, traditional, and feature a raised or recessed panel with a curve at the top.”
Since arched cabinets are so traditional, they may not be the best choice for fans of modern design. But they offer an easy way to add visual interest to your kitchen.
Pros: Traditional, budget-friendly, eye-catching
Cons: Not contemporary
Custom cabinets are made precisely for your space, so they optimize for form and function—but they tend to cost a pretty penny.
“Custom cabinets are the priciest options,” Alexakis says. “However, their design can be completely original, meaning this is the way to go if you really want to make your dream kitchen a reality.”
As you might expect, custom cabinets are available in an array of sizes, styles, and types.
Pros: Customized to you and your space, available in many styles
Tall cabinets are just what they sound like: extra-tall cabinets that often run from ceiling to floor. “Tall cabinets make perfect storage space for pantries, clothes, or large appliances,” Alexakis says. “Since they're so noticeable, they also make for great vessels for designs that can define the look of your kitchen.”
Like base cabinets and wall cabinets, tall cabinets are available in a variety of styles. The only downside is that they’re bulky, so you’ll need to spare a fair amount of space for them.
Pros: Tall, very spacious, eye-catching
Recessed Panel Cabinets
Clean, simple, and versatile, recessed panel cabinets should look great in just about any kitchen. Like raised panel cabinets, recessed panel cabinets boast a raised outer border. But inside that border, the panel is recessed, rather than raised—so it’s completely flat. (This makes the recessed panel cabinets similar to Shaker cabinets, though you can expect to see a little more embellishment on recessed panel cabinets.)
“Recessed panel cabinets have a more sleek appearance that can go either traditional or modern, depending on your style,” Murphy says. “They're also quite simple and have the ability to blend into many different designs.”
This versatility allows recessed panel cabinets to fit into many different design styles, and it also enables them to pair well with bold paint colors and eye-catching hardware.
Pros: Simple, versatile, transitional
Cons: Middle-ground (neither fully contemporary nor fully traditional)
Glass-front cabinets are classic cabinets equipped with glass panels. These glass panels can be frosted or completely see-through, and the cabinets themselves come in a range of different styles.
“Glass-front cabinets could complement several kitchen styles from traditional to modern,” Greene says. And since you can see through them (at least a little bit), glass-front cabinets offer a great way to show off your favorite kitchen essentials.
“It all depends on functional needs and design interest,” Greene says. “Some homeowners may want glass-front cabinets for displaying those special-occasion dishes, while others might prioritize a cabinet that hides the essentials away until they’re needed.”
Pros: Eye-catching, display dishes, available in many styles
Cons: Somewhat transparent (won’t conceal clutter)
Want the custom cabinet feel without the custom cabinet price point? Consider snagging a set of semi-custom cabinets. At their core, semi-custom cabinets are a lot like ready-to-assemble cabinets. But they boast some customizable features—allowing you to choose between a few different cabinet fronts, for example.
“A mix between stock and custom options, semi-custom cabinets allow you to have more of a say in the final results,” Alexakis says. And since semi-custom cabinets aren’t as expensive as full custom cabinets, they’ll let you get creative without breaking the bank.
Pros: Somewhat budget-friendly, somewhat customizable, available in many styles
Cons: Somewhat choice-intensive