Guide to Kitchen Cabinetry

What types of cabinets you choose—and how carefully they’re installed—can make the difference between a super-functional kitchen and a frustrating one.
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Your cabinets’ job is to keep everything—pots and pans, dishware, small appliances, wine glasses, cans, spices, the trash—out of sight when you don’t need it, and readily available when you do. Something as small as putting the hinges on the wrong side of a cabinet door—or getting fronts too large for your space, so you can’t open them to get your stuff out—can result in clanging and crashing and lots of frustration, and maybe giving up on ever getting your blender out. And trust us: You don’t want to order flat-panel fronts when what you really mean is slab. 

Your cabinets will need to be sturdy, especially with all the opening and closing and storing they’ll need to do. But they’ll also set the tone for your kitchen, style-wise. Time to choose carefully: Traditional or modern? Shaker-style or super-sleek? Do you want open shelving where you can put your favorite dishware on full display—or would you rather keep it all behind closed doors? We’ve got the inside track on how to get cabinetry that’s perfect for you—and that works.

TL;DR: We’ve got you on the whole cabinets thing.

A Quick Note on Terms

Cabinet Terms Diagram

First, a quick terminology lesson: “Boxes” are the body of the cabinet, and “doors” or “fronts” are, well, the attached doors. Sometimes they’re sold separately. It’s the same concept for “drawers” and “drawer fronts.” “Wall” or “upper” cabinets hang above the counter, while “base” cabinets are what your countertop rests on. Skipp offers your choice of top-quality Dura Supreme cabinets or super-sturdy, tried-and-tested IKEA cabinet boxes paired with Semihandmade or Reform doors.

How Many Drawers Do I Need?

Kitchen Cabinet Drawers

One or two drawers among a bunch of base cabinets should be enough, right? We don’t think so. While drawers tend to be more costly than cabinets, we suggest installing as many drawers as your budget allows. Why? Drawers are super space efficient (particularly if you opt for graduated-size drawers, with deeper ones on the bottom and slimmer ones on top, for holding all shapes and sizes of kitchenware, from silverware to pasta pots, with no lost space). Plus, all of Skipp’s drawer offerings are soft-close—no banging or slamming.

“I like having deep drawers for lower cabinets since everything is accessible from above—unlike swing doors for lower cabinets, which require a lot of bending over to get things,” says Malachi Connolly, principal architect of Malachi Connolly Design

On the other hand, if you’ve got young kids, you might be better off with more cabinets. ”Keep in mind a double cabinet can easily be locked with child safety latches, while drawers make it a little more difficult,” notes Jessi Economos, founder and principal designer of JEID Studio.

Choosing Your Boxes: Framed vs. Frameless

Now let’s get into your cabinet’s innards: the boxes, which come in two main styles—framed and frameless. Sound boring? It matters more than you’d think.


Framed Kitchen Cabinet

Framed cabinets have an inner frame around the interior of the cabinet. The cabinet doors attach to this framing, either as a full overlay (covering the frame completely), semi-overlay (leaving some of the frame visible when you look at the cabinet from the front), or inset into the inside of the frame (leaving all of the frame exposed). The biggest downside is that this framing cuts down on usable storage space; plus, it can be a pain to reach around, particularly in a two-door cabinet, where a strip of wood will run down the center. The big plus of framed cabinets? They lend a more traditional feel, if that’s what you’re going for.


Frameless Kitchen Cabinet

That means that, yes, frameless cabinets are designed to have no frame. This gives you more cabinet space (up to 15% more), and you won’t have to maneuver around the frame when you’re trying to get a stack of plates out. The cabinet doors are also attached directly to the cabinet wall so that no part of the cabinet box is visible from the front, which lends a more streamlined look that works better in modern kitchens.

Upper Cabinets Or No Upper Cabinets?

Open Shelving in Kitchen

Traditionally, kitchens have both upper and base cabinets. But lately trends have been leaning towards just base cabinets, no uppers: It makes the room feel more open, and some people—particularly those on the shorter side—might not miss having to stand on tiptoe (or get out a step stool, or call a tall friend) to reach items on the top cabinet shelves. Then again, you’ll lose a good chunk of storage space if you decide to go without upper cabinets.

🧰 Pro Tip: Open shelving is a popular alternative to upper cabinets: “For plates and glasses, I think open shelves are generally good so that you never have to hunt around for things,” says Connolly. Keep in mind, though, open shelving is, well, open—really open. You’ll have to dust regularly. And everything will be in full view, all the time. If you tend to haphazardly pile dishes and glasses, you might feel better with cabinets. That way, you can close the door and not be confronted by a visual mess every time you glance into the kitchen.

Kitchen Cabinet Sizes

Kitchen Cabinets

Upper and base cabinet boxes measure about 18-36 inches wide, left to right. Any boxes over 36 inches are extra wide and offer more storage space. “You can do that for base or upper cabinets," says Economos, but you'll want to use two smaller doors rather than one big door that may be impossible to swing open, especially in a tight space.

The same goes for cabinet depth, the distance between the front of the cabinet and the wall. A standard upper cabinet is 12 inches deep, and base cabinets are usually 24 inches deep. A slightly deeper upper cabinet—say, 15 inches—lends more storage space, but keep in mind that these will be boxier and probably better for kitchens that aren’t a tight squeeze. If you want your kitchen to look taller (and avoid dust collection on the tops of your cabinets, and maximize storage space), you can extend your upper cabinets to the ceiling.

For a proper work height that’s comfortable for the average person, you’ll want your workspace—including base cabinets, countertop, and toe kick (that little indentation around the bottom of the cabinets)—to measure 36 inches tall.

🧰 Pro Tip: Make sure your cabinets will, you know, actually fit your plates. If you have extra large plates or platters that you'll be storing in the wall cabinets, measure them to make sure they’ll fit.

Cabinet Door Styles

Flat Panel

Flat Panel Kitchen Cabinet

Shaker cabinets are the best-known and most popular type of flat-panel cabinet, with a simple, recessed panel and no embellishment. But other flat-panel cabinets have recessed panels with a little more detailing. Shaker cabinets work in nearly every style of kitchen, while other flat-panel styles are more traditional.

Raised Panel

Raised Panel Kitchen Cabinet

Unlike a flat-panel door, raised-panel doors have an inset panel that bumps back out in the center, often with some beveling or ornamentation—perfect for those looking to add traditional style to the kitchen. Like flat-panel cabinets, though, the inset areas and detailing can become a place for dust and grime to collect—and the more detailed they are, the trickier they are to wipe down.


Slab Kitchen Cabinet Fronts

Slab cabinet doors are totally flat: no panels, no detailing, nothing. They’re the most minimalist and modern of the styles (industrial types, we’re looking at you) and they’re also the easiest to wipe down (you too, neat freaks).


Glass-Front Kitchen Cabinet

Glass-front cabinets have glass panels sometimes supported by mullions, little dividers like you’d see on old-school windows. Can’t quite commit to open shelving? Glass-front cabinets are a great in-between: Your things are on display, but won’t get dusty. Keep in mind there’s no such thing as glass-front drawers, so if you’re adding pull-out storage into the mix, you’ll need to find another cabinet door style that goes well.


Beadboard Kitchen Cabinet

Beaded detailing adds the look of wood paneling to a flat-panel or slab door. This style started in cottages, but it works with a variety of looks. (Remember what we said about grease building up in nooks and crannies? This can happen bigtime with beadboard, so just make sure to wipe down carefully.)

Corner Cabinets

Corner Cabinet in Kitchen

Got an awkward space in the corner? Specially designed corner cabinets can make use of that weird little area. We suggest outfitting yours with a Lazy Susan or pull-out shelves so nothing gets lost to the depths.

A Bit About Hardware

When it comes to cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, don’t just opt for any old design. They might be small, but they have a huge impact on the way your kitchen looks. Choose which fits your aesthetic best:

No Hardware

Kitchen Cabinet with Cut-Outs

Yes, it’s possible to go for no hardware at all, and instead choose cut-outs in the surface of the cabinet or drawer that allow you to open them with ease. This is, of course, the most unobtrusive option.


Kitchen Cabinet with Edge Pulls

A happy medium? Hardware that’s slim, sleek, and keeps a low profile, like thin metal edge pulls.


Kitchen Cabinet with Hardware

Or, go more traditional with decorative, detailed knobs and pulls in wood or metal.

Why Doesn’t Skipp Do Cabinet Refinishing or Repainting?

If you want to change up the look of your kitchen, you might be thinking about professional cabinet refinishing. But, believe it or not, that route can be as expensive—even more expensive—than all-new cabinetry. Skipp believes in creating a new, designer kitchen from top to bottom, so your cabinets work in tandem with everything else and every tiny detail fits your lifestyle—no quick fixes or bandaids.

All of our cabinets are timeless and built to last. But if you want to leave room to change things up down the road, opt for our IKEA boxes with Semihandmade or Reform fronts and you can easily detach the cabinet doors and pop on another set.


Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram