Kitchen Cabinets 101: A breakdown of terminology and options

If you’re remodeling a kitchen or building a new home, cabinetry will likely be your single largest expenditure, so it’s important to research the many options before deciding what best fits your kitchen’s overall décor, your needs and your budget.

Custom, Semi-Custom & Stock

While the term custom is self-explanatory when it comes to kitchen cabinets, the difference between semi-custom and stock can be less clear.

Custom cabinetry is exactly as it sounds: every element – from size and shape to material and finish – is individually created to exact specifications. Custom cabinets can be made by a local cabinetmaker or can be ordered from a company such as Mouser, a 3rd generation, family-owned company which makes cabinets in Kentucky and can ship them directly to the home to be installed.

Stock cabinets are mass manufactured and are available in a limited number of styles, colors and sizes. Cabinet widths typically start at nine inches and increase in three-inch increments. While the styles, materials and colors may be more limited, there are still a plenty of choices. With a lower price point and a much quicker turn-around time from order to delivery, there are certainly pros to opting for stock.

Semi-custom cabinetry bridges the gap in both options, lead time, and pricing between custom and stock. The finish choices, such as painting, staining and glazing, are usually more plentiful than with stock cabinets, with more options in sizing as well.

Cabinet Door Style

In addition to color, the door style you choose will have a substantial effect on the overall look of your kitchen. The style of the doors and drawers will give the space a contemporary, transitional or vintage feel.

The cabinet door shown on the left is Shaker style, with a simple, square-edged wood border that surrounds each of the doors. This is great look for a transitional kitchen, and it also offers quite a bit of flexibility. Swapping contemporary cabinet pulls to ones with a more modern feel can completely change the feel of the room. On the right are recessed panel cabinet doors with decorative rails & stiles. These are a great choice for traditional spaces and historic homes. Both of these photos are from recent projects.

These options, from KraftMaid, are more “taste specific.” With the addition of a beadboard center-panel, the cabinets on the left have a distinctive cottage feel, while the sleek, flat-panel cabinet doors on the right lend themselves to a more contemporary space.

Next week we’ll talk about finishes and glazes, cabinet pulls and the many optional built-ins that can be added to increase functionality. Stay tuned!