New Kitchen Cabinets Ideas

White cabinets and brown countertops in a traditional style kitchen

KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images 

In a full kitchen renovation project, new kitchen cabinets represent the single biggest investment you will make. So, you want to get this purchase right.

When you are considering your purchase of new kitchen cabinets, it's best to start at the highest level and work down to the details. The highest level, in this case, would be the general kitchen or even house style. Details would mean things such as choosing kitchen cabinet hardware.

Make Your Cabinets Congruent With the House

Sometimes, homeowners completely lose their heads when it comes time to remodel the kitchen. Ultra-modern, contemporary kitchen styles get shoehorned into Arts & Crafts style houses. While it is completely your decision about whether you want to make your cabinet style incongruous with the rest of the house, consider these two points:

  1. You may later regret the decision when you have more time to reflect on it. By then, those kitchen cabinets are firmly planted in place.
  2. Subsequent buyers of your house may balk at clashing kitchen-cabinet-house styles.

Your House Style Helps Dictate New Kitchen Cabinet Selection

One great thing about keeping your cabinet style congruous with your house style: it's a no-brainer. No need to rack your brain over the type of new cabinet style you want. The house style is already whispering in your ear. Some terms that may help evoke a style for you:

  • Arts & Crafts
  • Bungalow
  • Cabin
  • Chalet
  • Classical
  • Contemporary
  • Cottage
  • Farmhouse
  • Queen Anne
  • Traditional​

Finish Color

Your new kitchen cabinets' finish color is the first thing that will stand out in your remodeled kitchen. At first glance, an all-white thermofoil kitchen feels markedly different from cabinets with a very dark espresso color.

A sheet of cabinet wood colors ranging from clear to dark.
Keidel Supply

Cabinet Finish Colors and Wood

It is important to note that finish color and wood selection are sometimes (and erroneously) used interchangeably. For example, "cherry" is sometimes used to describe the color of a certain type of kitchen cabinet. Cherry is the type of wood.

To confuse matters more, wood stains take on different colors when applied to different types of woods. So, it's necessary to look at wood types and stains in conjunction with each other, similar to the Keidel Supply cabinet wood finish chart above.


Here's the great news about choosing the materials for your new kitchen cabinets: it's not necessary to spend a lot of money on fine hardwoods.

Kitchen cabinet wood in cherry, maple, oak, and birch.
Armstrong Cabinets

You're in Luck

The cabinet stain can carry the ball. For instance, even ordinary oak cabinets can be stained to a dark, rich mahogany wood-like appearance. As noted earlier, colors behave differently with different kinds of woods—but you can leave that in the hands of your cabinet manufacturer. An espresso finish on maple looks much like an espresso finish on birch.

Cabinet Stains and Wood Selection

However, as you progress to lighter cabinet stains, the selection of the wood is crucial. A strongly patterned wood such as hickory is much different from the creamier maple in these lighter finishes. So, this is where wood selection comes into play.

It's fair to note that even in the dark finishes, the characteristic streaks and burls of hickory will show through to some extent. Armstrong Cabinets has an excellent comparison of the different types of woods available for new kitchen cabinets.

Types of Wood for New Kitchen Cabinets

Some popular types of wood are:

  1. Oak: A reddish wood with an open grain.
  2. Cherry: A multicolored hardwood with many specks and curls and gum pockets.
  3. Maple: A uniform, softly highlighted wood.
  4. Hickory: The most eye-popping wood in its natural state, hickory is a cacophony of dark streaks and dots.
  5. Birch: A hardwood with strong vertical stripes.
  6. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard): Engineered wood unsuitable for kitchen cabinets in its natural state, MDF is always covered with some type of veneer such as thermofoil.

Finish Treatment

Cabinet finish treatment refers to the appearance of the finish, excluding color. You might have a transparent natural treatment that lets the beauty of the wood grain show through. Or you might want to apply a treatment on the other end of the spectrum—a painted finish that completely blocks the wood grain. Then, of course, you have an entire range of finish treatments between those extremes.

Two doors, one with an antiqued look and the other glazed.
Lee Wallender

Types of Finish Treatments

  • Thermofoil: The veneer, usually white, covers the entire surface.
  • Paint: A thick coating of paint that is more about the color of the paint than the texture or color of the wood grain below.
  • Distressed or Vintage Paint: Basically, the paint finishes above but either hand- or machine-distressed to create an attractive, aged appearance.
  • Glazed: After the base coat of stain, a glossy layer of glaze is applied for a more contemporary look.
  • Highlighted: Your basic stain but with darker highlight colors added to recesses, giving the cabinets more of a 3D appearance.

Door Styles

When considering new kitchen cabinets, you'll need to look at two aspects about door style: overlay, and the actual door style itself. These work in conjunction with each other.

What Does Cabinet Overlay Matter?

Cabinet overlay refers to the amount of cabinet frame is showing beyond the door area. This sounds like an insignificant detail, but it does affect your new kitchen cabinets' appearance greatly:

  • Full Overlay: This is "all door," no cabinet frame showing. It's a sleek, contemporary look.
  • Partial Overlay: Partial cabinet overlay exposes some of the cabinet frames. These can be 1/2 inch, 1 inch, or greater. These contribute to a classical look and gives the cabinets a deeper, more visually textured appearance.

Kitchen Cabinet Door Treatments

Arches, squares, and cathedral cabinet door styles are fun to choose.

Door treatments refer only to the door itself. Some common cabinet doors are:

  • Flat Panel
  • Raised Panel
  • Multi-Panel
  • Beadboard

This is not an exclusive list. Crownpoint Cabinetry has an excellent page illustrating various door styles.

Glass Doors

Even though kitchen cabinet glass doors technically falls in the category of door styles, they're separate in this list because they are so distinctive.

Glass kitchen cabinet doors give your kitchen a more "open" feeling. Since kitchen cabinets tend to feel imposing, adding in some glass-front cabinets will give your kitchen greater dimensionality.

Not only that, but you can add interior lighting to cabinets with glass-fronted doors for a mesmerizing effect. Glass-front kitchen cabinets can help you highlight special china or other attractive items.

Crownpoint Cabinetry has an excellent page illustrating various door styles, including glass cabinet doors.

kitchen cabinet glass doors
CrownPoint Cabinetry