The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Cabinets

New Spaces Design-Build
December 20, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Kitchen Cabinets 2020

How to Make Decisions about Kitchen Cabinets by New Spaces

If you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen, you’ll be faced with hundreds of options, and it can be hard to understand as you walk through all the amazing remodels you see at events like the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase. From flooring to paint color, faucets to countertops, the choices will keep coming. Successfully navigating your kitchen remodel means getting through those choices without feeling overwhelmed. The New Spaces team has helped thousands of homeowners through the remodeling process. By sharing our experience, we want to help you have the best remodeling experience possible.

What this Cabinet Guide Covers:

  1. Cabinet Materials
  2. Cabinet Styles
  3. Cabinet Finishes
  4. Stock vs. Custom vs. Semi-Custom
  5. Our Favorite Minnesota Suppliers
  6. Best Kitchen Cabinet Features 2020

Checkout these Kitchen Cabinet Features from STARMARK:

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Cabinets are the Biggest Budget & Visual Influence in a Remodel

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make for your new kitchen is the cabinets. Cabinets set the tone for any kitchen and they are also usually the biggest budget item.

If you’ve started looking at different cabinet options, you might already be confused. Your screen will be flooded with images of different kitchens with many different types of cabinets. Painted or stained? Slab door or recessed panel? Traditional, contemporary or transitional? It can be enough to make you rethink the entire project.

Choosing Cabinets is the First Task in a Remodel

At New Spaces, we’ve learned that choosing cabinets is the first task you should focus on. Getting your cabinets selected helps define the look and feel of your kitchen. It gives you a strong anchor as you pick your countertops and flooring. We know that every homeowner who chooses us to remodel their kitchen has put their trust in our people and our process. Every kitchen we remodel is unique and has its own priorities, budget, and design. To make sure we continue to earn that trust with every kitchen we remodel - we have a minimum set of standards that any cabinet must meet.

In a kitchen remodel, the cabinets will serve as an anchor for decisions on flooring, countertops and more.

What should you look for in kitchen cabinets when remodeling?

Top questions we hear about how to choose kitchen cabinets:

  • How much should good kitchen cabinets cost?
  • Can we re-use my current cabinets?
  • What are the different types of kitchen cabinets?
  • What are the highest rated kitchen cabinets?
  • What are the best materials when selecting kitchen cabinets?
  • What are the top features to look for in modern cabinets?
  • What's the difference between custom, semi custom, and pre-built cabinets?
  • What are the new features in cabinets to consider?
  • What's the difference between expensive and cheap kitchen cabinets?
  • How do you make great decisions around stained cabinets vs. painted cabinets?
  • Should you choose a trendy cabinet look, a personal taste, or something more timeless?
  • How do you save money when choosing kitchen cabinets?
  • What are the longest lasting, highest quality kitchen cabinets?

How do you save money when choosing kitchen cabinets?

When choosing your cabinets, one of the first selections you will face is the door style. A variety of shaker doors are very popular right now. This style is a flat panel door, meaning there is no detail on the center panel of the door. This makes it a universally affordable option. Other doors, with a raised, or reverse raised panel, would be more expensive than the door described above. Other variations such as beaded doors and applied moldings would be increasingly pricey.

Next is the wood species and cabinet finish. Difference species such as Oak, Maple, Cherry, etc. have different costs. Same goes for the finish – pricing begins with basic stain or paint colors, and then there are countless other finishing options to consider. Some examples would be a glaze over the paint or stain, dry brushing, distressing, and more. All of these options equate to additional cost.

Once you have made your choices on how your cabinetry will look on the outside, you will need to sort through the details of the interiors. Even the most customizable cabinet lines begin with “standard” size cabinets, which increase in 3” increments. Sizes such as 15”, 18”, 21” and so on are considered standard. By working with these sizes, you will actively be keeping your cost down. When modifications need to be made, that adds cost. While those charges are not significant, they sure do add up!

Finally, keep the internal accessories modest. Nearly every kitchen I design features a soft-close trash or recycle pull out, some kind of lazy susan, a few tray dividers and a number of drawer bases. When considering a splurge, here are some of our favorites: adding a roll-out above the fridge, the new Rev-a-Shelf knife-block pull-out is brilliant, and a spice rack of sorts is the only accessory we would suggest in an upper cabinet.

Can we re-use our current cabinets?

In some kitchen remodeling cases, the cabinets themselves don’t need to be replaced. If they are in good condition and a style you like, that will certainly simplify the project! Perhaps the changes being made are more cosmetic, such as countertops, tile backsplash, lighting, etc. Other times, some homeowners may want to change the appearance of their existing cabinets by painting or gel-staining them. This can certainly be done, however the finishes that can be applied on-site are not as durable as the factory finish you will get on new manufactured cabinets. If your remodel is more extensive and involves reconfiguring the space, or even removing walls, it is very unlikely that existing cabinetry can be used in the new space. When that is the case, many of our clients opt to install their old cabinets in their laundry room, garage, or cabin instead. We love that it keeps them out of a landfill!

What should you look for when buying kitchen cabinets?

First, cabinets must be well made. The materials must be of high quality and the construction must hold up over time. Second, the drawers must be full extension, meaning that when you use the drawer it can come all the way out so you can use every inch of the storage. Third, the drawers and cabinet doors must be “soft-close” meaning that you’ll never hear the unpleasant sound of a slamming door or drawer. Lastly, whether you choose a painted or stained cabinet - the finish must look great and hold up to everyday wear and tear. Any cabinet you choose in 2020 must, at a bare minimum, meet all of these requirements.

Cabinet Styles

Choosing a Cabinet Style

When you hear people talk about different types of cabinet styles, they are referring to the way that the cabinet door or drawer front is made. If you look at a cabinet door, you’ll often see what looks like a frame around a center panel.

Cabinet Stiles and Rails

The pieces of the outer frame are called the stiles and rails. The stiles are the vertical pieces and the rails are the horizontal pieces. The middle section is referred to as the panel. Each element can have a different look. They may have simple angles or complex details. The panel can be flat or raised. When these elements come together, you end up with a specific style of door.

Click to View Styles from Yorktowne

Click an image below to see an image gallery of hundreds of styles of cabinets from one of our favorite cabinet providers, Yorktowne.

Cabinet Materials

The style of the cabinet door is normally unrelated to materials the door is made from. A cabinet door can be made from a natural wood such as alder, cherry, hickory or maple, or from an engineered material like plywood or melamine. Different cabinet manufacturers may offer certain door styles in certain materials, but in most cases, the material of the door is separate from the style. Each material has various advantages and disadvantages. A solid wood door can be very attractive and allow for a stained finish, but it will also expand and contract depending on the climate in which you live. An engineered material won’t expand or contract, but can’t be stained. Different types of wood will have different appearances, weights and grain patterns.











Painted Maple

Painted Maple

Cabinet Finishes


The third element in a cabinet is the finish. You’ll typically hear about a cabinet finish being “painted” or “stained”. A painted finish is a solid color that is applied over the material to create the final look.

A stained finish is applied over wood and allows the grain of the wood to show through. Other types of cabinet finishes include glazes or treatments like distressing that give the cabinet an additional element. Take a look below at some examples from one of our favorite cabinet companies, Countryside Cabinets. The cabinet finish is also applied to the sides and face of the cabinet boxes so that the entire cabinet has the same look.

Unless you are refinishing existing cabinets, the finish, whether it is paint or stain, should always be applied by the cabinet manufacturer for the best quality finish. They can apply the finish in a climate-controlled space that has no dust. It will be applied by professionals with professional equipment and then “baked” on, creating an unparalleled finish. It simply isn’t possible to duplicate those conditions in a home setting.

Stained Cabinets vs. Painted Cabinets

The debate between stained and painted cabinetry is never-ending. The finish of your new kitchen cabinets should reflect your personal style and support your family’s style of living. A bright white kitchen is beautiful but might not be practical for a family with small children, pets, and little time for housekeeping. A small walled-in on the north side of a home might not be a great candidate for espresso stained cabinetry, creating a space that is too dark to work in. Many homeowners now get best of both worlds by using a combination of finishes. Stained bases with painted upper cabinets is a popular look, as is a center island painted with a pop of color. There are many ways to mix and match to create a space that is uniquely yours.


The Yorktowne Cabinet Finish Gallery

One great tool you should probably check out is the Finish Gallery at Yorktowne Cabinetry, it's incredible useful to see all the different options from their product assortment, and can easily help you identify some options for the finishes on your kitchen cabinets.

Stock, Semi-Custom and Custom

You may be asking yourself “What’s the difference between stock cabinets, semi-custom and custom cabinets?”. The best way to think about it is to consider the quality and design options.

A: Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets will be readily available and come in a few popular designs. This means that you will have a number of common or popular choices in design and finish, but few, if any, customization options.

B: Semi Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets will use higher-quality materials and offer more design options. Moving from stock to semi-custom means that instead of a few door styles, you’ll have dozens. Instead of “standard” finishes, you can choose from a variety of options, or even custom match!

C: Custom Cabinets

The highest quality cabinets, often referred to as “custom cabinets” will offer even higher quality materials and unlimited design options. Custom cabinet manufacturers frequently match any shade of paint or stain and create any door style you can think of. Which type of cabinet you choose will be determined by how your needs match up with each different type of cabinet. At New Spaces, we carry cabinets from three different companies - Countryside – Yorktowne and StarMark. We’ve chosen these companies because they all have a long track record of delivering for our customers.

What’s the difference between expensive and cheap kitchen cabinets?

There are a number of factors that determine the price point of various cabinet lines. In my experience, higher priced cabinet lines offer a much wider variety of options, such as door styles and finishes, whereas a brand with a lower price point might only offer a few basic options.

Many people do not need that extensive spread of options to be satisfied, at which point a simple cabinet line would suit them just fine at a more modest price. Our suggestion to homeowners is to do some research and decide for themselves what is most important to them. We believe that there are many good cabinets out there – just make sure the boxes are constructed of at least ½” material, the face-frames, doors and drawer fronts are made of solid wood. (One exception here is the use of medium-density fiberboard for painted cabinetry, which is a wonderful option).

The drawer boxes should be full extension and be made of wood with dovetail construction. Finally, in this day and age, I think all the doors and drawers should have good-quality soft-closing hardware, standard. Those are a few basics to look for.


Features of Kitchen Cabinets

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