Types of Cabinets: A Comprehensive Guide

Guide to cabinet

Cabinets are a central feature of any kitchen, bathroom, or laundry. 

There are nearly endless choices when it comes to the different types of kitchen cabinets, as well as the style, color, and features. It can all leave you feeling pretty overwhelmed!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down all of the major types of cabinets so that you’ll be able to pick the design that suits your space perfectly.

An Overview of Different Cabinet Types

So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with some important terminology that will allow you fully understand the options available to you.

The front “face” of a cabinet is called the center panel, which is on the outer side of the door or drawer. 

This sits on the “frame”— four lengths of material that run along the inside edge of the cabinet opening. 

Finally, the main “body” of the cabinet is called the box. 
There are more complicated, granular pieces that go into making up a cabinet, but the above three are the most important when it comes to choosing design and style!

Types of Cabinet Production

There are several production methods for cabinets, all with varying strengths and weaknesses.


Stock Cabinet

Stock cabinets are pre-chosen designs kept on hand at most stores and manufacturers

They are a fast and easy way to design a kitchen or bathroom, with the lowest price points available out of these options. 

They are made in common sizes, which can be mixed and matched to fit the space at hand. 

Usually, stock cabinets are available in a set number of color, style and design options.

Stock cabinets will be available to you quickly, meaning you can get started on your interior without delay.


Semi-stock units are also kept in stock at many retailers and manufacturers, but allow for more customisation than stock cabinets. 

They are made up of several parts that can be mixed and matched to get the final result you like

For instance, you may be able to choose between several stains, paints, door designs, and finishes. 

They may also have optional embellishing through crown molding, cabinet legs, and a wide range of hardware choices.

Semi-stock units are the middle ground option when it comes to price and customisation. 

They are more expensive than Stock units, but allow for a much wider variety of options in style and design. When compared to fully customized units, semi-stock units are cheaper but offer less flexibility. 

Custom Units

Custom Cabinet

These units offer the widest selection when it comes to customisation

With a custom cabinet, you work directly with designers and craftsmen to create the perfect cabinetry for your space and preferences. 

Practically any wood type, finish, design feature or modification is within reach!

Designers are able to work from existing designs, or go back to the drawing board and create something completely new and unique to your design.

Custom units can defy standardized sizing if desired, fitting perfectly in your particular space. They allow for the perfect kitchen or bathroom, created exactly to your specifications.

The downside of custom units is the price and wait time involved.

Creating entirely new units takes time and money, with more expertise and hours of work required from the craftsmen involved. 

However, if you have a high budget and a specific final result in mind, it may be the perfect option for you!

Made-To-Order (MTO)

Made-To-order units are usually semi-stock cabinets. 

They offer the customer a list of options to choose from, which are then pieced together into a final cabinet. This allows for customisation of things such as door style, finish and hardware. 

They are slightly more expensive than generic stock options, but allow for better customisation.

Ready-To-Assemble (RTA)

Ready to Assemble

These units are ready to go immediately, with cost being a major focus in their design. 

They are affordable and easy to get, with low wait times before you can get them home and into your kitchen. 

They are generally stock (or sometimes semi-stock), but rarely offer high levels of customization. 

There will be some options to choose from when it comes to color and design, but less than if you chose a made-to-order unit.

Ready-to-assemble units usually come boxed and ready to go, and can be installed by most DIY hobbyists. 

However, if installed yourself, there will always be a risk of damage from bumps and scratches during the installation process. 


These units are always stock cabinets, with limited options available to the customer. 

However, they are an easy and fairly cheap option, and can be useful in many circumstances.

They generally cost slightly more than ready-to-assemble cabinets, since they are awkward to ship due to size and weight. 

However, they completely avoid any risks of damage during installation, and are very quick to set up.

Sizes and Styles of Cabinet Units

Sizes and Styles

There are four major types of cabinets, each fulfilling a different purpose in your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry space.


This is the most basic form of cabinet, making up most workspaces in the majority of kitchens. 

They usually stand about 36 inches (915mm) tall, and are between 24 and 27 inches (610mm and  686mm) deep.

Most base cabinets have a recessed section at the very bottom of the box, called a toe-kick. This allows you to stand slightly closer to the countertop when using it without having to hunch over uncomfortably.

These cabinets are strong and sturdy, and perfect as storage cabinets in a kitchen for pots, pans and other equipment. 

They often have shelving inside to assist with storage. They can also have features such as pull out racks, roll trays, bin holders and other storage tools.


Wall Cabinet

These are cabinets that sit hanging from the wall, usually above base cabinets. 

They are usually between 12 and 17 inches (305mm and 432mm) deep, and can vary greatly in height depending on the space and style of the room.

They are great storage spaces for things that are needed frequently, such as spices, appliances and glasses.

 Another bonus is that they don’t require uncomfortable bending to reach items, like in the case of using base cabinet drawers and shelves!


Tall Cabinet

This form of cabinet is, well, tall.

They usually start somewhere near the floor and can stretch all the way to the ceiling. Standard units are generally about 83 inches (2108mm) tall.

Tall cabinets are great for bulk storage and pantry spaces, as well as broom or mop closets.

They can easily accommodate large or unwieldy items that won’t easily fit elsewhere in the room.


This category covers all cabinets that don’t fall into the other sections, usually those made for very specific purposes or circumstances. 

For instance: Corner cabinets, sink or cooktop fronts, hutches, and appliance garages are all different specialty cabinets.

They are a great way to maximize space in the room, depending on the area available to you. 

They also allow for highly specialized units that suit particular features of your space, such as ovens or washing machines.

Types of Cabinet Doors and Overlays

These features are the “face” of your cabinet, and the design choices that will most influence the final look and feel of the room. 

For this reason, they should be considered carefully in relation to your desired style, and the current style of your house. 

Tip: it’s best to have a decent idea of color palettes and design before beginning the actual process of remodeling a room!

Center Panels

There are a few different options when considering the center panel of your cabinet. 

These are mostly aesthetic choices, rather than functional ones.


Recessed panels have a section on the panel that is lower than the rest, with a higher outer edge. 

This type of panel is more typical in modern and contemporary designs, giving a minimalistic look.

Though there are a few different style options within this sort of panel, they are usually kept simple and clean in their design.


This type of panel has a raised central section, usually with a contoured edge around it that can vary between styles. 

It’s one of the more popular panel designs seen these days, made in a traditional style often seen in older homes.

This style of panel is timeless, fitting with almost any design due to its simplicity and flexibility. 

They are usually available in a wide variety of finishes and colors thanks to their popularity, with plenty of optional decorations.

The only downside to this style of panel is the tendency for dirt and dust to get caught in the crevices of the design. They will need a good wipe down now and again.


These cabinets have no door or center panel at all, instead being completely open on their front side. 

This makes them great for displaying items like decorative plates, or holding things that need to be readily accessible such as glasses or bathroom supplies.

They are generally used in conjunction with other designs, adding interest to the space with their difference in texture and depth.

Flat-Panel or Slab

These cabinet panels are completely flat with no recess or decoration on their surface, hence the moniker slab

They are minimalist and clean, fitting perfectly in a modern or industrialist style. 

They are generally available in a wide range of finishes and colors, meaning they can also fit more eclectic or contemporary styles with a more interesting color or surface detailing.

These panels are simple and stylish, using hard lines and a minimalist form to keep your kitchen modern and appealing. 

Conveniently, this also means they are lacking in expensive detail— making them an affordable option as well. 

They also allow for quick and easy cleaning thanks to the flat surface, lack nooks and crannies that just collect dust.

Overlay Type

Overlay type

The overlay of a cabinet refers to how the door or drawer front sits on or in the frame. 

The choice of overlay can have a large impact on style, ease of installation and price, so should not be taken lightly. 


This refers to doors and drawer fronts that completely or almost completely cover the cabinet face, with no frame visible. 

This is perfect for contemporary or modern styled kitchens and bathrooms to keep things clean, simple and stylish!

Often, full overlay cabinets don’t have a central, vertical frame between the two doors, allowing for easier storage of bulky items. However, they are also higher in cost due to needing more material compared to other styles.

When two overlay cabinets are side by side, their doors should be almost seamless— flowing into one another without any major gap between their doors or drawer fronts. 

This helps the space to feel smooth and streamlined, with minimal accents. 

This is perfect for modern or minimalist spaces, since it avoids unnecessary detail and decoration.


These cabinets are also known as standard or traditional overlay, being the industry standard for a long time until more modern designs gained popularity.

With partial overlay, the door only covers some of the face frame, exposing large sections

This grants the benefit of needing less material for the door. Since it’s smaller, it also costs significantly less than a full cabinet. 

These cabinets fit perfectly in contemporary, vintage, and farmhouse designs, creating a nostalgic and rustic feeling for your space.


This type of overlay is very different from the others.

Inset overlay means that the doors and drawer fronts of the cabinet sit inside the frame opening, flush with the box frame. 

The doors do not “stick out” at all from the rest of the cabinet box.

The biggest drawback of this style is the high price tag, since a high level of craftsmanship and specialized hardware is needed to achieve a perfectly flush panel. 

Any imperfections in the design or construction will be obvious, even to an untrained eye. Poor construction could also result in a door that doesn’t open and close properly. 

However, this type of overlay is undeniably stylish. 

They fit perfectly in traditional, craftsman and farmhouse designs, creating a cozy and simplistic feel. They tend to have a wide range of personalisation options. 

This should be utilized when choosing hardware, since hinges will be visible on inset overlay cabinets. 

This means that they should be chosen carefully to match the rest of the space! Usually, this means matching them to features like sinks, taps and door handles.


The doors of a cabinet are its most visible feature, so should be chosen carefully. 

Make sure to think about your desired style, color scheme and feel for the room when choosing your cabinet doors.


Shaker Door

This style of cabinet door is the most popular at present day, being seen in millions of households around the world.

Shaker cabinets have clean lines, a recessed panel, and minimal ornamentation

They have a frame around the outside of a slightly recessed center panel. These cabinets are usually sturdy— especially if created out of good-quality wood— which can be perfect for a family household.

This style of cabinet comes in a huge variety of colors and styles, meaning they fit nicely into many different styles of kitchens and bathrooms. 

In particular, they work well in modern, contemporary and farmhouse style interiors. 

In a bolder color, like black, they also fit excellently into stylised, industrial spaces.

Thanks to their popularity, shaker cabinets can be found at pretty much any retailer in a wide variety of designs. They sit comfortably at the lower-middle end of the price scale.


Louvered Door

This style of cabinet has horizontal wooden slats, providing texture and interest to a room. 

In many styles of louvered cabinet, the slats will have gaps between them, allowing for airflow into the cabinet box. 

The ventilation makes these cabinets a great place for things like potatoes, garlic and onions– especially if high humidity or mold are concerns.

Louvered cabinets are higher in price due to their more complicated construction. However, their unique style can add a perfect touch of texture and pattern to a kitchen or bathroom! 

The horizontal stripes also help to add the illusion of wide open space, which can be useful in a narrow kitchen. 

These cabinets are an excellent choice in farmhouse, contemporary or classic style rooms. They work especially well if you want a cozy and nostalgic feel in your home.


Distressed Door

This style refers to cabinets that have been treated using specific techniques that create the illusion of age and weathering on their surface.

These methods of distressing the wood mean that they cost a little more than their non-distressed counterparts, since more labor and skill is required to make them.

However, if you’re looking for an antique, classical feeling for your home, they could be the perfect choice!

Distressed cabinets really help to sell the feeling of history and refinement in these styles of interiors.


Beadboard Door

Cabinets of this type feature vertical paneling, sometimes with indentation or ridges. 

This helps to bring texture and interest to a room, as well as creating a more rustic, cozy feeling in the space. 

These cabinets provide a more dynamic, unique look than something more simple like flat slab or shaker designs. 

However, the cracks and crevasses in their surface do mean that more thorough cleaning is required.

Beadboard is a perfect choice in farmhouse or cottage style kitchens, creating a cozy, warm atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. 

They are textured and detailed, so wouldn’t suit modern or simple styles. However, in a more eclectic space they will fit in nicely.


Glass Door

Glass fronted cabinets are usually utilized in combination with other styles, allowing for more variation in the space. 

They can be a beautiful addition to any kitchen, and a perfect way to introduce some different textures to the room.

This style of cabinet is best used for displaying items like decorative plates, wine glasses, or mugs. They protect items from gathering dust while showcasing their decorative features. 

They also work excellently in a home bar area as space for storing alcohol bottles.

The glass front requires more cleaning than other surfaces, since dirt will show easily on it. 

Glass is more delicate than materials like wood or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), meaning there is a risk of it shattering if bumped or hit in just the wrong way.

Glass cabinets are most often paired with shaker, raised, or inset styles. They are mostly seen in contemporary or vintage kitchens, but with some creativity can work in other styles just as well. 

In a modern home, some LED light strips lining the interior of glass fronted cabinets can create a futuristic effect.


This refers to cabinets that are molded out of MDF, and then wrapped in a plastic coating. This is then baked under intense heat to seal it to the surface.

These cabinets are highly durable, able to withstand plenty of scrapes and bruises before showing damage. They are also low cost and easy to clean, making them a popular choice for kitchens. 

Unfortunately, they tend to be weak against strong heat– meaning they may not be a good choice directly next to a stove or heater. Excessive heat can cause the laminate to come loose from the veneer!

Thermofoil cabinets are usually available in solid color or imitation wood finishes. This means you can achieve a wide range of styles utilizing this form of cabinet. 

They can work in almost any setting depending on the specific features of the unit, and are a highly flexible and cost effective option.


This is the option for those with higher budgets and strong preferences for their final result. 

Custom cabinets are attained by contacting a designer or craftsperson to work with, allowing you to fine-tune all aspects of your cabinets to your exact wishes.

This option has extremely high control and customizability, letting you achieve the interior of your dreams and exact specifications. 

However, prices will be high and cabinets may take longer to be ready for installation, since a lot more work goes into a from-scratch design than something pre-made. 

If a consistent, strong style is at the top of your priorities, there’s no better option.

Types of Cabinet Features

Types of Cabinet features

This section details some of the major features that normally come as optional additions to cabinets. 

These features are more functional than stylistic. However, some can accentuate certain style or design choices!

Adjustable Shelves

Cabinets featuring adjustable shelves have pre-drilled holes at different levels in their interior, allowing for the quick and easy placement of moveable pegs. Shelves are then rested on the pegs.

Effectively, this means you can rearrange the layout of your cabinet at will.

You could choose four short shelves, two tall ones, or any number of other combinations! This allows for easy and flexible cabinet layouts, letting you perfect your storage space for your specific needs.

This is especially useful in kitchens, where there may be a wide variety of items to store of varying heights and shapes. 

For instance, glassware might need lots of vertical space, while spices or cans can be in more compact shelving.

Pull-Out Shelves

Pull-out shelves

These cabinets include shelves that are able to be pulled out from the cabinet box in order to access the items inside. 

Typically, these shelves rest on moveable drawer slides, working much like a normal drawer would. 

This feature is present in most ready-to-assemble and pre-assembled cabinetry sets. 

Pull out shelves are great for kitchens, where many different items need to be stored away and retrieved regularly. 

They let you avoid awkwardly fumbling in the back of the cabinet for lost mugs, so they’re both more convenient and more comfortable for your back. 

They also make cleaning a breeze!


This type of cabinet door keeps things calm and quiet. 

This can be especially useful in houses with pets or small children, where the sudden slam of a door might set off a cacophony of barks and crying. 

Even without these circumstances, it’s nice not to be startled by a sudden noise when you’re fetching a midnight snack!

In soft-close doors, the hinges contain springs that let the door gently drift shut rather than closing suddenly. In some designs, magnets are also used to aid in this feature.

Push-To-Open Doors

Push to open doors

This type of cabinet door allows a simple push on its surface to open and close it, rather than using handles or knobs.

They work through push latches, which are attached to the inner side of the cabinet opening. These mechanisms use a retractable spring, which retracts into itself when the door is closed. 

When you gently push against the door, the latch is triggered to release the spring again, slowly pushing the door open.

Push-to-open doors let you forgo handles completely, which can upgrade a minimalist look to its maximum potential. 

With these, your cabinets can be completely smooth and seamless! Not even handles will disturb the flat and consistent appearance of the cabinetry.

Lazy Susan

A lazy susan is effectively a big turntable. In cabinets, they can be singular or several turntables stacked on top of one another.

This allows you to place items in the cabinet like you would on shelves and turn the lazy susan to access different parts of the turntable. 

It’s another feature that makes reaching the awkward corners of a storage space much easier.


This section refers to all of the decorative and functional pieces that make up the “hardware” of your cabinet. This includes things like door knobs, handles, hinges and drawer slides.

These features are normally made of metal. This can be matched to other parts of your kitchen or bathroom, mostly commonly the sink and tap finish. 

This is especially important in inset cabinet designs, where the hinges will be fully visible even when the door is closed. 

In most cases, hardware decisions are largely based around functionality. The hardware choices available to you should be well researched before making your final decision.

Wrapping Up

In short, cabinets can be complicated!

There are many different aspects to consider when you’re picking your cabinet, the most important being price, design and functionality. 

Ultimately, how you value these different aspects hugely impacts your choices.

Generally, you’ll be choosing a balance between customizability and price. If you have a high budget, you will be able to work directly with designers to get exactly what you want for your bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen cabinets.

However, there are also plenty of incredible options that fit nicely in a smaller budget as well.

As long as you consider each step carefully, you should be able to get a result that pleases you. With the help of this list, we hope all of that decision making is made a little bit easier!