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Classic Kitchen: A Traditional Kitchen Remodel Series | Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

Beautiful butler's pantry - cream cabinets, aged brass hardware, beautiful molding

As we delve into planning our kitchen remodel, there are so many decisions to make. Today’s decision is kitchen cabinet door styles – inset, partial overlay or full overlay. I’ve been perusing all of the kitchens I’ve pinned to find the common denominator to help me choose.

First, let’s talk about the options. 

Inset kitchen cabinet door is the most traditional, but it’s also the most expensive. An inset cabinet door is flush, giving it a very clean aesthetic. See how the doors below are flush with the frame and the detail is inset? Pretty, right? 

learn about kitchen cabinet door styles | inset, partial overlay and full overlay

Partial overlay is what we currently have – the doors are attached to the front of the kitchen cabinets, sticking out a bit, with space between the drawers and cabinet doors. See the space between each cabinet door and drawer?

A kitchen makeover without paint - making the best of an 80's or 90's kitchen

Full overlay is a bit more modern, but for me preferential to partial overlay because it offers a cleaner look and doesn’t waste an ounce of space. You don’t see the frame, which is appealing and is less expensive than inset cabinets.

different kitchen cabinet door styles | weighing the option of inset, partial and full overlay

I think the full overlay is a great alternative to the slightly more expensive inset cabinet door style, but after seeing all of my favorite kitchens, I’m leaning toward inset. I want to love our kitchen and have no regrets. I don’t see myself compromising on the kitchen, but what we need to do to get it, making concessions elsewhere. That may sound ridiculous, but I look at as an investment in what can be my favorite and most utilized space in our home. What do you think? What’s your favorite cabinet door style?

Also, if you have done a kitchen renovation I would love to know what you would do different? What was the best choice you made? What do you wish you knew? Thanks in advance!


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entertaining expert and lifestyle blogger Julie Blanner

29 comments on “Classic Kitchen: A Traditional Kitchen Remodel Series | Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles”

  1. We went with full overlay. I love the inset too but the price difference wasn’t worth it for me. However I wouldn’t budge in my built in fridge so I spent my money there. Everyone has their must haves. I put a pin in mine then compromised in other places

  2. Julie
    Just redid my kitchen almost two years ago. I have two deep dish drawers and LOVE them. Wish I had room for more.
    Also love the storage above my refrig…I had dividers put in for all my trays, cooling racks, etc

    Love your blog…just found you today.

    • Oooh! Great ideas, June! Thanks for sharing. I’m taking notes! it’s so nice to meet you! My grandmother’s name was June and my youngest daughter is Isla June!

  3. I decided against inset at the advise of a friend. My friend showed me her kitchen where drawers and cabinets had been accidentally shut with something sticking out. The damage was awful. Like this:×718.jpg

  4. We completed our kitchen remodel about 9 months ago…I went with a classic white farmhouse style kitchen. I love my inset doors & drawers … I have a large built in hutch style cabinet that I had made with beaded inset so that it was a little more “special” – I love the beaded inset & I kinda wish I had done that for the entire kitchen. I love my farmhouse style sink and bridge faucet. My biggest regrets not adding a pot filler behind the stove- I went back and forth on it — in the end I was tired of writing so many checks- and I didn’t know if it would be used that often. Our stove isn’t far from the sink -so it was more of a “want” than a need. My other regret is not having a large walk in pantry- our kitchen isn’t large and there just wasn’t any place to put one … Oh and I also wish I could have added a large 3-4 seater island with lots of storage- but again no room – I do have a nice “cozy” two seater island 🙂

    • I was debating about a pot filler, I’m adding it to my must have list, thank you! Your kitchen sounds beautiful! I decided I wasn’t going to spend the money on our kitchen unless I could see 3-5 at the island because I dream of the girls easily being able to cook and bake with me. Right now they drag chairs in from the breakfast room and I do my best to work with and around them, it’s not ideal. Oh a walk-in pantry! We can all dream, right? Thank you, Shannon!

  5. Julie
    I am an independent kitchen and bath designer and wholesale cabinet supplier. I design and sell all of the different styles you mentioned. I have found the full overlay door is the best option all around.
    * Budget
    * Function
    * Aesthetics
    My brother has had inset cabinets in his home for ten years and he says never again. Like someone mentioned closing the draw by accident with a utensil not all the way in leaves a “in your face” damage.
    He also says with expansion and contraction there are time when the doors are hated to open causing it to twist and hinder the finish. He has cracks in the finish due to this condition.
    Bottom line is all cabinets and styles each have the issues.
    Full overlay has the least and due to the design it is the most forgiving.

  6. I would add a pot filler if you make a lot of stews, pasta, or soups. If you can then it will be easier to fill waterbath canners too. I didn’t add one to my canning kitchen only because my sink is right next to the stove and has a spray hose and my husband is not crazy about DYI plumbing. Later I might have to upgrade my canning shed. If I remodeled indoors , I would add one for sure. My husband loves homemade soups and I’d hire a plumber. Good luck

    • Thank you, Rhonda! If it’s not too costly, I’ll definitely work that in. I have to hire a plumber anyways. Thanks for your advice! And canning kitchen? A dream!

  7. 1 Build out the cabinet above the refrigerator to the front of the fridge for great storage.

    2 The backsplash should only be under the cabinets and not on the side of any wall, and end where the cabinet does, not where the counter top does, for a more custom look. Read that at Carla Aston site :). She has lots of great info there btw.

    3 Consider under cabinet lighting.

    4 Pull out cabinet for trash can!

    5 You probably aren’t considering it but just so you know, black shiny granite shows fingerprints (more like smears) like crazy and when the sun shines on it it always looks dusty! Love the look but not the maintenance. Wish I had gone with quartz, leathered finish or lighter granite like in my upstairs master bath.

    6 I have shelves for cookbooks, etc at the end of my large island

    • 2 – so true, I always thought tiled walls feel sterile and cold, better suited for a restaurant than an at home kitchen where you want it to feel warm.
      4 – I couldn’t live without my pull-out trash can, but am excited to add recycling, too!
      5 – such great insight! I’m considering quarts. Thanks for all of the advice, I truly appreciate it!

  8. The inset drawers are definitely gorgeous, though Jane’s comments are quite interesting. We are badly in need of a kitchen remodel (just glued a drawer back together last week!) but are hoping to hold off a few years. Melissa’s right about shiny black granite. We have it, and I hate it. It’s terrible for photography.

    My parents just did a kitchen remodel in their historic home a year or so ago, and while their appliances and cabinets are gorgeous, I think the best part of their kitchen is the leathered granite. It’s so unique and luxurious. Though I think they both say that the best investment was their steam oven and flamberge. You can read more about it here:

    • Can you have your granite honed? I love that look – it mimics soapstone and I think it would be relatively inexpensive. However, if you’re planning to remodel it wouldn’t be worth it. We have drawer issues as well, I feel you!
      I’m heading over to look at their kitchen now, thanks, Leslie!

  9. You know, I don’t think there is ever a “right” or “wrong” when it comes to what you like. Only what is more important or less important to you. Do you cook a lot or is your kitchen more for show? And I’m not saying a kitchen for show is bad, but it might help you to be able to separate what you really want to spend money on as I’m guessing you’re on a budget just like everyone else lol. For instance I love the inset cabinets and would probably spend the extra money if my kitchen was just for show. However, I love to cook so if I HAD to choose between restaurant quality appliances and the inset cabinets, I’d probably save a little on the cabinets and do the partial overlay so I could have nicer appliances to use. Someone who doesn’t cook, would probably choose the opposite. If money is no object, absolutely do the inset cabinets. I think they are the classiest. The pot filler doesn’t cost much at all when you’re remodeling, but will cost a lot to add on after the remodel is completed, so definitely go ahead and do it!! I am saver, and have spent most of my life going the “cheap route.” And 99% of the time I have regretted it. So while I think there are places to save money in remodeling a house, the kitchen isn’t one of them. I’m betting you will spend more waking hours in your kitchen than any other room in the house. So save money in those other rooms and splurge on the kitchen. Can’t wait to follow along and see what you choose!

    • That’s excellent advice, Robbin, thanks for sharing! I have spared no expense on our new kitchen, but am so excited and think we’ll love it for years to come. I absolutely love spending my time cooking, baking and entertaining, so in part of your advice, decided to go for it!

  10. We replaced laminate countertops with granite. It’s very nice, but a I wish I had gone with quartz. I also highly recommend under cabinet lighting.

    • Thank you! I’m considering quartz or the marble we used at our previous home. I’m going to have to think about adding under cabinet lighting, I was planning to forgo it, but I do love having various types of lighting.

  11. I have never noticed this, but now that you point it out, I agree with you 100%!

  12. Oh, man. I dream of inset cabinetry, and that picture breaks my heart. Looking forward to watching your dreams come to life, Julie. Your style and functionality notes are so in line with what I hope to do someday….If my kids don’t grow before the chance comes along. ????

    • Thank you, Katie! I don’t allow myself to spend money in a space I want to renovate, but rather save it so that we can, that way I’m not spending twice. I hope you have the opportunity as well! I wish kitchens didn’t come at such a huge expense, it’s difficult to comprehend the cost! Feel free to live vicariously through me…you can come over for a glass of wine any time!

  13. We had the kitchen gutted and reno’d in the parsonage we are living in. I didn’t have the luxury of having my cabinets built to how I wanted the kitchen to function. We went with stock cabinets and high resolution laminate and a marble backsplash. I am happy with it and my hubby surprised me with pot faucet over the oven.

    • And it’s so beautiful! Your marble backsplash is STUNNING! I also love your pot filler…I hope I don’t regret not adding one. I feel like I have to stop somewhere. ????

  14. Would love to know where the antique brass hardware is from? 

  15. Hi Julie,

    I’m building and am now in the inset vs full overlay/frameless debate. We don’t mind spending the extra but my fear is the damage to the edges of the frame… I would be heartbroken. Are you happy with full overlays?
    So many decisions…

    Thanks in advance,

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