If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re thinking about a kitchen makeover in the near future, and now you’re on the hunt for some direction regarding what type of cabinetry will suit you best. The fact that you’re considering inset kitchen cabinets demonstrates that you have impeccable taste. Well, it’s no secret that the sleek, minimalist look is in vogue which is why frameless kitchen cabinets are enjoying such a revival – read more about frameless versus framed cabinets further down. There is one exception, however, and that is inset kitchen cabinets which are all the rage right now.
Inset Kitchen Cabinets vs. Overlay Kitchen Cabinets
So, what exactly are inset kitchen cabinets and how do they differ from overlay kitchen cabinets?
Well, as their name suggests, inset kitchen cabinets literally feature a door or drawer that precisely fits inside or within the cabinet frame rather than on top of or over the cabinet frame as in the case of overlay kitchen cabinets.
Inset cabinetry was first popularized in the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by the skilled craftsmanship of the Georgian and Victorian periods. Its clean, classic look makes inset cabinetry suitable for various décor preferences, from ultra-modern to transitional and vintage cottage. It is due to this versatility that inset kitchen cabinets are proving a strong contender in the kitchen design sphere.
Regarding which style of cabinet is best for you, inset or overlay, this all depends on several factors.
Foremost among these is the fact that wood naturally expands in warm, humid conditions and contracts in dry, cold weather. As inset cabinet doors and drawers are constructed with tight margins, approximately 1/8”, it is advised that you don’t install them unless you can guarantee a climate-controlled environment with low humidity to prevent swelling, jamming, and warping.
Another consideration is whether you are up for the task of adjusting your doors as needed. Even in a climate-controlled environment, some degree of expansion is bound to occur which may necessitate you being willing to adjust the hinges of your cabinet doors to prevent sticking or friction. This is especially simple when it comes to concealed hinges which are built to be adjustable in three ways with just a few minor twists of the screws.
Also, as inset doors and drawers are designed to sit square with the face of the cabinet when closed, there will be some loss of cupboard or drawer space which may negatively impact the storage of larger crockery and cookery items.
Can Inset Kitchen Cabinets Be Customized?
As mentioned above, inset cabinets work wonderfully with any style. Another advantage is that they can be further customized to reflect your chosen kitchen design and personal preferences.
Two of the most common ways to customize your inset cabinetry is by choosing between beaded or flush face frames and concealed or exposed (finial) hinges.
A beaded face frame is a great way to add more detail to an inset door or drawer without impacting the cabinet’s integrity. Beaded face frames are best suited to a traditional look while flush face frames are ideal if you’re aiming for a contemporary, transitional or cottage look.
Regarding your choice of hinges, both options have their benefits.
Concealed hinges offer a soft-close (anti-slam) feature (a must if you have kids) plus more scope for adjustment and, of course, they are not visible when the doors are shut. On the downside, they do take up valuable storage space within the cabinet. Concealed hinges complement a traditional or contemporary style.
On the other end of the spectrum, exposed (finial) hinges come in a range of attractive finishes, making them perfect for a transitional and country cottage look. However, they do not come with a soft-close feature and are not adjustable.
You also get to decide whether you prefer flat panel or Shaker style inset doors and drawers.
What is a Shaker Kitchen Cabinet?
Inspired by the expert carpentry skills of the Shakers, who were known for their austere but beautifully crafted furniture, Shaker style kitchen cabinets feature recessed panel doors and drawers and light natural finishes or stains. A distressed finish can also be used to give the cabinets an aged appearance. As per their simple style, adornments are kept to a minimum, and the hardware is usually hidden from view. Shaker kitchen cabinets are typically built using hardwoods, like birch wood, although these days the panels are most often veneers.
What is a Frameless Kitchen Cabinet?
When selecting cabinets for your kitchen remodel, you first need to decide between framed and frameless cabinetry. You are probably most familiar with the framed option as these are most commonly produced by American companies.
As their name suggests, framed cabinets feature a face frame to which the door is fixed (or over which the drawer frame rests) in the case of overlay cabinets or within which the door or drawer sits in the case of inset cabinets. The advantage of framed cabinets is the durability they offer. This extra sturdiness is vital if you desire inset kitchen cabinets.
Frameless cabinets, on the other hand, do not have a face frame (aka a trim board) thereby facilitating easier access and giving them a sleek, uncluttered look. They became the cabinet style of choice throughout
Europe and many parts of Asia after the invention of the concealed hinge which doesn’t require a frame for mounting. In their favor is the fact that frameless cabinets are practical and can be manufactured efficiently and cost-effectively. Frameless cabinet boxes are usually made from thicker plywood which may ensure greater robustness and stability. The drawback of frameless kitchen cabinets is that they can only support full overlay doors. Advantages are no center stile, more storage space to work with, and potentially adjustable shelves.
What is an Inset Drawer?
As with inset doors, inset drawers are mounted within the face frame of the cabinet. And again, inset kitchen drawers can be beaded or not and full panel or Shaker style with a recessed drawer panel. As with overlay drawers, inset kitchen drawers are usually set on soft-close undermount glides. In the case of deeper drawers – like spice rack base and pull-out trash drawers – side-mount glides may also be used.
What is Traditional Overlay for Cabinets?
As previously mentioned, overlay kitchen cabinets feature doors and drawer fronts that sit on top of the cabinet face frame. It is also important to distinguish between full (traditional) versus partial overlay cabinet options. The most notable difference between full and partial overlays is the degree of cabinet face frame that is visible and the overall aesthetic effect.
Full overlay cabinets may be compared with inset cabinet doors in that they completely cover the cabinet front (there is typically a mere ¼” of space between door and drawer edges), so creating a seamless continuity, only at a more affordable rate. Also, the fact that they can be used with framed or frameless cabinets, provide ample storage capacity and easy access for bulky items like pots and pans, and that double door cabinets lack the vertical stile ensures overlay cabinets enjoy a consistent level of popularity.
Partial overlay doors and drawers, as their name suggests, only partially cover the cabinet’s front, limiting your cabinet construction options to framed. The gap between door and drawer edges in the case of partial overlay cabinets can vary from 1 – 2 inches, so the face frame is distinctly visible. They are generally the least expensive cabinet option making them a popular choice, especially if budget is an issue. Another advantage offered by the partial overlay option is that no hardware is required. The space between doors and drawers is wide enough to use your fingers for opening and closing.
Pro and Cons of Inset Kitchen Cabinets
Thus far, we have covered some of the most defining aspects of inset kitchen cabinets and seen that they offer plenty of benefits as well as some drawbacks. To help you make an informed decision, let’s recap by listing their pros and cons.
- In the plus column is the streamlined elegance and element of professional craftsmanship that inset kitchen cabinets offer.
- And as the doors and drawers are set within the cabinet’s frame, their edges are less prone to scuffs and scratches.
- While they may not provide the maximum possible interior storage room, inset cabinets take up slightly less area which may be a consideration in a tiny kitchen.
As for disadvantages, we have already dealt with a few concerns including the fact wood tends to swell in the high humid months of summer and contract in winter, meaning inset kitchen cabinets work best in a climate-controlled environment.
- Plus, the fact that inset kitchen cabinets require ongoing maintenance throughout their lifetime which may necessitate hiring a professional carpenter to reset the doors and drawers if you’re not up for the task.
- Also, inset kitchen cabinets offer potentially less storage room than overlay options as the doors are inset and double door cabinets will have a center stile. Your available cupboard space may be further impacted if you opt for concealed hinges. The fix this problem, inset kitchen cabinets manufactured by Maplevilles offer a 14-inch depth while the standard size on the marketing is only 12-inch.
- You will also have no choice but to invest in pull knobs or handles to open and close the doors and drawers.
- Probably the most critical consideration for most homeowners is the higher price tag associated with inset kitchen cabinets due to the level of expertise required to build and install them. The bottom line is expenses can range from 15% to 30% more than for standard overlay cabinets or off-the-rack options. The cost will also be influenced by your choice of materials and hardware.
- And the greater degree of craftsmanship required may also mean waiting longer for your finished cabinets.
However, affordable inset kitchen cabinets are not beyond your reach which brings us to our final point.
The Best Way to Find Inset Kitchen Cabinets in Los Angeles and Orange County
The good news is that the beauty of inset cabinetry can be within your budget if you know where to look. One obvious way if to ask any friends, family or colleagues who have recently had their kitchens redone if they can recommend a wholesale seller. Another avenue is the good old Google search. However, be sure to double check each seller’s website for comments from former clients as well as third-party sites like Houzz for unbiased consumer reviews. You can also always ask a kitchen designer but be aware he/she will be more likely to steer you toward an independent or custom cabinet maker than a wholesaler.
For more information about choosing inset kitchen cabinet sellers, check out this article.
While inset kitchen cabinets may demand more maintenance and command a higher price tag than standard overlay options, they certainly make an impressive style statement. Their appeal rests foremost in their customized feel, clean, uncluttered look, and the refined furniture-like finish they give to your kitchen.