Choosing the right cabinetry for your space can be an overwhelming experience. Most manufacturers have enough colors and styles to make your head spin. But before you even get to that point, there are some important elements to consider that most designers and sales people never tell you about unless you ask.
From a longevity standpoint, the most important element of a cabinet is its composition. What material is the cabinet constructed from and how thick this material is are very important considerations.
A quality cabinet that will stand the test of time is composed of a minimum 1/2″ cabinet (or furniture) grade plywood. A cabinet constructed from any other material such as particle board or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) will not hold up over time.
Joinery, or how the cabinets are held together, is a tell tale sign of good craftsmanship. There are books upon books dedicated to different kinds of joinery so we will not explore this area in too much depth. What is important to know is that a simple nail or screw is not an appropriate way to construct cabinets. Quality cabinets are constructed using several different kinds of joints which are appropriate for different parts of the cabinet. “Dovetails”, “Rabbets”, “Mortise and tenons” and “Dado’s” all signify a higher level of craftsmanship and quality.
Basic Design Styles
There are two basic cabinet styles, Framed (or Face Frame) and Frameless. They both refer to the exposed face of the cabinet where the drawers and doors are located.
Framed cabinet construction is generally considered more traditional looking and offers some style variety based on the amount of door overlay. Door overlay just means the extent to which the door covers or “lays-over” the face frame.
Frameless cabinet construction is often described as a “European” style of cabinet. Cabinet doors are typically full-overlay (covering the entire front edges of the cabinet box) though some can be made as full-inset. With full-inset designs the edges of the cabinet box are usually finished with a wood or laminate veneer or some other material to mask the raw edges of the cabinet box.
The last piece of the puzzle is the drawer and door hardware. In general, you can identify quality hardware by its look and feel. Drawers should be on “Full Extension Glides” providing access to the entire drawer when they are in the open position and door hinges should be adjustable in multiple directions. A quality cabinet company will also offer silencers to prevent drawers and doors from slamming closed.