Kitchen Cabinets 101 – Ideas to Consider When Designing Your Kitchen

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Whether you want to learn more about the remodeling process or are looking for some design inspiration, we’ve got just what you need to get the creative juices flowing!

contemporary kitchen cabinets


That’s the response you want when you walk into your new kitchen following a remodel.

Getting to that “wow” moment takes planning and a lot of decision-making. One of the first (and most critical) decisions you’ll make in the design process is the cabinet style and layout for your kitchen. This early decision dictates the design aesthetic, space planning, and most importantly, overall budget for the space.

With so many factors to consider, choosing kitchen cabinets can be overwhelming. To help demystify the process, follow the guidance we give our clients as we walk you through Choosing Kitchen Cabinets 101!




Know your design style. Prior to making any material selections, you’ll need to know the aesthetic you want to achieve for your space. We’ve highlighted the three major interior styles (modern, transitional, and traditional) here to help you determine your interior design style. Once you determine your style, you are ready to move to the next step in choosing cabinet door profiles for your kitchen.

Set your budget. Cabinetry is one of the biggest ticket items in your kitchen remodel budget. Set a realistic budget range for what you can invest in cabinetry before determining the cabinet style and features you desire. There are several factors which add to the cost of cabinetry that impact the overall cabinetry budget, including:

  • Face-frame or frameless cabinet boxes
  • All wood or press wood
  • Paint-grade or stained wood
  • Dovetail drawers
  • Organizational features
  • Inset or overlay doors

Select your kitchen cabinet door style. The cabinet door you prefer will depend upon your personal style.

Pick your finish. Natural wood comes in a wide variety of species, with alder and cherry being the most common selections. For a rich-look (and pricier option), nothing beats a  clear stained walnut cabinet. Paint-grade cabinets are often made of maple and finished in practically any color you want. The huge trend we’ve seen in recent years with white-painted cabinets is now making a subtle shift toward soft grays.

Choose your configuration. Cabinet layout is determined by the size of your space, the type of storage you need, and how you use your kitchen. Here are a few questions to consider when planning kitchen cabinetry:

  • What type of small appliances do you need to store?
  • How many drawers will you need?
  • What type of organizational features do you need?: pull-out spice racks, lazy Susan, vertical tray storage, roll-out storage, etc.
  • Will your space have an island and what type of storage needs to be in the island?
  • Will upper cabinets have glass panels?

What height do you prefer? Upper cabinets can extend to the ceiling, to a soffit, or can leave a space between the cabinet top and ceiling. If you are short on storage space, ceiling height cabinets will give you a few more shelves. If removing existing soffits means relocating all your ductwork, it may not fit into your overall remodeling budget.

Find your perfect countertop. If the kitchen cabinets are the box, the countertop is the wrapping that finishes the look! We wrote an article on countertop choices which will help you when making this important design selection! Take a look.

Select your hardware. You’ll find thousands of choices in kitchen cabinet hardware to complement the overall look you’re aiming to achieve.

  • Determine your finish: chrome, oil-rubbed bronze, brass, nickel, glass, etc.
  • Styles (pulls, knobs, latches). One thing to consider before you decide upon which hardware to install on your new kitchen cabinets is whether you want it to fit with universal design principles. Knobs are harder for arthritic hands to grasp so a pull might make more sense in that case.
  • Hinges (visible, concealed)

With so many kitchen cabinet options to choose from, it’s a critical first step in budgeting your remodel and creating the ultimate look for your new space.

At Next Stage Design in San Jose, our team of remodeling professionals guide homeowners through the many decisions by first helping them discover their design style, determine their budget, and then finding materials that fit both their style and budget. To learn how we can help you, schedule a free consultation today!

Get Inspired
Whether you want to learn more about the remodeling process or are looking for some design inspiration, we’ve got just what you need to get the creative juices flowing!
Schedule a complimentary in-home design session today!