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Inset Cabinets – Everything You Need to Know

A unique style of kitchen cabinetry is known as inset cabinets and for all intent purposes, it serves as a strong visual accent and a classic form of master woodworking craftsmanship. But what makes inset cabinets so remarkable and stark are the cleverly hidden hinges and flush appearance. This page is dedicated to everything you’ll want to know when considering inset cabinet doors.


What Is An Inset Cabinet Door?

highlighted inset cabinet

In a nutshell, inset cabinet doors are doors that are designed to fit flush inside the face of the cabinet frame. As opposed to doors that sit on the outside of the frame which can be semi-flush or flush with neighboring doors, inset doors are very easy to spot. Their hinges aren’t always completely hidden and sometimes have the edges of a hinge peeking out, but most inset cabinets will keep them hiding on the inside of the door frame.

The only way to open these cabinet doors is by adding a pull handle or knob placed on the opposite side where the hinges are attached. New hardware additions also include spring-loaded magnetic latches for cabinet doors that don’t use exterior pulls and knobs.


Types Of Inset Doors

different types of inset cabinet doors

Although there are only two technical types of doors that are used for inset cabinet doors, the choice of materials and door design can include a wide variety of choices. These styles can include popular styles such as shaker, mullion, raised panel, recessed panel, slab, or even louvered cabinets. Solid wood is a perfect choice but for those who are worried about swelling and sticking issues that sometimes make inset doors stick, composite materials are recommended.

Framed Doors

These are cabinet doors that have a frame that creates the outer door itself. There is a panel that goes into the middle of the frame that will appear raised or recessed. It’s not limited to inset panels that contain mullion frames for glass windows or other decorative inserts either.

Frameless Doors

Just like it sounds, frameless doors have no frame at all and are one-piece constructions such as slab doors or what most people call flat panel doors. These types of doors provide a flush appearance that is cleaner and neater than framed doors and is often used for modern kitchens.


Are Inset Doors Expensive?

calculator and inset cabinet doors

Because of the way that inset doors are constructed, this type of cabinet door is naturally going to be pricier than overlay doors. On average, the cost can see an increase between 15-30% depending on the materials used for these cabinet doors. Preassembled inset doors will be a good choice for lower pricing while custom-made inset doors are higher in cost because of the wood and materials used.

Another reason that inset doors will be more expensive is always related to the proper fit of each door into a cabinet. As expected, the hinges are much different than overlay doors, so ensuring the proper installation is vital to an inset door working perfectly.


What Materials Are Inset Doors Made Out Of?

carpenter making inset door

It would be fair to say that most inset cabinet doors are made from wood and constructed from several pieces if they are framed doors. Single-piece doors including flat panels can be made from wood, composite materials with veneer on top, and MDF with laminates placed on top. The choice of wood that’s used should always be hardwood since softer varieties are prone to absorb moisture. The best choice is MDF that’s covered with laminates or veneers.

This would greatly reduce the chances of inset doors becoming sticky’ if there are any high humidity issues in your kitchen.

A Short History Lesson On Inset Doors

There is very little evidence that inset cabinets were crafted before the 18th century and were primarily made by wood craftsmen in England during the Victorian Age. The concept behind this type of construction was actually to reduce nicks and scrapes that usually affect overlay cabinet doors. For whatever reason, this style soon found its way into kitchens because of the clean minimalist lines and the emerging modern kitchen layout fashion in that era.


Benefits of Inset Cabinets

kitchen with inset cabinet doors

It might surprise you to know that inset cabinet doors have gone through many ups and downs over the last couple of centuries. One thing for certain is that inset cabinets have endured big changes in fashionable kitchen cabinetry trends which helped shape their popularity.

Clean Lines

Despite the immediate clean face of the inset cabinets, this adds to the minimalist style very nicely. This style can also be given more texture by adding framed doors that provide more depth to the surface without losing any of the aesthetics.

Historical Nostalgia

This style simply appears like something out of a museum and it’s easy to sense there is a history behind this type of cabinet furniture. It also gives any kitchen a nostalgic feeling for appreciating a long-past time when kitchens were more traditional. It was only later in the 20th century that inset cabinets were redefined for their contemporary style.

Well-crafted Appearance

There is more skill involved with creating inset cabinets, so the craftsmanship is automatically easy to spot. This adds deeper quality to any kitchen and most people will assume the cabinets were all made by hand.

See here for more ideas on how inset cabinets compare to other types of cabinetry.


Are Inset Cabinet Doors Right For Your Kitchen?

inset cabinet doors kitchen in AZ

Luckily, there are very few humidity issues in Arizona, and inset cabinet doors aren’t going to swell or stick so easily. Aside from that, adding inset cabinets to your kitchen is always a great choice when looking for modern looks or simply old-fashioned charm. Because the doors can be so versatile, the look and textures that will add more detail allow you to go outside the box for personal style.

And though inset doors are slightly more pricy, the range of new and cost-effective materials can allow inset cabinets from a range of different budgets and options. This also applies to the choice of finishes and colors from wood or composite materials.


Inset Cabinets

What are inset cabinets?

Inset cabinets are a type of cabinetry that is designed to be installed within the frame of a cabinet, rather than on top of it. This makes the doors and drawers flush with the frame and gives the overall look a more plush and streamlined appearance. They can be found in many more expensive homes as the material cost associated with these types of cabinets and drawers is a tad higher than with other types.

What are the defining features of inset cabinets?

The defining features of inset cabinets are the flush-mounted doors and drawers that are designed to be installed within the frame of the cabinet. This also means that there will be hardware requirements and special hinges made for inset cabinets.

What is the history of inset cabinets?

Although these sorts of cabinets have been used for centuries, they only started becoming popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The style is believed to have been popularized by British carpenters who also brought this style of cabinet making to the USA. The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century in America, which emphasized simplicity and functionality, helped to popularize this style of cabinetry.

What are the benefits of inset cabinets?

Since the doors or drawers are built to be inside the frames, they are usually built with stronger natural woods that last longer but are more expensive to build. But the cost is worth the sophisticated and timeless look they give to any kitchen or bathroom. They are also visibly appealing as there are no gaps to see which also makes these types of cabinets easier to clean.

What materials are used for inset cabinets?

The most common material is natural wood, although any wood or even man made product can be used. But if something like plywood is used, then the frame will need to be treated in the same way as all the doors and drawers. For example, to keep costs low, sometimes these cabinets are made from plywood or a cheaper material and formica is glued to all the surfaces.

What colors are popular for inset cabinets?

Natural wood finishes, such as cherry and maple, are a popular choice for inset cabinets, as they add warmth and texture to the space and are some of the most used. But depending on how your cabinets are made, any color or faux wood grain patterns can be used giving these types of cabinets a lot of versatility. Other popular colors include white and gray, which offer a clean and modern look that is both timeless and sleek.

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When you engage our design team, we simplify the very complicated and tedious kitchen remodel process. We do this by listening to what you want, then translating your vision and expression into a virtual design that is uniquely yours.

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