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How to choose between Overlay or Frameless Cabinets

How to choose between Overlay or Frameless Cabinets

Frameless or Framed Cabinets?

     If you are confused about the difference don’t worry, most people aren’t aware either. This is an important decision to make early on when designing your cabinets to fit the style and meet the goals you have in mind. In this blog, we will learn about the differences between frameless and framed cabinets, the advantages & disadvantages of both, and the style both typically cover.

Lot 6 Porpoise Downsized-13

What is a Framed Cabinet?

     A framed cabinet as shown below is the typical cabinet box construction that 99% of folks in the U.S. are familiar with. The “face” of the cabinet box is wider than the sides and back, the face is what you see around the door or drawer. The typical framed cabinet box construction is ½” plywood side and back panels with a 1-1/2” hardwood (maple, oak, cherry) face frame overlayed onto those panels. This design creates wasted space between the cabinets and a small decrease in interior storage dimensions because of the larger face frame overlayed onto the cabinet box.

What is a Frameless Cabinet?

   A frameless cabinet is simply a minimalist cabinet construction that aims to maximize the storage capacity of any given space. This style of cabinet construction is standard in Europe which is why it is also known as European-style cabinets.  As shown in the graphic above, the frameless cabinet is a simple box and the very front edge of it is the edge you typically see on a cabinet. The frameless “face” is just the side panel of the box, typically ¾” plywood, or in very high-end cabinets it may be made of hardwood like cherry, maple, or oak.

Advantages Of Framed Cabinets

  • Ability to add as many decorative accents and use a smaller door/drawer to see more of the frame while reducing costs (partial overlay).
  • More forgiving during building and installation as door/drawers have large gaps and more adjustment to hide mistakes.
  • Able to utilize the Inset style of doors/drawers typically found in high-end homes with expensive custom cabinetry.
  • Most common style of cabinets found in the U.S.

Disadvantages Of Framed Cabinets:

  • On average reduces interior storage space by ¾” in width and ¾” in height per cabinet box.
  • Has larger gaps between doors/drawers which may be unappealing.
  • Harder to “reface” than frameless cabinets.

Advantages Of Frameless Cabinets:

  • Maximize storage volume by dimensions, great for condos/apartments for this reason.
  • Smaller gaps between doors/drawers creating a “precise” look and feel.
  • Uses a matching veneer on the entire construction of the box.
  • Typically more durable and heavier box construction than framed cabinet box
  • Maintenance is usually easier on the laminate-finished doors.
  • Easier to “reface’ by swapping the doors.

Disadvantages Of Frameless Cabinets:

  • Tighter gaps between doors/drawers make installation more difficult and require a skilled cabinet installer.
  • Doors/drawers must cover all of the frame which eliminates the ability to do smaller doors/drawers with less overlay.
  • Can be more limited on construction material options.
White and Grey Shaker Kitchen

What Style Do Framed And Frameless Cabinets Embody?

Modern: Frameless cabinets fit the modern style and vibe the best with sleek tight lines, finishes, and crisp edges. The frameless cabinet style is timeless with its deep history in Europe and wide variety of finishes with simple shapes.

Traditional: Framed cabinets fit the traditional style and vibe the best with decorative features and accents throughout the entirety of the kitchen adding to its profile and design. Typically soft colors such as white, beige, and cream.

Contemporary: Both framed and frameless cabinets can blend into the contemporary style based on certain design choices such as simple door styles and minimal accent and decorative trim. This is most commonly seen where framed cabinets try to mimic the simplicity of frameless cabinets in an attempt to make them more modern.

Final Thoughts

     In short, there is no right or wrong answer to the style of cabinet you choose as long as it suits your functional needs and aesthetic desires. Now that you are armed with this knowledge of their differences you can better understand your choice between them. Focus on the theme of your home as a whole and design your cabinets to enhance that them and style.

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