Designing your perfect kitchen so often starts with the cabinet doors, and for very good reason: they play a pivotal role in the overall look. Follow our advice and be inspired by these kitchens to choose the right kitchen cabinets for your new room.
How to choose the best kitchen cabinets
Begin with an easy question: do I prefer modern or traditional design? If it’s a timeless look you’re seeking, a Shaker kitchen door is the classic choice, while a more traditionally panelled Georgian kitchen door will provide a slightly more stately tone. For contemporary kitchens, it has to be a plain slab door. Go without handles for an ultra minimalist kitchen.
Of course, the door design or even colour/finish is not where the decisions end. The most successful kitchens are fitted with cabinetry that is meticulously planned, both inside and out. Kitchen storage needs to be thoughtfully allocated – divide and conquer using dedicated dividers, shelves and baskets. Integral lighting can be used to boost the impact of interesting materials.
And don’t forget the handles – they should never be an afterthought. Even recessed handles can bring a design dimension via colour-contrasting shadowlines or interesting placement.
- Discovered your dream cabinetry design? Find your perfect worktop material
1. Choose on-trend black on black
On the cabinetry catwalk, black is the new black, and the new grey for that matter. Easy to combine with almost any other shade, black is your quickest route to drama and depth. Why not channel your inner Abigail Ahern and paint your kitchen ceiling black, too? This is The Real Shaker Kitchen with Bella Brass handles and Staved Iroko worktops, from £12,000 at deVOL.
2. Go handle free
While handle-less cabinetry is an undisputed winner for achieving a slick, contemporary look, the minimalist aesthetic needn’t lack interest. Here, the golden glow of burnished brass puts push-to-open island cabinet doors firmly in the spotlight. A nanotech coating arrests the oxidization process to prevent tarnishing and make the doors easy to clean. This is the Form 6 range from Sola Kitchens prices from £35,000.
3. Mix up cabinetry materials
Interesting pairings – the more dynamic the better – can shake-up cabinetry design without breaking the bank. Look no further than Wren Kitchens for a master class in mixing cabinetry materials. This is the Minerva island unit, from £1,330, which ends in a striking combo of industrial-look galvanized steel and dramatic Christus Granite. Paired with deep grey pan drawers with brass accents, the results are undeniably Insta-worthy.
4. Dress to impress
Think of handles like jewellery for your cabinetry doors. Take time to find the perfect shape and finish to dress them up. We love the leather strap-style handles on this simple flat-fronted door in on-trend millennial pink – find similar at Turnstyle Designs. Walls in Topps Tiles’ Anya Ocean Tiles, from £60.20/m2.
5. Choose drawers over base cabinets
Deep pan drawers are considered far more efficient storage-wise than standard shelved base units. The main pro: everything is brought nicely into view – say goodbye to getting down on your knees to reach into the depths. The only disadvantage is that contents can slide around upon opening. Happily help is at hand via a classic peg and dowel drawer base that will keep everything neatly in place, and can be easily adjusted to fit different sized dishes. This elegant example is by Smallbone of Devizes, kitchens start from £45,000.
6. Add interest with texture
The smartest kitchen designers appeal to all the senses when choosing cabinetry. Introducing a textural element is essential for including a tactile treat. One fashion-forward option is cross-sawn timbers, which leave the rugged marks of the saw blade un-sanded, and embrace rustic charm with a chic, modern twist. Here, Roundhouse nails the look with River-washed ply doors on its Urban Metro range, prices start from £35,000.
7. Make a statement with directional doors
Bored of deliberating between classic Shaker versus modern flat-fronted doors? Now Magnet is offering a middle option that’s neither overtly trad, nor uber contemporary. It picks up on our obsession with parquet, one of the hottest flooring trends of the decade, and promises to bring a fresh geometric edge to the kitchen. Avoid overkill by using it as a feature door on a kitchen island, or restricting to units below eye-level. Magnet’s Chevron Grey range starts from £685 for a 60cm-wide base unit.
8. Use vertical space for added storage
There’s something wonderfully reassuring about a library ladder in the kitchen. So sophisticated, not to mention convenient. The trend has stemmed from the need to access those handy yet awkward top cupboards for kitchen storage. But it also brings a little definition to an otherwise relentless stretch of floor to ceiling cabinetry. Match your metal to the cabinetry knobs, and the ladder finish could pick up on timbers used elsewhere, like the utilitarian bar stools here. What’s not to love? Bespoke kitchens by Charlie Kingham start from £19,000.
9. Hide clutter with pocket power
Pocket doors are brilliant for shutting everything away when not in use. They are especially popular in open-plan kitchens, where the workhorse side of things (appliances, taps etc) can look messy and, well, too kitchen-y, when relaxing.
Look for really good, strong runners for smooth action doors that are effortless to use, and plan an interior that looks good when open. This smart example is clad in wood veneers for beautiful contrast. Made to Cave Interiors’ design and specification by Ottima, this bespoke lacquered kitchen starts from £25,000.
10. Up the style factor with edgy details
They say the Devil’s in the detail and, in the case of Martin Moore’s luxurious New Deco range, the detail is devilishly striking. Each door is edged in brass to create a lavish outline that smartly frames solid panels of marble-look porcelain. Martin Moore kitchens start from £35,000.
11. Fit open shelves for easy access
Channel your inner Downton by embracing open shelving, which is enjoying a style revival amid those seeking a pantry-led utilitarian vibe. Be prepared to evict any outright ugly crockery but don’t get obsessive with aesthetics – the most successful open cabinetry is purposefully uncontrived. In fact, most kitchen designers recommend using open shelving for daily-use items so that the dreaded dust never gets a chance to settle. This is Neptune’s Suffolk kitchen hand-painted in Teal, prices from £12,000.
12. Add warmth with burnished metals
Love warm metals in the kitchen but ready to dial down the glitz of copper accessories? This season burnished metal is making a play for attention. On cabinetry, the smart money is on the latest spray-lacquer metallic finishes, which are robust and easy to clean. And, unlike the real deal, won’t tarnish or patina in time. This is a bespoke kitchen in dark oak and metal-effect lacquer by Mowlem & Co, prices start from £30,000. The worktop is Sensa granite in Orinoco, £500 sq m, from Sensa by Cosentino.
13. On a budget? Try a DIY option
Buying your carcases and doors from the same manufacturer is the most common way to guarantee the perfect fit. However, Sweden-based Superfront is shaking things up with its clever kitchen concept that’s opening design doors for adventurous DIYers. Tailored to fit Ikea’s most common carcases, Superfront’s beautiful collection of door fronts, handles, legs, sides and tops are simply a joy to behold. For example, this kitchen designed by Aleksa Studio features Ikea cabinets with Big Fish doors in Pitch Black from Superfront, prices start from £49 for a 40x20cm drawer front. The Mini Circus handles in untreated brass cost £13 each.
14. Celebrate curves
There’s no better way to show-off the craftsmanship of bespoke cabinetry than with beautifully veneered curves. Use the direction of the natural gain to accentuate the shape. This is Humphrey Munson’s Nickleby range, featuring a stunning curved breakfast bar in smoked oak, kitchens start from £40,000. The Mia Glass Pendant lights in antiqued brass cost £108.22 each from Jim Lawrence. See more curved kitchens – elegant in big rooms, space-saving in small kitchens.
15. Work in a pantry
Walk-in pantries offer one-stop storage for all your dried and tinned foods, not to mention those outsized pans and culinary gadgets that won’t fit comfortably in regular kitchen cabinets. Pantries fitted to an external wall will stay relatively cool inside to provide useful ambient storage for butter, cheese and root vegetables. This impressive pantry is by Mark Taylor Design, kitchens start from £35,000.
Read more about adding a pantry – built-in or freestanding – to your kitchen.
16. Devote space to breakfast
A breakfast cupboard with bi-fold doors is perfect for Marie Kondo enthusiasts who prefer to keep countertops clutter-free. Fitted with sockets to keep the toaster and blender on stand-by, the doors can be left open without getting in the way. Some versions come fully-loaded for hot beverages with a boiling water tap and coffee machine inside. This breakfast cupboard is in Davonport’s Tillingham range, kitchens start from £35,000.
17. Break up a solid run of cabinets
A mix of open and closed cabinetry will punch shape and style into a wall of units. Here, smart wine racks bring an extra dynamic that works to further soften the kitchen’s contemporary design. This is the Sine Tempore kitchen in elm from Valcucine. Get in the UK, priced from £45,000, at Forza. The ICB648PRO Pro 48 dual refrigerator costs around £26,880 from Sub-Zero.
18. Opt for modern industrial cabinetry
For a modern industrial-look kitchens with solid construction, look no further than Steel Cucine’s modular kitchen units. The Italian manufacturer is now offering a wide range of cabinets and prep stations featuring the same robust style and solidity of its celebrated range cookers. The 120cm-wide cabinet with stainless steel worktop shown here costs from £2,913, available in the UK from Bradshaw Luxury.
19. Plan and design kitchen lighting
Advances in LED technology is taking the illumination of cabinetry to next-level exciting. Task lights underneath your wall units are still de rigueur for safe prepping. But, for a more decorative solution, concealed LEDs are where it’s at. Hidden under plinth lines, behind splashbacks or in recessed shelving units like this one, they emit gentle mood lighting that brings cabinetry to life. This is Rational’s Tio range in metallic bronze and metallic anthracite, from £12,000.
20. Make use of a wasted corner
Fixed on a roller system, aluminium tambour doors glide up out of the way when not required – ideal in those often-wasted kitchen corners. This bespoke kitchen in engineered sawn oak is by The Main Company, prices from £25,000.
21. Customise ready-to-paint units
If you’re happy to get your brushes out, Howdens latest kitchen launch might be the answer to colour-customisation on a budget. Its Shaker-style Burford Paintable range brings an element of bespoke tailoring not generally expected from your local builder’s merchants. Supplied primed, ready for your favourite shade, it’s shown here in Dulux Raspberry (30RR 10/321) and Dulux Charcoal (30BB 10/19).
22. Choose a surprising paint shade
Ultra Violet may be Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2018 but we’ve still got a place in our hearts for 2016’s Rose Quartz. Or any delicate pink for that matter. In the kitchen, pink cabinetry can be used to soften dramatic blacks and moody greys. For timeless elegance, it’s hard to beat Masterclass’ Vintage Rose, one of the latest shades in its Solva Shaker kitchen range, priced from £7,500.
23. Re-purpose antique furniture
Kitchen cabinets don’t all need to be brand spanking new, adding one or two vintage elements is a fast-track way to add character. Hunting down the right pieces is all part of the fun. Head to salvage specialists like Retrouvius for reclaimed science benches and haberdashery displays. Antiques shops are also great resources, and the furniture can often be restored for you – try The Old Cinema.
24. Invest in drawer inserts
Dedicated cutlery and utensil drawers are the chicest way to keep contents neatly in place. Timber cutlery inserts not only look fantastic, they also have a noise-dampening effect. For extra practical benefits, request removable cutlery trays that can be carried to the dining table when it’s time to lay up. These oak drawers are part of a bespoke design by Naked Kitchens priced from £25,000.
25. Create character with glass-fronted units
With its 1950s overtones, ribbed glass lends new cabinetry a comforting vintage feel. Happily, it also partially obscures contents, so you don’t have to be too tidy when packing away the food shop. In this bespoke fitted dresser by Clayton Cabinets, the sliding doors have recessed handles to allow them to be pushed right back when using the toaster inside. Bespoke kitchens start from £21,000 at Clayton Cabinets. Designed in collaboration with Nikki Bailie Design.