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Cabinet Door Options

Selecting the Perfect Custom Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts For Your Home Organization System and Cabinetry

Many custom closets, pantries, wall units and entertainment centers include cabinets and drawers as part of the storage solution. Selecting the perfect cabinet door and drawer front is key to lasting happiness with your new organization system. They make a big style statement and can set the entire tone of the piece. Much of the door selection process is dictated by your personal preference and budget. Perfect is not the same for everyone. Possible styles include Traditional raised paneled doors, Transitional beveled or recessed paneled doors, and a selection of Contemporary styles to match every décor. Most door styles have matching drawer fronts. A drawer front is basically a small, narrow door attached to the front of the drawer box. It is important to note that the grain on drawer fronts will run in the opposite direction (horizontal versus vertical) from the coordinating doors due to cost efficiencies in the manufacturing process. This is true for all materials, styles and manufacturers. The different direction in the grain is not noticable. Some people, however, will insist on "matched grains". Expect to pay signicantly more for this as it requires custom milling. Selecting a style of door/drawer front is separate from selecting the color — Most doors will be available in a full range of colors.

Cabinet Doors and Drawers Styles

Cabinet doors can be ordered with raised panels, recessed panels or flat fronts, and beveled or straight edges. The different options allow for choices with a traditional, transitional or contemporary look. At Closet Works, the traditional style doors/drawers include Harmony and Crownpoint with their raised panel design, and Portabella with its French Provincial finish. Transitional door styles include Elegante, Aspen, Tuscany, Bella, Villa, Shaker Mission, Shaker Beadboard, Regal, Unity and Lowland. Contemporary and modern styles include Flat/Slab, Contempo, and Italia doors/drawers. These doors offer the simplest profile, while the traditional styles are the most ornate. Transitional doors are somewhere in between.

The door style is combined with color and finish to set the tone of the piece. Warm, natural wood tones dominate traditional style, while simple profiles with high gloss finish will give off a definite modern vibe. The gray wood tones so popular today straddle the area between traditional and modern, often embuing the piece with a transitional flavor. Many colors transcend any style classification. For example, doors and drawers finished in white can often fit with any décor. The door style used with it will determine whether it belongs to the traditional, transitional, contemporary or modern category.

cabinet door options at Closet Works
The Closet Works selection of door faces from our catalog: Closet Works carries sixteen basic door and drawer front styles in a variety of price points to suit every need.

Cabinet Doors Materials & Construction

Cabinet doors can be made from real wood, MDF, laminate, thermofoil material, or glass. Availability of each door style is limited to specific materials. Thermofoil and frameless solid glass doors are molded as a single piece. Wood doors use solid wood stiles and rails that are connected through mortise and tenon joints. Laminate doors can be a single piece or five-piece construction with stiles and rails depending on style selected. When you open a laminate doors or drawer, you may see an edge band. That is the material used to cover the cut ends of the plywood or particle board on drawers, shelving and cabinet doors. Edgebanding material is made from melamine. The banding comes in long rolls and is adhered to the edges of the door using a special edgebanding machine.

Edgebanding machine at Closet Works
Edgebanding Machine: Closet Works edgebands all four sides of our shelves, panels, door and drawer fronts including the bottom.

Cabinet Doors and drawer fronts come in six basic material choices including glass, plus an additional assortment of panel insert materials for open frame versions of the paneled doors:

  1. Standard Melamine: This type includes our slab/flat style laminate door and drawer fronts only. These doors and drawers are manufactured at the Closet Works factory out of furniture quality 3/4 inch laminate. They will be an exact match to your shelves and other system components if you choose a laminate closet/organization system. They have a high quality, eco-friendly particle board core. This is the only door or drawer style available for Stylelite® High Gloss or Stylelite® Velvet Finish laminates. The doors/drawers will be edge banded on all four sides.
  2. One Piece Thermofoil: All thermofoil doors, drawer fronts and mouldings are machined out of a single 5 foot x 8 foot sheet of 100% recycled, CARB II compliant, medium density fiberboard (MDF) which forms the core of the component. Water based glue is applied and one of our many colors are membrane pressed into the parts to make the door. Thermofoil doors are made using a flexible vinyl material that is applied by heating the vinyl and molding it over MDF. The result is a cabinet door with a smooth surface that resists chipping better than painted surfaces. It is also moisture resistant (although not water proof). The laminate color is applied to the front of the door only and the backside of the door can be a slightly different, coordinating stock color. These doors do not require edgebanding due to their one-piece construction. At Closet Works, this group includes Italia, Elegante, Aspen, Harmony, Contempo, Regal, Shaker and Shaker Elite/Bead Board door styles.
  3. MDF: These are the same as the Thermofoil doors discussed above, except that the wood grain membrane is not applied. Instead the doors/drawers are left in their raw MDF state — ready to accept a painted finish. This is a good economical alternative to a painted wood door.
  4. Five Piece Laminate: All Closet Works five-piece doors and drawer fronts are contructed in a fashion similar to a solid wood door — each has five pieces that are fused together (except for open frame that has four pieces). This gives the door or drawer the authentic look of wood construction without the premium price tag of a solid wood product. Through mortise and tenon construction, the stiles and rails are glued and clamped around a center of 1/4 inch thick, CARB II compliant, two-sided MDF. Unlike the one-piece thermofoil doors, the five-piece doors and drawers use the same color laminate on both sides. Drawers are avaialble in 7 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch sizes. Five-piece laminate drawer fronts are not available in the 5 inch face sometimes used with shallow drawers. You need to use a complimentary style of drawer front or make the face larger if your system includes 5 inch drawers. Our standard Slab/Flat door will be a good match. Five-piece laminate styles at Closet Works include Portabella, Tuscany, Villa and Bella profiles. These doors/drawers come in limited colors that vary by profile. Check the doors and drawers page of our website and click on the picture of the door you are interested in for specifics on these styles.
  5. Natural Wood Doors: Natural wood doors are constructed from five pieces — two stiles, two rails and a center panel. This wood series is available pre-finished in White, Cocoa, Corretto Cherry, Ivory, Moonlight, Morning Dew, Rain Cloud and Shiraz Cherry. They are also available unfinished so that you can stain or paint them yourself. Solid wood doors, drawer faces and mouldings feature the natural beauty of real woods. Part of the beauty comes from the irregularities in color and grain. Thus, variations among component parts are to be expected. The natural wood series of door and drawer profiles carried by Closet Works include Crownpoint, Unity and Lowland door and drawer profiles. They are constructed from cherry or alder woods depending on finish selected.
  6. Frameless Glass: Another option is the frameless solid glass door. A thick piece of glass with smooth, polished edges is used as the entire door and there is no wood or other material surrounding/framing the glass. This can be a nice option for upper cabinets used for display purposes, especially when a LED lighting system is installed in the cabinet. Special hinges are required for this type of door. Touch latches are also usually required to open and close the door. These types of doors are considered to be a decorative accessory used primarily to create additional pizzaz rather than a structural component of the system. They are like jewelry for your cabinet. Frameless glass doors are available in clear glass, reeded glass (fluted), rain glass (textured), and mirror finishes. These are solid pieces of glass with thicknesses that vary from 3/16 inches to 1/4 inches thick depending on selection. Frameless glass doors do not have matching drawer fronts available. Hinges will be visible on frameless glass doors. These doors differ from the glass panel inserts used on the open frame doors detailed below.
    cabinet door inserts from Closet Works
    Example from the Closet Works catalog: frameless doors in solid, textured glass used on upper cabinet.
  7. Open Frame Doors & Drawer Faces: Many of the wood, laminate and thermofoil doors are available open frame with inserts. That means that they can be ordered without the center wood/laminate panel so that an alternate material may be used instead. This group includes Aspen, Harmony, Portabella, Tuscany, Villa, Bella, Regal, Shaker, Crownpoint, Unity and Lowland styles. The last three are natural wood. The rest are thermofoil or laminate. Open frame doors and drawers are the same as their full frame counterparts and feature the same profiles, minus the center panel. They are designed to accept glass, mirror or mesh panel inserts as the alternate center panel. There are seven types of glass panel inserts available from Closet Works: Clear; Rain Glass; Reeded Glass; Mirror; White Lami (frosted); Gray Lami (smoked); and Bronze Lami (brown tint). The term "lami" refers to the fact that two pieces of glass are laminated together with a thin transluscent color placed in between the pieces. These doors are usually used as an accent or when contents of a cabinet is intended for display. Additionally, open frame door styles are also available with mesh panel inserts. Mesh panel inserts only come in black. They are typically used for cabinets housing audio/video equipment, or when heat build up from electonics might become an issue. Open frame faces cannot be used for 5 inch high drawer faces.
    cabinet door inserts from Closet Works
    The Closet Works catalog selection of door panel inserts shown on a Shaker style door.

Two-Piece Dowelled Construction:

A dowelled door is two separate doors that have been connected using pegs or dowels to make them function as a single door. There are two reasons to use two-piece dowelled doors. Some people prefer the aesthetic look of smaller doors rather than the massiveness of of a single oversize door. Additionally, several door styles have a maximum height to which they can be milled. Exceeding this height can result in warped doors, so a dowelled door may be chosen to eliminate this issue when very large cabinet doors are required in certain styles. Frameless glass doors are not available with dowels.

cabinet doors with mirror panel inserts
This large door with mirrored panel insert was dowelled for aesthetic reasons. The upper section is sized to match the door size of small cabinets used elsewhere in the system, providing a uniform look to the entire wardrobe closet.
See Project >
dowelled cabinet doors for closet
These dowelled doors open and close as a single door. It gives the appearance of two separate cabinets from the outside, but this construction allows the interior shelf to be adjustable. The heights of the two shelving sections can be changed as the owner's needs change.
See Project >

Cabinet Door Types

There are three main cabinet door types on the market: 1) Inset; 2) Partial Overlay; and 3) Full Overlay.

  1. Inset cabinet doors have small hinges mounted right on the face frame. The door is inset into the cabinet opening and the full cabinet face is visible. Hinges are also usually visible when the door is shut. This is the old fashioned method for hanging cabinet doors
  2. Partial overlay doors and drawers are mounted over the face of the box, covering the opening completely and partially covering the finished face frame. They often present a choppy look when there are many doors or drawers next to each other.
  3. A third type/higher grade of door is the full overlay — meaning that the closed door covers not just the opening, but the face of the cabinet as well. Cabinet doors at Closet Works are of the full overlay type. No hinges are visible when the doors are closed. This is considered to be a more modern way of hanging cabinet doors and is very popular in Europe. Special hinges are used that remain invisible from the outside of the cabinet. The advantage of the overlay door style is that any gaps between doors and drawers are minimal, creating a consistent and continuous appearance. It also allows the fullest possible access to the box. That means bigger drawers, smaller drawer guides and more space for storage!
full ovrlay cabinet doors
Full overlay door and drawer panels cover the cabinet faces. Hinges are installed on the backside and are completely hidden from view when the door is closed. This cabinet uses three drawer fronts that are dowelled together to extend the visual symmetry with the drawers to the right and left of the cabinet.
See Project >

Cabinet Door Hinges

Various hinges are available for use on Closet Works cabinet doors. In many instances, the type of hinge you receive on your door will be automatically determined by the type of door selected. For example, glass doors and flip up doors each require a specific hinge in order to work. However, most doors will have a choice of two hinges — a standard 110° hinge or a 180° hinge. The standard 110° hinge will open a little past the perpendicular point. The 180° hinge has the greatest radius and opens fully so that the door can sit parallel against the rest of the system. The 180° is an upgrade. The correct type of hinge for you is determined by your intended use of the cabinet and its location. A cabinet door that opens next to a perpendicular wall would receive no advantage from the more expensive 180° hinge. On the other hand, a cabinet that holds a hidden pull-out desk would almost certainly require a 180° hinge in order to function at its best. For the majority of cabinets, however, upgrading to a 180° hinge is simply a matter of preferance and budget.

ties stored in a drawer
Standard hinges open the door 110° — adequate for most needs, especially when the door opens next to a wall. However, 180° hinges are available as an option to ensure that doors can be opened to their fullest.

There is a lot of detailed information that goes into choosing the perfect cabinet door and drawer front. Many choices are available, but time spent in researching the best choice for your needs will pay off. Doors and drawer fronts are the most visible pieces of the cabinet. Finding the right door for your project can create the pièce de résistance for the room — or even the whole house.