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The Complete Guide For Modern Cabinets

Subtle details, clean lines, and a preference for less-is-more... we'll discuss all of the details needed to create the perfect modern aesthetic for your kitchen.

A photograph of sleek, modern kitchen cabinets.

(Design and photo credit: Henrybuilt)

Full-Overlay Doors Are A Must

To achieve the barely-there 1/8" gaps between the doors and drawer fronts (called "reveals") we need to use a full-overlay cabinet. This is one of the most defining characteristics of a modern kitchen. To go one additional step for a truly authentic, contemporary look, we want to use a frameless or "Euro" style cabinet. On face frame cabinets, the hinges only allow for so much "overlay" (the amount the door covers the face of the cabinet). By eliminating the face frame, we can achieve the 1/8" reveal.

A diagram demonstrating the difference between European-style frameless cabinets, and American-style framed cabinets.

Flat or "Slab" Doors and Drawer Fronts

Another defining characteristic of modern kitchens is flat or "slab" doors and drawer fronts. While solid wood is great for a lot of different applications, veneer in this context actually works better (we get a bit more into the details of that here). Solid wood may twist and warp with the changing of the seasons, but veneer (and more-to-the-point, a veneer door's engineered core) will stay perfectly stable and flat throughout the year.

A good rule of thumb with most modern details is "less is more". While more traditionally-styled doors have recessed or raised panels and edge detailing, we want to keep the details as simple and understated as possible, letting the natural beauty of the material itself to be the feature.

A photograph of a sleek, modern-looking kitchen featured gray cabinets.

(Photo and design credit: Henrybuilt)

Use Very Understated Molding

While crown and other moldings can add a nice elegant flare to a more traditional kitchen, we want to refrain from using large and "loud" profiles in a modern kitchen. Ideally we would go without any unnecessary adornment, though if a molding is required (say to hide under-cabinet lighting or wiring), lets keep it as subtle as possible.

A photograph of a sleek, modern kitchen featuring black cabinets.

(Design and photo credit Fenix)

Consider Texture and Sheen

Ultra-matte and high-gloss door and drawer front finishes have long been the standard in modern cabinetry, though the recent advancements in material technology (enter Fenix and Abet, for example) make these once-expensive finishes now much more accessible. To create a more understated German or Scandinavian look, opt for matte. For more of a Milano and Italian flare, use high-gloss.

A photograph of a sleek, modern-looking kitchen featured grey cabinets and dark wood.

(Design and photo credit Fisher and Paykel)

Use No or Integrated Hardware

If at all possible, using touch-front hardware for doors and drawers will create the most modern aesthetic. If this isn't reasonable for your home, consider using "integrated" pulls (machined into the doors and drawer fronts), or very understated stainless or matte black steel hardware.

A photograph of a sleek, modern kitchen featuring dark wood.

(Design and photo credit: Poggenpohl)

Smart Interior Details

Whether it's a subtle print on the interior, metal drawer boxes instead of the maple dovetailed drawers of traditional cabinets, or smart concealed storage options like pantry pull-outs or blind-corner units, these little details can really elevate the feel of your kitchen cabinets. Words like smart, sophisticated, and high-tech are often used when describing modern kitchens. These little hidden bits add a refined and personalized flare to your new cabinetry.

A photograph of a set of kitchen cabinets with one drawer open. The cabinets are of a very dark wood.

(Design and photo credit: Henrybuilt)

Don't Be Afraid Of Color

Modern monochromatic cabinetry can quickly end up looking like a sterilized surgical ward, so adding a little splash of color can really add some much-needed warmth. Likewise, incorporating rich wood grain, highly-figured marble, or softly-frosted glass compliment the subtle and understated details we've discussed above.

A photograph of a modern kitchen featuring a wide variety of colours. The top cabinets are a bright turquoise. The wood in the background is a vibrant, light wood, and the lower cabinets are a dark, greyish green.

(Design and photo credit: Viola Park)

The Value Of Unbiased Advice

With so many details to consider on a large-scale project, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. If you need help vetting a specific cabinet company, deciphering those beautiful finishes on Pinterest so you know exactly what to ask for, reducing costs (like this recent example where we saved a family $95,000 on their cabinet order... yes ninety-five thousand!!), or anything else with your project, consider booking a Cabinetry Consultation. With often misaligned objectives in a new-build or remodel (builders want what is familiar, showrooms and designers want what is most expensive...), we are completely unbiased and will advocate entirely for you, your budget, and your design.

We're here to help give you the peace of mind in knowing your project will go as smoothly as possible.


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