At Create Interior Design, our team designs custom cabinetry that is not only beautiful, but highly functional, and has a consistent design aesthetic.  Working with a professional kitchen and bath designer and cabinetry specialist is key.

steps to consider when designing custom cabinetry

Most kitchen designers start with a design review and details of the kitchen, baths or areas you are designing cabinetry.  First focus on how your kitchen functions not specifically how cabinets function or cabinet interiors.  Start with layout.

cabinet design inspiration

We suggest doing a little homework.  Look at images of your favorite kitchen and baths.  Our website, Create Design Build, Houzz, Pinterest and builder’s websites, are all great resources.  Save those images to review with your designer.

With some general idea of your preferences and vision, your cabinet designer will prepare a series of take-off drawings for your review.  These are the first interpretation of cabinetry design and based on kitchen layout and any selections made to date.

cabinetry drawings

A kitchen designer will typically prepare three types of cabinet drawings for your review, a cabinet floor plan, cabinet elevation drawing, and a perspective view of your cabinetry from one or more vantage points.

A floorplan will show the layout looking from above and outline the space showing where each cabinet goes.  Sometimes lighting and electrical specifications are also noted on the plan.

floor plan drawing


An elevation drawing, shows the cabinetry on each wall as it appears when you are standing in front of it.  This view is much easier to see the heights and details of the cabinetry that you cannot see on a floorplan.

elevation drawing



A perspective drawing, shows the space in 3D dimension.  It shows dimensional details that far exceed elevation drawings.

perspective drawing



cabinet construction

Your designer will help you review your drawings in detail and discuss types of cabinet construction, and options for door styles, cabinetry materials and finishes.

First decide if you are using stock or custom cabinetry.

stock cabinetry

Stock cabinets are typically produced in quantity and stocked in a warehouse.

PROS Stocked Cabinetry may have quicker lead times.  CONS – Sizes are fixed and limited and do not allow for modification.  Finishes limited to just those offered.

semi-custom cabinetry

Semi-custom cabinetry typically provides more options to choose from than stocked cabinetry.  It is manufactured to spec, but the lead times are longer.

custom cabinetry

Custom cabinetry gives you unlimited options with sizes, styles, and finishes, and unlimited options features.  It may cost a little more, however, custom cabinet design allows for exactly what clients are looking for, and can be modified to suit any space.  It does typically take longer since it is designed and built to exact specifications and finishes.

Next decide if you’ll be doing framed or frameless cabinetry.

framed cabinetry

framed cabinets you can see the frame of the cabinet around the door.

frameless cabinetry

With frameless cabinets, the door covers the face of the cabinet, and all you see if the door.  With frameless Cabinets there is no center style, so when you open a double door cabinet, it’s all shelving with no center upright frame.  That helps with plate storage and other larger items, giving you more space to work with.

type of overlay

With framed cabinets, there are varying degrees of overlay.

full overlay

Full overlay allows the door to cover the entire face of the cabinet and all you see is the door.

partial overlay

Partial overlay is between full and standard overlay, and some of the face frame is visible.

inset cabinetry

Inset cabinets the doors is flush with the face frame of the cabinet.

Once the basic construction is determined you are ready to look at design details.  Cabinet door and drawer styles are a big part of the foundation of cabinet design along with how things are positioned.

cabinet design details

cabinetry door and drawer styles

cabinet door style refers to the visual appearance of the cabinet doors and drawers.  At Create Interior Design our designers get to know your design style and suggest door and drawer profiles that would look best in your home.

Typical Door Styles:

raised panel cabinets

This door style has a decorative wood panel with a raised center surrounded by a wood frame.  Common in traditional style kitchens.  You’ll see them in square, arched or cathedral frames.

reversed raised panel

This style looks like a flat panel door, the center raised panel is flipped.  So the raised side is on the inside of the cabinet.  It looks like a flat panel, shaker door, but with a little more weight since it has the raised panel on the inside.

recessed panel

In this door style a solid frame surrounds the center panel.  It is typically lighter and can save a little money, while looking visually similar to heavier doors

shaker panel

Name given for the styling similar to Shaker furniture style and sometimes referred to a panel cabinet.  Flat panel or recessed panel.  A wood frame and flat center panel.  It’s simple style blends beautifully with many traditional and more modern and contemporary cabinet styles.


This door style  does not have a center panel and sometimes as a grille or design.  They are sometime intended to have a glass or decorative panel.

slab door

This door style does not have a frame.  It’s simple design works well in modern and contemporary designs.  It can be solid wood or veneered with many different materials, such as laminate, thermafoil, exotic woods, and other materials.

soft close options for doors and drawers

You’ll also want to discuss Soft Close options for your cabinet doors and drawers.  Soft-close hardware catches the door and slowly closes, preventing them from slamming and closely loudly and gently grabs door or drawer and slowly pulls it closed. Be sure to discuss before production as using soft close glides can impacts the way cabinet need to be constructed.

cabinet materials

Cabinetry manufacturers use a wide variety of materials when producing cabinets.

solid wood cabinets

Wood cabinets use a single piece of wood for each piece.  You may see changes in wood grain where joints come together, such as mitered corners of a frame.

MDF or medium density fiber board

While some refer to MDF as cheap.  Don’t let that fool you.  It some applications and designs it can be the perfect material.  It’s an engineered wood product made of wood fibers that are joined together with an adhesive glue.  Some cabinetry has a combination of wood and MDF, common in paint grade cabinetry for the panels.  Its strong and stable and MDF paints up beautifully.

particle board

Particle board is created from other wood materials and particles that are compressed  and bonded with adhesive.


Plywood is also an engineered wood composite made from compressing thin layers of wood together.  It is commonly used for cabinet interior and creating the shelving.

laminate or PLAM

Commonly used as a countertops material, can also be used as a covering on cabinetry.  There are a few different variations of laminate.


Melamine is a type of laminate.  Direct-pressure laminate, otherwise known as low-pressure laminate is what is commonly referred to as melamine. It is manufactured under 2 to 3.5 meganewtons of pressure per square meter and creates melamine resin a highly durable type of thermosetting plastic bonded with a phenolic resin glue and a melamine resin plastic facing.


Thermofoil is a surface material applied to cabinetry.  It is a plastic material which is thermoformed on engineered wood or MDF.  It usually has a high quality sheen.  It can be heat sensitive so cabinet designers should be aware and take care when placing near appliances that generate heat.

If you cabinet materials are not pre-finished, the final step will be choosing your Cabinetry Finishes.

cabinetry finishes

Cabinet finishes are unlimited and you can highly personalize your design style with your finish colors and different textures.  Often cabinetry comes pre-finished and you can choose from those selections and you may choose wood cabinetry to be stained or wood or MDF to be painted.

cabinetry painted finishes

The beauty of painted finishes is endless.  With an unlimited pallet of options it is extremely popular in cabinet design.

cabinetry stained finishes

Stained finish on wood is beautiful and allows the beauty of wood and wood grains to show through transparent color.

cabinet glazing

Glaze is used over painted finishes.  It is a semi-transparent wash that is applied over the paint along the panel details and door style details.  It appears darker crevices and highlights the cabinet design.

antiqued patinas

Antiquing is a technique where hand applied finishes are typically rubbed on with paint for an aged appearance.

cabinet distressing

Cabinets may be distressed with the long or rubbing, scoring and worm holes to further the aged appearance.

Keep in mind sometimes unfinished cabinets are less expensive, but you will have finishing costs to paint or stain.


Cabinet Design can be so rewarding and such an important part of your home’s overall design plan.

We hope our overview of the Cabinet Design Process was helpful.  For additional design tips and design inspiration check out Create Design Build and our blog, Create Home.

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