Cabinet Door Styles Explained: Cabinet Door Terminology  |  The Cabinet Store + Culina Design, Apple Valley MN

When shopping for cabinetry, you’re likely to come across terms you might not be familiar with.  Ultimately you’re going to want to select your cabinets based on their visual appeal and quality, but we think understanding some of the industry lingo will make your shopping experience a whole lot simpler. 

A few door frames from Medallion Cabinetry, offered at The Cabinet Store + Culina Design, Apple Valley MN.
A few door frames from Medallion Cabinetry, offered at The Cabinet Store + Culina Design.

Before we jump right into the four types of cabinet doors available, it’s good to understand that there are two types of cabinet boxes:  framed and frameless.  Pretend you are opening the door of your cabinet and picture this…  A framed cabinet will have a a finished layer of wood covering the box edges (facing you; similar to a picture frame) that the door closes onto.  A frameless cabinet on the other hand will simply show the box edges itself, with the door closing directly over it.

With that in mind, here are the four door categories available (all of which we sell here at The Cabinet Store + Culina Design):

1. Partial overlay

A partial overlay means that the door is smaller than the cabinet frame itself, so that the door only partially overlaps the frame.  The part of the frame that shows (when the door is closed) is referred to as the reveal.  If there is space between your cabinet doors, you likely have partial overlay doors.  This is a very traditional, affordable, and still popular choice.

2. Full overlay

Full overlay doors cover the entire frame or cabinet box. The overall appearance is a continuous facade of door and drawer faces, resulting in a seamless look, with little to no gaps. Some people especially appreciate that in full overlay cabinets with double doors, there is no center frame piece between the doors to reach around or behind. Full overlay doors can work with both modern or traditional styles, depending on the exact door style and color chosen.

3. Inset

Inset doors are more custom and unique. In this door style, the doors and drawer fronts do not overlay the cabinet frames at all. Rather, as the name suggests, they are inset flush with the cabinet frame. This can create the rich look of fine furniture.  However it’s important to note that changes in humidity or temperature could potentially cause these doors to stick, if the wood were to swell or the space around the door were to expand or contract.  This is an issue that should be easily kept under control with the consistent use of air-conditioning and humidifiers.


As the name implies, a frameless door style is one that is used with frameless cabinets, where the door closes onto the front edges of the box. The door and drawer front completely cover the box front, which allows wider drawers and gives you full access to your cabinets with no “lip” in the way as you move items in and out.  Frameless cabinets are the most modern style, often referred to as a European style.

With your newfound knowledge on cabinet door styles, we hope you’ll browse with even greater understanding of the quality and advantages that each door style offers!

Ready to shop for cabinetry?  One of our friendly designers here at The Cabinet Store + Culina Design would be more than happy to help you determine which door style is right for your style, budget, and the age of your home.  We hope to see you here in our Apple Valley showroom sometime soon!

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