Kitchen cabinet ideas – the materials, styles, colors and trends to know

From Shaker-style to modern, handleless designs, we take a look at some of our favorite kitchen cabinet ideas

Kitchen cabinet ideas
(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Finding the right kitchen cabinetry is pivotal to creating a kitchen that you will love for years to come.

Whether you prefer a classic look or something more modern, these kitchen cabinet ideas will provide you with the inspiration you need to create a scheme that is anything but dull or dated. 

  • See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for open-plan, galley, U-shaped and L-shaped kitchens

1. Opt for a sleek handleless design

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Richard Powers)

The latest contemporary designs are all about a multi-tasking, free flowing design with a paired-back look.  Available in a variety of finishes, from hi-gloss white to textured woods and ceramics, it’s a style that works beautifully in both modern and period properties.

Technological advances in push-open and close doors means that it has  become possible to dispense with handles in both wall and base cabinets. If you prefer not to have push-open cupboards, then recessed handles provide the same sleek look and can be lined with contrasting colors and materials to add interest. 

Whether you’re after handleless cupboards to make the most of a small space or keeping a large space open and light, it’s important that clutter is kept at bay. Too many objects on worksurfaces can spoil the look so ensure you have as much storage space as possible by incorporating the latest drawer systems. 

2. Introduce color to your kitchen

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

'We are seeing a definite trend towards bolder, braver color choices for statement kitchens with more personality,' says Jamee Kong, designer, DesignSpaceLondon.

To prevent strong color from overpowering, use it in small portions – perhaps to highlight a key focal point – or keep it below your direct sight line as you enter the kitchen. Also consider scale: a big kitchen  can take a much bigger burst of color.

'If you're worried that colorful cabinetry might date or dominate the scheme, opt for neutral tones and then introduce color with tiles, paint and  accessories,' advises  Rob Whitaker, creative director, Fired Earth.

3. Replace kitchen cabinetry doors

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Brent Darby)

If you are happy with your existing layout and your carcases are in good order, replacement doors not only make an easy and affordable option, they can also be a creative one too. 

In the past, replacing just the doors would have been considered the budget approach but, with a definite move towards adding individuality to a room, this is a great way to refresh a kitchen. 

You might choose just to replace a selection of the doors rather than all of them – perhaps just wall units, or just one part  of the kitchen as a focal point. 

In a plain modern kitchen, you could replace just a handful, picking  several colours to create your own palette. And of course, new doors can be the greener, less  wasteful option – there’s no need to rip out a perfectly good kitchen, just because the doors are  dated or you want a new colour or finish. And it is satisfyingly simple. 

'It really is something you can  do in a day,”'says Robert Clark, MD of made to measure company, Kitchen Door Workshop. 'It’s a matter of unscrewing the old door and putting on the new one.'

4. Celebrate curves in your kitchen

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Alicia Taylor)

2021 will see the introduction of curvaceous design elements taking center stage.

Just as kitchens are not simply for cooking, so kitchen cabinets do not have to be  solely composed of straight lines. 

Full-on voluptuous or gently rounded, curves will lift the layout of your kitchen and soften the overall look of your space, adding a bold design focus or a subtle touch of shaping to your kitchen cabinetry. 

'Curves offer that touch of individuality that everyone is searching for, softening the  lines in the interior to create a much more welcoming space,' says Graeme Smith,  conceptual designer, Metris. 

'Although linear, kitchens continue to have strong appeal, there is a definite trend towards a softer approach in the styling of kitchens, with curves being easier on the eye and more comfortable to live with.'

5. Work in a pantry 

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Carolyn Barber)

A much-loved classic, the pantry or larder offers versatile storage that’s equally suited to modern life.

The rise of the home chef and baker, modern shopping habits and the trend towards low-level kitchens with few wall cupboards have created a very modern need for a generous central store, and modern-day pantries – in all their guises and formats – are finding a valued place in country, classic and contemporary kitchens.

There is something about a pantry that encourages you to consider aesthetics alongside the  practicality. ‘The pantry is a traditional room, so I think it’s nice to take the design cue from that and go with it – wooden shelves, scroll brackets and a cold slab,’ says Nick Anderson, designer and director of Guild Anderson. Shallower shelves above deeper shelves, positioned at different heights, allow you to store, see and reach different things with ease.

  • See: Pantry ideas - from designing walk in spaces to organizing counter top pieces

6. Provide easy access with open shelves 

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

Kitchen storage can come in many forms other than traditional wall cupboards. Open shelving is a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive crockery collection, or are a keen cook who appreciates having ingredients close at hand. 

Having everything on display, however, is not for the faint-hearted as it requires a certain amount of dedication to keep shelves looking smart.

Consider the look you are opting for, whether traditional, featuring detailed joinery, or sleek and unfussy with a  contemporary edge. And think carefully about what you are displaying – this will ensure each shelf is made to allow sufficient depth and to carry weight without warping. 

7. Opt for a timeless, Shaker-style kitchen

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Adrian Briscoe)

This timeless yet simple kitchen design originated from the 18th-Century Quakers, known as the ‘Shakers’ because of their animated style of worship. Furniture with any decoration or embellishment was shunned in  favour of humble and functional pieces that echoed their modest lifestyle. 

Known as ‘Friends of the Light’, the Quakers believed in bringing light where there was darkness, and their kitchens reflected this. The lack of electricity in the home meant that kitchens were often sombre places, so the furniture was made from light woods such as cherry and maple and often painted in bright colors dictated by their sect.

Today, Shaker-style kitchens adorn the homes of many, and for good reason. It is a look that works equally well in traditional and contemporary homes. 

Wood is the dominant material in Shaker kitchens but be careful not to tip the scale to ‘vintage’ or ‘country’ style. Choose a simple design with square doors with an inset panel and, if you have it painted, go for a matte finish. 

8. Go for a modern design

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

The mainstay of modern kitchen design is simple flat-fronted cabinetry – it’s a  sleek look and one that is ageing incredibly well. In fact, much of what we  consider to be modern design dates back to the 1930s. 

Even the sleek, handleless cabinets so typical of modern kitchen design right now have been around since the 1960s when SieMatic launched the first finger-pull kitchen cabinet. 

For a while, modern kitchens seemed to take stark to a whole new level. Cabinetry was pared down and invariably white gloss, but it’s a look that can be too clinical for many. 

Thankfully, the current trend for modern is a far warmer affair. The clean lines and a fuss-free finish are still there but with texture, surface finish and soft color that bring character and are easy to live with. The simple lines show off clever engineering, form and finish, and the latest engineering  techniques have helped give new life to materials previously out of favor. 

9. Embrace a solid wood scheme

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Choose wood if you want solidity, longevity and an organic material.

A solid wood kitchen has all the beauty of a natural material with each piece having a  unique grain pattern. It will also age well. Wood naturally expands and contracts, so a  quality wood kitchen will be constructed to allow for this slight movement. 

Consider attractive woods such as oak and walnut, or a painted finish, which offers a different spectrum of looks. Alternatively, you can combine natural with painted finishes in different parts of the room. Wood is generally a more expensive option than other cabinetry choices.  

10. Factor in freestanding elements 

Kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Future / Rachael Smith)

Free yourself from the restraints of fully-fitted kitchen cabinetry and enjoy a more flexible, laidback cooking space. 

For those seeking a more relaxed approach to kitchen design, the option of  buying freestanding, rather than fitted, cabinets is proving increasingly attractive. Often initiated by the desire to protect original architectural features from the permanent attachment of modern fitted units, the freestanding kitchen is becoming a particularly popular choice in period properties. 

'Not everyone aspires to the sleek banks of units associated with a contemporary  fitted kitchen,' agrees Debbie Bowden of Barnes of Ashburton. 

What kitchen cabinets are in style now?

The latest kitchen cabinets that are in style now are contemporary designs that are all about a multi-tasking, free-flowing design with a paired-back look. 

'Handleless kitchen cabinets are one of the biggest trends for 2021 for more pared-back, streamlined look. It’s all about simplicity and a focus on cabinetry details,' explains Busola Evans, Kitchen and Bathroom Supplement Editor.

How much does it cost to replace kitchen cabinets?  

It can cost anywhere from next-to-nothing to over $50,000/£37,000 to replace your kitchen cabinets. It all depends on what materials, labor and finishes you want.

'The great thing about kitchens is the cost is incredibly broad and there’s no set amount of money that you should spend on new kitchen cabinets – but it is important to create a realistic budget,' advises Andy Briggs, interior designer at Optiplan Kitchens.

Setting an accurate budget in advance will allow you to find the best way for you to achieve the look you're aiming for without over-stretching your finances.