Kitchen styles — the ultimate guide to cabinetry styles from Shaker to slab

This look at kitchen styles will help you find kitchen cabinets that suit your home’s architecture and your taste

An example of kitchen styles showing a light and airy open plan kitchen with a marble-topped island and cream cabinets
(Image credit: The Expert / Amber Interiors)

There’s a wide range of kitchen styles to consider if you’re remodeling your room. 

It’s possible to create a look that’s contemporary, traditional, transitional, farmhouse-style and more, and choosing between different cabinetry styles is crucial to getting the desired aesthetic. 

Cabinets are a major feature of the kitchen, and well-made versions will be part of your home for a very long time. 

They can be a major investment, too, so it’s vital to consider kitchen cabinet ideas and styles that you’ll love now as well as for many years to come. 

Kitchen styles

This guide will show you the different effects a variety of kitchen ideas and styles can have and will help you choose the right cabinetry to suit your needs and achieve your desired look.

1. Shaker style kitchens

An example of kitchen styles showing a kitchen with a wooden island, wooden flooring and black cabinets

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

Although their design may date from the 18th century, Shaker cabinets have enduring style and are perfect if you're looking for country kitchen ideas

The doors have a five piece construction with a flat inset panel framed with rails above and below, and stiles on either side that gives them interest and detail but swerves fussiness. 

The Shakers emigrated from the UK to the US in 1774 in order to establish their utopian community, and the doors embody the sect’s principles of honesty, utility and simplicity. The door design involves no waste of material, yet they are both sturdy and practical.

The result is a cabinet that creates an impression that’s neither traditional nor contemporary, but is handsome and timeless.

Cherry and maple were often used to make Shaker furniture, so choosing these woods, or oak today, creates a more classic appearance. 

But Shaker-style painted kitchen cabinets are now favored choices, too, offering the opportunity to reflect the light for a larger feeling kitchen if pale colors are selected, or to make a statement in dark hues.

2. Modern style kitchens

A modern kitchen with marbled flooring, an island, and cabinets with gold edging

(Image credit: McCarron & Co)

There are a range of modern kitchen ideas to choose from, including cabinetry that comes in a wide variety of materials and finishes. 

For base and wall-hung cabinets and cabinetry to go with your kitchen island ideas, think two or more colors.

When thinking about which kitchen cabinet colors and shades you might want, grays are still a huge hit for modern spaces, as are warm neutrals. White is perennially desirable for its space-stretching quality. 

But moody darks that create a cozy atmosphere are on trend, too, including rich blues and greens and statement black. And think color pops as well for selected cabinetry in a modern kitchen.

Cabinets are no longer finished in a single material either: wood cabinet doors may be teamed with a manmade finish, metallics can add highlights, and smooth cabinet doors may contrast with tactile textural versions.

Often cabinets are flat fronted (see below), but while handleless is a popular choice, so too are inset handles that add subtle detail to the scheme.

3. Slab door kitchens

An example of kitchen styles showing a galley kitchen with black cabinets and a glass ceiling

(Image credit: Future/Jonathan Gooch)

Opt for slab kitchen cabinets and in place of the panel design seen in Shaker and traditional styles, the door is flat, creating a look that’s sleek, streamlined and unmistakably contemporary. 

It’s distinguished from the modern kitchen style that combines colors and finishes (see above) by the fact that it generally features a single hue. 

The finish might be high gloss in a vibrant color, or even a combination of the two for a high impact scheme. Although, painted finishes in more understated whites and neutrals along with darks are possibilities.

There’s an alternative if this Euro style look isn’t to your taste but the sleek slab door is the clean aesthetic you prefer. Woods like cherry and maple can give this style a warmer finish, whether the door is solid wood or veneered.

4. Farmhouse style kitchens

A farmhouse style kitchen with herringbone flooring, a large island with cream cabinets and two wooden bar stools

(Image credit: Our Food Stories/deVOL)

The farmhouse style that is, for many, synonymous with Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines, is a modern rustic look. 

Often featuring shiplap walls, apron-front sinks and open shelving filled with rustic objects, the farmhouse kitchen idea above combines modern appliances with traditional features in a welcoming, relaxed but functional way.

When it comes to cabinetry, think traditional raised panel designs rather than flat doors and painted finishes, such as clean white, warm neutrals and nature-inspired greens. 

Alternatively, pick cabinetry in woods such as oak, maple, cherry and walnut that offer pleasing grain and appealing natural color. 

5. Cottage style kitchens

A white cottage style kitchen with original cabinets and open shelving above a sink

(Image credit: British Standard)

Whether in locations beside the sea or a lake, or inland, cottage kitchen ideas feature quirky, compact and rustic details. 

Original features are lovingly restored, while state-of-the-art appliances are frequently concealed - or at least discreet. 

Often a space with industrial or nautical kitchen lighting ideas, traditional metals for faucets and cabinet hardware, they’re also home to treasured finds and collectibles.

As for cabinetry styles for cottage kitchens, traditional is the route to take. Look for raised panels with decorative detail or try the verticals created by beadboard designs (also known as tongue and groove), or more intricate open grate doors. As well as fitted cabinetry, consider freestanding furniture for displaying china and more.

As for cabinet finishes, distressed paintwork gives a cottage kitchen a lived-in style and complements industrial accessories. Or opt for simple painted finishes in pure or off-white to brighten compact rooms where daylight can be limited by small cottage windows.

6. Traditional style kitchens

An example of kitchen styles showing a close up shot of an island with leather bar stools below two statement ceiling lights

(Image credit: Future/Mark Bolton)

Kitchens with traditional style don’t stint on embellishments. While they’re as practical and functional as contemporary kitchens, they’re all about the detail.

Cabinets that complement traditional kitchen ideas frequently feature raised panel doors. These might be scalloped or beveled, have detailed profiling or mitered corners, for example.

Decorative crown molding on wall and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry draws the eye upwards and adds to the grandeur of the space, while toe kicks make the cabinets appear to be freestanding and furniture-like.

As well as solid kitchen cabinetry doors, traditional kitchens often feature glazed cabinets, too, that are perfect for display.

Island cabinetry, meanwhile, might have corbels or pilasters together with wainscoting that turns these kitchen features into substantial centerpieces. 

Cabinets are often painted in whites and other pale shades, but the trend for incorporating different finishes has hit these kitchens, too. They might feature islands or other cabinetry in mid or richly toned woods, a dramatic dark or a brighter paint hue alongside another finish.

7. Transitional kitchens

An open plan kitchen with dark blue cabinets on an island with wooden bar stools and a gray stone floor

(Image credit: Future/Brent Darby)

Transitional kitchens remain one of the top two most popular kitchen styles in the US along with contemporary, according to the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association). 

Blending contemporary and traditional aesthetics, transitional kitchens are elegant and classic.

If you're wondering which kitchen cabinetry is best for a transitional kitchen, Shaker cabinets or similar designs with inset panels but clean lines overall are the top option, introducing detail that’s nevertheless subtle to these rooms. 

Transitional kitchen cabinets are often painted wood, and white is a favorite finish, along with other pale neutrals like beige and gray. But neutrals aren’t a prerequisite for this cabinetry style and blue is growing in appeal. 

As with other styles, a two color scheme with a neutral base and wall cabinets teamed with a kitchen island in a different hue is on trend.

The alternative choice for cabinets in a transitional kitchen is to go for a wood finish that shows off the grain of the chosen timber.

Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart,
decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in
furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.