Inset or Overlay Cabinetry? What's the Difference?

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Inset or Overlay Cabinetry? What's the Difference?

If you’ve been in market for a kitchen (or some other cabinetry focused space) before, you probably know that there are a couple different styles to choose from. The most popular? Either inset, or overlay cabinetry.

The doors of inset cabinetry sit within the frame. The doors of overlay cabinetry sit in front of the frame. When it comes down to it, the difference is fairly minimal. You get slightly more space, with overlay (like, the thickness of your doors). But the real deciding factor should be, drumroll please, your preference.

Below, we’ll explore some ideas and opinions—not facts—about which is best for your design goal.

Pick Overlay Cabinetry!

There are two versions of overlay cabinetry. Partial overlay, and full overlay. The doors on full overlay cabinetry completely cover the frame. Door edge, will touch door edge. Partial overlay covers the frame, but leaves just as much of it visible between each door (on all sides).

As mentioned, you’ll experience about a half an inch of extra space inside your cabinetry thanks to an overlay style. Full overlay is usually found in really modern kitchens, while regular overlay lends itself to a more traditional feel. However, neither option sets your style in stone.

No, Pick Inset Cabinetry!

Some people consider inset to be a strictly traditional choice. In reality, inset cabinetry is a versatile, transitional choice. You can get a really traditional, furniture-like feel with inset cabinetry, or set an ambience that is much more modern. Inset cabinetry is all about sharp, clean lines. So, you can really go either way with this.

If you’re thinking about playing with positive and negative space, open/closed storage spaces, and elements like open shelving—inset cabinetry is probably your best bet.

Okay, overlay, fine. The door sitting inside of your frame technically takes some space from the inside of your cabinetry, but you likely won’t notice. You also technically gain as much space on the outside, as you lose on the inside.

transitional kitchen design

Pick What YOU Like!

So inset, or overlay cabinetry? Well first things first—just like you don’t have to pick one color, texture, or door, you don’t have to pick one style of cabinetry. Overlay and inset cabinetry can play off of each other, skillfully, in the same space. And, when it comes down to it, inset and full overlay give off pretty similar effects.

As with most things in design, your opinion matters most. You’re the one living with the space. The best designers will provide you all the information you need to make the right decision, for you. They’ll make suggestions, but always allow you to make the final call. If you’d like some further reading, and/or additional perspectives on this topic, this article (from a midwest design firm) has some good points as well.

All of the photos in this article are from our showroom. Please, come on in to further explore the differences and discover your preference. Ready to get your design process started? Reach out, let us know which style you’re thinking about going with (or, if you still can’t decide—we’re happy to help).

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