You may have your sights set on building some cabinets this summer. Here’s one final bit of advice: don’t make short shrift of your cabinet doors. In fact, Euro-style cabinets are all about the doors. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Door Styles: Slab vs. Frame & Panel
If you’d like a fast and easy solution, slab-style doors — built from solid wood panels or edge-banded plywood — could be perfect. To invigorate slab doors, use showy, figured wood or book-matched veneer. Let the wood’s natural beauty and pattern sparkle. You can even dress up the edges with a routed profile.
Frame-and-panel doors will take longer to build, but you’ll have a much wider palette of design options, and they may stay flatter in the long run, too. For a moment, consider each part of the frame-and-panel door independently.
Frame variations: Generally, a door frame’s rails and stiles are the same width, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Experiment with wider rails; they may help wide doors look narrower. Or, shape a wider top rail into an arch or cathedral to soften that rectilinear look.
Using cope-and-stick bits on the router table does more than just mill sturdy corner joinery. They also help introduce some attractive contours and shadow lines to your door frames. Bit sets come in classical bead, quarter-round, beveled and ogee profiles. Pick up a bit catalog and explore the options.
If you carry the sticking profile over to the outer edges of your doors, they’ll have added flair. Match the profile, or use the reverse here: a roundover inside complemented by a cove around the perimeter.
Frames don’t have to be limited to two stiles and two rails. A third divider stile will break your panel space in two — helpful to deemphasize really wide doors. A third rail creates an over/under panel style. You can even curve the rail and shape the panels to match it.
Panel Possibilities: Door panels give you the chance to be understated and traditional or playful and funky, with a range of possibilities in between. It depends on the effect you want.
Bill used flat panels for his cabinets — a lovely, if austere, Shaker-inspired design. But even flat-panel doors leave some room for creativity. Instead of using the same wood species for both frame and panel, consider building each from contrasting wood: for instance, cherry frames with sycamore panels, walnut frames with ash panels and so forth. Figure and grain also add “pop”: try flatsawn maple frames with bird’s-eye or spalted panels. You get a whole new effect by mixing woods.
Take flat panels in a different direction with texture, color and detailing. Beadboard panels lend charm to country cabinets, painted 1/4″ MDF panels can match an accent color in the room. Carving, intarsia (hey, you’re a woodworker!), routed patterns or inlay strips are other possibilities.
Raised panels give your doors a more crafted look than flat panels, and they’ll never go out of style. Here, your profiling options for shaping the panel edges will depend on the raised-panel cutters: various coves, ogees or flat bevels are the usual choices. If you’d rather not invest in an expensive panel cutter, use your table saw: it works well for milling bevel-edged panels.
Glass and Hardware Considerations
Glass lites divided by muntins and mullions are an elegant alternative to solid wood panels. They make the contents of your cabinets part of their allure. Clear tempered glass is a good choice, but glass comes in a myriad of other styles: seeded, reeded, krinkled, beveledged, frosted, colored, opaque … the list goes on. You could even hire a glass artist to make up leaded stainedglass panels to fill your door frames.
Finally, a word on hardware. Catalogs and web sites are virtually spilling over with hinge, pull and knob options. A little research could reveal the perfect porcelain knob or Stickley pull your new doors deserve. Hinge styling may seem insignificant, but you’d be surprised how much better a solid brass ball-tip hinge looks than a stamped and plated cheaper option. Don’t skimp on the small stuff — you won’t regret it. And if the idea of building all those cabinet doors seems like more work than you have time for, hardware sellers like Rockler will even make cabinet doors to order for you. So if you just want to make the boxes, you can order the doors to fit.
Cabinet doors are so much more than just box covers, especially with Euro-style cabinetry. Doors (and drawer fronts) represent a chance to elevate your custom cabinetry far above the humdrum, home-center fare. Take the challenge and have fun with it!