Friday, August 24, 2012


I have two bids for cabinets for one of my projects. One company does full overlay cabinets and the other does inset cabinets. One is more expensive than the other (inset) but does it really matter?

Quick education in cabinets if you aren't familiar...
FULL OVERLAY CABINETS means the door of the cabinets have less than 1/8" between them, or are fully laying over the cabinet so you don't see the cabinet strip between or on the sides of the door.

INSET CABINET DOORS are flush with the front edges of the cabinet boxes. The doors actually shut flush in the cabinet box rather than over like the overlay. (kind of a box within a box)

I have FULL OVERLAY doors in my kitchen.

And in my investment property we did INSET cabinets

Can you even tell a difference? I can't really, although I am drawn to kitchens with inset cabinets. They seem to be designer's first choice. However there is a slight difference - inset cabinets, because of the way they are made, have less room in their drawers than full overlay cabinets. If you have a small kitchen, full overlay may be the way to go, but the difference isn't substantial enough to not do inset in my opinion.

With that said here are some pictures of other cabinets with full overlay and inset cabinet doors. Let me know if you have a preference - I am really curious to hear if you think it matters, especially since inset are more usually more expensive...



What do you think? Inset or Full Overlay cabinets?
If you still can't decide, the debate goes on HERE.


  1. Call me crazy but I like the overlay better. They have less crease lines and it looks cleaner to me (I used overlays here: Not that anyone but a cabinet maker is really going to be able to tell a difference. Great informative post!

  2. I don't think there is much if a difference for most cabinets-though I really like the inset on that first photo with the smaller, open from the bottom cabinets.

    My favorite image from this post is the window-backe cabinets. They are jaw-droppigly gorgeous! I had to share it with Dave to get him on board now with creating a similar space in our (very-far-off) future home.

  3. For as much as I love to look at kitchens I have never really payed attention to that particular detail. But now that I am, I actually happen to prefer the overlay.

  4. I looked at my inspiration pictures and it was about half and half. Some of my favorite kitchens have inset doors though. I would say if you can get every thing else on your wishlist and still have room in the budget for insets (and you love them) get them. If not, I think full overlay still provides that clean look, and it is what I will be doing in my own kitchen.

  5. I've always preferred the inset cabinets as I think they provide a "richer" look. That said, I'm very surprised at how much SOME of the overlay cabinets look like insets to me. In the photos of the overlay cabinets, the first pic as well as the pics of the kitchens with darker cabinets look more obviously like overlay to me. The others, most of which are white cabinets, look very similar to the inset ones. I think it has something to do with the pattern or the way the wood is carved on the cabinets themselves - the shallower, sharper edges on the overlays seem to look more like the insets. So, on the whole, I would say I like insets better, but with a very clean design on an overlay I would be content.

  6. Thank you for all of your comments! They are super helpful. I think I am going to go with the full overlay cabinets since they are less expensive and all of you seem to like them almost as much as the the inset. What would I do without you all?!

  7. I prefer the look of inset cabinets (somehow they seem a bit more traditional to me and since I have an older house I guess that seems more appropriate), but when we redo the kitchen, we'll do full overlay because we'll be refacing the cabinets, which are currently partial overlay (which I hate, by the way). I guess I never realized that you get more space with full overlay so I'm going to feel better about that.

  8. I love the look of an inset cabinet. I think it gives the kitchen a very furniture-like, custom look. Inset cabinets weren't in our budget, so we worked with our cabinet maker/kitchen designer to make our frameless appear inset. He added a 1"piece of trim between each cabinet. Here's how it came out:
    We love it!


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