The In’s and Out’s of Inset Cabinets

If you’ve been in the market for kitchen or bath cabinetry you may have come across the different types of cabinetry construction. There are basically three types – framed, frameless and inset. Each of these provide a different look, different access into the cabinets, and whichever one you prefer, might have some restrictions to what you can and cannot do. To learn more about the different types of cabinetry check out this previous blog for more information. Today, we will dig deeper into the ins and outs of inset cabinetry.

What Are Inset Cabinets?

Inset cabinetry is a type of cabinetry that is of framed construction where the cabinet door and drawers are sitting inside the frame. With the door and drawer fronts sitting inside the frame, you may start to see where some restrictions would fall into place. Typically, you will not see inset cabinets in a modern setting, you will rather see it in more traditional or even transitional styles. Also, inset cabinets take up more storage space within the cabinets. Meaning, a drawer will not be full-width because of the frame, and also, any accessories such as pull-outs will have to also take the frame into consideration.

Wood vs MDF Inset Cabinets

Another point to consider is the construction material of the cabinets. Characteristics of wood would include contractions and expansions. So, over time or depending on the season – the door and drawer fronts sitting inside the cabinet frame will begin to get tight, or even become loose. An MDF (medium-density fiberboard) will stay more consistent in shape where you will not have to worry about expansion or contraction. However, it will have a different look.

Single Cabinets or Combined Cabinets?

When designing a kitchen with inset cabinetry, planning out how to combine cabinets where possible will create a seamless look. Typically, the stiles and rails of the frame are 1-1/2”, so ideally, you’d want to have 1-1/2” between cabinets. If you set single cabinets next to each other, the rails would then become 1-1/2” + 1-1/2”, creating a 3” rail with a seam- see where the planning of combining cabinets where possible come in handy?

Countertop Overhang

Another item to consider with inset cabinetry is the countertop overhang. Normally, with frameless cabinets you have the door and drawer fronts sitting proud of the cabinet, meaning the overhang will be about 1-1/4″. With inset cabinets, the door and drawer fronts are inside the frame of the cabinet – meaning you would only need about ½” of countertop overhang. Learn more about countertop overhangs here.


A very important consideration is the type of appliances used, especially if they will be integrated (integrated appliances have cabinetry panels on the front, blending in with the rest of the kitchen). Checking the specifications of these appliances is important because of the depth of the appliance matters as well as the depth of the cabinet panel. So, do you want the appliance it to be flush with the rest of the cabinets? That is something very important to consider.