Are 'inset' cabinets worth the cost?

lisapicoFebruary 5, 2008

I'm having second thoughts on our inset cabinetry. We're being told it will increase our costs by at least 20% and I'm wondering if it's worth doing. In addition to that we're replacing flooring, appliances, adding windows, remodeling MBR. I'm totally willing to do this if it makes sense and would love feedback from those that have already been there, done that.


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It's a very subtle, upscale look. If you're going for that 'white cabinets with soapstone vintage look' it'll help you get there. Is it worth the cost? Totally personal...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 6:48PM
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When we did our kit in this house I hemmed and hawed about the increase but we finally decided the look can not be duplicated so we did it. Now we are doing a kit in another house and never even gave a thought to anything but beaded inset. I am planning barn red cabs with SS counters and want the old look. As stated above only if you love the look is it worth it.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 7:01PM
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well for what its worth, I didn't' do it and I'm already wishing I did. ESPECIALLY on the drawers. uggh. But we just couldn't justify the expense.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 7:09PM
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I wanted inset from the beginning of our search. It was just the right look for our house. I agree with eandhl the look cannot be duplicated. I tried to convince myself to go with other full overlay (which were beautiful also) But it just wasn't right. So I could never commit. It was a 15% upcharge. But it was worth it for us. I don't regret it at all. I won't even think of that money in a little while, in fact I don't think about it now, LOL. But I would have thought about not spending it to get what our house needed everytime I looked at those cabinets for years to come. It is a very personal choice. We did give up the beaded edge which saved us just a little. I would do it again and would probably pay the money for the beaded edge next time too.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 7:49PM
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I love love love the look but could not justify either the cost or the loss of drawer space. But I was after the Christopher Peacock kitchen (meaning I wanted to emulate that look) and once I really stopped to think what it was about that look I wanted, I realied I didn't need the inset. Additionally, in our newer house it might've been a bit goofy (see any of the threads about getting a kitchen style to maktch your home's style).

But without a doubt it is one gorgeous look!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 8:17PM
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I didn't go with the inset, either. No regrets. I actually like the overlay look.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 8:25PM
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If you love the look, but trying to save on cost, I have heard of people doing inset on the top and full overlay on the bottom. The top cabs are visually much more the focal point than the bottom cabs. Especially if you're planning an island, none of the cabs behind the island will be seen if you're on the other side. Maybe even do the bottom with a different finish to make them stand apart from the top and make it look like you really planned it that way.

Just an idea!!!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 8:33PM
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I love mine. My GC tried to convince me to go with full overlay, and I've seen some lovely kitchens with full overlay, but I wanted inset shaker style oak cabinets, and by Dog, I got 'em!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 8:40PM
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I was not able to justify the cost; however, my cost was closer to 25-30% additional. This was a local custom cabinetmaker and I liked his cabs quite a bit. His specialty was full overlay. We went with a shaker style door and a bead, and I am very happy with them. We were building a new house and have a fairly large kitchen with two islands so the additional cost was too large of an amount to swallow.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 9:29PM
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Do inset drawers and cabs stick over time like my old furniture with inset drawers? Or do the new glides fix that problem?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 9:33PM
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I think the look is great, but I couldn't justify the loss of space (especially in the drawers -- and we were going all drawers in the bases other than sink bases) or the expense. I did framelss cabinets to get every inch out of my kitchen and I'm much happier with the use of space than I could have possibly been with inset doors.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 12:09AM
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Sara, the glides & proper fitting result in no sticking.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 9:44AM
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Two things:

1. What is the loss of space several folks mention - especially in drawers - with inset? Is there truly a loss of space and if so, how much? We never considered that.

2. We are doing a combination - we will have some cherry cabinets with a full overlay door. But we will have a few large cabinets as accent pieces that I was planning to have with inset doors. Actually been rethinking this because of the cost - and toyed with doing inset on the wall cabinets of the accent piece and either an overall or a 3/8" inset (ie inset with a small overlay) on the base.

Curious - does anyone have 3/8" inset and do they also result in loss of space on drawers?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 10:21AM
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berryberry, the loss of space is significant over an entire kitchen, especially if you have lots of drawers. Because you have a 'stile' between each drawer, the more drawers in a stack, the more space is sacrificed. Your trade off is a fine furniture look.

If I can resurrect a thread weed30 posted several years ago addressing 'inset v. full overlay cabinets', I'll post a link. Weed wrote the definitive treatise on this subject ;) and this information helped us with our decision-making.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 10:55AM
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vjrnts kitchen was the straw that broke my camel's back :) I had toyed with inset in my mind over and over, but since I wasn't doing a white cabinet kitchen I was thinking it wouldn't look good...then I saw that kitchen and now we have natural cherry in the kitchen with inset. It's a look that can't be replicated, and frankly it just has that upscale wow in a very subtle way that I wanted to sneak in.

The new hinges and proper fitting eliminate the issue of misalligned doors and drawers, and I didn't think the loss of space was a huge issue, especially since it's still about 50% more space...heck maybe more, than we did have. The upcharge for us was 19% if I remember right, and that's with beaded edges. I'm glad I made the change at the last second :)

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 10:59AM
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vjrnts -- that's a beautiful kitchen! A great illustration of why people might pay more for inset cabinets. Very tempting!

My architect specified "flush overlay," which I think (from looking on the web) is the same as "full overlay." Is this true?

I gather the overall effect is to (1) save money, (2) achieve the flush aspect of "inset," and (3) result in clean lines. It also decreases the overall weighty look of the cabinets if they have glass panes because there is less wood showing.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 11:03AM
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sarschlos_remodeler, as for sticking. Remember furniture is wood on wood glides. My kit cabs have blumotion glides on drawers. The only slight issue I have is I had to uppers done with two doors, the beading around the entire opening of the 2. In the worst humidity instead of just swinging one of the doors shut it is tight enough that you have to close it. No other issues and as I said I am doing it again.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 11:19AM
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pecanpie - thanks. I understand the stile bewteen drawers - but isn't there a stile between drawers in parila and full overlay as well? Or is it just bigger in inlay?

The good thing is we aren't thinking about doing this everywhere - but it would impact two large cabinets for pots and pans, other large items that would be 2 drawers and 3 drawers respectively

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 1:10PM
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Can I just say thank you for this discussion? I have full overlay now and i am OK with it, so hesitant to get inset. But now some of my fears about drawers stickcing, etc. are being resolved and I might take another look at inset. Seems there are some lovely kitchens out there with full overlay though . . .

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 1:18PM
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buffetgirl reminds me of something-- one of the things I son't like about inset is that the hinge is visible (right?). So couldn't you get overlay for the door part of your cabs and then just inset for the drawers? Has anyone ever done a mix of inset and overlay within the same run of cabs like that?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 1:44PM
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Love inset look. I have beaded inset and No sticking here..Check on the upper cabinet depth and make sure they deep enough. Mine are 13 inches deep which is great.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 2:05PM
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There doesn't need to be a visible stile between each drawer. A stack of inset drawers can be constructed with or without visible stiles. In my kitchen, there is a stile under the top drawer, which is consistent with the top drawers through out the kitchen, regardless of whether they're above a cabinet or a stack of drawers. The lower stacked drawers don't have the stile.

Either way, you won't lose storage space. The amount of storage space is determined by the drawer box, not the drawer front. On overlay cabinets, the drawer boxes aren't any bigger, just the drawer fronts are bigger.

You also have a choice of traditional butt hinges (which are visible), or concealed hinges. I chose the latter, just because they're very simple to adjust if doors expand or contract with changes in the weather. So far, no adjustments have been needed.

Mixing overlay cabinets and inset drawers in the same run of cabinets probably wouldn't work very well. You'd end up with doors sticking out, and drawers flush with case. An odd look. What you can do, is spring for inset doors on upper cabinets, which are more prominent, then go with overlay on the lower cabinets. Not quite as consistent a look as all inset, but I've seen it done many times, and many people would never notice.

If you do go with inset drawers, be sure you don't skimp on the glide hardware or the drawer box. Good sturdy glides and boxes will ensure that your drawers always fit evenly and consistently.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 2:11PM
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We're using Great Northern Cabinets, and they offer insets (which we're getting) at no extra charge.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 2:54PM
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jamesk, thanks for the picture. That is exactly how our Mbath cab drawers are being built but they aren't finished. Since I didn't get to see them finished I was hesitant and said go with the stiles between the drawers in the kit.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 3:15PM
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Definitely worth it if it doesn't totally blow your budget. I didn't do inset primarily because we were planning on selling the house in 3 years. Well, that was 6 years ago. We changed our minds and decided to stay and I've regretted not getting my inset kitchen cabinets ever since.

Nothing beats the look. Open any K&B magazine and I assure that the majority of kitchens shown are inset.

And you do NOT lose significant storage on inset vs. overlay! With frameless cabinets you get wider drawers, but there are clearance issues with frameless that might require more fillers. If designed properly, you can actually gain storage with inset (as opposed to frameless). With a designer that knows what they're's possible.

Jamesk, your kitchen is simple and stunning...simply stunning!!!! I love it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 6:02PM
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If you are looking for a high quality Inset Cabinet then Christpher Peacock makes a good product. What I dont line about the Peacock Cabinets is that they are painted on site with a brush. Some people like the brush stroke look but I do not. I use to use Crown Point Cabinetry on my projects, who also make a quality inset cabinet but have favored "Best Cabinets" of Chicago. They are a custom cabinet company that specializes in Full Inset Kitchen Cabinets. They are less money than Crown Point and equal or better quality. I like the fact that they dont charge extra for paint or custom stain colors. Also, they ship nationally and even Internationally. Unlike Crown Point they also offer a measure service and an install service anywhere in the USA. Great for me because I have done projects in New York, Denver, Florida, Califionia, Dubai.

Here is a link that might be useful: Inset Cabinets

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 11:25AM
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I am also considering Great Northern cabinetry. I was told that inset doors are only $7 per door! I also noticed that their up charge for different cabinet styles is a very small difference in price. These cabinets are comparable in price to the American Woodmark brand at Home Depot....particle board cabinets. I'm pretty shocked I can get plywood construction for about the same price with Great Northern. Do I need to ask my designer to make my cabinet 13 inches wide on the top so I don't lose cabinet space?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:24PM
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