Slab doors--are they always modern?

laughablemomentsMay 22, 2012

I've been reading the thread on easy to clean kitchens, and the owners of the flat slab doors have me convinced that these are the easiest to clean. I like the idea of easy to clean!


are there any slab doors out there that don't look modern? I totally respect that look, but it just isn't "me" and it would be completely out of place in the kitchen of our 1840's house.

Does anyone of have pictures of decidedly non-modern easy to clean slab doors? : ) Is there a happy marriage of form and function? Thanks!

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No, they are not always modern although slab + full overlay tends to skew modern.

These are two examples of slab doors that are fairly traditional:

Wood\-Mode Passage Brookhaven Fairfield.

You could probably do a full overlay slab with a simple traditional knob and other traditional finishes and it could work.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:35PM
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Circus Peanut

I think of them as from the 20's - 40's, either partial overlay with a slight roundover on the edge:

or a slab inset:

or full overlay:

and thence onwards through the 50's - 60s with their metal St. Charles cabs and teak slabs.

Kitchens in older houses often look best if they resonate in some way with the existing fittings -- what kind of original doors, windows and trim does your house have?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:35PM
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I think some people get overly invested in their purchases and evangelize them like they're the cure for cancer. This is how you get people on the appliances forum claiming you absolutely need 22K BTU burners to fry an egg.

You clean all cabinets the same way. You wipe them. Now, if you choose extremely ornate cabinets in an effort to deck out your snack center like the Vatican, then yes, all those little gewgaws will collect dust. Shaker cabs collect dust too, a "nightmare" than can be remedied with a damp towel on a finger once in a while. And if you get the examples pal posted, you're going to be running that finger around the inset or over the top of the door as well.

As pal said, you can integrate slab cabinets with your house using other traditional signals like knobs. But only get slabs if you like them, not because someone has convinced you that cleaning a Shaker or raised panel door leads immediately to screaming and suicide. It doesn't.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 11:59PM
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Hi Laughable,
I have plywood slab doors in my kitchen - original to the 1975 house. I bought this house last year and I don't think the cabinets had been cleaned in decades, judging from the sticky, gummy grease buildup on them. So, slab doors are not a way to avoid cleaning. Just like anything else, regular maintenance is key.

Get what you really like, and then you will probably enjoy cleaning them instead of bemoaning the fact that you hate the slab cabinets you got that don't go with your house at all.

Here's my kitchen slab cabinets:

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:24AM
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I agree with Pal. Even though cabinets are probably the largest surface in a kitchen, there are so many other elements that can tip them toward traditional rather than modern. AND, painted shaker cabinets are hard to clean if stuff drips into the corners. I have had to scrape dirt out with more than just a damp towel more than once in a while, which will wear down the paint over time. This may not be a problem with a wood door/drawer. I have all slab front drawers and three shaker style doors. Drawers are effortless to clean. And I agree with Marcolo, you DO need a 22k btu burner to properly fry an egg. That's why I got my Lacanche.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:29AM
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Not always modern. Shaker cabinets are a good example. They're called "Shaker style" for a reason. Because the Shakers use to use them. And that is definitely antique.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:24AM
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You can get shaker cabs with a beveled edge-- that should make cleaning a breeze. There are a few threads here with photos.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Fori is not pleased

OT--Texascatherder I want to see more! I assume it has problems since you're here, but your kitchen does have a nice long look!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Hi, Laughable. I particularly like what deleting all those knob and handle spots all over the kitchen can do for it-- regardless of the overall style. As already pointed out before, slab doors are, in fact, a solidly traditional look, and you can underline that by just softening the edges, as a finish carpenter building them in place would have done using a hand tool. Those were more often painted than not and were probably the most common kitchen door for decades (in houses all up and down the economic scale) before the 1950s, when mass production geared up. Then you saw it in those frequently wonderful metal cabinets.

Also, slab is often chosen specifically to show off beautiful wood. Depending on the context, these could fit into almost any style from rustic, various traditional settings such as transitional Arts and Crafts, very high-end sleek, etc., except perhaps the very feminine ones (wicker cottage, etc.)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 11:07AM
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I had the same thoughts about slabs and went with Shaker because of it. The little corners inside the frames on my base cabinet doors sure need more than a swipe with a damp rag. If I was doing it over, I might either do all slabs, or have mostly drawers with slab fronts and go as simple as possible with the very few doors. The upper doors aren't as much of a problem...except over the baking area.

It was actually a display at Lowes that showed me 2 things... "Regular old oak" can look darn good when stained something other than 80s honey, and large drawers can look good in slabs/don't need to be 5-piece, framed. I think the heavier grain stained so there was a good variation helped.

I have also considered a door with the grain running vertically, but with top and bottom pieces about 3" wide, running horizontally (but flush, to still create a slab), then running a v-groove about 3 inches from each side edge to simulate a framed door from a distance. I actually planned that style before building our house, but turned from it, and now I think I regret it. I also had a drawing of it, but can't locate it now. Probably on an older computer.

This would still be a contemporary look on its own, but topped with soapstone and accessorized with the right hardware and surrounded by subway tile, it could still come across as a more traditional look. I think it's the same as using contemporary appliances in the midst of more period materials...With care it could be a nice mix.

After cleaning my floor and base cabinets recently, I've been day dreaming about a more utilitarian kitchen look... All slabs, and drawers that don't cover all the way up, or have cut-outs at the top so hardware isn't necessary. You know that kitchens for families the size of ours get used and all the best neatness intentions don't change that stuff gathers in creases and corners. And I get tired of being the cleanliness police, or doing it all myself.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:50PM
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First, Shaker doors represent only a tiny fraction of the possibilities for traditional cabinet designs. Don't rule out all traditional if you simply don't want Shaker.

Second, anything problematic about Shaker doors comes from one thing: the sides of the stiles and rails are perpendicular to the panel. Right angles, and flat. All you have to do is specify a style without those right angles--even a Shaker one with a different edge, as mentioned above--and you're good to go.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:38PM
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I occasionally consider drawers with handholds or cutouts rather than hardware (I do have this on the backside of my uppers). My concern with this, is darken of stained wood finishes, and burnishing of painted wood finishes.

As much as I like the handle-less appearance in some kitchens, I think a piece of metal is easier to keep looking good.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:54PM
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I have a bead on the inner side of the stiles and rails of most of my cabinet doors and an angled inner edge on the frame of my island doors... They still meet in a tight little corner and have seams against the panel, which are the problem sites for us. I can wipe off the flat edges of the rail and stile on the plainer Shaker style cabs I have, so I don't consider the right angle to be the problem. Just my experience in our messy kitchen! ;-)

There probably would have been a way to fastidiously keep up with it early on, and maybe even a way now to dig it all out to clean again...but do you want to have to do that to have the look? That's the question. My kitchen is in almost constant use by 9 people for about 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, and no cleanup job lasts for more than a blink of the eye. So I'm over the look and wish for easy-clean.

But... The grass is always greener... Coulda, woulda, shoulda. I'm the queen of all those 2nd guessing types of cliche's. lol

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:11PM
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Thanks for your responses everyone. I actually kind of like the look of the blue and white kitchen. All except for the step up to the nook. I would trip on that, splat, and my front teeth would leave permanent marks on that nice linoleum floor. Who designed that one, LOL?

I've considered glazing my cupboards, since they're getting that look anyway. Man those grooves are hard to clean! But, why make it look even dirtier?

Yes, I'm more than willing to clean our kitchen, but, it's a busy place, and I'm thinking something that can be swabbed down might be more efficient than wrapping a putty knife with a rag and digging out every crevice trying to keep it presentable. (Yeah, and we have lots of time for that ; ) )

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:23PM
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Fori, I'll be happy to post more pictures of my kitchen, but I don't want to hijack Laughable's thread. What's the proper way to go about this?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:18AM
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Texas: Return to the main forum list. Scroll to the bottom.
Find the "post a message" and go for it!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:59AM
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After 20 years of slab cabinets, I was very tired of the look. It is a bit too modern and uniform for me. It probably didn't help that they were self handled (i.e. just a groove in the wood for opening doors and drawers) and in a couple of places the 35 year old veneer had chipped.

We still wanted to keep streamlined for our MCM house but transitional/contemporary rather than super modern. Therefore, we chose shaker cabinets. Note that real Shaker cabients (built by Shakers) have 5 piece for the doors and slab for the small drawers. That's what we have with 5 piece fronts only on the drawer fronts that are higher than 8". We have mostly drawers in the lowers still as smooth slab surface for much of the lower cabinets where something might drip.

I don't find them hard to clean. The one regret regarding easy clean up in my kitchen is that we chose a full bullnose edge and only went out 1 1/2 inches from the front of the cabinet box. When something is spilled and drips down, some of it follows the curve of the bullnose and drips onto the drawers or door. It would have been better to use something with a squared off bottom edge such as an eased edge or half bullnose and to come out at least 1 1/2 inches from the doors/drawer fronts (another 3/4" or so).

Pal, I had a handleless kitchen and hated it. I find it much easier to keep my cabinets clean now with smooth handles.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:24AM
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My house was built in 1911, and if the cabinets aren't original, they were added pretty early on. The doors of the cabinets are Shaker (inset), but the drawer fronts are slab (partial overlay). I've seen this combination many times in older homes.

I had always thought the cabinets were original until I gave some thought to the drawer pull--they are Art Deco, and they seem to be made of Bakelite. So the cabs could be as late at the 20's-30s.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:46AM
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White shaker doors with slab drawers here. I only chose slab for the drawers because they are mostly small and I don't care for the 5-piece look with just a tiny little center. I like the mix with the shaker.

Not only do I have the only kitchen on the block with painted cabinets, but I was the only one who added knobs (white porcelain no less) to the old drawers and doors. You think the corners of shakers catch dirt? Try having everyone open things by grabbing with their hands. At least on paint you see it and have to clean it. On wood, it slowly builds until you have this patina of hand oil and whatever food was along for the ride. It actually takes the finish off. I would never not have hardware knobs or pulls.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:31PM
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I think you should pick a door based on what you like the best. I think 'ease of cleaning' should be secondary factor to your decision rather than the primary factor.

That said, you might just like the slab doors the best. I love slab doors when paired with cute hinges :-)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:29PM
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I may require photographs of those Bakelite drawer pulls, cawaps.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:05PM
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I would love to see the Bakelite pulls also. I'm trying to find something unique for my drawers, maybe I need to hunt on Ebay for vintage pulls. Right now I've upgraded from blue tape to clear plastic curl pulls.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:35PM
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Marcolo & Gigi: They don't look terribly impressive--they've been painted over, probably many times. I'm guessing on the material based on thermal properties and sound when you tap on them. I'm certain they aren't metal, and wood seems unlikely. I'd have to take them off to know for sure.

Here's a pic:

Sorry for the hijack.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:03AM
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No "traditional" carpenter would have made slab doors because he had a grasp of wood's response to environmental changes as affects swelling, shrinking and warping. That is the reason we have panel and frame door construction, to control the material and minimize the impact of its response to moisture.
Slabs are now made of carefully-prepared (laminated/plywood/wood product) cores often veneered or painted. But the traditional carpenter did not have these modern wonder materials. Before their advent, a slab door was untenable.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:20AM
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Some have mentioned that handle choice can make slab doors look more modern. Ornate fancy handles with lots of ridges can be hard to clean too. And handles get touched a lot so they have more chance to get dirty. One thing we looked for for easy clean up was smooth simple handle shapes.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Is it Van Dyke's that has some Bakelite handles? I think so.
A little ornate, but do a search for Waterfall.
I happen to think they're beautiful, but too big for what I need.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:10PM
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'you DO need a 22k btu burner to properly fry an egg'

nope. you can fry an egg on the hood of a car, sidewalk etc in the heat of an AZ summer. Watch it closely tho so it doesn't burn to a crisp.

plain handles with over an inch in projection are easier to use (old fingers, arthritic fingers, trigger fingers or just big fingers) and clean. Lots of nice ones available.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:09PM
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P.S. you don't need a 22K BTU burner to fry an egg, but I really like mine when making a stir fry.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:54PM
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