Overlay vs. Inset Cabinetry: Exploring the Aesthetic Depths


When it comes to designing a dream kitchen or revamping a bathroom, cabinetry plays a pivotal role in both functionality and aesthetics. Two popular styles that often leave homeowners deliberating are overlay and inset cabinetry.

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Each possesses its unique charm and functionality, catering to distinct tastes and design preferences. In this blog, we will explore the differences between overlay and inset cabinetry, shedding light on their characteristics, advantages, and considerations.

Overlay Cabinetry:

Overlay cabinetry refers to doors and drawers that are mounted over the cabinet face frame, covering a portion of it. This style is further divided into two subtypes: partial overlay and full overlay. Read our blog that goes into more detail about overlay cabinets and how they compare to inset.


  • Modern Aesthetic: Full overlay cabinets, in particular, offer a sleek and contemporary look, with minimal visible framework, which can complement modern interior designs.
  • Cost-Effective: Overlay cabinets generally require less precision in installation compared to inset cabinets, resulting in lower labor costs. Additionally, the materials used for overlay cabinets are often less expensive.
  • Easy Installation: Installation of overlay cabinets is generally simpler and quicker since they don’t require the precise measurements and alignment needed for inset cabinets.
  • Maximized Storage: Full overlay cabinets maximize storage space within the cabinet, as there are no visible gaps between doors and drawers.


  • Less Traditional Appearance: While full overlay cabinets provide a modern aesthetic, some homeowners may find that they lack the traditional charm and character of inset cabinets.
  • Potential For Damage: Because doors and drawer fronts lay on top of the cabinet frame, they protrude out from the cabinet and may be more susceptible to dents, scratches, nicks, or water damage.
Painted kitchen with island

Inset Cabinetry:

Inset cabinetry takes a different approach by placing doors and drawers set inside the frame openings, flush with the cabinet face frame, providing a more customized and traditional look.


  • Timeless Elegance: Inset cabinets exude a classic and timeless appeal, adding a sense of craftsmanship and sophistication to the space.
  • High-End Appearance: The precision craftsmanship required for inset cabinets results in a high-end appearance, often associated with luxury and bespoke cabinetry.
  • Flush Fit: Inset cabinets provide a flush fit with the cabinet frame, creating a seamless and cohesive look that can elevate the overall design of the kitchen or bathroom.


  • Higher Cost: Inset cabinets typically come with a higher price tag due to the precise measurements, customizations, and craftsmanship required during production and installation.
  • Complex Installation: Installation of inset cabinets is more labor-intensive and time-consuming compared to overlay cabinets, as each door and drawer must be precisely fitted within the cabinet frame.
  • Potential for Wear and Tear: Inset cabinets may be more susceptible to wear and tear over time, as the doors and drawers are mounted flush with the frame, making them more prone to rubbing and friction.
white wood kitchen with gold accents, dark wooden fridge, stainless steel appliances and stone backsplash

Distinguishing Factors:

  1. Aesthetic Preference:
    • The choice between overlay and inset cabinetry often boils down to personal aesthetic preferences. If you lean towards a modern, streamlined look, full overlay or partial overlay may be the ideal choice. Alternatively, if you prefer a classic and timeless appeal, inset cabinetry might be the perfect fit.
  2. Budget Considerations:
    • Overlay cabinetry is generally more budget-friendly than inset cabinetry. The precision and craftsmanship required for inset doors and drawers often result in a higher price point.

Choosing between Showplace overlay and inset cabinetry is a decision that involves a careful balance between aesthetics and budget. Whether you opt for the sleek and modern appeal of overlay or the timeless elegance of inset, both styles can contribute to creating a stunning and functional space that suits your unique taste and lifestyle.

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