Cabinet Face Dimensions

Thoughts about choosing practical and attractive dimensions for face frames, cabinet door stiles and rails, and drawer fronts. April 18, 2006

In the past I have been building exclusively overlay face frame cabinets, but lately I have been getting some inset door jobs. For the overlay doors I have been making all perimeter rails and stiles 1-3/4 inches and all middle stile and rails at 2-1/4 inches, so I end up with 1-1/4 inch of all of the stiles and rails exposed with my 1/2 inch overlay doors. I have used the same stile and rail width on the first few inset jobs out of habit but it seems like they are too wide proportionally with the inset doors, so now I have gone to using all 1-1/4 inch stiles and rails and it looks better. What sizes are the rest of you using? So far I haven't done any beaded frames.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I use 1-1/2" for all stiles and mid rails, regardless of frame style. For overlay jobs, the reveal between all doors/drawers is 1/2". On beaded inset, the bead amount is added to the 1-1/2" width, which is usually 3/8" with the 1/4" bead normally used.

From contributor B:
I use 1-1/2" stiles and rails, beaded or not.

From contributor C:
I always use 2" on all cabinets.

From contributor D:
Our typical cabinet is flush inset with a full face frame. About half of these jobs have butt hinges and the other half are a combination of Blum and Salice. We have some really simple systems for doing this. We've written some software that chases a lot of this math for us. If you change the countertop height, the rest of math is upgraded automatically. It's all based on rules and the rules change based upon conditions. The dimensions for the cabinets are established parametrically. If we have a shaker style project these are our typical proportions. Note that the size of the individual elements change based on where they situate on the face frame. Stiles are the same size as bottom rails. Mullions are smaller than stiles and muntins are smaller than mullions. In every case the bottom rail on the door is heavier than the top rail. Good proportions are something that sneak up on you and make you feel good about being in the room. Once you figure them out for a particular genre of cabinetry you can focus on another issue.

Where we use 57 mm for a shaker door we switch to 64mm for an ogee door. Note that the top drawer is typically 15% of the overall floor to counter height. This is a percentage that works well with counters that are 36-37 or 38 inches tall. This is also the number that drives everything else. The holes for our drawer slides always situate 37 mm from the top side of the bottom face frame element. This way you can interchange Blum Tandem slides with Accuride Side Mount slides. The important thing is to develop a system for your math. Figure out what looks good then get good at reproducing that.

Once you start doing flush inset you will discover some other advantages. Your doors and drawer face alignments only have to look good within the context of one opening at a time. This is different than making a matrix of a dozen door or drawer faces line up across a room. Beaded face frames are easiest of all because it's really hard to see an alignment problem when you juxtapose square edges to round corners. Beaded face frame cabinets also sell for more money.

From contributor E:
2" stiles and 1-1/2" rails. The proportions of the horizontal to the vertical look better, in my opinion. The difference is what causes interest. If everything is equal it can look very boring. Again, this is only my opinion but I have done plenty this way. It is a traditional look but has good staying power.

From contributor B:
To contributor E: I agree on the width variation except I do it with the doors. I use 3" rails and 2-1/4" stiles for that very reason.

From contributor F:
Ours are anywhere from 3/4" to 10", all depending on design - French, Italian, English, Russian, rustic, neo classical, African, Appalachian abstract, and sometimes arts and crafts Asian contemporary retro, etc.