How Frameless and Face Frame Cabinets Differ


     A great place to start when you want to explore new cabinets for your kitchen or bath is choosing which of the two main types suits your wants and needs best. Where to go for your cabinets will come down to that decision, as you will want a company that specializes in that specific type.

There are  two main types of cabinetry construction:

   Frameless or European-style               &           Face Frame or American-style  


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What is Face Frame?

American manufacturers have traditionally built cabinets using a face frame or framed construction. In this type, the rails and stiles form a 1.5  - 3 inch wide “face frame" at the front of the cabinet box.      The reason for the face frame originally was to hide imperfections in the quality of the cabinet box itself.The doors are then attached to the face-frame and the end result is a door front with gaps in between them.

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What is Frameless?

In frameless cabinetry, the doors attach directly to the cabinet box. Also called “full-access” cabinets, they have easier access, increased storage space, and a more seamless look without a face frame attached. This style originated in Europe as manufacturing technology became more sophisticated and high-level precision the norm - lending itself perfectly to contemporary design.

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Deep Dive on Differences

Let’s compare and contrast these two cabinetry types by details so you can better understand the choices.


  • Face frame cabinetry has an additional 'frame' at the front
  • Frameless cabinets feature thicker cabinet box material so no additional 'frame' at the front is necessary allowing a larger opening and more interior space than face frame

Drawer box

  • Face frame drawer boxes are typically made from wood, whereas frameless cabinetry uses metal drawer box systems with integrated, under-mount glides
  • Metal drawer boxes are next generation and provide additional functionality with organizational inserts, are easier to clean and are more durable that their wood counters


  • Face frame is typically made from wood products such as veneer, plywood and mdf ready for paint. The doors are sometimes made with solid wood elements.
  • Frameless cabinetry offers many additional more choices such as solid wood, lacquer, glass, melamine, acrylic and metal 


  • The design style of face frame cabinets is defined by the doors, drawer fronts and auxiliary moldings, considered more traditional.
  • Frameless cabinets compliment any room’s style. Although they are best known for modern and contemporary designs, they can look traditional or transitional with corresponding door styles

Interior space 

  •  There is no difference between face frame and frameless cabinets in terms of exterior space, but frameless cabinetry has more interior storage space, accessibility and storage options.
  • While base cabinets for both are the same depth [24 inches], the upper cabinets depths are different. For frameless cabinetry you can expect 13.5 to 14 inches of interior depth versus 12 inches with face frame cabinetry. 

We hope this has helped you understand the basics of your choice between face frame and frameless cabinetry. The decision comes down to your personal preference and style.

  • Framed cabinets are the best choice if you prefer an ornate, traditional look or are set on inset doors. 
  • Frameless offer more design flexibility for any look you want, more drawer and cabinet space and organizational options with no center stiles getting in your way. 

Keep an eye out for our next Blog post coming up on The Case for Frameless.

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