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Cabinet; by Francesco Del Tuppo; circa 1606-1623; oak and poplar veneered with various exotic hardwoods, with ebony moldings and plaques of marble, and various other materials; 59.1 x 96.8 x 35.9 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City) Barberini Cabinet MET DP106703.jpg
Cabinet; by Francesco Del Tuppo; circa 1606–1623; oak and poplar veneered with various exotic hardwoods, with ebony moldings and plaques of marble, and various other materials; 59.1 × 96.8 x 35.9 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

A cabinet is a case or cupboard with shelves and/or drawers for storing or displaying items. Some cabinets are stand alone while others are built in to a wall or are attached to it like a medicine cabinet. Cabinets are typically made of wood (solid or with veneers or artificial surfaces), coated steel (common for medicine cabinets), or synthetic materials. Commercial grade cabinets usually have a melamine-particleboard substrate and are covered in a high pressure decorative laminate, commonly referred to as Wilsonart or Formica.


Cabinets sometimes have one or more doors on the front, which are mounted with door hardware, and occasionally a lock. Cabinets may have one or more doors, drawers, and/or shelves. Short cabinets often have a finished surface on top that can be used for display, or as a working surface, such as the countertops found in kitchens.

A cabinet intended to be used in a bedroom and with several drawers typically placed one above another in one or more columns intended for clothing and small articles is called a dresser or a chest of drawers. A small bedside cabinet is more frequently called a nightstand or night table. A tall cabinet intended for clothing storage including hanging of clothes is called a wardrobe or an armoire, or (in some countries) a closet if built-in.


Commode by Andre-Charles Boulle at Vaux-le-Vicomte CommodeBoulle.jpg
Commode by André-Charles Boulle at Vaux-le-Vicomte

Before the advent of industrial design, cabinet makers were responsible for the conception and the production of any piece of furniture. In the last half of the 18th century, cabinet makers, such as Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Chippendale, Shaver and Wormley Brothers Cabinet Constructors, and George Hepplewhite, also published books of furniture forms. These books were compendiums of their designs and those of other cabinet makers. The most famous cabinetmaker before the advent of industrial design is probably André-Charles Boulle (11 November 1642 – 29 February 1732) and his legacy is known as "Boulle Work" and the École Boulle, a college of fine arts and crafts and applied arts in Paris, today bears testimony to his Art. [1]

Tortoise-shell cabinet of Polish king John III Sobieski, looted by the Germans from the Wilanow Palace during World War II Tortoiseshell cabinet Sobieski.JPG
Tortoise-shell cabinet of Polish king John III Sobieski, looted by the Germans from the Wilanów Palace during World War II

With the industrial revolution and the application of steam power to cabinet making tools, mass production techniques were gradually applied to nearly all aspects of cabinet making, and the traditional cabinet shop ceased to be the main source of furniture, domestic or commercial. In parallel to this evolution there came a growing demand by the rising middle class in most industrialised countries for finely made furniture. This eventually grew the total number of traditional cabinet makers.

Before 1650, fine furniture was a rarity in Western Europe and North America. Generally, people did not need it and for the most part could not afford it. They made do with simple but serviceable pieces.

The arts and craft movement which started in the United Kingdom in the middle of the 19th century spurred a market for traditional cabinet making, and other craft goods. It rapidly spread to the United States and to all the countries in the British Empire. This movement exemplified the reaction to the eclectic historicism of the Victorian era and to the 'soulless' machine-made production which was starting to become widespread. During this time, cabinetry was said to be one of the most noble and admirable skills by nearly one fourth of the population of the United Kingdom, and 31% of those who believed this strived for their children to learn the art of cabinetry.

After World War II woodworking became a popular hobby among the middle classes. The more serious and skilled amateurs in this field now turn out pieces of furniture which rival the work of professional cabinet makers. Together, their work now represents but a small percentage of furniture production in any industrial country, but their numbers are vastly greater than those of their counterparts in the 18th century and before.

Schools of design

Crafted by Hughes Sambin (1570-1600), the double cabinet features the combination of architectural elements and relief carving that is characteristic of French furniture of the period. Hughes Sambin - Cabinet - Walters 652.jpg
Crafted by Hughes Sambin (1570–1600), the double cabinet features the combination of architectural elements and relief carving that is characteristic of French furniture of the period.


Glamour style was originally a combination of English, Greek Revival, French Regency and Hollywood glamour. The main colours of glam cabinets can follow high impact or soft and luxurious directions. The most important feature of this style is the combination of lighter neutral tones with intense, sharp dark shades such as black, navy blue and jewel tones. The main features of glamour in cabinetry are:


This style of design is typified by clean horizontal and vertical lines. Compared to other designs there is a distinct absence of ornamentation. While Scandinavian design is easy to identify, it is much more about the materials than the design.

French Provincial

This style of design is ornate. French Provincial objects are often stained or painted, leaving the wood concealed. Corners and bevels are often decorated with gold leaf or given some other kind of gilding. Flat surfaces often have artwork such as landscapes painted directly on them. The wood used in French provincial varied, but was often originally beech. [4]

Early American Colonial

This design emphasises both form and materials. Early American chairs and tables are often constructed with turned spindles and chair backs often constructed using steaming to bend the wood. Wood choices tend to be deciduous hardwoods with a particular emphasis on the wood of edible or fruit-bearing trees such as cherry or walnut. [5]


The rustic style of design sometimes called "log furniture" or "log cabin" is the least finished. Design is very utilitarian yet seeks to feature not only the materials used but in, as much as possible, how they existed in their natural state. For example, a table top may have what is considered a "live edge" that allows you to see the original contours of the tree that it came from. It also often uses whole logs or branches including the bark of the tree. Rustic furniture is often made from pine, cedar, fir and spruce. Rustic furniture is usually very simple, handmade and over sized. It is characterised by a bit of roughness (raw woods which look a bit undone). Colors connected with earthy tones: grays, greens and browns are very common here. See Adirondack Architecture.

Mission style

Mission design is characterised by straight, thick horizontal and vertical lines and flat panels. The most common material used in Mission furniture is oak. For early mission cabinetmakers, the material of choice was white oak, which they often darkened through a process known as "fuming". [6] Hardware is often visible on the outside of the pieces and made of black iron. It is a style that became popular in the early 20th century; popularised by designers in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveaux movements.


Also known as Asian design, this style of furniture is characterised by its use of materials such as bamboo and rattan. Red is a frequent colour choice along with landscape art and Chinese or other Asian language characters on the pieces.


Shaker furniture design is focused on function and symmetry. Because it is so influenced by an egalitarian religious community and tradition it is rooted in the needs of the community versus the creative expression of the designer. Like Early American and Colonial design, Shaker craftsmen often chose fruit woods for their designs. Pieces reflect a very efficient use of materials.

Types of cabinetry

Cabinetmaking frameless cabinet.svg
A frameless cabinet
Cabinetmaking face frame cabinet.svg
A cabinet with a face frame

The fundamental focus of the cabinet maker is the production of cabinetry. Although the cabinet maker may also be required to produce items that would not be recognized as cabinets, the same skills and techniques apply.

A cabinet may be built-in or free-standing. A built-in cabinet is usually custom made for a particular situation and it is fixed into position, on a floor, against a wall, or framed in an opening. For example, modern kitchens are examples of built-in cabinetry. Free-standing cabinets are more commonly available as off-the-shelf items and can be moved from place to place if required. Cabinets may be wall hung or suspended from the ceiling. Cabinet doors may be hinged or sliding and may have mirrors on the inner or outer surface.

Cabinets may have a face frame or may be of frameless construction (also known as European or euro-style). Face frame cabinets have a supporting frame attached to the front of the cabinet box. This face frame is usually 1+12 inches (4 cm) in width. Mounted on the cabinet frame is the cabinet door. In contrast, frameless cabinet have no such supporting front face frame, the cabinet doors attach directly to the sides of the cabinet box. The box's side, bottom and top panels are usually 58 to 34 inch (15 to 20 mm) thick, with the door overlaying all but 116 inch (2 mm) of the box edge. [7] Modern cabinetry is often frameless and is typically constructed from man-made sheet materials, such as plywood, chipboard or medium-density fibreboard (MDF). The visible surfaces of these materials are usually clad in a timber veneer, plastic laminate, or other material. They may also be painted.

Cabinet components


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Enclosed cabinet base with a kick space
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Scrolled base
Cabinetmaking bracket foot.svg
Bracket feet

Cabinets which rest on the floor are supported by some base. This base could be a fully enclosed base (i.e. a plinth), a scrolled based, bracket feet or it could be a set of legs.

Adjustable feet

A type of adjustable leg has been adopted from the European cabinet system which offers several advantages. First off, in making base cabinets for kitchens, the cabinet sides would be cut to 34½ inches, yielding four cabinet side blanks per 4 foot by 8 foot sheet. Using the adjustable feet, the side blanks are cut to 30 inches, thus yielding six cabinet side per sheet.

These feet can be secured to the bottom of the cabinet by having the leg base screwed onto the cabinet bottom. They can also be attached by means of a hole drilled through the cabinet bottom at specific locations. The legs are then attached to the cabinet bottom by a slotted, hollow machine screw. The height of the cabinet can be adjusted from inside the cabinet, simply by inserting a screwdriver into the slot and turning to raise or lower the cabinet. The holes in the cabinet are capped by plastic inserts, making the appearance more acceptable for residential cabinets. Using these feet, the cabinets need not be shimmed or scribed to the floor for leveling. The toe kick board is attached to the cabinet by means of a clip, which is either screwed onto the back side of the kick board, or a barbed plastic clip is inserted into a saw kerf, also made on the back side of the kick board. This toe kick board can be made to fit each base cabinet, or made to fit a run of cabinets. [8]

Kitchen cabinets, or any cabinet generally at which a person may stand, usually have a fully enclosed base in which the front edge has been set back 75 mm or so to provide room for toes, known as the kick space. A scrolled base is similar to the fully enclosed base but it has areas of the base material removed, often with a decorative pattern, leaving feet on which the cabinet stands. Bracket feet are separate feet, usually attached in each corner and occasionally for larger pieces in the middle of the cabinet.


A cabinet usually has at least one compartment. Compartments may be open, as in open shelving; they may be enclosed by one or more doors; or they may contain one or more drawers. Some cabinets contain secret compartments, access to which is generally not obvious.

Modern cabinets employ many more complicated means (relative to a simple shelf) of making browsing lower cabinets more efficient and comfortable. One example is the lazy susan, a shelf which rotates around a central axis, allowing items stored at the back of the cabinet to be brought to the front by rotating the shelf. These are usually used in corner cabinets, which are larger and deeper and have a greater "dead space" at the back than other cabinets.

Cabinet insert hardware

An alternative to the lazy susan, particularly in base cabinets, is the blind corner cabinet pull out unit. These pull out and turn, making the attached shelving unit slide into the open area of the cabinet door, thus making the shelves accessible to the user. These units make usable what was once dead space.

Other insert hardware includes such items as mixer shelves that pull out of a base cabinet and spring into a locked position at counter height. This hardware aids in lifting these somewhat heavy mixers and assists with positioning the unit for use. More and more components are being designed to enable specialized hardware to be used in standard cabinet carcasses.


Most cabinets incorporate a top of some sort. In many cases, the top is merely to enclose the compartments within and serves no other purpose—as in a wall hung cupboard for example. In other cabinets, the top also serves as a work surface—a kitchen countertop for example.

See also

Related Research Articles

Closet Enclosed space used for storage, particularly that of clothes

A closet is an enclosed space, with a door, used for storage, particularly that of clothes. Fitted closets are built into the walls of the house so that they take up no apparent space in the room. Closets are often built under stairs, thereby using awkward space that would otherwise go unused.

Marquetry Art and craft applying pieces of veneer to form decorative patterns

Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.

Antique furniture

A piece of antique furniture is a collectible interior furnishing of considerable age. Often the age, rarity, condition, utility, or other unique features make a piece of furniture desirable as a collectors' item, and thus termed an antique. The antique furniture pieces reflect the style and features of the time they were made; this can be called the antique's "period". read more

Commode type of furniture (or toilet)

A commode is any of many pieces of furniture. The Oxford English Dictionary has multiple meanings of "commode". The first relevant definition reads: "A piece of furniture with drawers and shelves; in the bedroom, a sort of elaborate chest of drawers ; in the drawing room, a large kind of chiffonier." The drawing room is itself a term for a formal reception room, and a chiffonier is, in this sense, a small sideboard dating from the early 19th century.

Chest of drawers Piece of cabinet furniture

A chest of drawers, also called a dresser or a bureau, is a type of cabinet that has multiple parallel, horizontal drawers generally stacked one above another.

Frame and panel

Frame and panel construction, also called rail and stile, is a woodworking technique often used in the making of doors, wainscoting, and other decorative features for cabinets, furniture, and homes. The basic idea is to capture a 'floating' panel within a sturdy frame, as opposed to techniques used in making a slab solid wood cabinet door or drawer front, the door is constructed of several solid wood pieces running in a vertical or horizontal direction with exposed endgrains. Usually, the panel is not glued to the frame but is left to 'float' within it so that seasonal movement of the wood comprising the panel does not distort the frame.

Kitchen cabinet

Kitchen cabinets are the built-in furniture installed in many kitchens for storage of food, cooking equipment, and often silverware and dishes for table service. Appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and ovens are often integrated into kitchen cabinetry. There are many options for cabinets available at present.

Face frame

A face frame in cabinet making is the frame fixed to the front of a cabinet carcass which obscures the edges of the carcass and provides the fixing point for doors and other external hardware. A face frame provides strength to the front of a cabinet and is also considered a visual feature of particular styles of furniture.


A countertop, also counter top, counter, benchtop, worktop or kitchen bench, is the firm, flat, horizontal surface of a counter. They are built for work in kitchens or other food preparation areas, bathrooms or lavatories, and workrooms in general. The surface is frequently installed upon and supported by cabinets, positioned at an ergonomic height for the user and the particular task for which it is designed. A countertop may be constructed of various materials with different attributes of functionality, durability and aesthetics, and may have built-in appliances, or accessory items relative to the intended application.


Tansu is the traditional mobile storage cabinetry indigenous to Japan. Tansu was first recorded in the Genroku era of the Edo period (1688–1704). The two characters, tan and su, appear to have initially represented objects with separate functions: the storage of food and the carrying of firewood. Since the radical for bamboo appears in each of these characters, it may be conjectured that wood was not as yet used.

Drawer Box-shaped container that fits into a piece of furniture

A drawerDROR is a box-shaped container that fits horizontally inside a piece of furniture in a way that enables the storage and retrieval of miscellaneous contents. Drawers are built into numerous types of furniture, including cabinets, chests of drawers (bureaus), desks, and the like.

Frameless construction

In cabinetmaking, frameless construction of cabinets uses flat panels of engineered wood — usually particle board, plywood or medium-density fibreboard — rather than the older frame and panel construction.

Hutch (furniture)

A hutch is an American English word for a particular type of furniture.

A wardrobe or armoire is a standing closet used for storing clothes. The earliest wardrobe was a chest, and it was not until some degree of luxury was attained in regal palaces and the castles of powerful nobles that separate accommodation was provided for the apparel of the great. The name of wardrobe was then given to a room in which the wall-space was filled with closets and lockers, the drawer being a comparatively modern invention. From these cupboards and lockers the modern wardrobe, with its hanging spaces, sliding shelves and drawers, evolved slowly.

Chinese furniture Style of furniture

The forms of Chinese furniture evolved along three distinct lineages which dates back to 1000 BC, based on frame and panel, yoke and rack and bamboo construction techniques. Chinese home furniture evolved independently of Western furniture into many similar forms including chairs, tables, stools, cupboards, cabinets, beds and sofas. Until about the 10th century CE the Chinese sat on mats or low platforms using low tables, in typical Asian style, but then gradually moved to using high tables with chairs.

Shelf (storage) Flat horizontal plane used for storage

A shelf is a flat, horizontal plane used for items that are displayed or stored in a home, business, store, or elsewhere. It is raised off the floor and often anchored to a wall, supported on its shorter length sides by brackets, or otherwise anchored to cabinetry by brackets, dowels, screws, or nails. It can also be held up by columns or pillars. A shelf is also known as a counter, ledge, mantel, or rack. Tables designed to be placed against a wall, possibly mounted, are known as console tables, and are similar to individual shelves.

William and Mary style

What later came to be known as the William and Mary style is a furniture design common from 1700 to 1725 in the Netherlands, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, and later, in England's American colonies. It was a transitional style between Mannerist furniture and Queen Anne furniture. Sturdy, emphasizing both straight lines and curves, and featuring elaborate carving and woodturning, the style was one of the first to imitate Asian design elements such as japanning.

Louis XV furniture

The furniture of the Louis XV period (1715-1774) is characterized by curved forms, lightness, comfort and asymmetry; it replaced the more formal, boxlike and massive furniture of the Style Louis XIV. It employed marquetry, using inlays of exotic woods of different colors, as well as ivory and mother of pearl.

Louis XIV furniture

Louis XIV furniture was massive and lavishly covered with sculpture and ornament of gilded bronze in the earlier part of the personal rule of King Louis XIV of France (1660–1690). After about 1690, thanks in large part to the furniture designer André Charles Boulle, a more original and delicate style appeared, sometimes known as Boulle Work. It was based on the use of marquetry, the inlay of piece of ebony and other rare woods, a technique first used in Florence in the 15th century, which was refined and developed by Boulle and others working for the King. Furniture was inlaid with thin plaques of ebony, copper, mother of pearl, and exotic woods of different colors in elaborate designs.

Louis XVI furniture

Louis XVI furniture is characterized by elegance and neoclassicism, a return to ancient Greek and Roman models. Much of it was designed and made for Queen Marie Antoinette for the new apartments she created in the Palace of Versailles, Palace of Fontainebleau, the Tuileries Palace, and other royal residences. The finest craftsmen of the time, including Jean-Henri Riesener, Georges Jacob, Martin Carlin, and Jean-François Leleu, were engaged to design and make her furniture.


Specific citations
  1. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Penderel-Brodhurst, James (1911). "Boulle, André Charles". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 321–323.
  2. Monika Kuhnke (2000). Cenny dar dla zwycięzcy spod Wiednia. (in Polish). valuable, priceless, lost.
  4. Saglio, Andre (June 2007). French Furniture - Andre Saglio. ISBN   9781905217625 . Retrieved 2014-03-19.
  5. "Early American furniture - Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 2014-03-19.
  6. Clark, Michael E.; Thomas-Clark, Jill (2002). The Stickley Brothers: The Quest for an American Voice - Michael E. Clark, Jill Thomas-Clark. ISBN   9781586850531 . Retrieved 2014-03-19.
  7. "Refinishing and Upgrading Kitchen Cabinets". 2010. Retrieved 2014-03-19.
  8. "Base Cabinet Construction Sketch". Archived from the original on 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2014-03-19.
General references