What Is An In-Frame Kitchen?

If you’re shopping around for a new kitchen you may have come across a particular style called an in-frame kitchen. But what exactly does that mean, and is it any good?

In this post, I’ll explain what an in-frame kitchen is, how it’s made, its pros and cons as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.

Let’s get into it!

What Is An In-Frame Kitchen?

An In-Frame kitchen (sometimes called an inset kitchen) is a style of kitchen that has a border (or visible frame) around the door that is fixed to the face of the cabinet. The frame serves to add an additional visual feature and detailing to the cabinetry.

When closed, the cabinet doors and drawer fronts fit precisely flush inline inside the frame of the cabinet. When you open the doors and drawers the frame stays fixed to the front face of the kitchen carcass. Because of its structure, doors and drawers will be slightly smaller as they open within the kitchen unit frame.

This style of kitchen cabinetry developed through the centuries as cabinetmakers used the frame to show off quality woodworking techniques. In the early 1900’s, the in-frame kitchen was often seen as a traditional design supported by long-lasting cabinetry.

In recent years the in-frame kitchen is seeing a resurgence as mid-century modern continues to trend for home decor and kitchen design. Homeowners get that vintage appeal and the look of a custom home, but can often source in-frame cabinets as a pre-fabbed choice.

How Are In-Frame Kitchen Cabinets Constructed?

Most homes in the UK these days have frameless cabinets (sometimes called lay-on or full overlay doors) in their kitchens. The doors are attached to the frameless cabinet sides with hidden hinges. The actual cabinet box is entirely covered by doors and drawer fronts.

However, In an in-frame kitchen, a frame is attached to the front of the cabinet box. The frame is either finished out as natural wood or painted to match the finish of the cabinet doors and drawers.

The door of the cabinet and drawer fronts are cut to fit inside the frame perfectly earning the term “in-frame” cabinets.

In-frame kitchens require extra attention to detail so that the doors and drawers sit square in the frame. A crooked door will have uneven gaps that can make the kitchen look shabby.  If the door goes too far out of square it can even fail to close.

In-frame cabinets are not to be confused with traditional framed cabinets (popular in the US). Traditional wooden framed cabinets have the same frame on the front of the cabinet. However, it is a slightly different frame method, the doors and drawers overlap the edges of the face frame and do not sit flush with the frame design. While a crooked door may look bad on a framed cabinet, it will still close.

Example of In-Frame kitchen cabinet construction
Example of In-Frame kitchen cabinet construction

In-frame Kitchen Cabinet Hinges & Drawer Runners

Your in-frame cabinets will need different hinges and drawer runners compared to a frameless kitchen.

Since the drawer front fits inside the frame, it is narrower. The drawer runners must be attached to the back of the front frame and to the back of the cabinet box set inside from the cabinet sides. In a frameless cabinet, the runners are mounted to the sides of the cabinet.

For the cabinet door hinges, there are usually two options. In-set soft close hinges or butt hinges.

In-set hinges are similar to your regular soft close hinge for a lay-on cabinet door. However, they have a section that sticks out a little bit to fit around the wooden frame of an in-frame cabinet. You could also use regular soft close hinges and install a block of wood on the inside edge of the frame, so the hinge sits flush with the face frame.

In-set hinges won’t be visible from the outside and can also be soft close.

Butt hinges on the other hand will not be hidden like in a frameless kitchen. Your in-frame cabinet doors will mount one half of the hinge to the back of the kitchen door and the other half to the vertical edge of the frame.

You will see the cylindrical hinge on the side of the cabinet door when it is closed. When renovating a kitchen, you may want to select butt hinges that match the finish of your handles and knobs in the rest of your in-frame kitchen project.

in-frame kitchen cabinet hinge types

In-frame kitchen Appliance Doors

When it comes to certain in-frame integrated appliance doors, such as for your dishwasher or washing machine, the construction of these is a little different. Because there is no cabinet required to house these types of integrated appliances you can’t fix a frame to anything.

In these instances, the cabinet door will be made to look like it is sitting inside a frame. However, the whole door (and fake frame) will open as one. So you still get the look of an in-frame door but you can use it with your integrated appliances.

Are In-frame kitchens more expensive?

You will spend anywhere from 15 to 30% more for an in-frame kitchen compared to a frameless kitchen.

It takes additional materials to create the frames for the door style. Also, there are additional manufacturing processes that bump up the price of an all-in-one kitchen. For custom in-frame kitchens, you will spend even more on extra labour as the cabinet maker needs to be precise in every cut.

Pros Of An In-Frame Kitchen

  • Vintage appeal that brings back the Mid-Century design in a functional finish
  • Traditional cabinet furniture construction help with long-term durability
  • Works with many cabinet door designs – both traditional and modern styles
  • Frame gives the cabinet improved structural integrity and longevity
  • Achieve an instant luxury finish as inframe kitchens still are seen as an upscale option from the past

Cons Of An In-Frame Kitchen

  • Poorly cut and mounted in-frame cabinets will always look crooked
  • A crooked door or drawer will not close
  • Drawers and doors are narrower due to the presence of the frame
  • Presence of annoying frames in the middle of cabinet door openings
  • The frame makes it harder to clean the cupboard

Can You Get In-Frame Shaker Kitchens?

Yes. While genuine traditional Shaker kitchens feature framed cabinets, they typically did not have in-frame doors and drawers.

However, today many manufacturers offer in-frame Shaker kitchens for a clean and simple appearance with that 50s vintage vibe as well as more traditional kitchen designs. The Shaker refers to the simple panel door with a square wood frame and round knobs.

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Can You Get In-Frame Slab Kitchens?

Yes, you can get an in-frame slab door kitchen. If you are all about a seamless look with a touch of classic craftsmanship appeal, slab cabinets for an in-frame kitchen will do the trick. The precise nature of an in-frame slab kitchen keeps every edge sharp and clean.

This is becoming a trending classic in contemporary home design. Also, slab door fronts are easy to maintain and when it is time to change up the colour, their design makes it easier to paint. Smart choice!

Are All In-frame Kitchens Custom Made?

No, many prefabricated kitchen manufacturers sell in-frame kitchens for DIY installation.

However, these are not the same quality found in your parents’ old house. A pre-fab in-frame cabinet may need extra work to get the cupboard hung square so that the door and drawers function properly. It is more common to find custom in-frame kitchens due to the finicky nature of their design.

In-frame modular kitchen suppliers in the UK include Fisher & Noble Lichfield range, Burbidge Pembrey or Langton ranges as well as Clarendon by Second Nature.

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Are In-Frame Kitchens Solid Wood?

In-frame kitchens built during the past century are most likely made out of solid wood. If you order a custom in-frame kitchen, the frame and doors will likely be solid wood.

If you order a pre-fab in-frame kitchen today, you must carefully check the manufacturing specs. It is possible to build an in-frame kitchen out of MDF, particleboard and laminates, but it is not as sturdy as an all-wood version.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about in-frame kitchens.

A classic kitchen style that aims to show off its superior craftsmanship that can be designed for a traditional look as well as a contemporary classic. In-frame kitchens can add that little bit of extra luxury, structural integrity and durability to your cabinets. However, keep in mind, that you will be paying out more for this extra design detail.

So what do you think, are you a fan of the in-frame kitchen?



Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.