What Is An In-Frame Kitchen? – Pros, Cons & Expert Advice
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 is a style of kitchen that has its doors and drawer fronts sit within a frame around them.
The frame around the door is fixed to the face of the cabinet carcass and 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 cabinet frame.
This style of kitchen cabinetry developed through the centuries as cabinetmakers used the frame to show off quality woodworking techniques. In the early 1900s, the in-frame kitchen was often seen as a traditional design supported by long-lasting cabinetry.
In recent years the in-frame kitchen (sometimes called an inset kitchen) has seen a resurgence. It’s certainly something I’m noticing and getting asked for a lot more.
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How Are In-Frame Kitchen Cabinets Constructed?
In-frame kitchen cabinets are characterized by their construction method, which involves fitting a door within a frame that’s attached to the front of the cabinet box.
- The Frame: This is the foundational structure upon which the doors and drawers will be mounted. The frame typically consists of vertical members called “stiles” and horizontal members called “rails.”
Together, they create a rectangular frame that gets fixed to the front of the cabinet carcass (box).
- Cabinet Box (Carcass): This is the main body of the cabinet that holds shelves, drawers, and other storage components. It’s usually made from plywood, MDF, or particleboard.
The frame is attached to the front of the carcass to give the in-frame appearance.
- Doors and Drawers: For in-frame cabinets, the doors and drawers are specifically designed to fit within the frame. They may be flush with the frame or recessed, but in either case, they sit neatly within the boundaries of the frame.
- Hinges: One notable aspect of in-frame cabinets is the hinge system. Since the doors are attached within a frame, they often utilize butt hinges or other speciality hinges that are either visible from the front or concealed but mounted directly onto the frame and door. I’ll explain more about these in a bit! 👍
In-frame cabinets are not to be confused with traditional framed cabinets, which are 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.
Most homes in the UK these days have ‘standard’ frameless cabinets in their kitchens (sometimes called European-style cabinets). This is where the doors and drawer fronts are attached to the cabinet sides with hidden hinges covering the entire cabinet carcass sides.
In-frame Kitchen Cabinet Drawer Runners & Hinges
In-frame cabinets may need different hinges and drawer runners compared to a frameless kitchen.
With drawer runners, the positioning of them can differ slightly from what you might find in standard frameless designs. Some manufacturers provide spacers or mounting blocks, specifically designed to align the runners accurately within this framed structure.
Another popular choice is under-mounted runners. These are positioned beneath the drawer and naturally avoid any potential conflicts with the cabinet’s frame.
They can often look nicer as well, being concealed when the drawer is extended, they accentuate the cabinet’s elegant frame without any visual interruptions.
For the cabinet door hinges, there are usually two options. Inset 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 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 Appliance Doors And Pull-Out Wirework
When it comes to certain in-frame integrated appliance doors, such as for your dishwasher and washing machine or some cabinet with pull-out wirework, the construction of these is a little different.
Either there is no cabinet required to house these types of integrated appliances so you can’t fix a frame to anything. As is the case with an integrated dishwasher or washing machine.
Or the particular type of wirework is not designed to open within a frame.
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.
Pros Of An In-Frame Kitchen
- Nostalgic Elegance: Offers a vintage charm reminiscent of Mid-Century design, combined with practicality.
- Durable Build: The traditional cabinet furniture construction ensures long-term durability.
- Versatile Design Compatibility: Accommodates a broad range of cabinet door designs, catering to both classic and contemporary tastes.
- Enhanced Structural Integrity: The frame reinforces the cabinet, boosting its longevity and stability.
- Luxurious Finish: In-frame kitchens are often perceived as a premium choice, adding an immediate touch of luxury from bygone eras.
Cons Of An In-Frame Kitchen
- Precision Matters: If in-frame cabinets are poorly cut or mounted, they can appear misaligned. These misaligned doors or drawers can lead to closure issues.
- Reduced Space: The presence of the frame means that doors and drawers may be narrower, potentially limiting storage space. Frames in the middle of wider cabinet door openings can be obtrusive, hindering easy access.
- Cleaning Difficulties: The additional frame elements can make cleaning the interiors of the cabinets more challenging.
- Cost: In-frame kitchens can often be more expensive than their frameless counterparts, both in terms of initial costs and potential repairs.
- Less Modern Appeal: While they have a vintage charm, in-frame kitchens may not resonate with those who prefer a sleek, modern aesthetic.
- Installation Complexity: In-frame kitchens require more precise installation, which can be a challenge for DIYers or less experienced installers.
Are In-frame kitchens more expensive?
You can 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 as it all takes more time to construct.
Can You Get In-Frame Shaker Kitchens?
Yes. While genuine traditional Shaker kitchens feature framed cabinets, they typically do 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.
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.
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.
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?
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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.