Cabinet front material selection guide with The Cabinet Face

If you’ve been following Grace and me for a while, you know that we’re rather particular about how we want the materials we choose to reflect the aesthetics and values we hold.

Material selection is the first place we start after a simple sketch for a project idea. We’ve recently been going through design iterations for a bathroom renovation, and love combination of selection and material quality that The Cabinet Face offers.

We first worked with The Cabinet Face during our kitchen renovation, which helped solidify our choice to work with them again. We’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know them personally and work more closely with them for our bathroom renovation — including a first look at some new materials they are launching this Fall. We’ll go into detail about how we selected materials for our kitchen, and also reveal what materials we’ll be going with for our bathroom renovation!

What we found on the market

We found several different material options when we were looking for cabinet fronts, though many more exist:

  • Thermofoil — a colored vinyl film heat-pressed onto an MDF core under vacuum. Most often matte/slightly textured finish. The film is ~1/64” thick.

  • Acrylic — a colored acyrlate polymer heat-formed and laser-sealed onto an MDF core. Comes in a variety of very smooth finishes from glossy to matte. The polymer is 1/32” to 1/16” thick.

  • Textured Melamine — a colored amide-based resin laminated to the surface of an MDF/particle board core imprinted with a wood-like texture. There are a variety of processes resulting in varying thicknesses of texture. Some do an alright job at mimicking real wood.

  • DIY Paint — MDF cut to size and ready for paint in slab or shaker styles (we recommend using a paint sprayer)

  • DIY Stain — typically made of Maple. Comes finished ready to take stain and finish in slab or shaker styles.

  • Solid Wood — a traditionally constructed cabinet door with two side stiles, bottom and top rails, and a floating panel to span the middle finished with a clear top coat.

  • Wood Veneer — a real-wood veneer grain-matched and glued onto an MDF core and finished with a clear top coat. I’ve only seen this in a slab style (probably not possible to wrap veneer around intricate corners, etc). The veneer is 1/32” to 1/16” thick.

The Cabinet Face offers all of the materials above, except thermofoil. I suspect this is due to quality issues encountered by end-users of thermofoil products, and The Cabinet Face’s commitment to a highly functional and durable product using premium materials. The Cabinet Face also offers the largest variety of wood species and grain patterns I have seen — 8 solid wood types, and 7 real wood veneer on MDF core — with two new species coming out this Fall! If that’s not enough variety, they have two different styles of edge banding as well.

Filtering down the materials

Our kitchen design included a contrasting wood pantry almost since inception. We liked the aesthetics of this choice, but didn’t really know how we would achieve it. While there are several vendors out there that make cabinet fronts and panels in various finishes, we were looking for the following:

  • Compatible with Ikea Sektion

  • Mesh well with our hardwood floors (a red-ish variety of oak)

  • Real wood (if possible)

  • Slab style

  • Custom sizing options

  • Domestically-made

Making a choice

The best way to figure out what material to go with is to have multiple samples to look at and compare. For our kitchen renovation we ordered about a dozen samples to see how the materials looked and felt in the space, making sure to see how they looked in different times of day and night.

Once we had our samples we quickly zeroed in on the Red Oak slab from The Cabinet Face, which was a material that we did not find anywhere else! We love the warmth and grain texture this wood has.

I initially had some hesitation about wood veneer on an MDF core, but after researching a bit more I found that this material actually offers some advantages over real wood, especially when comparing it to a solid wood slab.

Because MDF is an engineered material and essentially isotropic, it does not suffer from warping with changing ambient conditions, the thin veneer over the core isn’t thick enough to warp either (MDF will, however, swell if left in contact with water, which is similar to real wood). This is not the case with a solid wood slab, as a 3/4”x25”x80” slab no matter how well prepared will eventually warp under conditions found in most kitchens. This is also true to a certain extent with a solid wood shaker style door, though the mortise and tenon construction and smaller individual pieces help cancel out the warping effects.

Bottom line: you get the beauty of a real wood slab without the worry of your investment getting wonky because of humidity.

Materials for our next project

The Cabinet Face offered us the opportunity to get a first look some new materials they are launching this Fall in their natural wood slab line. I was immediately drawn to the White Ash since it has the color of a Maple, and the grain texture of an Oak. Unfortunately, this material didn’t fit with the color palette of the bathroom we’re going to be renovating.

Their new Brushed White Oak was initially a custom-order by a client (yes, they’ll do things that custom) that they decided to expand to a regular market offering. The photos really don’t do this material justice. The Brushed White Oak has such a deep texture, and is nominally twice the thickness of their other wood veneer options at about 1/16” thick. This material, too, didn’t quite fit in with what we wanted for the bathroom — though it did make me consider expanding the scope and ripping out and replacing the flooring!

brushed white oak
white ash

Given the constraints on the color palette for our bathroom renovation we’ve narrowed the materials down to a natural wood slab in Cherry wood for the vanity (so as to not over-do the red oak throughout the house), and combination of slab and shaker styles in a Pebble-colored matte acrylic for the linen closet.

This post was sponsored by The Cabinet Face. All opinions are my own.

This post was written for the  Collected Eclectic blog.

Collected Eclectic was a passion project focused on recording the process as Grace and Michael van Meurer transformed their builder grade home in to something special.

124 blog posts were published between 2018 and 2021. Explore the complete Collected Eclectic archive here

Learn more about the project here

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