Full-Access European Cabinetry Comes to America

For those that travel abroad, it is not unlikely to hear from Europeans that Europe has increasingly become more like the U.S. and to hear from those here in the U.S. that America is more and more like Europe. Although this converging trend towards a common center called the global marketplace can sometimes create disagreement politically or economically; for our lives and times, lived out daily in our kitchens, it can only add some spice when we can take advantage of the best of all worlds with more in terms of-all in the spirit of better suiting all of our unique lifestyle needs and preferences as never before.

Understanding the influences that contribute to the growing diversity in the tastes of today’s consumer is very important for cabinet makers who are intent on satisfying their preferences. When it comes to the kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinets we choose for our homes, many of us begin by visualizing their appearance which is driven by all of our experiences; maybe you have traveled a lot, grew up in the country or perhaps a big city and you begin to imagine how a particular style like contemporary or traditional, will work with your vision.

Once you have an aspiring vision of what you’re looking for in a design, you should not select cabinets merely on their looks, but also on the quality of construction. It is important to first get acquainted with the various types of cabinetry; which include stock, ready-to-assemble (RTA), semi-custom, fully custom, and a new imported custom cabinetry channel. You can see how easy it might be to get overwhelmed by all of these terms, so let’s simplify it all by clarifying the two types of cabinet construction, American traditional face frame or framed cabinet, and what is increasingly being considered as the vanguard in modern manufacturing efficiency, full-access cabinetry.

American Style or “Framed” Construction

Face frame cabinets use solid wood joinery at the front of the cabinet to form, as the name suggests, a face frame around the front of the cabinet while frameless cabinets don’t. You can usually tell the difference between the two types of cabinet construction by the way the doors and drawers fit against the front. With the framed cabinet, you see a mixture of frame and door/drawer front, with wide reveals (or gaps) between each door/drawer front.

This is called a frame-overlay style. When the doors of the cabinet are closed you can still see the cabinet face frames around the doors and drawer fronts and you can often see the hinges as well. Framed cabinetry is most likely the one you will feel familiar with as it has been the standard style in America for several decades. This is due to the fact that framed cabinetry was made widely available by big manufacturers who generally produce face frame cabinets and distribute in various places to buy cabinetry including big-box home centers. Made typically with a plywood or particle board box that is held together by a hardwood frame attached to the front, framed cabinetry is identified by the spaces between the doors and drawers where the frame is visible. The interior of the cabinet is wider on both sides than the cabinet opening. The face frame usually extends into the opening about 3/4″ or more. Even though the prevalence of full-access cabinetry is increasingly featured in style and design publications, framed cabinets are still the choice-of-comfort in the United States representing “about two-thirds” of cabinet purchases.

European Style or “Full-Access” Construction

Full-access (sometimes called European or frameless)is the standard for European-style cabinets; resembling a box, they don’t need a face frame as the front edge of the cabinet sidewall functions efficiently as the front of the cabinet itself. Full-access cabinetry is built as a box instead of using a hardwood face frame. Typically, the sides as well as other structural components of full-access cabinetry are made with heavier or thicker materials making the additional front frame unnecessary for its structural soundness. When the doors and drawers are closed, you can see more of both as they present a ‘full overlay’ in that they cover almost the entire cabinet with tight or unbroken reveals (or gaps) between each door/drawer front. This full-overlay door style conceals hinges totally, and is adjustable for perfect alignment. Recovering the reduction in width and height lost with the presence of a frame with framed cabinetry, the interior width is the same as the opening; hence, the term full-access.

Full-access cabinetry offers a wide range of benefits, both aesthetic and functional. Creating a seamless design scheme from door to door, frameless cabinetry gained a wide acceptance in the United States on the coastal regions and as its benefits continues to be experienced by craftsman and homeowners; its popularity is increasing across the country.

The Advantages of Full-Access Cabinetry

Driven by design tastes and practicality, homeowners and homebuilders are beginning to understand the added advantages of full-access cabinetry and consensus is building that if you’re purchasing cabinets made from a quality cabinet maker, full access cabinets are the superior choice.

Flexibility in Design: With full access cabinetry, there are no face frames showing on the cabinet making them the preferred choice of designers who demand clean, simple lines; also, they offer a wide selection of features that allow a virtually infinite measure of customization.
Structural Integrity: Full-access cabinetry is made to last and whether its entire box is made of plywood or industrial grade particleboard, it is structurally sound.
Ease of Installation: The ends and sides of the cabinets are flush like fine furniture and the hardware is accommodating if you need to adjust the position of the doors for precise alignment.
Easy and Complete Access: As the name implies, full-access cabinets bypass the frame altogether allowing complete unobstructed access to your cabinet interior. Using the entire box, the cabinet is made more accessible while providing a couple of extra inches of space; in some cases, as much as 10-20% more storage space.
Maximum Space Utilization:Full-access provides more usable space inside a frameless cabinet compared to a same-sized framed product-further enhanced with larger drawers and roll out shelves; and, because the cabinet box itself is structural, it has fewer braces and reinforcements inside the cabinet, and thus more space inside.
Suits Both Traditional and Contemporary Designs: With a minimalist, smooth appearance, full-access is the preferred choice of designers who demand maximum space utilization, ergonomics and aesthetics, with the appropriate materials. Working equally well to execute a traditional look as modern or contemporary, flush doors and hidden hinges create seamless, sophisticated looks achievable only with full access cabinetry.