What is the History of the Raised Panel Door Style?

Even if you can’t picture a raised panel cabinet door in your mind, you have certainly seen one in person. They’ve been incorporated into kitchens, baths, offices, and any space that needs cabinets for years now, often to stylish or even stunning effect.

We get asked a lot about this cabinet style, from how to make raised panel cabinet doors to where is the best place to hang them? These are all great questions, but we wanted to answer another one — where did the raised panel door style come from?

What are Raised Panel Cabinets?

Before we get into the background, let’s establish what we mean when we say “raised panel cabinet doors.” Most cabinet doors you see utilize the “frame and panel” style, meaning they have a frame made of four boards surrounding a flat panel of wood. If the panel is flat — like in a Shaker style, for example — it’s known as a “recessed panel.” It becomes what is known as a “raised panel” when the center portion of the panel is flush with the frame.

For those wondering how to build raised panel cabinet doors, it depends on who you ask. Fine artisans and home woodworkers may use hand tools to carefully carve out a portion of the panel so that what’s untouched looks raised. More commonly, woodworkers use power routers to quickly make certain sections of the panel thinner. At, we use computerized woodworking equipment to ensure that each door we make has precise measurements and consistent quality. Less of the work is done by hand than it used to be, but the the custom-built raised panel cabinet doors we produce are objectively better as a result.

What’s the Appeal of Raised Panel Cabinet Doors?

These doors aren’t a recent invention, so why have they remained popular for so long? Mostly because the raised panel gives these doors an extra level of detail, and not to mention a dynamic design element that adds depth and dimension to the cabinet surface. For all those reasons, cabinet doors with raised center panels look more sophisticated and upscale to many people. People often choose doors with recessed panels because they look clean and sleek, but raised panels are the opposite. They call attention to themselves, elevate the look of the cabinetry, and contribute meaningfully to the overall room design. Not surprisingly, they’ve become popular as replacement cabinet doors for people looking for something noticeably nicer than what they have now.

What is the History of the Raised Panel Cabinet?

Dating the very first raised panel cabinet door is tricky, considering that definitions of “cabinet,” “door,” and “raised panel” are all up for debate among design historians. That being said, the raised panel doors we typically think of did not exist until at least the 1920s. In fact, kitchen cabinets as we know them didn’t exist until then.

For most of history, kitchen items ranging from crockery to pantry items were kept in stand alone cabinets. In the 19th-century, the kitchen was often just a stove, sink, and preparation table with most other things kept elsewhere.

Designs began to change toward the end of that century, due largely to the efforts of Catharine Beecher, the sister of author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe. After observing the clever storage solutions inside the galley kitchen on a river boat, she imagined a home kitchen that was optimized for daily usage to eliminate the drudgery of cooking and cleaning.

It took years for her ideas to take hold, and they evolved thanks to the contributions of behavioral psychologists, interior designers, and countless home cooks. By the 1920s the “built-in” kitchen was born, along with our modern conception of cabinet doors.

Around the same time, advances in woodworking equipment and cabinet door production answered the question of how to make raised panel kitchen cabinet doors in high volume and high quality. These advances, combined with a public that was eager to show off their new spaces, created the necessary supply and demand to spread this style to kitchens across the country. Raised panels have been popular ever since. At this point, they’re such a large part of the history and style of cabinet design (and interior design generally) that it’s hard to imagine them ever becoming unpopular.

Get Custom-Built Raised Panel Cabinet Doors in Popular Styles

Add a stylish touch to your home with raised panel cabinet doors from Order your custom cabinet doors today! If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us.

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