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 The Door Stop, 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 The Door Stop. Order your custom cabinet doors today! If you have any questions feel free to e-mail us at sales@cabinetdoors.com or call us at 800-342-1010.

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This video shows how to measure cabinet openings and the calculation for cabinet door overlay. How to calculate Cabinet Door Overlay.

Here is a video with tips on Measuring cabinet openings, Finishing and Hanging your doors, and using hinge adjustment for final alignment of the doors. Cabinet Doors 101: How to measure openings, install hinges, hang and align doors.

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Just finished hanging my new Shaker Doors and I had to let you know that you have done an excellent job. Really, really beautiful work. Kirk A.

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You made some replacement doors for a rental I own. Problem is...the doors I didn't replace look awful. Seriously, you make a very high quality cabinet door and I guess I'll be ordering the rest of the kitchen soon. Kay B.

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I'm a home re-modeling handyman and I just finished a kitchen remodel using your Shaker Doors. This was my first order from you and the sizes and overall quality are much better than my prior supplier. You helped my make my customer very happy.Mike B.

This was my 4th kitchen re-model with your cabinet doors and, just like before, the doors were perfect. The workmanship is top notch and the sanding was exceptional. My 5th kitchen job is scheduled for August and I'll be ordering from you again. You make a great door.Kent's Kitchens

We ordered replacement doors for our 60-year-old home and were very pleased with the product. The milling was of the highest quality. The joinery was very well done, and the wood selection was obviously done by a professional who cares what the finished product looks like. It is one thing to assemble a project with technical skill, and another thing entirely to accomplish the assembly with an eye toward bringing the best out of the wood being used. Both aspects were accomplished, and at a very high level! The dimensions were absolutely perfect. Each door was correctly dimensioned to within less than 1/16 of an inch. It was very pleasing to see this attention to detail, especially since I took the time to measure my cabinets twice, making sure I had done my part. I had never worked with white birch before, and when I saw the issues with staining the wood (soft grain with blotchy absorption of the stain) I was a bit worried. I had no problems at all because the wood was of a higher quality white birch that had been properly handled at the mill and sanded to a stain-ready finish. A good sanding sealer was applied, and then the stain. The results were EXCELLENT! All-in-all, we received a great product, great advice and excellent customer service from CabinetDoors.com. We would certainly recommend them to anyone looking for cabinet doors. Nice job, everyone! Michael R.

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