A cabinet is a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers for storing miscellaneous items. Some cabinets stand-alone while others are built in to a wall or are attached to it like a medicine cabinet. Cabinets are typically made of wood (solid or with veneers or artificial surfaces), coated steel (common for medicine cabinets), or synthetic materials. Commercial grade cabinets, which differ in the materials used, are called casework.
Cabinets usually have one or more doors on the front, which are mounted with door hardware, and occasionally a lock. Cabinets may have one or more doors, drawers, and/or shelves. Short cabinets often have a finished surface on top that can be used for display, or as a working surface, such as the countertops found in kitchens.
A cabinet intended to be used in a bedroom and with several drawers typically placed one above another in one or more columns intended for clothing and small articles is called a chest of drawers. A small bedside cabinet is more frequently called a nightstand or night table. A tall cabinet intended for clothing storage including hanging of clothes is called a wardrobe or an armoire, or (in some countries) a closet if built-in.
The fundamental focus of the cabinet maker is the production of cabinetry. Although the cabinet maker may also be required to produce items that would not be recognized as cabinets, the same skills and techniques apply.
A cabinet may be built-in or free-standing. A built-in cabinet is usually custom made for a particular situation and it is fixed into position, on a floor, against a wall, or framed in an opening. For example, modern kitchens are examples of built-in cabinetry. Free-standing cabinets are more commonly available as off-the-shelf items and can be moved from place to place if required. Cabinets may be wall hung or suspended from the ceiling. Cabinet doors may be hinged or sliding and may have mirrors on the inner or outer surface.
Cabinets may have a face frame or may be of frameless construction (also known as European or euro-style). Face frame cabinets have a supporting frame attached to the front of the cabinet box. This face frame is usually 1½ inches in width. Mounted on the cabinet frame is the cabinet door. In contrast, frameless cabinet have no such supporting front face frame, the cabinet doors attach directly to the sides of the cabinet box. The box's side, bottom and top panels are usually 5/8 to 3/4 inches thick, with the door overlaying all but 1/16 inch of the box edge. Modern cabinetry is often frameless and is typically constructed from man-made sheet materials, such as plywood, chipboard or MDF. The visible surfaces of these materials are usually clad in a timber veneer, plastic laminate, or other material. They may also be painted.
At one time, you had no choice: every kitchen was a freestanding kitchen.
Only the sink was fixed in place, and that was because it was attached to the house by plumbing.
The benefits of freestanding kitchens are numerous: you don't need to have costly fitted appliances, you can use existing or second-hand furniture (such as a cupboard, sideboard or dresser), and you can move your kitchen units around if you fancy a change later on. The fact that everything doesn't ‘match' means freestanding kitchens are often a more affordable option than fitted kitchens. They're certainly more flexible too, and can evolve to fit in with your needs, rather than needing to be perfectly planned from the outset.
During the 1940s, continuous metal kitchen cabinets began to appear in American kitchens. Post World War II, these wraparound cabinets, with their seamless counters, were found everywhere. If you had freestanding cabinets, you were deemed highly impractical--and worse, seriously out of fashion.
The 1950s saw the rise of kitchen remodelling, both do it yourself and hiring pros, as a favourite pastime. Yet, as homeowners began to personally take control of the look of their kitchens, cabinets and countertops had gradually become such a specialized craft that pros were chiefly the ones who installed them.
Think of your own kitchen: did you install your cabinets and fabricate/install the tops? Likely not.
Freestanding cabinets represent both a shout-out to the past and a way for homeowners to gain control of installation and placement flexibility.
The category can include both cabinets on the perimeter of the kitchen as well as prep tables in the center of the room.