There are a number of factors to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets—the colour, style, handles, size. But what about the finish? Most probably, your kitchen designer will ask you to decide which finish you prefer, be it matt or a high gloss kitchen finish.

But wait! You don’t have to be half-hearted with your reply.

If you’re unsure which one to pick, then we’re here to help.

The cabinet finish could dramatically alter the look of your kitchen and also set the mood, regardless of the cabinet’s material. Some even consider the cabinets as the backbone of the kitchen.

Surprised?

This is why choosing which cabinet finish requires a deep understanding of your household needs.

The following will be covered in this article:

  • The available finish
  • Advantages and disadvantages of each finish
  • Tips to make sure each finish will work best for your kitchen

Finish materials

Whether you chose medium-density fibreboard (MDF), particle board, solid wood doors or ply for your cabinets, there are a wide array of finishes you can use to achieve the functionality and look you are aiming for.

For example, an oil coating can be used for solid timber doors to achieve a country style kitchen. For a more durable finish, opt for a coloured or clear polyurethane. This ultimately falls into your preference.

Meanwhile, kitchen-specific paints from any brand can be used to paint manufactured boards like particle board or MDF. If not, you can also use two-pack polyurethane. A layer of laminate, wood veneer, melamine or vinyl wrap can also be used as finish for such doors. Again, this depends on your preference and the look you are going for.

However, regardless of material or coating, you still have to make a choice between matt, gloss and semi-gloss finish for the end product.

Which finish should you go for? This is the classic question faced by potential customers looking for the ideal finish for their kitchen.

Should you go for the flashy and extravagant flair of high gloss or opt for the more subdued, practical warmth of a matt?

Which should you prefer and why?

The following are advantages and disadvantages of each available option.

High gloss kitchen cabinet finish

What is a high gloss finish?

Somewhat understandably, a high gloss has a glossy and sleek finish. It reflects the light of the space at different angles, making it popular and the most requested finish since it became trending back in the 70s.

This type of finish is more suited for contemporary kitchen styles with flat cabinet fronts.

There are 4 factors that affect the strength and amount of reflected light:

  • Type of gloss used
  • Colour of gloss
  • Underlying material
  • Type of light illuminating the space

Depending on the materials or the supplier, others refer to a high gloss as 100% gloss or ultra-high gloss.

high gloss kitchen finish

Advantages

A bigger space. What makes a high gloss so popular among homeowners is because it makes a limited space look bigger and wider than what it actually is.

This is thanks to the reflected light that produces a shiny finish, creating an illusion of a more open and bigger space. A high gloss finish is ideal for smaller kitchen spaces.

The bonus? You won’t be concerned with a darker colour since the shade will not absorb all the light in the room, but instead, reflect it.

The lighter the colour, the higher the reflection of light. Hence, white is the most popular colour choice.

However, take into account also the other colours of the room, since the reflective quality will bounce the light and could also reflect the other colours into those surfaces, often referred as a colour cast.

Colour cast could somewhat alter the overall appearance of the existing colour of the kitchen cabinets.

So don’t be surprised that there’s a slight alteration in colour on the surface if there are different colours in the nearby rooms such as the living area. This is especially visible on white glossy surfaces.

Easy cleaning. One other great advantage of high gloss is that it’s practically easy to clean. All you need is non-abrasive microfibre cloth to clean the glossy surface. Microfibre cloth will pick up any dust particles or marks on the surface.

For more stubborn stains, you can use a mild dishwashing soap, a non-abrasive sponge and warm water. Then gently clean the surface. Rinse, and dry with a clean non-abrasive microfibre cloth.

Disadvantages

If there are advantages, surely there are drawbacks.

Imperfections are more visible. This is undoubtedly one of the major drawbacks of a glossy finish. Since there is ample amount of reflected light on the surface, dirt, scratches, fingerprints and other marks will be more visible and noticeable.

However, as already mentioned, the surface is fairly easy to clean. So this might not be a major problem.

Now, when it comes to darker-coloured glossy finishes, tiny imperfections on the surface are more noticeable than on lighter-coloured glossy finishes. Thus, you might want to reconsider opting for a darker-coloured gloss if there are children in the house or if you’re concerned with constant cleaning.

Top tips

The reflection on light-coloured glossy cabinets will be more apparent on higher cabinets because they’re more at eye level compared with cabinets below benchtops.

If you want a high gloss finish but concerned about the visible imperfections or concerned about the kids in the house leaving marks on the surface, then opt for a high gloss finish on the upper cabinets. Then, use a semi-gloss or a matt finish for the lower ones.

Furthermore, if you would likely incorporate a darker-coloured gloss, consider mixing it with a lighter colour. The darker colour should be positioned at eye level where it will be out of reach from the sticky fingers of either adults or kids.

Then use a lighter colour for the lower cabinets, which will not easily show any imperfections.

Matt kitchen cabinet finish

What is a matt finish?

Although this is a relatively new trend, matt has become a popular choice in households over recent years. Unlike the gloss’ reflective surface, matt boasts a flat surface that absorbs light.

However, this doesn’t mean that it will appear dull, especially with lighter colours.

A matt finish is ideal for a country or traditional style kitchen cabinets with routed fronts. Yet, this finish could look just as great as gloss on contemporary style kitchen cabinets with flat fronts. In fact, it has grown highly popular in Europe than gloss.

Advantages

Less visible imperfections. One clear advantage matt has over gloss is the fact that scratches, fingerprints and other surface imperfections are not as visible because of the absence of reflected light.

However, this doesn’t mean that there are no marks. It only means that you don’t see them as clearly because light isn’t reflected on the surface.

Colour consistency. Another advantage of matt is the appearance of a consistent colour. Because of the absence of reflected light, colours in different areas of the cabinet fronts look the same.

Notice how the colour remains consistent in the image below.

matt kitchen finish

Disadvantages

A muted look. Since light will be absorbed on the surface resulting in a more muted look, others may find matt dull and boring. However, it is far from that.

Matt exudes an understated elegance with solid colours in every angle. However, note that matt isn’t ideal for small kitchen spaces. Light will not be reflected and the space could feel cramped.

Cleaning might be so easy. Since the surface could be not as smooth as gloss, cleaning might be a challenge for some, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t easy to clean. Like gloss, use a microfibre cloth for cleaning the surface.

If you plan on using a laminate material, make sure to carefully check the samples. Opt for a smooth flat finish.

Top tips

If you love the dramatic effect that is matt but concerned with the possibility of a boring look, then consider these ideas:

  • Opt for a cabinet door with a routed front like a Shaker-style picture below. The cabinet’s profile will cast varying shadows on the surface, making a feeling of interest and depth.
  • For contrast, mix two different colours.

Semi-gloss finish: Something in between

If you are still unconvinced whether to get a high gloss or a matt kitchen cabinet finish, then you can always settle for something in between—a semi-gloss finish.

A semi-gloss combines the advantages of both matt and high gloss finishes.

A semi-gloss has a certain degree of light-reflective qualities making light bounce around the kitchen space. Nevertheless, since the surface isn’t as highly reflective as high gloss, imperfections are not as visible and there is a more consistent colour.

high gloss kitchen finish

The takeaway

So which finish would you choose? The hybrid semi-gloss, dramatic matt or the flashy high gloss kitchen cabinet finish?

Ultimately, it all depends on your preference. It’s not entirely about which finish is the best, but what is ideal for you and your family.

Always remember that quality is key, not the lowest in cost.