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What is a Cabinet, Cupboard, Wardrobe, and a Drawer?

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When preparing to furnish a home, you will be faced with numerous terms and decisions that you will have to make as far as furniture goes. You must have a full understanding of each of the terms that you will be hearing. There is a vast difference between cabinets, cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers. 

Cabinets, Cupboards, Wardrobes, and drawers are all forms of storage that you can find in a residence, whether that be a private home or apartment complex. While all provide storage options, they each vary in their capabilities. 

In this article, you will learn the differences and similarities between cabinets, cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers. 

What is a Cabinet?

Typically, when you think of a cabinet, your mind likely goes to the kitchen or bathroom.  Cabinets are most likely used as storage options in those places. While it is common to find them there, you can easily find a cabinet in any room of a house. 

A cabinet is a storage option that typically has shelves and doors. A cabinet can be used for various things, depending on the room of the house it is located in.  Areas you may find cabinets are

  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Family room
My bathroom cabinet under the sink.

The cabinets found in each of these rooms will likely look much different.  In the bathroom, you may find cabinets that have mirrored doors that fit into the wall.  In the kitchen, you can find upper and lower cabinets installed strategically around the room for ample storage.  It is also common to find cabinets in the family room as an extra place for storage. 

What are They Made of?

Cabinets are very versatile fixtures in a home and can help make a style impact.  Just as styles differ, so do cabinets in size, shape, and finish.  Cabinets can often become a focal point in the home, so they are available in many varieties. 

Kitchen:  When you look for cabinets in the kitchen, you will find most are made from either hardwood or a wood-like material, such as laminated plywood with a wood-look veneer attached to the front.  While hardwood is the most durable, it is also more expensive than laminated plywood. Because of this, many contractors will choose the less expensive option to meet the style needs of the home. 

My tiny kitchens cabinets. I also have washing machine embedded into one of the cabinet doors.

Bathroom: In the bathroom, you may find cabinets made of hardwood, laminated plywood, or even metal.  When putting cabinets in the bathroom, you must take the environment into account.  Bathrooms are naturally humid, which can cause damage to laminated plywood over time.  If you want cabinets that will be durable, it would be wise to go with either metal or hardwood. 

Family Room:  Typical cabinets in a family room or other living space are made with either hardwood or laminated plywood.  There is likely not much wear and tear on cabinets in low-traffic areas, so laminated plywood would likely do well in these areas. 

My mediacenters cabinet. I had to remove the door for better cooling.

Why Do You Need Cabinets?

If you are a minimalist, you may be wondering why you need cabinets.  In some modern design techniques, cabinets are virtually removed from the kitchen and replaced with shelves.  While this may be trendy for a short time, it is likely not sustainable, especially if you have a family and begin accumulating dishes.  

Cabinets are a great way to keep things organized in each room of your house.  Because they include drawers and doors, it is easy to close them, which helps maintain a tidy appearance in the room you have them in.  It is also a great way to organize items in each room of your home neatly and stylishly. 

How Much are Cabinets?

Cabinets can be a large part of any home, which may leave you wondering how much cabinets cost.  Luckily, there are many different options for cabinets, and each of those options fits within a different price point.  When looking at cabinet prices, the main factor is the material they are made of and how they are manufactured (factory or custom).

Hardwood:  Hardwood cabinets will most likely be the most expensive option because they are solid wood. The average cost of hardwood cabinets is between $6,000 – $12,000. The cost of the cabinets can increase and decrease depending on the number of cabinets you have installed. 

Many people choose hardwood cabinets because they are built to last.  Most hardwood cabinets will need to be custom-built by an experienced cabinet maker.  Building cabinets is an art and takes many hours of intensive labor.  Because of this, the cost is equivalent to the work that is put into them.  Hardwood is much easier to customize to your home because you are likely working directly with a builder that is more likely to see the vision. 

Laminated Plywood: In most middle-range homes, contractors will choose to use cabinets covered in a veneer.  This choice is often made because it is an easy way to keep the cost down during construction.  The average cost of laminated plywood cabinets is $2,000 – $15,000. The cost of the cabinet is determined by the area being covered and the veneer you choose for the cabinets. 

Laminated plywood cabinets can be quite durable; however, they may begin to chip and peel over time.  You will likely need to have the cabinets refaced, which can be quite expensive if this happens. Most contractors will not recommend using laminated cabinets in the bathroom or areas of high humidity because of peeling that can occur. 

Can I Install Cabinets by Myself?

When looking at the usefulness and cost of cabinets, you may find yourself wondering if you could install them by yourself.  The answer to this question is yes, but you need to have knowledge or experience with cabinetry.  Cabinets are used daily, so you want to make sure you put quality pieces into your home.  You also need to make sure they are built and installed correctly to avoid any unnecessary accidents. 

Many people choose to buy premade cabinets simply because they lack the proper skills and equipment, or limited time does not allow them to take on the task.  On average, it can take two weeks to build a solid set of cabinets for the kitchen if you have experience building.  If you are inexperienced, it will likely take longer. 

What is a Cupboard?

You have likely used the terms cabinet and cupboard synonymously, but they are different fixtures.  A cupboard can be attached to a wall or a free-standing unit. Historically, the purpose of a cupboard has been to store food, utensils, and dishes.  In more modern times, the cupboard has transitioned into other parts of the home. 

Types of Cupboards

Like there are different types of cabinets in a home, there are also different cupboards that can be found. 

Airing CupboardThese cupboards can be used to house water heaters. You can store partially dry laundry in an airing cupboard until it has fully dried. They are commonly used in the UK.
Built-in- CupboardA part of the design in a room. It appears to belong in the location it is put in because everything flows around it. They are often used to store things or display dishes and other important items, such as photos. 
Linen CupboardThey are used for storing blankets, sheets, and towels. The shelves are often a bit deeper than those of a traditional closet or cabinet. It may not be very wide.

Because cupboards are so versatile, there isn’t a limit to where you can use or find them in a home.  While the use of the cupboard may have changed over time, the style has remained the same. 

What are They Made of?

Cupboards are typically made of wood or wood-type material.  Because most cupboards are built into a home, wood is most commonly used.  Laminated wood can be used to build a cupboard, but it will likely not be as durable and long-lasting as a hardwood cupboard. 

Why Should You Have a Cupboard?

If you have cabinets in your home, you may be left scratching your head and wondering why you would need a cupboard.  Often, cupboards can add a bit of flair to a design scheme.  A cupboard is not only a great way to add additional storage to your home, but it is also a great way to add a stylish yet classic twist to your home. 

How Much is a Cupboard?

The cost of a cupboard depends on the size, materials needed, and whether or not you need to hire someone to install the cupboard.  If you are looking at a build-in cupboard in a pre-existing home, you will likely need a contractor to make sure you are placing it in a proper location and not disturbing the integrity of the home. 

For stand-alone cupboards, the cost will be dependent on the material and craftsmanship.  If you are requesting a custom-built cupboard, the cost will likely be more than a manufactured cupboard.  Many people also choose to purchase antique cupboards, which can be much more expensive than most. 

What is a Wardrobe?

The term wardrobe may not be as familiar as a cabinet or cupboard, but it is commonly used in homes, particularly in the bedroom or a dressing room. You have likely heard the term wardrobe when referring to actors or actresses when they are changing costumes. A wardrobe is a free-standing closet with a rod installed in the top to hang clothes from.

Wardrobes can come in many different sizes, shapes, and styles.  Some wardrobes are very plain, while others are extremely ornate and the centerpiece of a room.  Often, wardrobes are used when there isn’t a built-in closet or space to put a closet for hanging clothing. 

Types of Wardrobes

There are three distinct types of wardrobes that you may find when searching for one for your home.

Sliding Door

Wardrobes with sliding doors tend to fit into the design of a room by taking on the appearance of the wall.  They are often floor-to-ceiling units, so they look seamless when entering the room.  The sliding doors allow for the wardrobe to be positioned in a small area, so you don’t need to worry about space for doors to swing.

Hinged Door

The hinged door design is the most traditional or common design when it comes to wardrobes.  Typically wardrobes with hinged doors are not built from floor to ceiling and have the appearance of a large cabinet.  They require careful positioning because you want to make sure the door is able to open easily without hitting the wall or other furniture.


A free-standing wardrobe is a great way to add a modern spin to the design of your home.  Often, free-standing wardrobes have storage both inside and on top of the unit.  It is also quite common to have an open space in a free-standing wardrobe that provides the appearance of a built-in cabinet.

Why Should You Have a Wardrobe?

You may be wondering why you would want to have a wardrobe instead of a cabinet or cupboard.  A wardrobe is a unique way to add style to your bedroom, but it is also a great way to add extra storage to the room. 

Many people choose to put a wardrobe into a room to help remove the clutter of having additional shelves and cabinets in the room. Because wardrobes are so versatile, they can be used to store clothes as well as other items that may cause clutter. 

How Much do Wardrobes Cost?

If you decide to add a wardrobe to your home, you can expect to spend between $200 – $18,000 on a modern-built unit.  The cost of the wardrobe is dependent on the materials used to make it as well as the size of the wardrobe.  

Some people prefer to use an antique wardrobe in their home. Choosing to go the antique route will significantly increase the price tag as well as the diligence you need to have when purchasing.  A solid and well-maintained antique wardrobe can cost $30,000 or more.  It is important to look at the authenticity when deciding to purchase an antique. 

What Are Wardrobes Made of?

Wardrobes can be made with many different materials.  The most common materials used are solid hardwood, plywood, and laminated plywood.  Almost all antique wardrobes were made with solid wood, which is why they have been able to survive such a long period of time, some hundreds of years. 

Modern wardrobes are more likely made with laminated wood or plywood.  This is because the manufacturing process for these types of wardrobes is less time-consuming and costly.  If you choose a wardrobe that is made with solid wood, the cost is likely to be much higher.

What is a Drawer?

You likely have many drawers in your home in many different locations.  A drawer is simply a rectangular-shaped box that can be opened by pulling out and closed by pushing in. Drawers come in all different sizes and serve the purpose of storage.  Some drawers are even self-opening and closing with a simple tap on the front. 

Types of Drawers

There are many different types of drawers that you can find for your home.  Some are decorative, while others are very plain and serve the simple purpose of storage. It is important to understand that drawers can be made with a variety of materials. 

Wood:  The most common type of drawers found in a home are wood.  They are the standard drawers that are installed in most kitchens and bathrooms. 

Laminated Wood:  Drawers can also be made with laminated wood.  This is not as durable of an option, but it is commonly used in homes. 

Plastic:  You can also find drawers that are made of plastic.  Typically this type of drawer would be found in a rolling set of drawers that you may use in a dorm room, craft room, or even classroom.  These drawers are durable and easy to clean, but they will likely not last as long as wood.  You also need to be aware of the weight of items you are putting into the drawers because they could bend. 

No matter which type of drawer you choose, they will all serve the purpose of storage.  If you are looking for a long-lasting product, it would be best to get wooden drawers.  However, if you are looking for temporary drawers, plastic would likely be okay. 

How Much do Drawers Cost?

The cost of drawers will depend on the size and materials you use.  When a drawer is made, it requires more pieces than a cabinet or cupboard. Because of this, the cost of drawers can be quite high. For sliding drawers, you can expect to spend between $100 – $200 for each drawer.

Differences Between Cabinets, Cupboards, Wardrobes, and Drawers

After reading about each of these storage options, you likely noticed some common threads that connected each of them as well as differences.  There are three things that each of these storage options have that differ from one another.

  1. Some are built-in others are free-standing.
  2. They don’t all attach to the wall.
  3. Not all are the same dimensions. 

While each of these storage options could be used in multiple locations throughout the house, they have distinct features that may make them better suited for one area over another. 

Are Cabinets, Cupboards, Wardrobes, and Drawers Similar? 

Along with differences between each of the storage options, there are also many similarities.  Some of the similarities each of these options shares are

  1. Storage 
  2. It can be custom made
  3. Cost varies with materials
  4. Terms are sometimes used synonymously.

All of the options discussed are used for storage in a home.  While they all serve the purpose of storage, it is up to you to decide where you would like to place them within a home.  Some areas will be better than others for the options presented. 

Cabinets and Cupboards are Similar

When looking at the description of cabinets and cupboards, you will likely notice that they are very similar to one another, yet not exactly the same.  Cabinets are typically built into a home, while cupboards can be built in our free-standing.  

Drawers Can Be a Part of Each

Drawers are unique because they can stand alone, or they can be a part of cabinets, cupboards, and wardrobes.  While they are only similar in the way they are used for storage, they can be a big part of the usefulness of each storage option. 

Wardrobes Stand Alone

It is important to remember that a wardrobe is a form of storage and can have cabinets built into it, but a wardrobe itself is quite different from cupboards, cabinets, and drawers.  Again, each of those storage options can be integrated into the design of a wardrobe, which provides extra storage options for the piece of furniture. You may find a wardrobe with drawers, a cupboard, and a built-in cabinet, depending on the size. 

Which is The Best Storage?

You may be wondering which option is best for storing things in your home.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one best way to store things.  When choosing the best option for you, it is most important to look at the space you have as well as the items you need to store.

Once you have thoughtfully evaluated your needs, you can find the best option. If money is not a factor, you may choose to have custom-built storage that will last for decades. If you are trying to stay on a tight budget, it would be beneficial to look at pre-manufactured options. 

Final Thoughts

Cabinets, cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers are all distinctly different, yet they share some similarities.  The most common thing that pulls these items together is their purpose. They each serve the purpose of storing items and help to make your home look less cluttered and more organized.  Each comes at a different price point and can be purchased as manufactured or custom-built.

Next, you can learn if you really need a dresser, or how to fold your clothes.


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