In any home, nothing says "outdated" more than cabinets that look and function like they were installed 30 years ago.

In today's kitchens, improved appliances and materials bring comfort and durability into the oldest of spaces. While a bit more involved to replace than a stove or sink, cabinets available on today's market offer improved materials and functionality over yesteryear's sleepy alternatives.

"Just like any industry, everything is advancing over time so you have to stay abreast of the whole thing on a continual basis," says Tom McReynolds, owner of McReynolds Cabinets in Medford.

Perhaps new cabinets installed this year will one day seem a bit dated. However, today's overall quality and accessory options are better than ever.

First and foremost, the biggest new cabinet trend in recent years is availability of specialty wood types; a far cry from oak, walnut and wood blends a decade earlier.

"Oak is definitely trending out right now," McReynolds notes.

"Darker woods with matching granite are very popular right now. You won't see much of anything in laminate."

Popular woods — stained or otherwise — include birch, pecan, white oak, cherry and "vertical grain" fir. Painted cabinets, in contrasting or complementary colors, are a hit, too.

Holding it all together, visible hinges are going the way of oak and laminate. Hidden hinges, with a European influence, "are a must," McReynolds says. In addition, cabinet interiors have been upgraded from unfinished wood — often coated in unsightly shades of contact paper — to finished woodwork or other durable surfaces.

"We're seeing Melamine interiors used to pre-finish birch ply interiors a lot of upper- end homes are doing wood interiors," notes McReynolds. "It's just a nice finished look."

An added plus, glass doors that have long been popular in more upscale kitchens are now available in various textures and opacities, says cabinet sales consultant Brian Reed, of Gary Smith Custom Cabinets Inc. in Medford.

No longer must dishes be kept tidy for public display. As far as functionality, cabinets are hardly a hollow box for housing groceries and dishes, says Joe Warnick, owner of Medford's Cabinet Solutions.

"The way the industry is going, I think, is more accessories, more convenience," says Warnick. "They've got roll-out trays, cutlery dividers and custom storage options, pull-out trash cans, you name it."

Indeed, plate holders, wine racks and improved Lazy Susans — think increased capacity and better performance — round out the options.

For cluttered countertops, appliance garages offer co-housing for microwaves, blenders and other gadgets. Offering a bird's-eye view of work space, "puck lights" illuminate the inside of a cabinet while task lights installed under cabinet rims illuminate counter surfaces.

For overall visual appeal, local cabinet pros say a staggered look, cabinets of varying depths and heights, is becoming increasingly popular for a softer, less institutional kitchen dιcor. Crown moulding is often installed at the top of cabinets along with exposed legs for a less-boxy look, more like furniture.

As for a specific price tag for new cabinets, Warnick says there are too many variables to accurately discuss cost.

"I've seen reface bids that are more than the cost of the new kitchen, so it really just depends on who's doing the bid and what they're including," he says.

Overall, doors are the most expensive part of new cabinets and some 10 to 20 percent of overall cost goes towards labor. For a small kitchen, anticipate a basic setup to start around $3,500 to $4,000, area cabinet consultants say, and go up with accessories, various materials and features added.

As an alternative, most cabinet contractors offer a kit for do-it-yourselfers. If cost is an issue, or the kitchen isn't entirely hopeless, some cabinet consultants offer re-facing.

"We've just found that it's almost cheaper to rebuild the cabinet completely. A lot of times, if cabinets have been built 10-20 years ago, there are different issues, usually that they weren't built very well," Reed says.

"But as long as they look good and they're functional, I think the life of the cabinet is until they start falling apart. With what's available today, it's worth looking at what's available and seeing exactly what you want to wind up with."