Shaker style cabinetry is synonymous with simplicity, clean lines, and excellent craftsmanship.
- What Are Shaker Style Cabinets?
- The History of Shaker Style – Why Is It Called a Shaker Kitchen?
- Key Features of Shaker Style Cabinetry
- The Evolution of Shaker Style Cabinets
- The Difference Between Shaker Cabinets and Regular Cabinets
- Why Are Shaker Cabinets Popular As An On-Trend Style?
- Different Ways To Use Shaker Style Cabinet in Your Kitchen
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Some believe shaker furniture style to be the precursor to Danish Modern Design style. Read on to discover why shaker cabinets are still growing in popularity today from their humble beginnings in the 18th century.
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What Are Shaker Style Cabinets?
Shaker style kitchen cabinets are, as the name suggests, popularly used in kitchens but have also been adapted for use in other spaces including bathrooms and even offices.
You may wonder what the big deal is about the buzzword “shaker style cabinetry” that interior designers like to throw around when describing a kitchen remodel they’ve completed.
To spruce up your knowledge, let’s explore the history of shaker style cabinets as well as their design elements. Then we will look at the difference between shaker cabinets and regular cabinets, and different ways to infuse shaker furniture style in your kitchen to help you decide if it’s the right fit for your space.
The History of Shaker Style – Why Is It Called a Shaker Kitchen?
Shaker style refers to a distinctive furniture style made famous by members of an agrarian religious sect called The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as the Shakers.
The religious community was formed in New York shortly before the American Revolution (1775-83). Their religious doctrine however came from their leader, Ann Lee, who grew up and started the movement in industrial Manchester, England before moving to America. By the 1840’s nearly 3,500 Shakers had settled primarily in New England.
The Shaker term itself originates from their signature building style: clean lines and right angles with no decorative woodwork and understated beauty. Their design aesthetic was based on simplicity, honesty, hard work and self-reliance.
Although they initially worked in furniture construction (making everything from rocking chairs to box beds), eventually they began making their own pieces out of oak ,because it was abundant in New England. Today, shaker style cabinets are still built using primarily oak and then painted white or stained for durability.
Key Features of Shaker Style Cabinetry
As with other styles of furniture, there are some key characteristics to pay attention to when looking at shaker cabinets.
- Original shaker style cabinets tend to be constructed using simple wooden pieces with clean lines and no decorative ornaments
- Natural materials such as oak, cherry wood, maple, birchwood, and pine are used in a sustainable manner to build traditional shaker cabinets
- Shaker cabinet centre panels are completely flat and their edges are sleek and plain in design
- A traditional shaker style kitchen countertop is built with high quality timber, whilst modern versions use natural stones such as granite, marble or quartz instead to bring a contemporary touch to the kitchen design
- Shaker door and drawer handles are traditionally made from wood; today brass or chrome handles are more widely used to elevate and modernise the kitchen style
- Natural or stained wood alongside whites, browns, greys, and other muted colours tend to be popular hues for shaker kitchen cabinets. Darker paint colours such as navy blue, emerald green, and black also work very well with shaker style cabinets.
The Evolution of Shaker Style Cabinets
The shakers believe that their work was an act of worship because it gave glory to God.
Similar to the Modern Design style of the 1960’s, the Shakers centred on the belief that every piece of furniture should serve a purpose and function as a testament to God.
Minimalist design characterised by solid wood craftsmanship and no ornament were the distinguishing features of their furniture style. Of all the pieces of furniture that the Shaker community designed, the shaker kitchen cabinet door remains its most iconic creation.
Modern versions of shaker panelled doors with solid wood frames, mortise, dovetail and tenon joints have become mainstream in many American and European kitchens today.
That type of high end solid wood furniture style crafted by the Shaker community, although durable, required a lot of maintenance for their upkeep and they came at a high price tag.
With the advent of Modern design in post-world war II in the 1960’s, a new type of affordable engineered wood, known as medium density fiberboard (MDF), was developed.
Moisture-resistant MDF in a variety of colours and textures using thermoil finish, a vinyl laminate heated and pressed onto MDF core subsequently emerged in the cabinetry making market. The durability and lower prince point of MDF made it much easier to replicate the quality design of the Shakers for the mass market.
The Difference Between Shaker Cabinets and Regular Cabinets
Appearance and Style
Shaker cabinets and regular cabinets are some of the most popular kitchen cabinet options available in the market. There are a few differences in their appearance that enable each kitchen furniture style to stand out and be a great addition to your preferred kitchen design style.
Regular cabinets tend to work well in formal traditional style kitchens. Regular cabinets generally feature raised panels in the centre of the cabinet door and drawer that protrudes in the middle before subtly sloping backward around the panel edges.
The centre panel tends to be surrounded by a grooved overlay or a carved decorative edge on both the interior and exterior. This gives the impression that the cabinet raised panel has been crafted from a large single piece of material with its subtly decorative ornaments.
A Shaker cabinet design is simple and minimalist with clean lines, which is better suited to a kitchen with a more contemporary design style. The centre panel of a shaker cabinet is a completely flat slab and is surrounded by a plain and flat recessed edge. There is no decorative ornament or raised details featured on either the centre panel or the overlay around the edge of the traditional Shaker cabinet door and drawer.
A raised panel cabinet may slightly vary in design from a cabinet door front to a drawer front by letting go of the overlay on the edge of the drawers.
Similarly, and contrary to popular belief, a Shaker cabinet door and front drawer may also vary in design by removing the classic bevelled edge of the drawers to reveal a flat surface.
This is evidenced by the traditional Shaker kitchen furniture pictures above. And, it is further corroborated by a 2020 documentary from the Hancock Shaker Village entitled Defining Expertise: The Design of 19th-century Shaker Communities .
In a nutshell, Shaker cabinets are best suited to kitchens with more contemporary and transitional design styles such as modern country kitchen designs, whereas raised panels work more beautifully in more formal, traditional living spaces.
When I talk about shaker cabinets and raised panel cabinets, this refers to the distinguishing design style of the cabinet doors and drawer front rather than the entire cabinet itself.
Both cabinetry styles may be built in frameless or framed construction with either full or semi-overlays. If both types of cabinets are built in a similar fashion, using either a framed or frameless structure, then the installation process will be similar for both.
Framed Versus Frameless Construction
Two main types of cabinet boxes are generally used to build shaker cabinets and raised panel cabinets for your kitchen.
Framed cabinets, more popular in North America, use a solid wood face frame on the outskirt of the front of the cabinet box that your chosen cabinet door or drawer is affixed to.
A frameless cabinet, much preferred in Europe, makes no use of a supporting frame. Your cabinet door or drawer is installed right on the front of the cabinet itself.
Frameless cabinets have a more contemporary design that tend to work well with modern Shaker cabinet doors. Framed cabinetry are more traditional in their appearance, which are better suited to raised panel doors.
Both Shaker cabinets and raised panels require a similar level of maintenance. Grime and dust tend to accumulate along the edges of both panel types. This may be slightly more visible in a Shaker cabinetry, depending on the size of the lip on the overlay. Regardless of the cabinet type you opt for, the panel overlay will need special attention when cleaning.
Both cabinet types can also be installed in varying heights up to the ceiling. The little difference is that raised panel cabinets come with the option of using a moulding to fill in the empty space between the kitchen cabinetry and the ceiling. This helps to keep costs down.
On the other hand, Shaker cabinets that go up to the ceiling do not come with a moulding option. This has to be custom designed for your kitchen and may cost a little bit more money. You can also choose to leave the gap between the cabinets and the ceiling. That space is more prone to collecting lots of dust and grime. This may result in higher maintenance unless cabinetry that goes up to the ceiling is installed.
Why Are Shaker Cabinets Popular As An On-Trend Style?
The popularity of Shaker style cabinets has to do with their simplicity, timelessness, and unique look. Their clean lines are easy on any eye, and they’re an ideal choice for smaller kitchens because they take up less space than traditional styles of cabinetry.
They also provide optimal storage options: think tall, pull-out shelving in your pantry or shallow cabinets under your sink; you don’t have to worry about protruding hardware blocking access to everything!
Different Ways To Use Shaker Style Cabinet in Your Kitchen
Shaker kitchen cabinets’ timeless style has evolved over the years; their modern versions are now customised in different ways to suit homeowners’ design aesthetics. Here are a few ideas for you to consider to add personality into your Shaker style kitchen cabinets.
Opt for chrome hardware
Adding a touch of contemporary design elements with chrome shaker cabinet door handles and drawer pullers will deliver a sleek and modern aesthetics in your kitchen that will pair well with your main chrome appliances.
Try two-toned cabinets
Be brave and bold by mixing two colours for your kitchen cabinets. White upper cabinets matched with lower cabinets in darker hues of navy blue, emerald green, grey, or black can add a wow factor in your kitchen.
Add glass fronts
Elevate your shaker kitchen with glass-fronts upper cabinets and mullion moulding for a touch of modern farmhouse style.
Keep it classic with white
Choosing white shaker cabinets as your main paint colour will give your space a timeless and minimalist look that will make your kitchen look much bigger and brighter.
Upscale with brass hardware
Nothing breathes understated elegance in a kitchen more than aged brass hardware with vintage features. Pair brass door handles and drawer pulls for your shaker cabinets with brass sink taps and a pot filler of your choice over your range cooker. This will make the space look timeless and expensive.
Use beadboard panelling
Another interesting way to infuse the modern country kitchen style into your space is by using beadboard panels for your shaker kitchen cabinet doors. This will add a little texture and a subtle decorative element in your modern shaker doors.
Infuse Scandinavian design into your shaker kitchen
Scandi design style is defined by the use of a lot of natural materials and textures and a pared-back minimalist aesthetics. Using shaker cabinets that are all about simple, clean lines and minimalism will add character to your space.
Hide away major appliances
Your microwave, dishwasher, or refrigerator can be tucked away behind shaker kitchen cabinets to create a streamlined and sleeker space that is synonymous with a shaker style kitchen design.
Add kitchen floating shelving
Pair your shaker cabinetry with either wood, marble, or porcelain kitchen shelves. To ensure your kitchen remains light and airy, combine upper shelving with lower cabinets. This is a great cost-effective and space-saving option for your kitchen design or remodel.