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What Is A Shaker Kitchen? – Kitchen Terms Explained

There’s a lot of talk about kitchen design trends these days, with the infamous “Shaker” style being one of the most popular. But what exactly is a Shaker kitchen? And what makes it so different?

In this post, I’ll explain what a shaker kitchen is, its history and characteristics, as well as answer some common questions about the topic.

Let’s get into it!

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What Is A Shaker Kitchen?

A Shaker kitchen is a design style known for its minimalistic and functional approach, characterized by clean lines, flat-panelled cabinets, high-quality craftsmanship, and a focus on practicality.

It typically features a simplistic and uncluttered aesthetic, often using neutral colours and straightforward hardware, making it versatile for both traditional and contemporary home settings.

This timeless design balances elegance with efficiency, reflecting the Shaker community’s ethos of simplicity and utility.

Shaker kitchen painted white
Shaker kitchen painted white

Key Features Of A Shaker Kitchen Style

The most noticeable feature of Shaker kitchens is their uncluttered and straightforward design. They are free from intricate patterns or elaborate decorations. This simplicity gives them a clean and tidy appearance.

Shaker kitchens typically have flat-panel cabinet doors with a frame-like edge. These doors are characterized by their plain, square design which emphasizes utility over decoration.

There are five elements to a shaker kitchen door:

  • 2x Rails
  • 2x Stiles
  • 1x Flat recessed (inset) centre panel
Shaker door construction diagram showing rails, stiles and flat recessed centre panel. Shaker style kitchen design.

Quality Craftsmanship: Despite their simplicity in design, Shaker kitchens are known for their high-quality craftsmanship. The focus is on durability and functionality, using sturdy materials that last.

Traditionally manufactured Shaker kitchen cabinets will include fine woodworking details such as dovetail detail in drawers and mortise and tenon joints on the cabinet doors.

All the doors and drawer fronts will be solid hardwoods and may have the cabinets painted or stained.

Neutral Colors: Shaker kitchens often use neutral or muted colours. Whites, greys, and light woods are common, which contribute to their timeless look and make it easy to integrate them into different home styles.

Functional Layout: Functionality is a key aspect of Shaker kitchens. Everything has a purpose and place, from the cabinets to the layout of the appliances. This makes the kitchen practical and efficient to use.

Minimalist Hardware: The hardware in Shaker kitchens, like handles and knobs, is typically minimalistic. Simple designs and practical materials are used, avoiding anything too ornate or flashy.

The History Behind Shaker Kitchens

A Shaker kitchen gets its name from a Christian religious sect called the Shakers (United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing).

The Shakers were established in 1747 and believed in a celibate and simple life devoted to their faith. Shakers lived in a communal setting and the membership made most of what they needed.

They applied the simplistic lifestyle to everything they did, including building homes and furniture.

For example, a chair should provide good support and be a restful place to recoup your energy. It will not feature elaborate carvings or a plush cushion.

In architecture, they shunned fanciful details in favour of designs that functioned without fuss.

At the same time, they invested in durable materials, such as oak, cherry, pine and maple so that they did not waste time and effort replacing tools, furniture, or buildings.

Shaker kitchens started appearing in homes as early as the 1800s as Shaker cabinetmakers built a reputation for quality work and craftsmanship.

The clean design is easy to duplicate. So even as the Shaker communities died off by the early 20th century, Shaker kitchens still retained popularity.

Since they have no intricate details, a Shaker kitchen easily rolls with the changing times. The style lends itself to current contemporary trends and can be dressed up for more traditional tastes.

Modern-Day Shaker Kitchens

Shaker-style kitchens have a lasting charm and remain a favourite choice today.

Their blend of simplicity and practicality, which fits well in both old-fashioned and contemporary homes is what makes them so appealing.

Timeless Appeal:

Shaker kitchens stand out for their ageless look. They’re simple and uncluttered, with straight, clean lines and a lack of fancy details. This style has effortlessly adapted to various trends over time, keeping its popularity intact.

Fits Well in Any Home:

Whether your home is classic or modern, a Shaker kitchen fits right in. In a traditional house, it brings a warm, historic feel with its understated elegance. In a modern setting, its minimalistic design adds a sleek, contemporary touch.

Influencing Modern Design:

Modern kitchen styles often take cues from Shaker designs, especially their love for simplicity and functionality. You’ll see many modern kitchens adopting the Shaker-style flat-panel doors and practical layout while experimenting with different colours and materials.

Keeping Up with Trends:

Shaker kitchens are great at keeping up with the times. Their simple design makes it easy to incorporate the latest appliances, and storage innovations, and adapt to changing lifestyles, all without losing their classic charm.

Modern Shaker Kitchen Style
Image – Nordiska Kök

Are Shaker Kitchens Good Quality?

The Shakers were renowned for excellent quality furniture and cabinetry.

However, today’s Shaker kitchens are all about looks and not necessarily about good manufacturing.

A modern Shaker-style kitchen may look like the traditional design but use lower quality wood and construction standards.

If you shop at a big box kitchen store, look for solid wood cabinets and drawers.

Pull a drawer out and look for dovetail joints. You should not see staples holding a quality Shaker cabinet together.

Many cabinetmakers use the Shaker name (or Shaker-style cabinets) to imply their product is of high quality, but it is more likely a marketing gimmick.

If you are thinking about a Shaker kitchen, be aware that a budget-friendly version will not have the same longevity as a custom version.

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What is the difference between a Shaker kitchen and a traditional kitchen?

The main difference between a Shaker kitchen and a traditional kitchen lies in their design and aesthetic elements:

Traditional Kitchen Design:

In a traditional kitchen design, you’ll find cabinets with raised panels that often feature detailed or ornate carvings along the edges, with hardware typically made of finely detailed metal.

The tops of these cabinets are usually decorated with crown moulding, which can be either intricate or simple.

For shelving and doors, there’s often a mix of open shelving with scalloped edges and glass doors and the finish on these cabinets is generally natural wood stains.

The countertops in traditional kitchens may feature bevelled or ogee edges, which add a decorative touch to the surfaces.

Shaker Kitchen Design:

Shaker kitchen design is all about simplicity, highlighting clean, straight lines with minimal details for a functional look.

The cabinets in Shaker kitchens are often painted, aligning with modern trends such as the all-white kitchen, and are versatile enough to fit both classic farmhouse and contemporary styles, with hardware usually round and made of wood.

The countertop edges are typically rounded or have a simple bevelled edge, enhancing the kitchen’s straightforward and clean appearance.

Essentially, traditional kitchens are characterized by their detailed and ornate features, whereas Shaker kitchens are known for their simple, clean lines and functional design.

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FAQs

Are Shaker Kitchens Old Fashioned?

No, a Shaker kitchen will not look old-fashioned or out of place in your modern home.

While the Shaker design is from the 18th century and hundreds of years old, the current contemporary trend of simple, minimalist cabinetry fully embraces the basics of Shaker kitchens.

Better yet, when styles change, its clean lines allow you to switch out accessories and hardware to go with the times.

Are Shaker Kitchens In Style?

Yes. Shaker kitchens are in style. In fact, they are often referred to as a timeless kitchen style.

Their simple and minimalist design means they can be adapted for a modern look or used to create a more traditional kitchen style.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about the shaker kitchen.

A timeless classic, shaker-style kitchen cabinets have been around for hundreds of years thanks to the Shaking Quakers and continue to remain a popular choice to this day.

Simple, honest and versatile. There’s a lot you can do with a shaker kitchen!

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.