What Are Shaker Style Kitchen Cabinets

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Last updated: April 8, 2023

Most furniture designs come from skilled craftsmen and evolving periods of time. Shaker-style cabinets are different from other wood products because they have a timeless reputation that has never been matched. 

Who Were the Shakers

The Shakers were a religious community that was formed in the 18th century from the Quakers of Manchester. Originally called the United Society of Believers, they emigrated to America, and spread throughout New England. Their skill was hand-crafted furniture, perfected to the point where the naked eye could not distinguish between the workmanship of the front, sides, and the back. Shaker kitchen cabinets became their trademark, and they were known for their high standards of craftsmanship. 

While it is said that taking pride in a job well done can keep a skill alive, the religious group of Shakers felt the quality of their work was a direct sign of their faith. Pleasing their God was far more important than man’s ego and pride within their religious sect. So the tradition of perfect timeless style and construction was born in the eighteenth century.

What is the Attraction for the Shaker Design

Simple construction that used common wood like pine, maple, and cherry did not mean that the grade of wood was understated. Only the finest cuts were used in shaker style cabinetry. Today you will see shaker-style cabinet doors (five-piece door with rail frames) made of more sustainable materials such as oak, mahogany, and Birchwood. Starting with a single piece of wood is the first thing in creating the shaker cabinet style. Separate pieces can change the way the grain of the wood runs and appearance is affected.

shaker stylie kitchen cabinets - white Shaker style cabinets, white glazed subway tile
“Historic Kitchen” by NancyHugoCKD.com is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0. A remodeled kitchen screams the authenticity of a 1940s home by using white Shaker style cabinets, white glazed subway tile, and a subtle pattern for countertops. Stainless Steel appliances enjoy cup pulls as accents on the drawers. Original concrete flooring with a waxed finish.

Characteristics of Shaker Style Cabinets

There are only 5 panels that makeup shaker style doors. Together with solid wood frames, mortise, dovetail, and tenon joints, they possess the same quality characteristics as centuries ago. The same minimalist appearance with clean straight lines has made the shaker kitchen design a popular choice for homeowners. This style suits both modern kitchens and contemporary kitchen designs easily. Practical and simple is how shaker kitchens are seen, much like their long-settled principles of the shaker religion.

Cost and Versatility of Shaker Doors

Sometimes less is more in the world of interior designs and shaker furniture is proof of this statement. There is no specific type of wood that is required to build a shaker style cabinet door. That is part of the beauty, and cost savings of shaker cabinetry. Today’s manufacturers will sometimes use medium/high-density fiberboard instead of solid wood to reduce costs. Solid wood is still a better choice in some applications, but care must be taken to use high quality stabilized wood. Whatever method, the skill is still needed to ensure long time shaker-style kitchen cabinets.

The contemporary look makes shaker cabinet designs suited for laundry rooms, dens, and dining areas. White shaker cabinets blend very well into adjoining rooms off of the kitchen with a similar color scheme. The recessed center panel and square edges of the design allows transitional versatility between styles. 

shaker style kitchen cabinets - Black granite adds to the contemporary look of this simple but elegant kitchen. Oak flooring compliments the shaker door style oak cabinets
“Urban townhouse” by NancyHugoCKD.com is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0. Black granite adds to the contemporary look of this simple, elegant kitchen. Oak flooring complements the shaker door style oak cabinets. Stainless steel undermount sink plus black appliances. The valance is fantastic.

Changing Your Cabinet Frame Look and Fronts

Samples of shaker cabinet doors can be found at your local home improvement store. Or you can order online from retailers in a different location but always check to see if they can deliver by entering your zip code. Everything from a classic shaker cabinet to those with a small design difference of a beveled edge for a personal look is available. The perfect choice comes from selecting a cabinet style, door frame, adding color, and deciding on hardware for door handles. Other factors include open shelving or glass-fronted cabinet styles or use of natural materials. If you are unsure on a perfect choice, employee the help from a modern kitchen designer for suggestions.

Design Tips for Shaker Style Kitchens

Always think symmetrical when choosing your basic shaker style cabinet door ensemble. Mixing styles and sizes is not recommended with shaker style cabinet doors. However, if you have an antique hutch or other interesting piece of furniture, a new kitchen can support a transitional look under the right guidance. Contact an interior designer for more help.

Traditional kitchens and any cooking space can be transformed into more modern designs with just a few changes. The five-piece door look of white shaker style kitchen cabinets is replacing dark brown wood with scrolls and motifs. The flavor of tradition is stated instead through classic look light fixtures and natural stone countertops. Your choice of handles let you go modern or stay with a touch of ornate design. Dark shaker cabinets can be used for lower cabinets or natural flooring of darker colors can provide contrasting natural wood finish. A lighter wood finish can be used with lower cabinets of a darker paint color.

Flat panel shaker kitchen cabinet doors round out a practical design for homeowners that are undecided on what type of design style is the best choice for their new cabinetry. Design choices in the United States does not have to be a popular trend in order to be appealing. The clean lines of shaker cabinets gives you options in the modern look of cabinets without minimal detailing.

shaker style kitchen cabinets - Apex Shaker Vanilla Kitchen
“Apex Shaker Vanilla Kitchen” by larkandlarks.co.uk is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Question and Answer

Is it better to buy five-piece drawer fronts made of solid wood or is fiberboard just as good?

If you are looking for quality and longevity, you cannot beat solid wood. Fiberboard will never wear as well as wood, but if you are looking for short-term decorating, fiberboard is a good option.  

Doesn’t the simple design of Shaker make a kitchen boring?

Shaker cabinets make a kitchen anything but boring. The options for color, sleek and modern designs, and modern hardware let you create a special feel and appearance to your favorite room in the house. Lighting also adds a significant part on Shaker cabinets. The angle of lighting can create different ambiences of light with the right reflection.

Will Shaker cabinets increase the value of my house?

Anytime there is an upgrade to the kitchen, an increase in value can be realized. While the latest trends have some merit to the rise in value, the largest contributors are longevity and classic design. Being able to extend the life of a modern-day kitchen with a timeless style can outperform the trends of today.

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