The Ultimate Guide To Shaker Style Kitchens

The Ultimate Guide To Shaker Style Kitchens

Shaker Style Kitchen Guide: All You Need to Know


Time and time again, the Shaker style has been embraced in countless homes across the globe. What makes this design movement so influential and still highly relevant to modern kitchen design? We delve into the history behind the shaker style kitchen what makes it so special as well as how to achieve a flawless Shaker look in your home. 

A briefs history of shaker style kitchens


The roots of the shaker style extend as far back as 18th-century Manchester when the United Society of Believers, otherwise known as the Shakers, diverged from the Quakers as their own religious movement. With a flair for rustic quality and craftsmanship, the Shakers were notable for the fervent devotional dancing, or ‘shaking’, they would perform during worship.



Emigrating to America, they first settled in New York before dispersing across various parts of New England. Here, they manifested their enthusiasm for the understated yet dignified through carefully-crafted furniture and home design, including kitchens. Self-sufficiency, honesty and preservation were central to the Shaker’s pious way of life and came to underpin their distinctly simple and humble sense of style. Overly-decorative or ornamental embellishment was considered disingenuous – longevity and authenticity were at the heart of designing a beautiful home for these early settlers.


Why is the shaker style so special?


The simplicity and pared-back approach to the shaker style is what makes this movement still incredibly relevant to modern kitchen design. People across the globe have embraced the shaker profile, particularly in kitchen design, to achieve a look that is just as unobtrusive as it is perennially fresh.

The shaker style is also incredibly versatile, making it suitable for both traditional and contemporary spaces alike.


What makes a shaker style kitchen?


The shaker style is distilled from a combination of its three tenants – practicality, plainness and pride. These three characteristics are reflected by the many elements that make up the style including:

  • Use of local materials – Since the early days of the Shakers, the use of locally-sourced, affordable materials has been an important part of the design and build process. Wood, in particular, varies depending on geography, meaning a Shaker kitchen in one region may look very different from one in another part of the country or world. This discrepancy in look and feel is entirely normal and should be embraced as a part of what the Shaker spirit is all about.
  • Simple, elegant legs When it comes to table and chair legs, these can be either square or curved. Specific to the style is the tapering and subtle swelling of the legs towards the middle. Often, legs are left unfinished without any feet for a more plain, streamlined look. If there are feet, they’ll likely be included onto case pieces as pared-down bracket feet. Arrow and cylindrical feet are common for Shaker-style pieces to create straight, slim and unobstructed lines.
  • Intentional decoration -When we think of Shaker-style pieces, we often imagine fundamental shapes with little to no interruption from decorative elements. Remember, the overly ornamental was considered to be inauthentic. That being said, there are many Shaker pieces that have been and are finished with decorative details. There is, in fact, room in the Shaker style for embellishment. But, embellishment that is purposeful and that supports the overall design of a piece. Plain, button-style knobs, elongated ‘finger joints’ and broad slats such as the ones across chair backs are perceived as subtle additions. In some cases, chair tops are even complemented by pinecone, acorn or flame-shaped finials.
  • Considered constructionShaker construction again followed many of the principles and values the Shakers stood for including simplicity, functionality and longevity. Dovetail drawers, ball-and-socket feet, framed panels and mortise-and-tenon joints all make up the foundations to support strong Shaker furniture pieces and units built to last in large family homes.
  • The shaker kitchen doorMinimalist detailing is, perhaps, the signature feature of the shaker door profile. Cabinets and drawer fronts are distinguished by a symmetrical central flat panel and square edges. There are few (if any) carvings and panels are oft painted in a vivid colour to provide contrast with floors and countertops. Modern appliances and features can sit harmoniously within the design as they are complemented by the unassuming lines of the shaker unit.   
  • The shaker chairPerhaps the Shakers are most renowned for their chairs. From the classic tall ladder-back or slat kitchen chairs to the Windsor style chairs mainly used on balconies and, of course, their famous rocking chairs, the Shakers were passionate about improving on their chairs to make them more functional.


The Shaker-style kitchen evolved and updated


Since its inception, the Shaker style has experienced little in terms of major change over time. Though regional variations began to crop up as the movement spread to different areas, the influence from the sect’s Mother Colony in New York remained prominent. This has led to much of the style’s central elements being preserved. That being said after the style’s ‘classical era’ from 1820 to 1865, pieces did begin to take on new life, growing more colourful and updated to reflect changing, more contemporary times. Commercial porcelain replaced wood knobs, designers began to play with the contrast of wood colours and varnish was used to keep wood grains looking fresh.  


These days, shaker style cabinet units are easily integrated into kitchens with modern appliances, countertops and flooring. Colour choices have become either more sophisticated or bolder and traditional Shaker case pieces and freestanding cabinets offer a rustic ‘chic’ accent to the atmosphere.   


If you’ve been wondering whether Shaker cabinets would sit well against more modern elements in your space,  know that they are a timeless choice that blend extremely well with more contemporary fixtures. Chrome and stainless steel appliances, metal knobs, granite or quartz work surfaces, glass-panelled cabinets or a central marble kitchen island can all work well alongside Shaker-style cabinets. Opting for neutral colours for walls and cabinets can also keep the space feeling airy, large and contemporary.

Designing a Shaker-style kitchen


Keeping all these design elements in mind, there are many ways we can integrate the Shaker style into our modern kitchen setting. Some of the key features to include in your next kitchen re-design are:

  • Use of real wood – Cupboards, cabinets and drawer-fronts are all sourced and carved from real wood to create panels that can be either painted or left unfinished (natural). We suggest using maple, ash, walnut or mahogany. 
  • Painted finish – Cabinets are often painted to bring freshness to the space. It’s recommended to commit to one colour though combining painted with natural wood cabinets can offer some character. 
  • Wooden knobs – Shaker unit doorknobs are traditionally carved out of wood or timber then painted to match the unit’s colour, integrating seamlessly with the profile. Alternatively, you could opt for cup handles or satin nickel or metal knobs for a more updated look
  • Open shelf units – Glass-fronted cabinets and open shelving can offer versatility to a series of sequential units as well as space to display treasured and oft-used pieces
  • Peg rails – One of the classic markers of a Shaker-style kitchen is a peg rail – a plain strip of wood with round pegs. These can be used as space for hanging umbrellas and coats. You could also use within cupboards for hanging cleaning items such as mops or kitchen utensils
  • Granite or quartz worktops – While wood worktops are more authentic to the shaker heritage, granite or quartz surfaces will last longer and provide a more contemporary feel
  • Central kitchen isle – A common feature of the shaker style kitchen is to have a kitchen island or large dresser as a central statement piece. 


What are the most popular shaker kitchen colours?


The understated design of shaker units means they can look brilliant in an array of different colours. From more common pastels to more unusual brighter or richer tones, cabinet fronts can either act as a statement piece or effortlessly blend in with the rest of the kitchen. Muted greens, pale-grey blues, dust pinks or cream are all ideal colours if you’re after a contemporary, minimalist atmosphere. Dark greens, rich reds or darker navy can also work as long as the tone of walls and floors are more neutral to support a bolder statement.

How much does a Shaker kitchen cost?


While prices can range depending on the quality of craftsmanship, shaker style kitchens are competitively priced and reasonable due to their simple and versatile style. If you have a budget in mind, you may be able to achieve a lot by opting for reclaimed wood or finding thrifted pieces to add a vintage flair to the atmosphere of the space.

Shaker kitchens by Barbury


When it comes to cabinet-making, if you’re after a high level of craftsmanship from experienced wood crafters and cabinet makers, then request a free brochure to find out more about what Barbury Kitchens could do for you. If you’re all set to transform your kitchen into the beautiful and timeless room you know it can be, then get in touch for a free concept consultation.