What Is A Shaker Kitchen?

Learn more about this classic kitchen style

shaker kitchen example

Shaker kitchens are one of the oldest styles of kitchen design but are rarely referred to by their name. This often causes confusion amongst homeowners when they are faced with it in proper terms, but what is it, and could it work for your home? Read on for all the details you need to make an informed decision on this kitchen type for your renovation.

What is a Shaker Kitchen?

A shaker kitchen is a style of kitchen design based around its units and cabinets. The doors on these sport a single central panel with raised frame around, but no other adornment beyond a handle.
The ‘shaker’ term refers more toward a furniture style, which is period with a consciously simple bent. Dating to the same era of Rococo furniture, it is essentially its opposite; offering a beautiful, unadorned and unpretentious craftmanship that is unrivalled in most other kitchen furnishings. Traditionally, shaker cabinets and furniture were made from inexpensive wood such as pine and so was light to lift and light in colour.

What’s the history of Shaker Kitchens?

Shaker kitchens first rose to prominence in the 18 century, when the units within them were designed and produced by a religious group. Known as the ‘Shaking Quakers’, those outside of the community quickly nicknamed them just the ‘Shakers’, and the moniker was born.
The Shaker community, much like other Quaker groups, hold a core set of religious principles and believed that home fittings should be purposeful, practical, long-lasting and devoid of any unnecessary decoration. They were master craftsmen and used simple wood fittings to create their own furniture; sometimes painted but often left bare; and often combined with peg rails hung above to place cooking utensils in easy reach.
This style was poles away from the mainstream Rococo furniture popular at the time, and offered a simple and minimalistic alternative that was sure to last the long-term.

How is Shaker furniture made today?

While traditionally shaker kitchen cabinets were only created by a single group of people, today they are manufactured by a variety of different companies in order to meet the demand for the style. 
Instantly recognisable for their flat centre panel and raised rectangular frame, they were previously made from cheap wood that the Shakers could afford; often pine, maple or cherry wood. Today, however, you can buy shaker cabinets and other furniture in just about any wood imaginable as well as finishes in timber veneer, foil or melamine.

What were the traditional colours for a Shaker Kitchen?

The shaker kitchens of old were often unpainted and so featured raw and natural wood (usually in a lightly coloured wood, as this was the cheapest available at the time).
Wood in its natural state can still make for a beautiful shaker kitchen but this may not be the most practical option for a busy modern kitchen where lots of food prep and cooking takes place. Instead, consider raw wood with a protective coating finish to avoid spillages and stains, or fake it with a faux wood printed material to provide the aesthetic but reduce the risk of damage.
Where Shakers and those purchasing kitchen cabinets from them did paint the units, they stuck primarily to a colour palette of ochre yellows, deep blues and forest greens, all with a matte finish. Indeed these are still popular shades now! Combine with a plain wooden floor and neutral walls for an authentic look.

Are Shaker Kitchens considered a little old fashioned now?

While shaker kitchens do have historical roots, they’re by no means out-of-date and remain one of the most popular kitchen furniture types: it’s a timeless style! Their unfussy design techniques mean they remain as fresh and practical as ever and are unlikely to fluctuate in popularity with trends due to their minimalism. 
If you feel shaker units are a little plain for your taste, why not mix and match them with some more modern kitchen accoutrements?

How can I update a Shaker Kitchen to make it feel a bit more modern?

Shaker units don’t restrict your modern kitchen in design terms – there’s loads that can be done! The simplicity of shaker furniture means that it combines well with more contemporary kitchen features without clashing. 
Those looking to update their shaker kitchen could consider the following:
- Adding in a kitchen island. Of course, the more conventional worktop for Shakers to use in their kitchen was a simple, wood refectory-style table, but a kitchen island can be considered the more modern equivalent. Most islands also allow for lots of extra storage within that doesn’t necessarily fit the shaker style, such as wine racks.
- Add in different unit handles. Simple, usually-rounded, chunky wooden knobs are the most commonly found style on shaker units. However, that’s not to say that others can’t be installed. Pull bars can further highlight the straight lines of the doors, and cup handles and novelty shapes offer an alternative aesthetic. Handle-less cabinets that rely on press-to-touch opening and closing can be installed, too.
- Extend your storage. What’s behind your shaker cabinets can be a whole hidden treasure trove of storage that the historical religious group never imagined. Pull-out larder shelving can be installed alongside carousels and extra deep drawers for pots and pans. Clever storage can transform and upgrade your shaker kitchen to a contemporary, practical room.
- Replace the worktops. Usually a shaker style kitchen will have a simple, neutral-hued countertop, but this doesn’t need to be the case. A contrasting worktop such as quartz or poured concrete will work brilliantly with the units’ clean, stark lines and will wear hard for many years to come.

How much does a Shaker Kitchen cost?

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all quote for all new kitchen installations, as there’s a variety of package price tags available dependent on the size, scope and layout of your kitchen as well as the materials used. You can purchase shaker units in both off-the-shelf standard sizes and in bespoke designed dimensions.
Flat-pack shaker cabinets can be bought from as little as £1,500 - £3,000 (providing you’re willing to install them yourself), but custom kitchens of this type can cost anything from £30,000 - £50,000.
What matters most about your kitchen is that you love it: so shape it around your needs and wants, and go from there!

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