Description and Explanation of Shaker Kitchen Cabinets


If you just got interested in updating the storage space of your kitchen or bathroom, it’s pretty unavoidable to hear the words “shaker kitchen cabinets” at some point. Shaker refers to a specific style of American framed cabinets bearing certain common features, including the construction and design of shaker cabinet doors. The traits of shaker cabinets, particularly the cabinet doors, are visually distinctive and they make a bold impression in any kitchen claiming them. Their look is classic and simple, lending a timeless sophistication to kitchens and bathrooms. The door frame of shaker cabinets is crafted to ensure durability and quality, avoiding the use of particle board. Shaker cabinet doors are known for their plain vertical and horizontal edges, square rails, and flat panels, embodying a classic yet understated appearance that can be painted in various colors, though they are most commonly seen in classic white. It has become an increasingly popular trend to include them in contemporary remodels.

How to Tell It’s a Shaker Cabinet

A shaker is generally characterized by plain squares and rails (vertical and horizontal edges, respectively) along with a flat panel. If you were to look at the cross-section of a typical shaker cabinet door, you would see something along the lines of a flat panel composing the center of the door surrounded by raised styles. High-quality materials, such as solid birch and solid wood, are often chosen for their durability and aesthetic appeal, ensuring that the cabinets can withstand repeated, daily use while also being easy to clean and maintain. This choice of material contrasts with the use of particle board, advocating for constructions that consist of plywood and MDF/HDF for a balance of price versus quality.


As you can see, the standard shaker style includes a center recessed flat panel surrounded by a rail door panel with or without some degree of embellishment. In some cases, the recessed flat panel may have a raised center. The most basic shaker style cabinet door is a five-piece with recessed center panel and no accompanying details along the edges.

A Brief Background on the Shakers


Shaker congregation dancing in praise

The Shakers began with a longer title for themselves: The United Society of Believers. Originally Quakers, they splintered off in the late 18th century in a time when the Quakers had begun to eschew more radical methods of worship. The Shakers (or “Quaker Shakers”) were known for their spasmodic ritual dancing. Though they originated in Manchester, England, they ultimately emigrated to America. Their minimalist lifestyle and focus on functionality and durability are reflected in the design of shaker style doors, which are characterized by their straight, sturdy lines reminiscent of the original Shaking Quaker furniture. This craftsmanship has significantly influenced traditional styles, blending seamlessly with both historical and modern furniture designs to create a timeless appeal that bridges the gap between retro and contemporary aesthetics.

Shaker Craftsmanship


Fiercely self-reliant within their own communities, the Shakers were adept craftsmen. They had a reputation for the quality of their work, producing furniture that was simple, reliable, long-lasting. A core tenet of their philosophy in crafting was that veneers or ornamentation on furniture constituted deceit. This yielded furniture free from any significant embellishment, instead of focusing on function and modest style. The only notable exception was an occasional tree of life placed on pieces, but this was only done rarely.

Shakers tended to use local timbers in their work, including maple, cherry, and pine. At this time it was far more common for other American designers to be utilizing imported woods in their construction, making the Shakers somewhat of an oddity in this case. Most of their pieces were given a paint coat or stain or blues, reds, greens, and yellows. Rather than importing brass fixtures as was the standard, Shakers implemented turned-wood knobs of their own manufacture in their furniture.

With such attention to quality and maximum usability in their manufactured goods, it is little surprise that their reputation for excellent craftsmanship survives today along with their cabinet design. The quality and simplicity of their work continues to translate well in modern kitchens and bathrooms, as shaker cabinets remain a flagship of many home remodels (due to their ability to increase home value). It is their very simplicity that allows that same cabinet design to seamlessly serve in modern kitchens with every contemporary amenity. Smart kitchen devices and other technological marvels look right at home beside shakers.

Shaker Cabinet Popularity in Kitchen and Bathroom Remodels


Their clean and simple style allows shaker cabinets to add warmth, clean lines, and minimalist appeal to any kitchen space, fitting well in most modern kitchen designs. Their layout, commonly featuring flat paneled doors accompanied by rail frames, emphasizes the functionality and style of modern kitchen spaces. Modern shaker design still tends to avoid any real flourishes, promoting a fundamentally functional look that offers a wide range of color options, including the popular choices of white or light grey, making them a versatile and stylish choice for various kitchen designs.


Are Shaker style kitchen cabinets considered old-fashioned?

Shaker style kitchen cabinets are not generally considered old-fashioned. In fact, they have maintained their popularity over time and are still widely chosen for modern kitchens. The timeless and versatile design of Shaker kitchens, characterized by clean lines and a minimalist approach, allows them to seamlessly blend with different interior styles, whether traditional or contemporary. With their enduring appeal and ability to transcend trends, Shaker style cabinets offer homeowners a reliable and stylish choice that is far from being outdated.

Are Shaker cabinets more expensive than flat cabinets?

Shaker cabinets generally tend to have a higher price compared to flat cabinets, mainly due to their intricate design and usage of premium materials. The cost of Shaker cabinets can vary based on factors such as the specific materials chosen and the level of customization desired. While they may be pricier, many individuals believe that the investment is worthwhile. This is because Shaker cabinets not only offer a timeless appeal but also exhibit durable craftsmanship that can withstand the test of time.

What is the difference between Shaker cabinets and regular cabinets?

Shaker cabinets are characterized by plain squares and rails along with a flat panel. The center of the door typically consists of a recessed flat panel surrounded by raised styles. The simple and no-fuss approach of Shaker cabinets is what sets them apart. Their clean lines and minimalistic design make them stand out from regular cabinets.

What is the purpose of the design of Shaker cabinets?

The design of Shaker cabinets is centered around utility and functionality. With ample storage space and a focus on organization, Shaker cabinets are designed to enhance the efficiency of the kitchen. The clean lines and minimalist approach contribute to a timeless aesthetic that prioritizes practicality without sacrificing style. The simplicity of the design also allows for easy customization and integration into any kitchen layout or design.

How are Shaker style cabinets made?

Shaker style cabinets are meticulously crafted with a strong emphasis on tradition and attention to detail. Manufacturers employ the cope and stick joinery technique to construct the doors of these cabinets. This time-honored method involves the use of a five-piece door design, consisting of two vertical pieces called stiles, two horizontal pieces known as rails, and a flat panel positioned at the center. The stiles and rails are skillfully interlocked at the corners, creating a robust frame into which the flat panel is inserted. The overall result is a simple, yet elegant design that offers exceptional durability and a timeless aesthetic appeal.

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Justin C.
Skydiver, ramen eater, music blogger, Saul Bass fan and screen printer. Operating at the intersection of art and mathematics to craft meaningful ideas that endure. My opinions belong to nobody but myself.