Shaker Kitchen Cabinets


Shaker kitchen cabinets have experienced highs and lows of popularity over the years. Like all Shaker design and craftsmanship, Shaker kitchen cabinets are simple, functional and well made. The two most prominent characteristics of Shaker “style” are the use of dovetail corners and the door style, also commonly called “frame and panel.” The front of the shaker kitchen cabinet door consists of a frame that overlaid on a simple panel of wood.

Although Shaker kitchen cabinets were originally made of cherry, today this style is available in most woods and homeowners can choose either an indigenous wood or in a wood that blends well with the rest of the décor of the house. If drawer pulls and handles are added, they will typically be knobs of matching wood or very simple hardware.

Traditionally, Shaker furniture was used with no decoration or “adornment.” The Shakers valued simple, clean lines in architecture and furniture, as well as other crafts. This style was in keeping with their values and beliefs. The Shakers preferred furniture that was built into the structure. It was neat and no space was wasted. Their furniture was very functional, with many drawers, shelves and doors to protect the contents. Furniture included Shaker kitchen cabinets.

The Shakers were a utopian Christian sect of the 18th century, primarily clustered in settlements across New England and the Northeastern quarter of the U.S. Shakers lived in communities called “families” that consisted of 30 to 100 individuals. Unlike other communities, they built their dwellings in a linear alignment approximately ¾ of a mile apart.

The “Millennial Laws” regulated every aspect of communal life. This included lifestyle, marriage, work, arts, crafts, architecture, community planning and more. Their buildings, like their furniture, were characterized by function, clean lines, and great simplicity.

The requirement to create durable furniture can be seen in the use of dovetailed wood joints. These joints, still found in Shaker kitchen cabinets, needed no nails or glue. In fact, the dovetail joints allowed the wood to expand and contract as a single piece. The result was a joint that undamaged by the swelling and shrinking of the wood with time and dampness.

The Shakers were famous for more than their simple and functional style. They also created the ladder-back chair, which became so popular it was necessary to obtain a patent. Their utilitarian motivations also led to the invention of the circular saw.

Shaker kitchen cabinets are particularly popular in New England, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York. They are commonly seen in many country kitchens and in rustic cottage style homes. Their simple beauty has made them very popular through the years. Although the Shakers were widely known to paint their cabinetry in only Venetian red, blue and ocher, many companies make Shaker kitchen cabinets in a wide range of colors today.

One reason for the great popularity of Shaker kitchen cabinets is their solid durability. Another reason is their beauty and simplicity. It has been said that Shaker style “never intrudes, never invades, never shouts, “look at me!” These characteristics have made Shaker kitchen cabinets the perfect fit for many kitchen styles and home décor styles.

Shaker kitchen cabinets are particularly beautiful in any of the warm woods, such as:

  • Maple
  • Chestnut
  • Birch
  • Honey pine
  • Butternut

Whether you are renovating an old kitchen in a historic home or remodeling and upgrading a more modern kitchen, Shaker kitchen cabinets might be just the right style for you. If you want warmth, simplicity and functionality of excellent design and solid craftsmanship, choosing Shaker kitchen cabinets might add just the finishing touch your kitchen needs.


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