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The Complete Guide to Shaker Style Kitchen Cabinets


In 1774, members of the Shaker religious sect—officially called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—arrived in America for the first time. The group lived a modest lifestyle that valued simplicity, functionality and craftsmanship. This ethos extended to their wood furniture building style which we now refer to as “Shaker style.”

Defining What Makes the Shaker Style Distinct

There are several key characteristics that define the distinctive Shaker style. Shaker cabinets typically have a straightforward rectangular shape, a flat panel front, and utilize quality joinery construction but have little ornamentation. The result is a clean, enduring design.

The Pros and Cons of Opting for Shaker Style Cabinetry


Shaker style cabinets have maintained widespread popularity due to several advantageous features. The simplified styling gives them a timeless look, unlike ornate designs that eventually look dated. Their flat fronts are also easy to keep clean and do not trap dust and grease like carved sections can.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

While the straightforward styling has its benefits, the tradeoff is a lack of decorative flair. For those desiring an ultra-custom or opulent appearance, Shaker cabinets may appear too stark and plain. The absence of design details also limits how much homeowners can customize the look.

Selecting the Right Wood Type for Your Shaker Cabinets

Oak: A Favorite Wood Choice

Oak has long been beloved for its attractive grain, durability and stain-friendly properties. Quarter-sawn white oak in particular brings out depth and visual interest. Different oak species bring their own characteristics to the table.

Why Maple Makes an Excellent Base Material

Hard maple is exceptionally hard and dense, making it very sturdy for cabinet frameworks. Its pale hue also serves as a nice base for an array of stain colors from light and whitewashed to darker walnut tones.

The Riches of Cherry Woodgrain

Cherry wood is beloved for its reddish-brown color and flowing, unique grain patterns which add lovely visual depth to Shaker cabinet doors and drawers. The wood also ages beautifully over time.

The Visual Intrigue of Hickory Shaker Cabinets

Hickory wood introduces captivating contrast between light and dark areas with dramatic graining and occasional wild knots and swirls. While strong, the wood can be prone to denting so needs extra care.

Walnut Offers Rich Color and Graining

Prized for its luxurious chocolate brown color and distinctive graining, black walnut creates richness and dimension. Authentic solid walnut costs more than veneers but provides enduring quality.

Door Styles to Suit Your Vision

The Simple Refinement of Flat Panel Doors

True to Shaker style, flat panel doors maintain clean lines by avoiding external grooves and protruding panels. The flat central panel and basic frame keep focus on the beauty of the wood itself.

Recessed Panels Provide Subtle Depth

For slightly more definition without significant ornamentation, a popular approach is making the cabinet door’s central panel recess inward just a bit to offer a hint of depth and shadow lines.

Let the Light In with Glass Front Cabinet Doors

Glass front cabinet doors only stretch the Shaker style profile slightly for those desiring a touch more display space or light to filter into their kitchen’s interior spaces in an attractive manner. Typically clear glass fits the motif best.

Finish Options to Achieve Your Ideal Shaker Cabinet Aesthetic

Playing with Color Through Stains

Stain opens up a broad spectrum of hues for customizing Shaker cabinets while still showing off the wood’s inherent grain. Stains come in shades ranging from nearly white pickled oak to walnut or espresso.

Brilliant Painted Finishes

Painted Shaker cabinets provide even more freedom to incorporate vibrant colors. Paint also creates a uniform surface uninterrupted by wood grain if a crisp, clean look is preferred. Keep repainting needs in mind.

Adding Dimension Through Unique Glazing Treatments

Glazes offer ways to selectively alter color in crevices, along edges or raised sections based on where the translucent tinted coating gets manually removed post-application to expose the underlying surface in contrast. This gives the wood extra visual intrigue.

Hardware Styles That Complement Shaker Aesthetics

The Straightforward Look of Bar Pulls

Bar pulls suit the Shaker motif with their simple solid rectangular shape and clean lines. Sizing, placement, metal finish and little added extras like tapered edges or cut outs for finger grips allow for customization.
The Traditional Refinement of Shaker Cabinets Paired with Knobs
Round knobs keep cabinet hardware smooth, subtle and streamlined. Using knobs of varying sizes adds nice design contrast and makes doors and drawers easy to open.

The Classic Refinement of Cup Pull Hardware

Cup pulls nurture traditional kitchen themes. Deeper cup pulls offer comfortable grip space for fingers. Staggering pairs on wider drawers creates appealing visual rhythm.

Bail Pulls Blend Time-Honored Form and Function

Bail pulls have an old-fashioned aesthetic but integrated handle shape that make doors easy to open using just a finger or two – great for large, heavy doors. Period-appropriate projects benefit from their historic personality.

Innovative Accents and Details to Make Your Shaker Cabinets Stand Out


Infusing Open Shelving for an Airy Ambiance

Leaving some sections of cabinetry open to display pretty dishware, cookbooks or potted herb plants maintains a light and breezy Shaker vibe. Alternating open shelving and enclosed cabinetry also adds nice design contrast.

Work Glass Cabinet Doors into the Design

Incorporating cabinet sections with glass fronts maintains the Shaker theme while also letting in sunlight to illuminate interiors, making small spaces appear larger. Glass fronts framed by wood lend charming visual texture and warmth.

Contributing Organic Texture with Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block countertops complement Shaker simplicity by bringing in reclaimed wood’s rustic, organic imperfections that contrast with the formality of framed cabinetry. The rich graining pairs beautifully.

Shaker Cabinets Across Multiple Rooms and Spaces

Shaker Cabinetry Sets the Tone for Cohesive Room-to-Room Design

Shaker cabinets can infuse cohesiveness across open floorplan spaces like kitchens flowing into dining rooms. Maintaining Shaker style into additional rooms beyond the kitchen provides good flow while allowing tweaks to color, hardware etc to differentiate each space. Bathrooms and laundry rooms also benefit from Shaker practicality.

Factor Costs and Budget When Planning Your Shaker Kitchen

Basic Shaker cabinets made from pine or poplar with laminate veneers generally cost $100-200 per linear cabinet foot, depending on door style and materials. Opting for stock cabinets over custom also decreases expenses. Prioritizing functional layout over expansive sizes realizes further savings.

When to Invest in Upgrades for Premium Materials and Customization

For those prioritizing aesthetics and willing to pay for upgrades that increase resale value, investing in solid wood species like oak, maple and cherry harvested from environmentally responsible sources ensures enduring quality and natural artistry. Semi-custom modifications to sizing and storage organization also improve functionality.

Working with Shaker Cabinet Installation Contractors

Vetting Specialists to Ensure Excellent Execution

Finding contractors who listen attentively to your vision, specialize specifically in cabinet installation, carry proper licensing and insurance for protection peace of mind, have great references validating quality work and provide clear project scoping with transparent pricing helps ensure ideal outcomes.

Preparing Your Kitchen for a Smooth Installation Process

To avoid frustrating delays, thoroughly clear countertops and clean surfaces prior to installation day. Discuss timelines and workflow plans with your contractor upfront to understand what to expect and how best to stay out of the work triangle while allowing easy access to electrical, plumbing or provisions.

Caring for Your New Shaker Cabinet Investment


Allow fresh lacquers or paint to fully cure before cleaning cabinets. Use soft cloths and gentle cleaners without harsh chemicals. Avoid excess moisture and immediately dry any spills or drips during the curing process. Apply rejuvenating wood conditioners annually. Touch up any nicks in paint.

Invest some time upfront selecting the ideal shaker kitchen cabinets for your home, and you’ll reap the returns of beauty and quality craftsmanship for decades to come. Reach out with any additional questions!


What is the main difference between Shaker cabinets and traditional cabinets?

The main difference is that Shaker cabinets embrace minimal ornamentation and simple lines whereas traditional cabinets often incorporate more decorative elements like intricate trim, carvings, and metal accents. Shaker cabinets let the beauty of the underlying wood grain shine through.

What colors look best for Shaker kitchen cabinets?

Shaker cabinets look best in lighter, neutral colors that highlight the clean lines rather than overwhelm them. Good color choices include white, light gray, cream, tan/beige, soft yellow, or pale blue. Stained wood tones like a natural oak also keep the spotlight on the wood.

What countertop materials pair well with Shaker cabinets? 

Countertops that emulate aspects of wood, stone or marble complement the simplicity and organic feel of Shaker cabinets nicely. Good options include butcher block, granite, marble, and quartz in earth tone colors or whites rather than bold hues.

Can I install Shaker cabinetry in rooms beyond the kitchen? 

Absolutely. Shaker cabinetry can provide that same streamlined sensibility in spaces like the bathroom, laundry room, dining room built-ins or home office. Maintaining a cohesive Shaker theme room-to-room ensures good flow when spaces are openly connected.

How much do custom Shaker cabinets cost versus stock cabinets?

Custom Shaker cabinets allow selecting higher-end materials and modifications to storage organization or sizes. This level of quality customization averages $800-1200 per linear foot. Stock cabinets mass produced to standard widths and heights provide the most budget friendly path at around $100-200 per linear foot.

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