What is a Shaker style kitchen?

11 August 2020

How to create an authentic Shaker style kitchen with Watermark Kitchens

A shaker style kitchen, without a doubt, can stand the test of time. The beauty of this style of kitchen is that it can compliment a variety of homes. Many interior designers choose to use Shaker style kitchens within their designs as it’s a universal style that can suit country cottages and grand residences as well as highly contemporary modern homes.

Shaker kitchens made their mark on kitchen interiors in the mid-18th century. They became popular due to their simple, unpretentious design without any elaborate decoration. They are known as the embodiment of simple design combined with excellent craftmanship and intelligent functionality.

Neutral toned minimal kitchen design

What is the history of a Shaker style kitchen?

The name ‘Shaker’ came from The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, who were given the name ‘Shaker Quakers’ from the shaking motions and dancing seen in their religious ceremonies and worship. They originated in Manchester (UK) but them emigrated to America where they settled in New England.

The Shakers believed that life needed to be lived with good principles, which were mainly honesty, utility, and simplicity. They sought to install these key principles into every aspect of their life including their craftsmanship, which saw them even name their furniture after their religious belief.

This self-sufficient community grew their own food and maintained their needs through hand-crafted products and long lasting construction. They didn’t believe in lavish lifestyles, instead they believed in practicality, functionality and honesty. These beliefs were reflected in their craftsmanship as the lack of decoration reduces the labour time and reduces material costs. Spare cuts of timber would be used to create tools, or for fires, instead of adding decoration to a functioning piece of cabinetry.

White kitchen design with bold island design

What does a Shaker style kitchen look like?

There are several basic factors that make the shaker kitchen distinguishable. The first is the minimalistic design, and the second is the clean lines that make this design so popular. The cabinetry typically has a square frame with a panel on the front, that is repeated throughout the room.

Although the Shaker community preferred the simple things in life, one thing that they didn’t shy away from was colour. The Shakers loved bold colours for their clothing, construction, and their interior design. For their furniture, the Shakers maintained a minimal palette of red, yellow, green or blue to add brightness into their homes.

In modern times, Shaker kitchens are still classed as colourful kitchens and are still given a minimal colour palette. The cabinets are now usually painted in different shades of blues, whites and creams. Occasionally the cabinets are simply oiled, even the Shakers sometimes didn’t paint their kitchens especially when they used a particularly beautiful wood, as it shows of the natural colours and grains of the timber.

The cabinets and cupboards of a shaker kitchen are the main aspects; without the right cabinets the functionality of the shaker kitchen wouldn’t work. Storage is an important part of this kitchen design as the cabinetry needs to be fully functional in a busy kitchen.

The cabinets and cupboards are important because of the look but also the craftsmanship and materials that go into realising these beautiful kitchens. Shaker kitchen cabinetry is typically manufactured from cherry or maple wood. These were the most popular timber choices for Shaker kitchens as they are rich in colour, strong and were abundant in the local forests. Shaker kitchens also look amazing in Oak and Sapele, but Oak is preferred as it means the grain pattern is visible even when the cabinets are painted.

Contemporary kitchen in a pale white palette with Farrow & Ball blue accent colours

The craftsmanship of a Shaker style kitchen

The high standard of craftsmanship that The United Society of Believers set for the kitchens showcases the skill behind their manufacturing. Their belief that all crafted products should be a testament to god meant that they ensured that their manufacturing process was refined and used only the finest materials for manufacture.

Although most Shaker kitchens are manufactured by machines now, they still observe the same detail and similar methods to the original construction process. The Shakers would have used handmade tools and worked the timber by hand. They needed a great deal of precision and patience to ensure that their cabinetry was finished to the highest standard.

This sophisticated manufacturing process is evident in the cabinet door fronts that use two rails, two stiles and a central panel which meant that there was minimal wood waste while creating a stunning cabinet front.

Muted, minimalist kitchen design

What are the benefits of a Shaker style kitchen?

The Shaker kitchen provides a timeless look that always offers a homely feel. This style of kitchen isn’t modern but it’s so popular and aesthetically pleasing that is isn’t likely to go out of fashion, which is important for the longevity of the interior design.

Shaker kitchens are well known for their practicality, which means there is a cupboard for everything. Everything has its place so there’s never an excuse for an untidy kitchen. They are also built to last, so they will remain beautiful and functional for many years.

Curved kitchen island with bespoke integrated wine rack

A modern twist on the Shaker kitchen

The ethos of quality craftsmanship, thoughtful design and simplicity is something that makes the Shaker kitchen so sophisticated, however the designs have been modified over the years to stay up to date as the backdrop for 21st-century appliances, smart kitchen utensils and contemporary accessories. Side panelling and glass aren’t typical of Shaker kitchens however they complement the design and help to gently guide this style into the modern world.

Shaker kitchens were heavily wooden; therefore, no glass cabinet fronts, or brass knobs were in sight. However, brass knobs have become exceptionally popular in modern designs to help to tie the kitchen in with new trendy interior design themes such as the industrial look.

Sharp edge details and lines on kitchen counter

How to design a Shaker style kitchen

When designing a shaker style kitchen, you need to think about refined design, this means real wood, separate modules and a kitchen island. Simple, unadorned furniture manufactured from real wood is staple for the Shaker look. A kitchen island, where room allows, will provide the design aesthetic of a free-standing kitchen which the Shakers were known for. Free-standing units, simple design, quality craftsmanship and a refined colour palette are all synonymous with Shaker kitchens.

Watermark Kitchens love the traditional appeal of the Shaker style kitchen and it’s timeless aesthetic, however they also love creating a modern twist to the design where desired. There are many ways to ‘spice up’ a Shaker kitchen, from the colour to the handles and the worktops.

Watermark Kitchens offer a bespoke design service to create a kitchen design that meets all of your requirements of a Shaker style kitchen while integrating modern featured into the functionality of the kitchen.

To arrange an appointment with Watermark Kitchens where you can discuss your project and talk about all the design options with their talented designers, just contact us here.



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