what are Shaker kitchen cabinets

What Are Shaker Kitchen Cabinets (Step By Step Guide)

You’ve seen them in farmhouse kitchens, recommended in traditional kitchens, and often requested by homeowners to their interior designers on HGTV.

This has probably got you wondering: What are Shaker kitchen cabinets? And how is it that they’re so versatile in every kitchen design style?


In this post, we will dissect Shaker kitchen cabinets including how they have come to be the most desired kitchen cabinet in the United States.

I’ll review how to identify Shaker kitchen cabinet construction and the variety of door styles that range from an intricate design to a classic simple style.

This post is the complete guide to what are Shaker kitchen cabinets

Please note that this article contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you buy something. Read my full disclosure here.

Who are The Shakers?

who are the shakers

The United Society of Believers, commonly known as the Shakers, was a religious group founded in the late 18th century in England before making its way to the United States.

The Shakers practiced principles of simplicity, self-sufficiency, and excellent craftsmanship.

Their minimalist aesthetic and focus on function over ornamentation heavily influenced American furniture and architecture.

This includes what we have come to know and love as Shaker kitchen cabinets.

What is so special about Shaker kitchen cabinets?

Shaker kitchen cabinets are typically characterized by a five-piece door with a recessed center panel.

Shaker cabinets fit into various design aesthetics, from modern to traditional kitchens.

Their popularity also speaks to the enduring appeal of simplicity and functionality in design, a testament to the Shaker’s legacy.

Shaker Kitchen Cabinet Construction

Shaker cabinet construction

To be able to identify a Shaker kitchen design there is a few things that you need to know.

Rails- These are the horizontal pieces of the frame that run along the top and bottom of a cabinet door. They fit between the stiles and help to secure the door’s structure.

Stiles-These are the vertical pieces of the frame that run along the sides of a cabinet door. They serve to give the door structure, and they typically extend the full length of the door.

Together, the rails and stiles create the outer frame of a cabinet door, which can then hold a center panel.

The construction method of the rails and stiles plays a significant role in the overall style and strength.

Recessed Center Panel– A recessed center panel is a key characteristic of Shaker-style cabinet doors and certain other cabinet styles.

It refers to the main panel located within the frame of stiles and rails that is slightly inset or “recessed” from the outer edge of the door frame.

In a typical door design, the frame, formed by the stiles and rails, and the center panel are at two different levels.

The frame is slightly raised while the center panel is set back or recessed.

Mitered Edge- Mitered Shaker cabinets feature angled edges on stiles and rails, adding intricate detailing to the traditional Shaker design, enhancing the precision and aesthetic appeal

Cope and Stick- is a woodworking method where the ends of rails are shaped to fit into matching profiles on stiles. Interior edges are crafted for a decorative profile and to hold the center panel.

The cope and stick process results in a strong, interlocking joint that forms the frame of a cabinet door or panel, providing structural integrity.

The Variety of Shaker Kitchen Cabinets

Shaker kitchen cabinets are renowned for their variety, catering to different tastes and home decor styles.

While they share common foundational elements, such as the five-piece door with a recessed center panel,

Door styles can range widely based on design nuances. Here are some popular varieties:

Classic Shaker

Classic shaker kitchen cabinets

These cabinets often come in neutral colors like the popular white shaker cabinets, grey, or cream, offering a clean and timeless look.

They usually feature solid wood construction and can seamlessly blend into transitional, contemporary, or traditional kitchen styles.

Beadboard Shaker Cabinets

Beadboard Shaker Cabinets

In this shaker-style cabinet, the center panel is replaced with a beadboard pattern, adding textural interest and vertical height.

Glass-Front Shaker Cabinets

Glass-Front Shaker Cabinets

Shaker cabinetry can also come with a glass-front center panel, providing an opportunity to display dishware and glassware. This shaker cabinet style helps create a more open and airy feeling in the kitchen.

Slab Drawer Shaker Cabinets

Slab Drawer Shaker Cabinets

This style pairs the classic Shaker cabinet door with slab drawer fronts, offering a sleek and contemporary kitchen.

Shaker Cabinets in Bold Colors

While Shaker cabinets are traditionally in natural wood tones or muted colors, modern interpretations have embraced a wider color palette. Vibrant blues, greens, or even black can add a dramatic statement to a kitchen.

What is the difference between Shaker and Slim Shaker Cabinets?

slim shaker kitchen cabinets

As the name suggests, Slim Shaker cabinets have a narrower frame around the recessed panel.

The slimmer profile offers a slightly more delicate and refined aesthetic.

This style can add a touch of modernity while still maintaining the timeless appeal of the Shaker design.

The choice between traditional Shaker and Slim Shaker cabinets often comes down to personal preference.

Both styles offer the quality craftsmanship and simple elegance inherent in Shaker design.

Shaker Kitchen Cabinet Door and Placement

Cabinet door placement styles refer to the amount of cabinet box that is covered by the cabinet door or drawer.

There are three primary types of cabinet door placements, each giving a different look and functionality to Shaker-style cabinet doors.

Partial overlay shaker kitchen cabinets

partial overlay shaker cabinets

In the partial overlay, the doors and drawers cover only part of the cabinet face.

This traditional style allows the cabinet frame to be visible around the doors and drawers.

Full overlay shaker kitchen cabinet

full overlay shaker cabinets

Full Overlay– In this style, the doors and drawers cover the entire face of the cabinet box.

It’s a modern look that maximizes interior cabinet space.

Inset Shaker kitchen cabinets

inset shaker cabinets

Inset– the doors and drawers fit inside the cabinet box opening to be flush with the face of the cabinet.

Often more detailed and requiring precise craftsmanship, insets are more expensive than the other types.

Shaker Kitchen Cabinets For Every Design Style

Whether you’re aiming for a traditional, modern, or transitional aesthetic, Shaker kitchen cabinets can enhance every style.

let’s explore a few examples of how shaker kitchen cabinets can enhance the kitchen design style of your choice.

Traditional Shaker Kitchen

traditional shaker kitchen cabinets

Shaker kitchen cabinets are a perfect fit for traditional kitchen designs due to their recessed center panel and symmetrical design.

This concept mirrors the balance often seen in traditional spaces.

Whether you opt for a rich, wood finish or a more subdued painted option, Shaker cabinets add a sense of warmth and coziness.

Farmhouse Shaker kitchen cabinets

farmhouse shaker kitchen cabinet

Shaker kitchen cabinets effortlessly complement farmhouse kitchen designs, which prioritize a warm, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere.

The simple, honest craftsmanship of Shaker cabinets mirrors the ethos of the farmhouse style.

Furthermore, the incorporation of beadboard or glass-front Shaker cabinet styles can provide that quintessential country feel, adding texture and interest while still maintaining the clean, simple lines characteristic of Shaker design.

Modern Shaker kitchen cabinets

modern shaker kitchen cabinets

Shaker kitchen cabinets lend themselves beautifully to modern kitchens with their clean, minimalist lines and efficient functionality.

In a modern kitchen where less is more, the uncluttered and sleek aesthetic of Shaker cabinets harmonizes perfectly with the simple design philosophy.

Incorporating a flat panel drawer front variation of the Shaker style can contribute further to the modern look, maintaining the simple elegance while adding a streamlined, flat surface.

Transitional Shaker kitchen cabinet

Transitional shaker kitchen cabinets

Transitional kitchens, which blend traditional and modern elements, find an ideal partner in Shaker kitchen cabinets.

With the possibility to customize with glass fronts or varying drawer styles, Shaker cabinet doors provide a platform for creativity while keeping the design grounded in timeless appeal, embodying the essence of a transitional kitchen.

Rustic Shaker Kitchen Cabinets

rustic shaker kitchen cabinets

Shaker style cabinetry, especially when finished in warm, earthy tones or left in its natural wood state, complements the rugged textures and colors found in a rustic kitchen.

Their straightforward, robust design and focus on high-quality, solid wood construction align perfectly with the rustic principle of incorporating raw, organic materials.

Personalizing Shaker Cabinets

When it comes to Shaker kitchen cabinets, their innate simplicity is their biggest charm.

However, this doesn’t mean they can’t be tailored to your unique tastes and preferences. Below, we explore five effective ways you can personalize your Shaker cabinets, transforming them from simply functional elements to standout features in your kitchen design.

Beveled Edge

beveled edge shaker kitchen cabinets

Adding a beveled edge to your Shaker cabinets is a simple yet effective way to personalize them.

This involves creating a slope or an angle on the edge of the door frame, which adds a touch of sophistication and visual interest to the otherwise simple and straightforward Shaker design.


Shaker Cabinets in Bold Colors:

The hardware you select can drastically alter the overall aesthetic of your Shaker cabinets. To retain a traditional feel, consider classic brass or bronze pulls and knobs.

For a contemporary vibe, sleek chrome or brushed nickel handles are ideal. For a curated list of options, check out my previous post on the 20 best Shaker kitchen cabinet hardware ideas.

Two-Tone Finishes

wood upnper kitchen cabinet extension

A unique and contemporary way to customize Shaker cabinets is to mix and match finishes.

For instance, you could choose a darker finish for your lower cabinets and a lighter one for the upper cabinets, or vice versa.

This not only adds visual interest to your kitchen but also allows you to play with color in a subtle yet impactful way.

Crown Molding

shaker crown molding

Introduce a distinctive architectural element to your Shaker cabinets by adding crown molding. The height and style of the molding you choose can further enhance and define the overall kitchen design.

Chimney-Style Range Hood

Glass-Front Shaker Cabinets

Creating a focal point in your kitchen can be achieved with the use of a chimney-style range hood.

This feature can seamlessly tie in with your shaker style cabinets, creating a visual balance while adding a unique touch to your kitchen.

The design of the hood can be tailored to match your shaker kitchen for a cohesive and custom look.

Shaker furniture

shaker furniture

Incorporating Shaker furniture into your kitchen space is another fantastic way to enhance the Shaker feel of your cabinetry.

This could include Shaker-style dining chairs or stools, or even a Shaker-style kitchen table.

The simplicity and functional design of Shaker furniture pair well with Shaker cabinets, creating a harmonious and unified aesthetic.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Blue gray shaker kitchen cabinets

As we’ve explored, shaker-style cabinets are a timeless choice for any kitchen. Their clean lines and simplistic design reflect the ethos of the Shaker community.

They enhance a variety of styles from modern designs to classic looks, adding a touch of elegance and practicality to your cooking space. It’s for a good reason that shaker doors have become a popular choice in kitchens around the world.

With various ways to personalize, from color and hardware selection to intricate designs, you can create your dream kitchen that stands the test of time.

Embrace the versatility, high-quality materials, and traditional yet contemporary feel of Shaker cabinets, a testament to their enduring appeal.

Their simplicity speaks volumes, allowing your personal taste to shine through.

Do you have a favorite Shaker kitchen cabinet design? Share your choice in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

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