The Lowdown on Shaker-Style Kitchen Cabinets

Shaker cabinets

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A good many people have no idea what Shaker-style kitchen cabinets are, and quite a few will probably don’t care. However, if you are planning a major kitchen remodel, chances are you will encounter them quite a bit because it is a very popular style among designers. Below is a brief lowdown on Shaker style kitchen cabinets.


typical old-world Shaker kitchen
Shaker kitchen cabinets are actually one of many types of furniture that follow the same style. The Shakers, formally known as members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, came to the US sometime in the 18th Century. They hoped to create a self-sufficient community that valued the simple life above all else.

The Shakers were a resourceful lot, as they had to be, and made all of their household furniture. In line with their principles, and probably their skill level as well, they created simple, functional furniture with a minimum of decorative features. The original furniture was simply but meticulously constructed, which is part of its appeal today.

Among these creations were kitchen cabinets. You may be confused with the variations of the Shaker style today, but the basic cabinet had five panels. Four panels formed the stiles and rails, and the fifth formed the central panel, which is recessed. This means the center panel is slightly lower than the stiles and rails.

The earliest form of Shaker cabinets was of the inset type, which meant they fitted inside the cabinet box, and attached to it by exposed hinges. They were made of the most common wood available, such as birch or pine. Maple was also popular in some areas.
Shaker cabinets were mostly in a tall rectangle shape, as this had fewer tendencies to sag. Its simplicity made it a versatile style, blending with any type of kitchen, which is why it is still popular today.


wood stain
In keeping with the functional style, Shaker cabinets were often simply finished with a wood stain or oil. However, while these types of finishes work well with solid wood, they are not compatible with modern engineered wood. You can choose veneers and laminates to simulate the look of wood, or apply paint to make it blend with the rest of the kitchen.

Knobs and pulls

You can choose any type of hardware for your Shaker kitchen cabinets. Some designers choose bronze or brass pulls as they are currently trending, but simple wood knobs and pulls work just as well, and they are much less expensive.

Compatible styles

combination Shaker and slab-front cabinets
While an all Shaker style kitchen cabinet is perfectly fine, you can safely integrate other styles with it if you want. You can choose Shaker kitchen cabinet doors for wall cabinets and slab-front doors for base cabinets, or vice versa. Some designers choose slab-front cabinets for secondary cabinets and drawers, such as kitchen islands.

Both styles are plain, so they will not jar the eye. However, slab-front cabinets are frameless, so they provide more storage space. They are also easier to construct, so they are less expensive. Mixing the two styles will have significant effects on the final look and cost of your kitchen remodel.


Inset cabinets are among the more expensive because they require more precision during manufacturing and construction. Shaker cabinets primarily use the inset style, so the doors have to fit exactly into the cabinet boxes. Moreover, assembling the five-panel door is also a bit fiddly.

That means higher labor costs if you have custom cabinets.
Of course, homeowners have more options today. Mass production techniques have made Shaker cabinets more affordable via ready to assemble (RTA) and stock cabinets. Because they have simple lines, Shaker cabinets are easier to mass-produce than more decorative cabinet styles.


You will mostly find Shaker cabinets in kitchens because they have an understated look that keeps it from overwhelming the room. However, this style of cabinet will look right in any room in the home, and may be the style of choice for minimalist designs.
Designers also choose Shaker cabinets to tone down a room, or to provide a common denominator for other rooms in the house. They are a neutral element, much like the color white is, so they tend to have a unifying effect in general.

Key issues

exploded view of Shaker cabinets
You want to make sure any cabinet you choose has a solid construction and made of quality materials. The easiest way to do this is to stick with recognized brands from a reliable supplier.

However, one of the most important things you need to consider with Shaker-style cabinets in particular is the width of the stiles and rails. You want them to be wide enough to look solid, but not so much that they overwhelm the center panel.
Depending on the dimensions of the cabinet door, you want your frame width to be between 2 and 4 inches. Before finalizing your choice, whip out your measuring tape and see if the frames are within that range.
You should also run your finger along the edges of the cabinets to make sure they are not overly sharp. You want something a bit rounded or eased to avoid painful encounters with an unwary forehead or knee. Eased edges are also less likely to sustain dents or nicks.


If you are having trouble choosing kitchen cabinets, you might like to consider the Shaker style. While it may be one of the most understated styles for cabinets, you can’t really go wrong with them as long as you get good quality ones from a reliable supplier. If you are in cities such as Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estate, Elk Grove Village, and surrounding areas, Cabinets City is your best choice.

We carry some of the best brands in the country, from Thermofoil to wood cabinets, and at the best prices compared to Cabinets To Go and Advance Cabinets. These include Schrock, Fabuwood, J and K, Forevermark, and Wolf Cabinets, each of which come with manufacturer warranties. We always deliver on time, so you will not have to worry about keeping your schedule to stay in budget.
We can advise you on the best Shaker cabinets for any room in your home. Give us a call for a free consultation and quote, or visit our showroom in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. We can give you what you need faster and better than big box stores.

Bayram Gulsen

Bayram Gulsen is the owner of Cabinets City. He always had this passion to redefine cabinetry to be at its best along with his dedicated team and the author of Cabinets City blog: You can find Bayram on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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