Defining Classic Shaker Cabinetry
People often gravitate to Shaker cabinetry for their kitchen remodels because the style is simple and timeless. The example above is from our partners at Sollera Fine Cabinetry. The most popular color for Shaker cabinets is white. But there are many finish types available. This cabinet style can work in a traditional, transitional, or contemporary kitchen.
How did Shaker Cabinets come to be the very definition of a kitchen cabinet classic?
The History of Shaker Cabinets
This enduring furniture style originated from a religious movement. The movement began in the 1770s during the American colonial era. The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing were known as Shakers for their active worship style. They held core values of self-sufficiency, utility, honesty, and simplicity.
Well-made functional furniture with a minimalist design reflected these beliefs. The Shaker cabinetmakers were also the first to incorporate built-in cabinetry in domestic architecture. These built-in cabinets were the precursor of our modern fitted kitchens. Watch this video by the CBS Sunday Evening show to learn more about this American handcraft.
Evolution of a Classic
Shaker communities were largely self-sufficient: in their attempt to separate themselves from the outside world and to create a heaven-on-earth, members grew their own food, constructed their own buildings, and manufactured their own tools and household furnishings.
—Metropolitan Museum of Art
Shakers began producing extra goods to sell to provide community income. Shaker furniture makers re-interpreted traditional forms and emphasized their attention to detail and quality. In this era newly available mass-produced furniture was becoming synonymous with shoddy construction. Shaker communities produced elegant and utilitarian tables, chairs, brooms, and swallowtail boxes into the 20th century.
The aesthetic has had many revivals over the years. There are also serious collectors of original Shaker furniture. Designers see Shaker furniture as both a uniquely American handcraft and a precursor to modern design.
Click this link to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s fascinating essay on Shaker design.
Modern Shaker Cabinetry
The most basic Shaker-style cabinet door is a five-piece door with a recessed center panel. Shaker cabinet designs are linear and symmetrical with no beading, carving, or ornamentation. Drawers can be five paneled or flat-fronted. Hardware is usually minimal. They are a framed cabinet style. These basic tenets still hold true in modern Shaker cabinetry.
Simple sturdy craftsmanship with no fancy millwork makes these cabinets cost-effective to manufacture. This allows cabinetmakers to concentrate on quality construction and materials.
For the designer or homeowner, the ability to personalize Shaker cabinets is endless. Shaker cabinets were originally built of northeastern hardwoods. Current finish styles cover the range from natural wood to gently distressed paint. Despite their traditional origin, the simple and clean lines of Shaker cabinets work beautifully in almost any style kitchen, making them a modern classic.