Kitchen Design Shaker The Versatile Choice

21st April 2017

There’s a reason that Shaker cabinetry has stood the test of time – its elegantly unfussy style makes it the perfect base for any scheme.

Developed in the 18th Century by members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as Shakers, it’s a distinctive furniture style that perfectly reflects the guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty.

While the movement’s origins can be traced back to 17th Century France, the Shaker furniture style that we know and love today actually stems from settlements established by Manchester-born Mother Anne-Lee in New Lebanon, New York, as she and other Shaking Quakers (so named because of their rather ecstatic worship practices), escaped persecution in England. Even at its peak, there were probably no more than 6000 Shaker believers so it’s testament to the beauty and simplicity of the design that it has endured for so long. The hardworking Shakers kept their minds from sin and their hands occupied by focusing on their carpentry, creating un-adorned, high-quality, fit-for-purpose pieces of furniture. Of course, the Shakers didn’t have kitchens as we know them today and the the look has evolved over time but the essentials remain… a four-piece frame with flat-panel interior, flat drawer fronts with small metal or wood knobs, open shelving and plate and pot racks, peg rails and finally ladder-backed chairs.

So, enough of the history lesson… How can you personalise and customise this ubiquitous, much-loved design into an individual and personal bespoke statement for your own kitchen?


Well, the real beauty of Shaker is its adaptability. You could go down the purist, traditional route, or use its basic tenents to give depth to a contemporary scheme. For lovers of a ‘period’ feel – and remember the fitted kitchen look is a fairly modern phenomenon so you can’t be too traditionalist with true Shaker – modular pieces that have a freestanding look could be a more authentic choice. Larders with marble shelving, open top dressers, robust kitchen tables and even that most modern of kitchen staples, an island with open base for display will all add character. Natural timbers were the Shaker’s material of choice with indigenous cherry, maple and pine being the favourites, so follow their lead with paired back cabinets in sturdy oak. Usually, furniture was then stained or painted, usually with muted blues, reds, yellows or greens so take a look at Farrow & Ball, Little Green Paint Co. or Fired Earth for a lovely sheen-free flat matt eggshell finish. Mix and match bare wood with elegant pale shades such as buttery Posset from Earthborn, Fired Earth’s delicious Oak Apple or cool Cornforth White from Farrow & Ball. Add a classic cast-iron range cooker such as an Aga, pair with chunky wooden worktops, simple round timber or metal knobs, a rustic tiled stone floor and you have all the makings of a cosy country kitchen.


Don’t despair though if you love Shaker kitchens but think it’s only for traditional schemes. The secret of its versatility is down to the simplicity of its design. It’s a solid base on which to lay your inspiration, whatever that might be. Its pure, linear construction is ideal for creating a contemporary, multi-use kitchen. Sleek composite worktops work well with Shaker as their simplicity of line, particularly with thinner, squarer profiles give the chameleon-like Shaker a distinctly modern face. Swap Belfast or butler style sinks for undermounted models and add easy-to-clean induction hobs and modern built in ovens for a space that looks good and works efficiently, too. If fuss-free is what it’s all about, then opt for glass or composite splashbacks which do away with multiple grout lines and add another dimension of texture and colour. Don’t be afraid to be bold, either. While modern kitchen designs are often associated with every shade of white, a modern Shaker design is the perfect canvas for bold colour. An island in a bold pink shade or a dresser in a luxurious navy will help a design to really pop! And the beauty of painted cabinetry, of course, is how easy it is to paint over should you decide you’re tired of that Farrow & Ball Brinjal island or Fired Earth Tempest larder.


Sleek bar handles in steel and modern must-haves such as hot-water taps and steam ovens also help to bring the design into the 21st Century.

Of course, whether you go contemporary or classic, your Shaker design will look simple on the outside but if you want it to be in tune with modern life it should be filled with storage bells and whistles on the inside. Think of it like the graceful swan looking for all the world as if it’s gliding effortlessly along the water while underneath the legs are working overtime. Embrace the latest storage solutions, such as corner cupboards, full-extension utensil and pan drawers and add power points to keep those electronic devices charged and to hand so you can access a recipe at a moments notice.

Ready to start designing? Request your complimentary design consultation here, or find your nearest Harvey Jones showroom to view our furniture first-hand.