Re-creating the Shaker Kitchen

Allison Beatty

If you're tired of the ornamentation of many traditional kitchens, then a Shaker kitchen is an ideal option. Whether starting a complete renovation, or looking to update key elements, there are many ways to incorporate this practical style into today's kitchens.

The Shakers were a religious sect from England during the late 1700s that brought their ideas to America. Their focus on clean lines and simplicity carried through to the homes the built and the kitchens they live in.

Many of today's home owners like the classic style and clean lines that define the Shaker kitchen. The kitchen cabinets should be made from sturdy hardwoods but free of heavy molding or detailing. The countertops should have a muted look rather than a shiny surface. The floor plan is open, with cabinets lining the sides and perhaps an island in the middle. Overall, the look is dignified and never excessive.

Cabinets Define Shaker Kitchen

The kitchen cabinets typically are the most important product in the kitchen, from a design and functional standpoint. This also is true with a Shaker kitchen, as they set the tone for the simplicity that should follow through to other building materials.

Cabinets with recessed panel doors are reminiscent of the early Shaker kitchen. This type of door front features a flat panel in the center with wood framing around it. The look is clean and simple, yet sturdy.

The cabinets often are accented with simple hardware with a matte finish. Avoid shiny brass knobs in favor of thin, brushed nickel handles. The Shakers focused on functionality, not hardware that would turn heads.

Quality Craftsmanship is Key

The Shakers also were known for their exceptional craftsmanship, using fine quality woods and expert artisans to create cabinets and furniture. If your budget allows, consider finding a good carpenter to make your kitchen cabinets out of cherry, maple, or another hardwood.

If custom kitchen cabinets are too costly, why not use part of your renovation budget for a special island table that can blend with store bought cabinets? A simple yet sturdy table with straight legs and a slight overhang can create a nice focal point without being too showy for the Shaker style.

That same furniture detailing can be carried through to a hutch along one side of the kitchen or a carved maple countertop on the island.

The Kitchen Floor

While many home owners would shy away from the true Shaker floor with bare boards and no protective coatings, there are ways to replicate the look with today's woods and finishes. With a little searching, you can find pine, oak and maple floors with rustic graining or color variations.

In some cases, this involves working with a floor restoration company or finding old wood that has been reclaimed from barns and other buildings. The floors can be assembled with all their blemishes or cleaned up a little to suit your renovation needs.

Any of these wood floors can be topped with a matte-finish coating to replicate the old fashioned look but afford modern protection.

Kitchen Cabinet Storage Solutions

When adding a Shaker kitchen, you'll also want to focus on storage. Shaker philosophy emphasized putting things in their correct place. Clean lines, minimal ornamentation, and storage for everything prevent clutter and establish a tranquil environment.

Many of today's homeowners share the Shaker's focus on decluttering. This task is much easier with all the options now available through cabinet companies. Even the least expensive stock cabinets will offer options for maximizing vertical space inside the cabinet and making every inch count. Items such as plate dividers for the vertical space in an upper cabinet, interior spice racks, and garbage-can rollout drawers can help with organization.

Adding a Pantry

Among the popular large storage features are a pantry. Depending on your kitchen size, you may have room to add one along one wall near your cooking area. Otherwise, there are many freestanding pantries that can mimic the old fashioned look while providing space for canned good, napkins, and other daily wares.

A pantry also can help keep small appliances, spices, and utensils from cluttering the countertop. This will go a long way in helping you create the true, simplistic Shaker kitchen.

Other touches to add to help bring the Shaker style to your kitchen renovation are:

  • Light fixtures with chrome or black finishes, clean lines and little ornamentation.
  • Wooden pegs near the back door for hanging coats and backpacks
  • A honed stone countertop without the shine of polished granite

The Shaker kitchen can bring a soothing, uncomplicated feeling to any home. You won't see a lot of clutter, ornamentation, or small appliances lying around. Aside from the aesthetic value, you might appreciate the added peace from working in such a toned-down atmosphere.

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About the Author
By Allison E. Beatty


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