Create a Shaker-Style Kitchen

The Shaker style is a timeless design that brings simplicity, functionality, and warmth to any kitchen. Characterized by clean lines, natural materials, and minimal ornamentation, the Shaker kitchen evokes a sense of quiet beauty and refinement. If you are looking to remodel your kitchen in a classic aesthetic that will stand the test of time, creating a Shaker-style design is an excellent choice.

Choosing Shaker Kitchen Cabinets

The most defining feature of a Shaker kitchen is the cabinetry. Shaker cabinets have a very distinctive look:

  • Door fronts are flat with a recessed center panel, usually made of wood.
  • Door fronts can also have glass inserts for a more open and airy look.
  • Cabinet boxes are typically made of plywood or solid wood.
  • Minimal hardware is used – usually just simple knobs or pulls in a matte metal finish.
  • Cabinets have a handcrafted, custom-built appearance.

When selecting Shaker cabinets, opt for a high-quality hardwood like oak, maple, or hickory. Avoid cabinets with decorative grooves or detailing that are not in keeping with the Shaker aesthetic. Get a sense of how closely the cabinets align with true Shaker style – some manufacturers take a looser interpretation. Also look for solid wood drawers and dovetail joinery which add to the quality and durability of the cabinets.

Choosing the Right Color Palette

Shaker kitchens are rooted in utilitarian design, so neutral colors are prevalent. Stick to light, muted hues like off-white, warm grays, antique white, ivory, taupe and light beiges. You can add some interest with sage green, brick red, navy blue or espresso cabinetry. Just be sure colors are subdued rather than vivid.

Also consider natural wood stains like cherry, walnut or oak. The wood grain will add lovely texture without overcomplicating the look. Charcoal, ebony or rustic gray stains are fitting for a more rustic aesthetic. Use paint for cabinetry and stain for open shelving to create contrast.

For walls and trim, white is the quintessential Shaker color. It keeps the space feeling light and spacious. Almond, pale yellow or subtle blue-gray are other fitting wall colors. Use crisp, bright white for the ceiling and trim to delineate zones.

Hardware & Fixtures

Keep hardware minimal and streamlined. Matte black iron knobs and pulls have a traditional look. Brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze are good contemporary options. Avoid elaborate hardware like crystal knobs or baroque pulls that feel too ornate.

For the sink, an apron-front fireclay or porcelain farmhouse sink suits Shaker style. Stainless steel and cast iron are sleeker choices. For the faucet, a high-arc gooseneck design is both functional and charming. One with a slide lever handle controls the flow without complex knobs or levers.

Lighting should be simple and understated. Look for fixtures with clean lines, like pendant lights, flush mount ceiling fixtures, or slender track lighting. Avoid anything overtly ornamental or avant garde. Let wood accents like open shelving, butcher blocks and window frames add warmth.

Flooring That Complements

Natural wood flooring is a perfect match for the Shaker kitchen aesthetic. Materials like oak, ash, maple and hickory have a timeworn look that pairs beautifully with Shaker cabinets. Wide plank floors help exude the handcrafted style. If you prefer something cooler underfoot, try natural stone like slate, travertine or limestone tiles.

You can also use porcelain or ceramic tile with subtle patterns, or even linoleum flooring, which has an old-fashioned appeal. Keep colors muted and aim for variation in tone rather than vivid color. Simple modular patterns or classic hexagonal tiles are great Shaker kitchen flooring options.

Countertops & Backsplashes

Butcher block countertops evoke wonderful craftsman charm in a Shaker kitchen. Knotty pine or maple have lots of natural texture. Other natural stone countertops like quartz, marble, soapstone or granite continue the earthy vibe. Look for slabs or tiles with grey veining rather than vibrant colors.

The backsplash is a great spot to integrate some subtle pattern. Subway tile, beaded board, or stacked stone tiles create charming contrast on the walls. Keep grout lines minimal so the texture doesn’t get too busy. Vintage tin tiles also have a wonderful look. For a truly minimalist Shaker kitchen, stick to all-white backsplashes.

Open Shelving Instead of Upper Cabinets

One way to lighten up a Shaker kitchen is to skip upper cabinets and instead install open shelving. This allows you to display kitchenware, cookbooks and accents in a casual style perfect for Shaker design. Shelves mounted on narrow brackets keep the look airy.

Select shelving made from salvaged barnwood, reclaimed boards, or untreated pine. Or have custom shelves made from oak, walnut or cedar for a seamless fit. Keep the styling on shelves simple – white ironstone pitchers, woven baskets, rustic ceramics. Avoid cluttering the space or over-decorating.

Large Farmhouse Sink as Focal Point

In a Shaker kitchen, a sizable fireclay or porcelain apron-front farmhouse sink can serve as the stunning focal point. The large basin and minimal silhouette make a bold and beautiful statement. Set into a handcrafted butcher block countertop, the farmhouse sink epitomizes Shaker design traditions.

Allow plenty of counter space around the sink for meal prep and cleanup. Windows above the sink are ideal for bringing in gorgeous natural light. Add charming accents like wire drying racks, vintage soaps, and wood cutting boards to complete the look. The classic farmhouse sink evokes cozy rural nostalgia.

Natural Lighting Enhances the Aesthetic

From the signature unadorned cabinetry to neutral colors and artisanal accents, the hallmark of Shaker design is simplicity. Nothing enhances that pared-back elegance better than ample natural light. Large windows in a Shaker kitchen will make it feel open, airy and gorgeously bright.

Strategically place windows around the sink, at the end of cabinets, and by the dining table to welcome sunshine in. For a cheery breakfast nook, try installing a garden window or bay window bench. Skylights are another excellent way to open up a kitchen. For maximum light, use soft curtain panels, bamboo blinds or other minimally obstructive window treatments.

A Multi-Function Island Adds Handiness

One smart way to increase workspace and storage in a Shaker kitchen is by adding a multi-function island. Opt for an island with cabinets and drawers to conceal small appliances, cookware and pantry overflow. Islands are also useful for hiding trash receptacles and recycling bins.

Include elements like a wine rack, spice shelves, towel bar, marble slab and seating to make the island even more practical. Take inspiration from traditional farm tables – a handcrafted wood island on turned legs or base panel is both sturdy and charming. Just avoid ornate detailing that feels out of sync with Shaker design.

Glass-Front Cabinets Showcase Dishware

While opaque wood cabinets keep the look understated, glass-front cabinets allow you to proudly display dishware in signature Shaker style. Glass-front cabinets maintain the clean sightlines of the design while offering a peek at beautiful ceramics.

Display collections of white ironstone pitchers and transferware inside upper cabinets. Use glass doors on lower cabinets to exhibit neatly lined up stacks of buffalo print china. Integrating some glass fronts provides lovely contrast with solid wood cabinetry. The transparency plays up the uncluttered, minimalist aesthetic.

Breathing Room Around the Refrigerator

In a kitchen where practicality reigns, be sure to allow adequate space around refrigerators, ovens and other appliances. Avoid cramming the refrigerator into a tight corner or next to the stove. Leave at least 15 inches of counter space on either side of the fridge.

For the refrigerator itself, choose a simple, discreet design that doesn’t stand out. Panel-ready models can be customized with cabinet door fronts for a seamless, integrated look. A standard top freezer/bottom refrigerator configuration is nicely functional. Keep handles and hardware minimal. Allow ample breathing room and the fridge can disappear into the Shaker style.

Adapting the Look for Small Kitchens

The simplicity of Shaker style adapts beautifully to small kitchens. In fact, the sparseness is ideal for making a modest kitchen feel more spacious. Use lighting strategically to add the illusion of openness. Natural light if possible, and pendant fixtures that draw the eye upwards both make a difference.

Streamlined furniture-style cabinets keep things light. Try slender roll-out shelves and pull-out vertical drawers for smart storage. Multifunctional narrow islands maximize work space efficiently. Just avoid bulky cabinets with thick detailing. Finally, a neutral color scheme, open shelving and well-placed mirrors keep things feeling airy. Adapt these smart tricks and a small kitchen can feel serenely Shaker chic.

The Right Amount of Contrast Enlivens the Look

While Shaker style cultivates simplicity, small doses of contrast provide just the right amount of visual interest. Natural wood floors juxtapose beautifully against crisp white walls. A marble slab backsplash enlivens warm wood countertops. Wrought iron hardware pops elegantly on light cabinet fronts.

Introduce contrasting colors and textures selectively to keep the look lively but not busy. Accent walls in navy blue, brick red or sage green work nicely with neutral cabinetry. Braided rugs on wood plank floors inject artisanal charm. Tiny hexagon tiles backsplash and wide plank floors oppose in delightful scale. Just take care that contrasts harmonize rather than clash, united by the simplicity of Shaker style.

Infusing Personality in Subtle Ways

Understated need not translate to impersonal when designing a Shaker kitchen. Look for small ways to infuse hints of your tastes and personality into the neutral backdrop. Arts and crafts-style lighting and textiles add handmade appeal. Beloved cookbooks and ceramics displayed on open shelves make a space feel curated.

Framed botanical art, woven baskets, and vases of foraged branches bring in nature. A meaningful antique or handicraft passed down through generations tells a story. Little personal touches make the simplicity welcoming. Just keep them minimal and allow the integrity of Shaker style to shine through. The kitchen will feel distinctly yours.

FAQs About Creating a Shaker-Style Kitchen

What are the key elements of a Shaker kitchen?

The hallmarks of Shaker style kitchens are clean lines, neutral colors, natural materials, minimal ornamentation and visible craftsmanship. Signature features include flat recessed cabinet fronts, integrated hardware, wood countertops, and farmhouse sinks. The overall look is unfussy, airy and casually elegant.

What colors work best in a Shaker kitchen?

Stick to a neutral color palette of off-whites, warm grays, ivory and light beiges. Touches of navy blue, sage green, brick red or espresso brown work nicely too. Use white or wood tones for walls and natural wood floors. Keep countertops and backsplashes subtle and muted.

What types of materials should I use?

Choose natural materials like wood, stone, tile, iron and glass. Opt for quality wood or plywood for cabinetry, butcher block for counters, and porcelain or metal for sinks. Use hardwood flooring, subway tile, or stacked stone for backsplashes. Wrought iron, brass, and nickel suit hardware.

Should I have upper cabinets or open shelving?

Open shelving provides lovely visual contrast and displays kitchenware beautifully. It also imparts a sense of airy spaciousness. But upper cabinets do offer needed storage, so strike a balance that works for your space and needs. Glass cabinet doors are a good compromise.

How do I add personality to a Shaker kitchen?

Display favorite ceramics and books, incorporate meaningful antiques, use lighting with arts & crafts flair, bring in natural touches like woven baskets and plants, and paint one wall an energetic accent color. Little personal touches add spirit while honoring the simplicity of Shaker style.


With its clean lines, welcoming warmth, and focus on quality craftsmanship, the Shaker kitchen is a timeless choice. Careful attention to detail in choosing cabinets, hardware, counters, sinks and finishing touches results in a space that is functional, durable and quietly beautiful. Aim to strike that signature Shaker balance where nothing is extraneous, yet everything evokes purpose and tradition. The result will be a light-filled kitchen designed to serve you gracefully for years to come.