Due to its unwavering popularity, you will have likely stepped foot in a number of Shaker Kitchens in your lifetime without even realising. This style has stood the test of time and remains an immensely popular style of kitchen. But what is a Shaker Kitchen and why has it held onto its reputation over the years?
The name ‘Shaker Kitchen’ derives originally from the religious breakaway group that left the Quakers in the late 18th century. Most Shakers emigrated to America from England around this time and settled in the New England area. Living in self-sufficient communities, Shakers prided themselves on their efficiency, honesty and simplicity. These values were carried over into their craftsmanship, a talent which they considered themselves masters of. Believing that practices of decoration and veneering were deceitful, Shakers produced simple, durable, plain but nonetheless high quality furniture.
Using only local timbers native to the New England area, Shakers separated themselves from other groups of craftsman who would often use imported materials to build and adorn their furniture. The religious group even refused to use other materials for knobs on their furniture, instead using the simple wooden knobs that matched the material of the rest of the piece.
250 years later, the Shaker style continues to influence many pieces of furniture, not least kitchen cabinets and accessories. While there have been some alterations and additions to the Shaker style over the centuries, simplicity and reliability remain key features of the style that are still in demand when it comes to kitchens in the 21st century.
So what does an authentic Shaker kitchen look like?
The first word that should come to mind when designing a Shaker kitchen is simplicity. This word is often misinterpreted and considered short-hand for cheap-looking, uninspiring furniture. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Simplicity is what makes a kitchen noticeably Shaker in style. Undecorated and usually free-standing furniture made from real, good-quality wood and left either natural or painted in one colour all over. The doors of these units should be simply panelled.
If you wish to include colour in the kitchen units, it must be remembered that very little decoration should be considered. Not all units must be uniformly painted, in fact you can simply use one piece of painted furniture as a statement piece. However, the palette of colours that you should work from is limited; this includes pale grey, pale blue, muted green, eggshell and cream. Additions of red or blue can work but should perhaps be confined to the aforementioned statement pieces.
Another key element of a Shaker kitchen is utilising storage space. Shakers believed that everything should have a place to be stored and would often build furniture customised to the dimensions of specific kitchen equipment, simply to clear countertops and create a simple, tidy space.
Even for material such as tea towels or any similar type of cloth, Shakers utilised wall space by designing pegs where these materials could be hanged. These small features have become staple elements of the Shaker kitchen design.
Check out our post about bespoke kitchen specialist advice.