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Let’s talk about Shaker kitchens. They’ve been around forever and they never look out of date, whether you have a classic or contemporary home. In fact, ‘Shaker’ is one of the most traditional styles of kitchen design out there, evoking country homes and cosy family kitchens that fit in perfectly with today’s longing for cottagecore and maximum homeliness.
The great thing about Shaker designs is that they really do stand the test of time. In terms of investment, this is excellent news for anyone thinking of upgrading their kitchen. The universal style fits equally well with quaint country cottages, suburban period homes and contemporary urban living spaces.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the key features and some useful design tricks and tips you need to know to get the right Shaker kitchen for your home.
Here’s a little bit of history. The Shakers, also known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, were an 18th century religious breakaway group from the better-known Quakers, a Christian group otherwise known as the Society of Friends. They emigrated to America and particularly to New England where they became recognised for handcrafting high-quality furniture. Their designs were simple, understated and ‘honest’, avoiding embellishments and finery that were regarded as frivolous and ‘deceitful’, though they would stain or paint the wood in different colours.
The beauty of the Shaker style lies in its unpretentious design characterised by a lack of fussy decoration or elaborate mouldings, which is what makes it so versatile. As one kitchen specialist puts it: “A Shaker door has a timeless appeal. A simple framed door without too much embellishment has lasting qualities, while restrained detail can give the kitchen a contemporary look.”
Modern Shaker style kitchens tend to be functional and pared back in their design while being easy to live with in any home environment. No wonder they’ve been a favourite choice for British homes for many years. Here are some of the key features of Shaker style kitchens:
The use of local wood which, for the original Shakers, would have meant pine, maple and cherry rather than more expensive imported timbers like rosewood or mahogany. Real wood is a key design element, whether left natural or painted.
Classic Shaker kitchen cabinet doors feature a flat centre panel and square edges, with minimal detailing or profiling. This style is all about quality craftsmanship and simplicity. Simple wood-turned knobs complete the door assembly.
Most Shaker style kitchens would have been painted or stained blue, green, red or yellow. A combination of two different colours, or natural and painted finishes, can achieve a more characterful look as long as the rest of the room stays neutral.
Painting kitchen units is a great way to update an existing kitchen and achieve a bespoke look. Modern interpretations include cream, muted green, pale pink or grey-blue, or the use of dark blue or red as an accent colour or for a feature piece.
If the space allows, try to include an element of freestanding furniture in the kitchen that evokes the traditional Shaker style. A farmhouse table, Welsh dresser or kitchen island can be useful for display, storage, food prep and dining space.5 design tricks and tips to personalise your Shaker kitchen
Once the basic elements of your Shaker kitchen are taken care of, it’s time to get creative and add some personality to truly create the heart of your home. Here are some interiors tricks and tips to get you inspired:
In order to achieve that cosy, lived-in look, think about mixing modern furniture with vintage or reclaimed pieces that are still true to the Shaker style. A dining table and chairs should be easy enough to source from markets or antique shops. The quintessential Shaker chair is upright with a woven fabric seat and three horizontal struts across the back. For non-purists, any country style chair should work well enough. To complete the country kitchen feel, accessorise with vintage-y kitchenware, crockery, glassware and decorative items that will pull the whole room together.
Combining cabinets in different colours or materials is a new twist on the traditional Shaker theme. User darker hues for base units and a lighter shade for shelves and wall units. Or make a feature of a kitchen island by painting it in a contrast colour. Add interest with different worktop materials too. Wood is the traditional Shaker choice, but modern materials such as quartz or granite can complement beautifully for a more practical, durable and contemporary solution.
Traditionally, Shaker kitchens have a neutral or muted colour palette. It’s a big part of what makes these kitchens timeless. However, if you want to add a dash or personality or modernise the scheme, you could go for bolder colours such as candy pink, teal or sage green. For more drama, choose dark, atmospheric hues that are all the rage at the moment. Midnight blue, forest green, inky blacks can look spectacular in a Shaker kitchen, particularly when paired with a light coloured worktop in a pale wood or quartz. Pewter or brushed chrome handles will also give the look a lift.
For a relaxed look in the kitchen, break up long lines of kitchen cabinets with some glass fronted cabinets and open shelving. These are the perfect opportunity to not only store but also display pretty china, glassware and decorative objects, and add more charm to your kitchen. The Shakers were big on simple form and utility, so the humble peg rail was a favourite feature that you can use to your advantage. Hang up tea towels and aprons, kitchen utensils or pots and pans – all the essentials you need at arm’s length.
Simplicity and practicality are the watchwords of Shaker design. For kitchen spaces where food prep and cooking takes place, this means surfaces that can withstand spills and splashes and are easy to keep clean. Tiles are a great way to do this, whether it’s a splashback in a quirky pattern or a whole tiled wall in a hue of your choice. “A hardwood floor or earthy, textured tiles can give your kitchen the Shaker look and transform your kitchen design,” advises this handy guide. Floors and tiles with a slight sheen can visually enlarge and calm the space while delivering a country cottage vibe that is hard wearing for everyday use. Bare floorboards are a more budget friendly version.
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