What are Shaker kitchens? A quick and easy guide

Find out what the Shaker style involves, and how to use this elegant look in your kitchen cabinetry

When it comes to classic kitchen designs, the Shaker style has never gone out of fashion – and for good reason. This is a style that emphasises craftsmanship and tradition, plus its timeless elegance makes it a great investment in any home.

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So what is a Shaker kitchen, and how can you spot it? Here are the key elements of classic Shaker design:

What is a Shaker cabinet?

The key element of a Shaker kitchen is its distinct cabinetry. One of the most popular styles of kitchen cabinet, it consists of a recessed panel in the centre of the door or drawer front.

The Pale Grey finish of this traditional Shaker Gainsborough cabinetry from Mereway’s Town & Country collection helps distribute light throughout this kitchen extension, and enhance the sense of openness. Kitchen prices start from £14,000
The Pale Grey finish of this traditional Shaker Gainsborough cabinetry from Mereway’s Town & Country collection helps distribute light throughout this kitchen extension, and enhance the sense of openness. Kitchen prices start from £14,000

In-frame versus frameless

This refers to how the cabinet doors sit – either within a built frame on the front of the cabinets or without one. In the kitchen below, you’ll see an example of in-frame version – see how the cabinet doors sit inside a frame.

Shaker kitchen in aubergine and gullwing, from £4,345, Wren Kitchens
Shaker kitchen in aubergine and gullwing, from £4,345, Wren Kitchens

In-frame cabinetry tends to be a stronger and sturdier option. However, the frame can cause access issues, especially where two doors sit together over one larger cabinet recess with a centre frame. Drawers particularly lose some of their depth to the frame, as they must sit within the frame space to be able to slide in and out.

What frameless styles sacrifice in sturdiness, they makes up for in a slightly sleeker appearance and greater versatility. You’ll have full access to storage recesses and drawers can also take up the full space allocated by the drawer fronts.

What is cockbeading?

Have you noticed how some Shaker panels have a slight shadow around the frame? This is caused by a thin moulding around the edge of the door known as cockbeading. It’s a traditional finishing touch that is still a popular detail for Shaker cabinets. Not only does it give that authentic period look, it also has a practical use, as the slight shadow it casts can disguise any slight mismatch in fitting.

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Words by Luke Arthur Wells