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What is a Shaker Style Cabinet?

In your search for the elements of your new kitchen, you may have come across a number of retailers boasting of how their cabinets are made in the Shaker style. The term, however, has become so synonymous with quality cabinetry that its actual meaning has been lost in everyone’s rush to claim it as their own. In reality, a cabinet must be more than just well-made in order to earn the distinction - Shaker cabinetry must hem to a specific set of style guidelines, guidelines that speak to the practicality and craftsmanship practiced by the people for whom the cabinets are named.

Who Were the Shakers? 

A small Christian sect founded in England before spreading to colonial America, the Shakers (known officially as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing) were defined by their commitment to pacifism, gender equality, and a communal lifestyle based on celibacy and deep faith. Though very few practicing Shakers remain, the group’s legacy lives on through their reputation for creating durable and practical furnishings. To the Shakers, exercising craftsmanship in creation was in itself a form of prayer, a belief that shines through in the stoic, austere beauty of their products (some of which still stand strong hundreds of years after being created).

What Defines Shaker Style?

Though Shaker style furnishings are largely defined by their simplicity and sturdiness, there are a few specific elements common to cabinets created in this manner.

Wood  

The Shakers valued functionality above all else in their creations, which is why they strove to make their furnishings out of only the highest quality wood available. At Lily Ann, we pay tribute to that commitment to quality by using only birch or North American maple in the creation of our cabinets. These hardy woods possess the durability necessary to stand strong for years to come and hold a natural, timeless beauty that will ensure they remain stylish throughout those years.

Style  

If given the choice, your average Shaker would rather do one thing well a hundred times over doing one extravagant thing well once. That’s why repetition is seen so often in Shaker style cabinetry; not because the founders of the style lacked creativity, but rather because their designs have always been driven by the desire to attain perfection in simplicity. What’s more, this repetition lends a clean and orderly look to rooms that make use of this cabinetry style, a must for those who value organization in their kitchens or for those who simply have overly tidy relatives to impress. That orderly look is further cemented by the squared-off rails and stiles (respectively, the horizontal and vertical pieces of wood that make up a cabinet’s frame) common to Shaker design, though more modern interpretations have taken to subtly sloping the edges of those elements.

To the untrained eye, this simplicity can make kitchens based on Shaker style cabinetry seem plain and quaint. Looking closer, however, gives you the opportunity to appreciate the subtle details that have contributed to the enduring, celebrated legacy of Shaker craftsmanship and design. Recessed door panels, for example, add depth and volume to a cabinet’s design without screaming for attention. The same phenomenon is achieved by the restraint of the hardware. In order to not distract from the functionality of the cabinetry itself, pulls, knobs and handles are often of simple design. Their subtle beauty is not defined by their own style but rather by their ability to complement the look of the cabinetry to which they’re attached. It should be mentioned, however, that modern Shaker style has accepted the use of metal hardware on wooden cabinets, a contrast in color and material that allows said hardware to stand out somewhat while still maintaining a degree of understated charm.

Color

The Shakers’ commitment to practicality in their creations led to a de-emphasis on the color of their finished products. Often, the cabinets they created were simply the color of the wood they used; if any enhancement occurred, it was typically limited to the usage of a stain meant to complement the features of the grain. Lily Ann honors that commitment to simplicity by offering our Shaker style cabinets in a classic cinnamon hue that showcases the beauty of the maple while also adding a measure of warmth to your kitchen. But as much as we love subtlety in staining, we also know that one color isn’t going to suit everybody’s needs (and that those who love Shaker design shouldn’t be shut out just because they’re not crazy about Cinnamon).

That’s why we also offer our Shaker style cabinets in three gorgeous shades of white (Colorado, Elite, and Classic White) as well as in dark, rich Espresso. This flexibility in shades gives you the option of integrating Shaker cabinetry into styles ranging from warm and rustic to sleek and modern. No matter which color you choose, the unmatched artistry and craftsmanship of the Shaker style will be sure to lend enduring charm to your kitchen for years to come.

Conclusion

The Shakers have contributed a great deal to the canon of American furnishings, and we at Lily Ann are proud to pay tribute to their consistency and workmanship through our line of sturdy, affordable, timelessly charming cabinets. Please feel free to examine our Shaker offerings for yourself, and remember that our friendly customer representatives are always available if you have any questions on how Lily Ann can help bring the kitchen of your dreams to life.