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A History of Shaker Cabinetry

Shaker cabinets have been a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms for many years. But what are Shaker cabinets, exactly? Shaker cabinets are a type of cabinet that is characterized by its simple design and clean lines. They were first used in the Shaker community in the early 1800s, and since then they have become a popular choice for homeowners all over the world.


Shaker cabinets have stood the test of time with their classic style and elegant functionality. One reason for their ongoing popularity is that they are so versatile. For a more rustic kitchen design, they’re easily paired with a corner farm sink and functional appliances to create a simple, warm, and welcoming atmosphere; but they can just as easily be integrated with granite countertops, sleek faucets, and smart designs for a minimalist and modern home. But where did these cabinets originate, and who designed them? Read on to familiarize yourself with the history behind these cabinets.

The Shakers

As a group, the Shakers formed in Manchester, England in the eighteenth century. Like other religious groups such as the Amish and Amana, they established communities in the United States and were known for the simplicity of their lifestyles. The Shakers were an offshoot of the Quakers and were also pacifists. During the Civil War in the United States, they provided medical care for soldiers from both sides.



It was during the period of the Civil War that the Shakers increased the production of their furniture, especially chairs. They espoused a philosophy that prized hard work and precision, and this commitment to quality was seen in their furniture as well as their architecture. They tended to use inexpensive woods that were readily available, which resulted in lightweight furniture that was nonetheless solid and of the greatest craftsmanship.

Shaker Craftsmanship

In keeping with the spirit of the simple Shaker lifestyle, Shaker furniture and craftsmanship are distinguished by functionality and simplicity. According to Troy Segal in his article “The Shakers and Their Furniture,” there are “three P’s” characterizing Shaker values that can also be seen in their approach to making furniture: plainness, practicality, and pride. This means that Shaker furniture is generally free of adornment, with clean lines and an emphasis on functionality. This practical approach also incorporated innovative design, and according to Segal (citing Clarence Hornung), the Shakers were likely the first to produce rocking-chairs on a large scale.


Example of early shaker furniture, Source: Curbed

Shaker style is often compared to Mission craftsmanship: the Shaker aesthetic tends towards lighter furniture that can be easily moved, whereas the Mission style gives a more overall impression of solidity and permanence; the lighter colors of Shaker designs showcase the functionality of the designs, while Mission style uses darker stains to provide a more solid appearance; and Shaker craftsmanship favors seamless, tapered looks, with Mission furniture often featuring exposed joinery. Mission style cabinets, for example, tend to be of darker wood with pulls made of darker metals and Shaker cabinets come in colors like white and gray, with little or no hardware.


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Modern Shaker Cabinets

Today, the Shaker cabinet enjoys continued popularity because it is so easily integrated into a variety of different kitchen styles. The hallmark feature is the recessed panel, which adds some visual interest to an otherwise ornament-free design. Generally, knobs on Shaker furniture are round and wooden, and the legs of the furniture will have a subtle taper. Shaker cabinets are also distinguished by an overall sleek appearance. Dovetail joints, such as those in Nelson Cabinetry’s products, provide solid, quality construction for the interior of the pieces, while the outside surfaces showcase a functional simplicity.


Nelson Cabinetry White Shaker Kitchen Collection with Island, Wood Hood, and Wall Microwave Cabinet
Nelson Cabinetry White Shaker Kitchen Collection with Island, Wood Hood, and Wall Microwave Cabinet


The Shaker style of cabinetry has remained popular for centuries because of its functionality, simplicity, and quality craftsmanship. Shaker cabinets can be easily integrated into a variety of kitchen styles, and Nelson Cabinetry’s products are a perfect example of modern Shaker design. With their clean lines, recessed panels, and sleek appearance, Shaker cabinets are the perfect choice for any home.


Final Thoughts

The Shakers were a religious group that gained a reputation for their simple, yet well-crafted furniture. Their clean lines and functionality were a departure from the ornate furniture of the time, and their designs continue to influence furniture makers today. Shaker cabinets are characterized by their simple design, which often features raised-panel doors and exposed hinges. Today, Shaker cabinets remain a popular choice for those looking for a classic look that will stand the test of time. Thanks for reading!

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Nelson Cabinetry

Nelson Cabinetry is an online distributor of high quality kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. We pride ourselves in delivering a high quality product via an easy to use, convenient website. Placing your cabinet order has never been easier and you can do so from the comfort of your home, office or job site.


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