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Timeless Shaker kitchen cabinets: simple, handsome, versatile

by Susanne Clemenz

The lines of Shaker cabinets reflect the Shakers' beliefs in hard work, functionality, the finest craftsmanship, and a stunning simplicity. While the Shakers themselves have dwindled away, their timeless cabinetry is as much appreciated as ever.

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Shaker and Craftsman differences

Shaker design obviously inspired the Craftsman style, but there are differences:

  1. Both Shaker and Craftsman cabinets used woods native to a region. Shaker cabinets were usually made of maple or cherry wood, whereas Craftsman cabinets were more often oak. The Shakers did not use stains, so Shaker kitchen cabinets have light wood tones, where Craftsman cabinets are often darker.
  2. Shaker cabinets have simple rounded wooden pulls. Craftsman cabinets have distinctive wrought iron hardware.
  3. In larger pieces like a pantry door, Shaker style is strengthened by flat, square-edged rails and stiles that divide the surface into quarters. A large Craftsman door size is more likely to have narrower wood strips that form a simple, decorative geometric pattern, or one vertical center stile.
  4. Door frames on Shaker kitchen cabinets often, but not always, have wider flat, square-edged wood rails and stiles holding the center panel.
  5. For freestanding units, like a kitchen island table, Shaker legs may be finely tapered, while Craftsman legs will be straight and square.


Where to buy Shaker kitchen cabinets

If you want to experience some of the craftsmanship yourself, ready-to-assemble all wood cabinets from online sources such as Kitchen Cabinet Depot are a bargain. For the durable dovetail drawers of true Shaker style, compare these semi-custom brands:

  1. Thomasville's Eden or Cottage lines
  2. KraftMaid solid door with three-inch stiles and rails
  3. Merrilat's Montresano line
  4. American Woodmark's Townsend in natural Shaker
  5. Timberlake's Sonoma, a contemporary interpretation of Shaker

Prices vary based on construction components and techniques, type of wood, and shipping costs. Ready to assemble cabinets will be the least expensive option.

About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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