Understanding the background of Shaker style kitchens

Understanding the background of Shaker style kitchens
April 11, 2018 Felicity Anderson

Understanding the background of Shaker style kitchens

Do you know the background of Shaker style kitchens?

Understanding who the Shakers were, along with their rich history and influences, is key to appreciating the enduring appeal of this classic and popular kitchen design.

From humble beginnings in Manchester to crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the USA, where they pioneered the kitchen style still seen across many homes today, here CashLady looks at the background of Shaker style kitchens.

What is a Shaker style kitchen?

Distinctive through their simple country cottage look, Shaker style kitchens are very versatile and might incorporate just a few key Shaker features instead of the full Shaker look.

Perennially popular, Oprah Winfrey is said to be a huge fan of this traditional yet practical design.

Key features of a Shaker style kitchen are:

  • Open plan kitchen space
  • Simple with no clutter
  • Colour palette of red, blue, yellow and blue-green
  • Handcrafted wooden furniture typically made of pine, maple and cherry
  • All-natural materials
  • Clever storage solutions
  • A hand within a heart motif, symbolising ‘hands to work and hearts to God’
  • Quality craftsmanship

Who were the Shakers?

The United Society of Believers, known as the Shakers, was a religious group that broke away from the Quakers in the late 18th century.

They are called the Shakers due to the distinctive shaking motions and dancing displayed during their worship.

Originating here in the UK, they left Manchester for America where they landed in New York, before moving to New England.

Keen crafters, they believed that every object in the home should have a specific purpose and that ornate decoration was simply unnecessary.

‘Beauty rests on utility,” a popular Shaker saying

Quality Shaker craftsmanship

In America the Shakers soon earned a reputation for high-quality craftsmanship, believing, as they did, that their work was a testament to God.

Each item that they produced was painstakingly perfect and known for being durable and functional.

While other American designers used imported woods, such as mahogany and rosewood, Shakers used local wood such as pine, maple and cherry.

Their influences vary, depending on where they settled, but typically American folk art and local traditions were a significant inspiration.

How to design your own Shaker style kitchens

Image credit larkandlarks.co.uk

With such positive and practical values behind the style, it’s hardly surprising that Shaker look kitchens have proved so popular, even to this day.

Follow our pointers below if you want to incorporate some of this look into your kitchen.

Shaker style colours

Shakers kept their colours limited to a primary palette on all their furniture.

Preferring to oil their natural wood, they were also known to paint it in red, yellow, green or blue to add a pop of colour to their open-plan houses.

Shaker style furniture

For a true Shaker look, it’s all about the furniture.

Choose simple shapes such as ladder-back chairs in one of the colours of the palette and remember that Cherrywood and maple were the Shaker’s timber of choice.

Use a simple wooden trestle table for dining.

Shaker style storage

Believing that everything should have its place, storage was important to the Shakers.

They frequently used peg rails that hung around the room at head height and hung chairs, mirrors and tools on them, keeping the room tidy and easy to sweep.

Things were also stored away in wardrobes and chest of drawers, which would line whole walls, with all the handles neatly lined up.

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Shaker style fabrics

When it comes to fabrics, unsurprisingly the Shakers kept it natural, favouring wool, cotton and silk.

For something a little different, however, a subtle check, denim or gingham can be used for curtain material.

Shaker style flooring

There is no fancy tiling here – the floor should consist of bare wooden boards but can be varnished to stay true to Shaker style.

Shaker style woodwork

Woodwork should be left plain or given an orange style stain using varnish.

Declutter Shaker style

Shaker style kitchens should be free from unnecessary clutter, such as trinkets and mess, so use the opportunity have a good clear out.