Shaker kitchens are well-loved by designers, offering a tried-and-true look that transcends the test of time and doesn’t flinch in the face of trends. But popular design tastes have evolved, and certain elements of Shaker style have fallen to the wayside.
The heritage style, defined by intentional and functional design without frills, still holds a solid place in the design world. The quality of the style’s hand-crafted cabinetry will always be invaluable, but designers and homeowners are starting to crave a bit more personality.
From extra molding to ultra-modern cabinetry, these are the kitchen style differences that six interior designers have noticed are replacing Shaker kitchens – and those they expect to see down the line. Here’s what the experts have to say.
What’s replacing Shaker kitchens?
Though Shaker style likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, these small kitchen updates are forcing the traditional look to adapt with the ages. We spoke with six interior designers to ask what they’re noticing about contemporary kitchens, and how their design schemes are shifting.
1. Customized details
Although Shaker kitchens can absolutely be customized according to individual design preferences, the updates can only go so far without straying from the standby style. Annie Downing, interior designer and founder of Austin, Texas-based Annie Downing Interiors, says these limitations have discouraged her clients from opting for Shaker-style kitchens.
‘Shaker-style cabinets don’t offer that custom look that our clients are seeking, plus the little ledge is a dust magnet! We love a sleek inset or slab front cabinet, especially when paired with some super special hardware,’ says Annie.
These modern Shaker kitchen updates, paired with eye-catching hardware that wouldn’t be at home in a Shaker kitchen, have largely replaced the heritage look for clients who crave a bit more personality in their culinary space.
Annie Downing is an interior designer and the founder of Austin-based Annie Downing Interiors.
2. More contemporary cabinetry
Kyle O’Donnell and Christopher Sale, principal designer and senior project manager at New York City-based Gramercy Design, agree that more contemporary styles are on the rise – either replacing Shaker altogether or building upon the traditional style.
‘Full-overlay doors with ultra-slim rails and styles and deeply recessed panels can integrate visual interest and classic appeal into modern interiors or provide a contemporary take on Shaker style in traditional interiors,’ says Kyle.
These sleek updates allow your space a truly transitional feel, proving more timeless than Shaker style on its own. The mix between contemporary and traditional provides a convenient jumping off point for crafting your own personal interior design style.
But Christopher says that Gramercy Design also enjoys embellishing Shaker kitchens as they are, adding a bit of dimension with the details.
‘At the other end of the spectrum, we love dressing up a timeless combination of inset-frame cabinets and recessed panel doors with extra profiles and special details to take a Shaker-inspired kitchen to the next level,’ Christopher says.
Gramercy Design is a boutique interior design studio based in New York City, and founded and led by Kyle O’Donnell. Christopher Sale is the firm’s Senior Project Manager.
3. Added on molding
‘Shaker kitchens will be forever timeless kitchen designs and will outlive me in terms of style and classical design, but we are starting to see a shift in the market. From our perspective, this is being driven purely by cost as shaker cabinets are expensive,’ says Richard Davonport, managing director at Davonport, a bespoke luxury kitchen company based in the UK.
Designers are giving kitchen cabinets more personality and a layered look with molding – a highly customizable approach that allows each kitchen to reflect real character.
‘We’re seeing the re-emergence of a trend from 20 years ago – with a few tweaks – of heavy molding on a flat door. It’s considerably cheaper, but you are still getting a bespoke kitchen that can look striking and unique to you in terms of how you want that molding to look. Plus, if you want a kitchen that is at the height of the latest trends, this is it!,’ says Richard.
When it comes to color, Richard says trends point to whites, ivory and neutrals being paired with the molding-heavy look. He cautions, though, that Shaker kitchens still might be the go-to style – kitchen trends come and go, and designing a new kitchen based on passing fads might not be the smartest choice for your forever home.
Richard Davonport is a luxury cabinetmaker and designer, and the Managing Director of Davonport, a bespoke kitchen brand based in the UK.
4. Paint and stain
While Shaker tends to keep it simple, designers are seeing more dynamics on the color front, too. Shaker kitchens can absolutely incorporate color, but tend to stray away from detailed finishes. Now, wooden cabinets and depth-forward combinations seem to be on the rise, says Elizabeth Krueger, principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design.
‘I’m seeing more wood tones in kitchens now with a reverse bevel detail or some beading instead of just a flat shaker cabinet. A paint and stain seem to be a popular combination with a plaster hood and warmer wood tone accent,’ says Elizabeth.
Plaster is one of many textural finishes that are making a comeback as of late, adding depth and visual interest to spaces all across the home. Combined with warm colors, textural details make a space feel organic and homey – just perfect for a family kitchen.
Elizabeth Krueger is the principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, an award-winning firm based in Chicago and Cleveland.
5. Natural wood details
Kitchen styles featuring exposed wood finishes are also on the rise, says Alexandra Denburg, principal designer at M&P Design Group. Though Alexandra says ‘nothing will ever fully replace a Shaker-style cabinet door,’ she’s seeing flat-front doors in kitchens with natural wood detailing.
‘Unlike the frame Shaker cabinets are known for, the flat front door highlights natural grain without any impediment,’ she says.
Like the warm colors and natural finishes, natural wood grain gives a space an earthy and natural look that fits right in with traditional kitchen designs while still making room for contemporary updates.
Alexandra leads M&P Design Group, an award-winning interior design firm based in New York City.
6. Updated hardware
Audrey Scheck, interior designer and founder of Audrey Scheck Design, agrees with the group, saying she expects ‘flat panel, beadboard and inset cabinet fronts’ to crop up more in 2024. But beyond the cabinets themselves, Audrey says major updates will come in the form of hardware.
‘We also anticipate cabinet hardware to play a major role in the replacement of Shaker kitchens. As cabinetry styles continue to diversify, cabinet hardware size, placement, and style will also begin to branch away from traditional choices,’ she says.
A quick and easy update to make to any style of kitchen, replacing hardware with something more contemporary, or something more elaborate, has the potential to change the whole feel of your kitchen design without making a major investment.
With more than a half-dozen years of experience in remodels and renovations, Audrey Scheck leads Audrey Scheck Design, a full-service interior design firm based in Austin, Texas.
The consensus is clear: nothing will ever truly replace Shaker kitchens. But design updates are on their way, and a more contemporary version of the heritage kitchen style might just be the best kitchen design trend of the year so far.