A Shaker kitchen is the ultimate timeless style. Offering a classic look that balances form and function, Shaker kitchens are widely embraced across many interior styles for their simplicity and versatility.
But, despite their timeless appeal, that's not to say Shaker kitchens don't need a refresh every so often to give them a new lease of life. While Shaker kitchens are iconic for their classic style, there are ways of updating their look to either lean into a more rustic or contemporary finish.
'Shaker cabinets are a classic style that works across the board and stands the test of time, but they have become so ubiquitous that they can sometimes fail to inspire,' says NYC-based designer Tyson Ness, founder of Studio Ness. 'However, there are a few ways to update your Shaker-style kitchen in 2024.'
5 ways to update a Shaker kitchen
So, if you have a Shaker kitchen and are looking for some simple yet effective ways to refresh its look, keep reading. We spoke to interior designers and have rounded up five ideas that will no doubt elevate your Shaker kitchen, while crucially, still maintaining its classic look.
'It's very possible to update a Shaker kitchen while preserving its classic style,' says Ellen Holt, lead designer at Charleston-based MDI Luxury Design.
1. Update the hardware
One of the simplest ways of updating the overall look of Shaker kitchen cabinets is by changing the hardware. 'For a quick update, swap out the existing hardware,' suggests Ellen Holt. 'These small details can make a big impact and enhance the overall design.'
While the classic look of a Shaker kitchen can often attract traditional style hardware, switching to something more contemporary can reinvent the look of your kitchen and help achieve a more modern finish.
'Gone are the days of using either standard pulls or knobs for kitchen cabinets and drawers,' says designer Luis Carmona. 'With a variety of options rising in popularity, kitchen cabinets can get a refreshed look without too much of a heavy lift. From the use of tabs, cup, and drop pulls, made of leather, wood, cast iron, acrylic, and ceramic, the options are practically endless.'
If you're looking to carry out this quick and cost-effective idea, shop the below handles to add an element of design interest to your Shaker kitchen.
2. Paint Shaker cabinets in a bold hue
Updating the kitchen cabinet color in your Shaker kitchen is bound to be the most impactful change you can make. By embracing a new color, you can totally transform the feel of the space, depending on the look you want to create.
Designers say that dark green kitchens are quickly becoming one of the most popular colors for the kitchen, likely to replace previously loved navy blue. Cameron Shepherd and Jill Norman, Co-Founders and Principal Designers at Studio Mesa also notice this shift, suggesting more unexpected hues in place of a traditional color palette: 'If you're willing to change it up with paint, we say go all in with a bold color to make it feel fresh. In lieu of more conventional choices – gray, and navy blue – we love colors with a bit more personality. A couple of current favorites are mustard yellows and dark plums.'
Or, if you're more drawn to pared-back interiors, neutral shades can work just as well, and earthy neutrals in particular are expected to be 2024's biggest kitchen cabinet color trend. 'A light and airy color palette with light neutrals and whites will create a clean and timeless look true to the Shaker kitchen,' says Ellen Holt.
Decorating with neutrals also tends to be more timeless, so you may be less likely to tire of these hues in future years: 'There are certain colors that can date a lot quicker because of their unique or bold shade,' observes Luis Carmona. 'A neutral palette tends to be a bit more evergreen when it comes to paint trends. Although a bit safer, using a color like taupe or muted greens or blues can help modernize your current kitchen cabinets without having to use a trendy paint color that you'll want to change in a year.'
Luis Carmona is the owner and lead designer at VERDE Interior Design. With almost two decades of experience in the creative space (interior design, advertising, and marketing), Carmona gets to blend his many passions into one design studio, offering services to commercial and residential clients in both Houston and Dallas.
3. Opt for thinner panels for a modern look
If you're looking to replace the cabinets in your Shaker kitchen, opting for a thinner frame can help achieve a more contemporary look, as Tyson Ness explains: 'For a more contemporary take on the classic Shaker, consider looking at styles with a thinner frame. Classic Shaker cabinets have a frame size of about two to three inches, depending on the door size, but taking this down to the narrower style will make these cabinets look more contemporary.'
Or, if you're looking to achieve a new look without replacing the cabinet doors, you can opt instead to add trim detailing for an added point of interest. Designer Laura Williams of ATX Interior Design explains: 'Shaker cabinets are timeless. They will never go out of style, however, adding additional trim details to the inset panel could be a gorgeous way to give the classic look a more current feel.'
Tyson Ness is the founder and director of Studio Ness, a NYC-based full-service interior design studio. Studio Ness is known for its collaborative approach to residential and select commercial and workspace projects across the US and abroad, crafting spaces that are unique to the client. Tyson has over a decade of experience in the NYC design sector and has worked on a number of projects that have been featured in publications both in print and online.
4. Create a contemporary look with sleek fixtures
There are also ways to create a fresh feel in your Shaker kitchen, without actually changing the cabinets. Making changes instead to the surrounding space can give the room a new feel and achieve an elevated look.
'Sometimes updating the look of the kitchen cabinets can be achieved by updating everything, but the kitchen cabinets,' says Luis Carmona. 'Changing how the light reflects in the space, how the current cabinets are complemented by a new, textured kitchen backsplash, or how a different countertop slab brings out certain tones in the cabinet paint can truly change the way you look at your current kitchen cabinets. Sometimes looking at elements that are complementing or even competing with what you want to change can help you see it in a different light.'
For a modern look that lasts the test of time, Ellen Holt advises opting for marble or granite kitchen countertops: 'Swap out the countertops for marble or granite. This will not only enhance the design but improve the overall longevity of your kitchen.'
5. Add natural materials for a rustic look
Updating your Shaker kitchen doesn't just have to be about creating a more modern look. There are also ideas to achieve a rustic look, which would work well in a farmhouse kitchen. Shaker cabinets are timeless and sleek but they can also look almost show-kitchen-like if the space is kept very simple and minimalist. By incorporating plenty of natural elements and layered decor, you can achieve a look that feels instantly welcoming, as designers suggest below:
'I would also suggest adding in some open shelving by replacing some upper cabinet doors with natural wood shelving,' advises Ellen Holt. This kitchen shelving idea is a great option if you're looking to achieve a "lived-in" look, allowing you to display your favorite cookbooks or tableware.
You could also create a new look by complementing understated Shaker cabinets with natural brass details, as interior designer Bethany Adams suggests: 'Update a classic Shaker kitchen with glamorous details like unlacquered brass shelving or a plaster hood. Far from being incongruous with Shaker-style simplicity, natural materials like these only serve to emphasize the focus on the luxury of restraint.'
Bethany Adams has over 15 years of experience designing and project-managing high-end residential projects all over the US. She started her design firm in Louisville in 2015 and before worked for several designers and architects over the course of a ten-year career in Chicago.
How you choose to update your Shaker kitchen depends on the look you want to achieve. Whether that's rustic or modern, these ideas will give your classic kitchen a new lease of life, proving that a Shaker kitchen will always be a timeless choice.
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Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.
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