When you think of timeless kitchens with the perfect balance of old and new, you most likely think of a Shaker kitchen. With its paneled cabinets and clean lines, it's a style that never dates and always looks well-placed in any home.
Although they are a great choice, there are plenty of Shaker kitchen alternatives that offer traditional design combined with contemporary style. Whether you love a rustic kitchen blended with sleek finishes or prefer a modern kitchen design with a classic color palette, there are plenty of options.
Shaker kitchen alternatives
To discover the best way to create a kitchen that's timeless without feeling dated, we ask interior designers to weigh in on the best Shaker kitchen alternatives.
1. Blend a few different styles
A truly effective way to create that classic contemporary look is to blend different interior design styles. 'If a new-meets-old look is what you're seeking, I love the fusion of a French country kitchen with a modern farmhouse kitchen,' says Kathy Kuo, CEO of Kathy Kuo Home.
'French country kitchens really evoke a cozy cottage out in the countryside, whereas a modern farmhouse kitchen is all about clean lines and pops of rusticity alongside luxe modern elements. The two go hand in hand for a kitchen design because they both have homey, rustic roots. Mix and match items like ornate French country wall art and shabby chic window treatments with sleek modern appliances and hardware.'
Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry.
2. Choose contemporary cabinets with traditional hardware
There are different variations of the old/new look in the kitchen. For a more modern kitchen with smaller traditional details, consider a sleeker style of cabinetry with aged hardware to add the character.
'If you are searching for a more minimalist kitchen with clean lines, a flat front cabinet could be an excellent choice. This is when a cabinet door has no trim on the front at all and it lines up exactly with the cabinet back' says Patricia Knight, Founder & Principal Designer at Zinnia Design Studio.
'This keeps things simple yet functional and beautiful. You could also add more ornate hardware to dress it up and achieve a fun new look for your new space.' For an extra injection of traditional, opt for more rustic counters or introduce vintage decorative items.
Patricia Knight is the Founder and Principal Designer behind Zinnia Design Studio. Zinnia was founded on her firm belief that design can empower and support us to live our best lives. She is on a mission to elevate everyday family living and designs spaces that are luxurious and functional. Her clients have a deep appreciation for family, art, culture and travel, and she infuses their personalities into spaces in a refined yet approachable way.
3. Ditch traditional Shaker wall cabinets for glass fronted
Changing the style of cabinets in your kitchen can make a huge difference to the overall look of the space. Replacing existing cabinets for glass-fronted ones, or removing them entirely and adding open kitchen shelving will create that old meets new style that Shaker kitchens always have.
'Keeping clutter to a minimum is key to keeping a kitchen feeling spacious and easy to work in, a quirky and eclectic mix of old and new gives the feeling of a cozy and welcoming space. A pretty wall cupboard is a perfect choice, chippy paint and a little shabby, filled with a collection of your favorite hand-thrown mugs,' says Helen Parker, Creative Director of deVOL Kitchens.
'Shelves with a higgledy piggledy array of French porcelain bowls, books, and vintage glassware are the best way to create a feeling of a home that is more than just stylish, but a sign of a happy well-lived life,' she adds.
Helen is the Creative Director at deVOL, a leading kitchen design company that mixes classic and contemporary. Helen has been creative director at the company since 2011, passionate about the signature understated approach deVOL takes to designing kitchens.
4. Lean into the farmhouse kitchen style
For a Shaker kitchen alternative that leans more traditional with modern elements, the farmhouse style is a perfect choice. Think rustic surfaces with a sleek marble counter, or rough wooden cabinets with contemporary hardware.
'Farmhouse kitchens always work well when a combination of new and old vintage or antique pieces are used, whether you are trying to achieve a traditional or a contemporary look this is essential,' explains Helen Parker.
'Farmhouse kitchens tend to be much more authentic if the actual fabric of the room is old and filled with original features, possibly reclaimed or original flooring and typically styled windows and doors.' In this example, an exposed brick wall, open storage and wooden un-fitted cabinets create a rustic kitchen aesthetic.
5. Add a modern twist with narrow cabinets and sleek hardware
For some interior designers, Shaker kitchens are truly timeless pieces, so instead of completely moving away from the Shaker design, why not opt for a slightly different, more contemporary take on the classic?
'A Shaker kitchen is a go-to style for many reasons. It is a panel door with a flat area and a raised frame around the outer edge that has little or no ornamentation. I believe it is one of the true classic styles and can work well in most kitchen design aesthetics,' says Shelagh Conway, principal and founder of Triple Heart Design.
'We are seeing more “narrow Shaker” kitchen cabinets and the details getting as thin as 1”. I don’t believe there is a good alternative that has the same feel, and Shaker cabinets are readily available in RTA. If you are looking for as close to timeless as possible, Shaker cabinets are the way to go.' Just put a more modern twist on them.
Shaker kitchens are a timeless choice for a classic old meets new look, but there are some similar timeless styles to alternatives to try. Have fun when designing your kitchen, and lean into the styles that best suit your home and personal tastes.
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Molly joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as a content editor. Her undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which she studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to the best places to source pre-loved homeware.
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