Are Shaker Cabinet Doors Outdated? | Dendra Doors

There are a LOT of different shaker style doors you could use for your IKEA kitchen remodel, but is it possible that they are too dated? Some IKEA Kitchen Designers and Installers will insist that they are a trusted standard for a reason. We’ll take a look a closer look at the history of Shaker cabinet doors, modern shaker door finishes, and contemplate what kinds of cabinet door profiles are actually outdated.

the Shakers – 100+ Years of Ingenuity

The origins of Shaker doors is quite fascinating. It wasn’t simply a shop or shop owner that came up with a design that became popular, it was born of a community devoted to practical utility of literally everything they did.

Originally a small group of British Quakers, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing was founded in 1747 in Manchester England and made their way to Niskeyuna, New York by 1776. By 1826 a total of 18 Shaker villages had sprung up in 8 states in the New World.

For well over a hundred years Shaker communities were known for well run farms, prosperous communities, fair dealings with folks outside of their communities, and ingenuity. Folks from Shaker communities invented the clothespin, the screw propeller, rotary harrow, an automatic spring, a turbine waterwheel, a threshing machine, the circular saw…

The Shaker communities certainly encouraged innovation. Unfortunately, their insistence on celibacy is the reason that their communities did not grow. In the 1840’s their numbers were around 6,000. By 1905 there were 1,000 and by the 2000’s there are merely dozens.

Kitchen interior view

the Shaker Door – A Perfect Canvas?

Shaker doors came about during a time when art and examples of elegance were starting to travel as quickly as the written word. Meaning, in the face of design trends that have come and gone, the Shaker door was seen as rather plain yet practical.

We identify a traditional shaker door by a simple mitered square frame and flat recessed panel. Though, that’s just the canvas. Every beautiful or disappointing work of art starts off as a simple, unremarkable piece of neutral medium. It’s what you choose to do with canvas that sets a tone and makes a statement if you so choose.

to Shake or Not to Shake

When we look at certain kitchen cabinet fronts and feel compelled to look away, it’s most often the finish that is the problem. From midcentury kitchen designs there are specific real wood and wood veneer finishes that scream “I’m trapped in the 1970’s” and “please reface my cabinets!”

Moreover, when watching television and movies that are set in the 70’s & 80’s what you’ll see stand out are the kitchens with raised panels and arched top or cathedral style doors. Those cabinet doors with a combination of a poor veneer, cathedral framed, and raised panel, can result in a rather tragic kitchen design.

Those are woodworking design elements that the Shaking Quakers would have nothing to do with. While there are applications where raised panels and cathedral frames can work, if you’re looking for a more modern look it’s recommend that you use those sparingly.

So, often those more dated kitchen cabinets aren’t actually shaker style doors, and when they are they have a very outdated finish. Even so, you can achieve a traditional yet timeless look on a Shaker door with the right modern veneer or woodgrain laminate.

Modern Shaker Style Cabinets

The simplicity of the design of Shaker doors and panels has an undeniable elegance that can work with just about any modern look you’re trying to achieve. While the Shakers themselves tend to exclusively use white or a very light painted finish, our modern home designs aren’t limited to the Shaker’s origins.

These days your options for custom IKEA cabinet door finishes are nearly endless. The SmartMatte & SuperMatte laminates are sleek, modern options that will actually stand the test of time. The sophistication of the materials used for new cabinet door finishes is rather impressive.

The woodgrain texture laminates are themselves rather amazing. Where an actual wood door might dent the durability of the thermofoil laminate is more durable while providing you with a more traditional look.

Traditional Shaker Finishes for IKEA Kitchens

While we tend to have more woodgrain laminate finishes for our custom doors for IKEA cabinets, we do have a beautiful selection of wood veneer finishes. None of these stand out in that dull way those dated, technicolor age cabinets do. 

Our selection of veneer finishes for custom Shaker doors is designer curated. We of course keep on hand a few of the more traditional veneer finishes, though most of our selection is based on what the Interior Designers and General Contractors install in custom IKEA Kitchens across North America.

Shaker Design Principles and Modern Engineering

While the Shaker community of course made all wood doors, this is far less common for cabinetmaking these days. There is a very real risk of real wood cabinets warping due to: species, where the wood is sourced vs the climate where it is installed, how it is treated, and the fact that the cabinets are installed in kitchens and bathrooms where there is high humidity.

Compared to 50 years ago Medium and High Density Fibreboard are far better products than what some people believe. They are durable, lightweight, and cost effective alternatives to all wood products. At the heart of the ingenuity and design standards of the Shaker community is utility and practicality. It is hard to imagine that they would be opposed to the use of MDF and HDF products now.

Written by Todd Zimmerman

Producer of the John Webbccast

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