Mastering Shaker Cabinet Layout in Your Kitchen: A Comprehensive Guide

Modern kitchen with grey RTA shaker cabinets

Shaker-style kitchen cabinets can be a timeless, functional and versatile addition to your home. They work beautifully with a wide range of design styles and can completely transform your space.

This style of cabinetry is very popular in the United States because of its utility and classic aesthetics. The simple design gives these types of cabinets a sleek and modern look despite their 18th-century origins. Plus, the cabinets are known for their exceptional durability and high-quality construction. As with any kind of cabinet, you'll need the right layout to make the most of Shaker cabinets.

Learn more about why and how to add Shaker cabinets to your kitchen.

The Fundamentals of Shaker Cabinet Layouts

Shaker cabinets have a few defining characteristics that make them easy to recognize. Each door features a flat, recessed center and square corners. The sect that gave its name to Shaker cabinets believed in simplistic and highly useful design, so this cabinet style is well known for having clean, straight lines and hardly any accents. You typically will not find much ornamentation or decoration on these doors.

Shaker cabinets are all about functionality and easy use. Even their hardware tends to be simple and minimalist. Also, they often have inset doors, creating a flush surface without doors or drawer fronts sticking out.

Key Considerations for Your Kitchen Cabinet Layout

If Shaker cabinet styles speak to you and would fit nicely into your home's overall interior style, you may be ready to consider how the cabinets would work in your unique space. To start planning your kitchen cabinet layout, consider the following factors:

  • Organization: You can incorporate various organizational options into your Shaker cabinet design. Think of how you'll utilize your kitchen space. You may need pullout shelves, drawer dividers and other built-in storage solutions to accommodate items like spices or larger utensils. Consider how much space you'll need for optimal organization and storage.
  • Appliance placement: Now, look around at your major appliances, including your refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. Their locations throughout your kitchen will impact your overall cabinet design. You'll want to create the most functional and convenient space possible, so keep these larger appliances in mind.
  • Traffic flow: Another consideration for your Shaker cabinet organization is its ease of use. Ensure your cabinets are easy to access and contribute to better flow throughout your kitchen to optimize efficiency and streamline your daily cooking activities.
  • Materials and hardware: By investing in high-quality cabinet materials and durable hardware, you can increase your home's overall value and maximize the life of your cabinets.
  • Inset or overlay: Most popular Shaker-style cabinets feature inset doors that create a clean and flush appearance when closed, but you can also choose overlay design options. Overlay doors cover part or all of the frame and create a slightly different aesthetic result.
  • Ready-to-assemble (RTA): Another key consideration when determining your kitchen cabinet layout is the installation process. Choosing ready-to-assemble options can make the installation process particularly easy.
RTA cabinet options make installation easy

Understanding Space and Functionality

Balancing functionality with your available kitchen space is key to creating an efficient and appealing design. The size of your kitchen will dictate much of your cabinet layout and design choices. Begin by measuring the entire space to get an accurate idea of what design will be feasible and how you'll provide the best flow. Once you assess the kitchen size, you can start to formulate where you'll place the Shaker cabinets and what types of storage solutions make sense for your home.

Storage Solutions

Your Shaker cabinet storage solutions will depend on your available space. Larger kitchen areas will have more flexibility for determining the perfect placement and creating expansive storage solutions, such as installing an island in the middle of the room. Islands allow for additional storage and working space, as they combine cabinets, drawers and open shelving to enhance and optimize your kitchen's functionality.

If your kitchen is particularly small, you will likely want to incorporate clever storage elements that help you make the most of every inch of space. Built-in features, like pullout drawers, pantry cabinets and corner solutions, can help you make the most of your compact kitchen.

Regardless of a kitchen's size, you can enhance and make the most out of your Shaker cabinet layout with the following storage elements:

  • Dividers: You can utilize dividers in drawers or in cabinet spaces to maximize the available space and increase the organization of things like pots, pans and cutlery.
  • Inserts: Inserts, such as a lazy Susan, rollout tray or pullout shelf, can help you improve accessibility to your food and cooking items while getting more use out of every square inch of your storage space.
  • Organizers: Keeping your cabinets tidy and maximizing storage is often easier with organizational features like spice racks and utensil trays.

Shaker Cabinet Color Choices

Shaker-style interior design is typically very sleek, simplistic and clean. Ultimately, the color and finish you select for your kitchen will have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of the space. You can choose virtually any color for your cabinetry, but we suggest keeping it basic.

Some of the top color options for a Shaker-style kitchen include:

Comparing white, grey and espresso shaker cabinets

  • White: White is one of the most popular color choices for Shaker-style cabinetry because of its timelessness. You can create a bright, clean-looking space that you'll be eager to spend time in. This color can also make a small kitchen appear much bigger.
  • Grey: If you're looking for a low-maintenance color option that is super easy to clean and looks modern, grey Shaker cabinets may be the right pick for you. Grey also helps hide fingerprints, dirt and dust, so your space is always looking fresh.
  • Espresso: Darker cabinet colors can create a moody and chic appearance in your kitchen. Choosing a color like espresso brown instead of black can add a little more warmth and depth.

The cabinet colors you choose will have a massive impact on your kitchen. To decide on the exact color for your unique space and establish a cohesive look, be sure to coordinate with the other features throughout your kitchen, including:

  • Countertops: The countertops you choose for your kitchen can contrast or complement your cabinetry colors. Choosing a material and style that ties in a hue from your Shaker cabinets can create visual harmony and elevate your space.
  • Backsplashes: Your backsplash can add a pop of color or texture to your kitchen. Consider if you'd like to keep a simple design scheme with solid colors or if you'd like to use this space to incorporate an eye-catching pattern.
  • Floors: Consider your floors, their color and undertones. Because your cabinets and floors often have the most surface area in the kitchen, it is important that they pair nicely and complement one another. 

Designing With Shaker Cabinets

With a better understanding of layout, functionality and color considerations, you can start diving into the nitty-gritty of Shaker cabinet kitchen designs. While these types of cabinets offer a sleek, simple look, a few small tweaks can help you create the perfect space for your style preferences. Below are three factors to consider.

1. Your Kitchen Style

One of the best tips for Shaker cabinet design is to decide on an interior style and make decisions specifically to achieve that look.

When considering your kitchen design with Shaker cabinets, you can generally choose from one of three main styles:

  • Modern: Shaker cabinets are inherently modern. They embody simplicity, minimalism and clean lines, making them the perfect addition to a contemporary kitchen space. To make this area look and feel more modern, stick with minimal hardware, a neutral finish and contrasting countertop or backsplash colors.
  • Traditional: If you're looking to stick with a traditional design style, consider using slightly more ornate hardware, such as antique knobs or cup pulls. Crown molding around the cabinets can help channel that classic American feel. Darker cabinet colors can also contribute to a traditional kitchen style.
  • Transitional: Transitional styles marry components of both modern and traditional design. For this type of space, you may want to incorporate different colors for high and low cabinetry to add visual appeal without compromising the sleek appearance. You may also stick with neutrals and minimalist designs while working in interesting knobs or drawer handles to add a more traditional spin.

2. Frame vs. Frameless Cabinets

Another detail to consider when choosing Shaker cabinets is whether you want frame or frameless options. In short, framed cabinets are more traditional and feature a face frame that gives the door more dimension.

Frameless cabinets deliver a more modern feel and are becoming increasingly common. These options do not have a face frame, so their doors and drawers attach to the edges and side walls of the box, creating a beautiful flattened effect.

3. Overlay vs. Inset Cabinets

As you explore different kitchen design and installation considerations, you'll also encounter overlay and inset cabinets. Overlay refers to doors and drawers that are set atop the frame when closed. Inset cabinets and drawers align with the rest of the structure and tuck into their face frames with minimal gapping. The style that is right for your kitchen will depend on your specific visual and functional preferences.

Shaker Cabinet Lighting Techniques

While you look at Shaker cabinet design inspiration for your space, you may notice the impact that lighting can have on a kitchen's entire atmosphere. You can use strategic lighting trends to accentuate the beautiful craftsmanship of your cabinetry while also creating a well-lit workspace for whipping up a delicious meal.

Explore the key types of lighting to incorporate into your kitchen to take your cabinets below.

Task Lighting

You can incorporate task lighting under your cabinets to illuminate work areas, including your countertops and stovetop. Task lights can go directly under your upper cabinets to provide lighting for food preparation and cooking. They can also create depth in your kitchen.

A key benefit of task lighting is the safer space it creates. You can work with greater precision, which is important for cutting with sharp knives and taking exact ingredient measurements.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting can create a cozy and warm effect in your kitchen while providing overall illumination. These lights are essential for brightening your entire space. They make it feel welcoming and contribute to the mood of this room.

You can use recessed lights, pendants or chandeliers for ambient lighting. Be sure to choose options that make sense with the rest of your design style. Incorporating lights with dimmers will give you even more control over how your kitchen looks and feels.

Accent Lighting

If you want to take your space to the next level, accent lighting can add visual interest and help you highlight specific features you want to bring attention to, such as decorative items, focal points or special architectural details.

The point of accent lighting is to create dimension and depth in the space. You can use it strategically to draw attention to your favorite features and create a more sophisticated kitchen.

Whether you're looking to achieve the look of a traditional or modern kitchen with Shaker cabinets, accent lighting can help you accentuate the right features.

Common Layout Mistakes to Avoid

Before kickstarting your Shaker cabinet design project, familiarize yourself with these common layout errors and how to rectify them.


A common layout mistake with Shaker cabinets is overcrowding. As you create your design plan, consider the location of your major appliances and how much space you'll need to use them comfortably. Be sure you can fully open all cabinets, drawers and appliances without crashing into other features.

Consulting with a professional designer is the best way to ensure you have adequate space to work freely throughout your kitchen. Organizers can also help by keeping your space tidy and helping you make the most of every available inch.

Inadequate Clearance

Another common mistake people make is not accounting for the amount of clearance needed around cabinets and drawers. Carefully and meticulously measure the space around your doors and drawers so you can open them without obstruction. If you have a particularly small kitchen where finding enough clearance is an issue, consider installing fewer cabinets and capitalizing on inserts to maximize the use of your space.

Utilize cabinet inserts to maximize your space

Improper Spacing

Improper spacing is another issue you may encounter with your Shaker cabinet design plan. Whether your kitchen's existing setup is awkward or your appliance hookups are in inconvenient spots, you may not be able to utilize all of your available square footage. Improper spacing also makes your kitchen look out of balance and less appealing.

The best way to solve this problem is to work with an expert. You may need to overhaul your existing cabinets with pieces specifically suited to your unique space.

Find Quality Shaker Cabinets From PKB Cabinetry

Quality RTA shaker kitchen cabinetry from PKB Cabinetry

If you're looking for high-quality, ready-to-assemble Shaker cabinets to transform and enhance your space, turn to PKB Cabinetry. We can help you achieve an incredibly functional, aesthetically pleasing cabinet system that lasts. You'll find a variety of gorgeous finishes and customized layouts to choose from. Whether you're looking to create a modern, nature-inspired or traditional style, we have the cabinet options you need to achieve your dream vision.

Are you ready to get started? Find a PKB Cabinetry dealer near you today.