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BWC Basics: Shaker Vs Flat Panel Cabinets

gray shaker cabinets up closeIn the kitchen design world, there are a few big players—all-white cabinetry and countertops and subway tile backsplashes, for example—but perhaps none are as big as shaker style and flat panel cabinets. This makes perfect sense, as kitchen cabinets are such an important part of the overall kitchen design, and they’re one of the most prominent features in the kitchen space. 

With that said, it’s hard to know which cabinet door style is better or how they stack up against one another. This blog will explain the history, definitions, and pros and cons of shaker vs. flat panel cabinets

What Are Shaker Style Cabinets?

Shaker-style cabinets are one of the most enduring cabinet styles around. These cabinets have been around since the United States was just starting, when the Shakers, a religious group from the Quakers, made their own furniture to get closer to God. Shakers believed that making quality furniture was an act of prayer, so their furniture—including cabinets—was known for being durable and well-made. 

While the religious connection of shaker-style cabinets has long faded, some things remain the same. Shaker cabinets are high-quality, no-frills constructions that add simple elegance to any space. Shaker cabinets are made from a stile-and-rail construction and have five parts: two stiles and two rails, which make up the frame, and a recessed center panel. These are typically constructed using tongue-and-groove and cope-and-stick methods, which means that the cabinet is held together by fitting the wood pieces together rather than using nails or screws. 

We’ll get into all of the benefits of shaker cabinets shortly, but one of the most noteworthy benefits of the shaker cabinet is that it fits into nearly all kitchen design styles. The simplicity of the design means that they can work as a centerpiece or a backdrop, and they’ll look great either way.

What Are Flat Panel Cabinets?

If you look up “what are flat panel cabinets,” you’ll see a wealth of contradictory information. 

Some believe that flat panel is a synonym for shaker, but this simply isn’t true. Shaker cabinets are not flat—their center panel is recessed, which leads to a groove along their frame. On the other hand, flat panel cabinets are truly flat. Also known as slab cabinet doors, flat panel doors are exactly what they sound like: a single piece of wood or acrylic with a flat front that makes up a cabinet door. 

These cabinets were popularized after World War II along with the trend of mid-century modern design, which might explain why they’ve made a comeback. This cabinet style has risen in popularity in the past few years because it complements the sleek minimalist design of many modern kitchens. Similarly to the shaker cabinet, slab doors resist ornamentation or opulence and rely on the color and material of the cabinet to stand out or fade into the background of any kitchen.

Pros and Cons of Shaker Vs. Flat Panel Cabinets

If you’re embarking upon a kitchen remodel and can’t decide which cabinet style to implement into your home, we’ve got you covered. Below is a list of the pros and cons of each cabinet style. 

Shaker Style Cabinet Doors

Pros

Timeless Design

Shaker cabinets have been around for hundreds of years, and it’s likely that they’ll be around for hundreds more. These cabinets have not fallen out of popularity since their debut outside of Shaker communities in the 19th century. 

Inexpensive

Don’t think that inexpensive means cheaply made—the popularity of this style and the simplicity of its design means that these cabinets can be mass-produced without losing quality, especially when they’re made ready-to-assemble (RTA)

Versatility

The shaker style fits into nearly every kitchen design theme. Shaker cabinets will look amazing in modern, farmhouse, and traditional style kitchens and just need a quick coat of paint or unique hardware to look absolutely perfect. 

Widely Available

Because of their popularity, shaker cabinets are widely available in several colors and materials. While white hardwood cabinets are the most popular, the options are endless. 

Cons

Dirt Collection

The lip between the stiles, rails, and recessed center panel on a shaker cabinet can potentially collect dirt in a busy kitchen. The good news is that this lip tends to be at a 90-degree angle, so it’s easy to wipe anything away, unlike in raised panel cabinet doors, which tend to have more curves and are more difficult to clean.

Not Perfect for Every Kitchen

The simplicity of the shaker design is great for a number of different kitchen styles, but it may not work with extremely ornamented or embellished kitchens. 

wooden flat panel cabinetsFlat Panel Cabinet Doors

Pros

Easy to Clean

These cabinets simply require a wipe-down to clean them; no squeezing into crevices is necessary. 

Cheap

Many of these cabinets come in medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or plywood, as it’s difficult to find solid wood in slabs as large as the cabinet doors. Luckily, these materials are durable and much cheaper than hardwood. 

Perfect Canvas

If you’re a fan of intricate or bold handles, the flat panel cabinet is perfect for you. The extremely minimalist design will allow your hardware to really pop.

Cons

Fewer Materials Available

As we mentioned before, it’s harder to find flat panel cabinet doors in solid wood because of how large the slab of wood would need to be. If you’re looking for solid wood flat panel cabinets, expect to pay a pretty penny. 

Dirt Collector

While it’s easy to clean flat panel cabinets, it’s just as easy to get them messy. Flat panel cabinets are notorious for displaying fingerprints and cooking splatter. 

Trendy

You may be thinking that trendiness should be a pro, and you would be right—for a few years. Later down the line, flat panel cabinets might lose popularity just as quickly as they gained it. This might not be an issue if you love the style, but it’s something to consider if you plan to resell your home.

Warping

The cheaper materials of flat panel cabinets have been known to warp on occasion, but this isn’t as much of an issue with higher-quality materials.

Prominent Hardware

If you’re not the type of person who likes ornate hardware, you’ll need to be extra sure that your handles and knobs blend into your flat panel cabinets, as they tend to let the hardware do the talking. 

Stark and Repetitive

Some homeowners think that the plain design of flat panel cabinets can lead to a stark wall along the back of your kitchen or that the lack of ornamentation makes them repetitive.

modern kitchen with white shaker cabinets

Shaker Cabinets at Buy Wholesale Cabinets

If you’ve read this far and decided that shaker cabinets are right for you, you’re in luck! Buy Wholesale Cabinets sells ready-to-assemble (RTA) and pre-assembled shaker white, gray, and espresso cabinets at wholesale prices for everyone. We pride ourselves on amazing customer service and first-rate shipping and pricing. Check out our catalog to see what we offer and feel free to contact us for a free quote on your new shaker cabinets!


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