How to Update Cabinets to a Shaker Style

F.R.R. Mallory

Shaker style references historically important furniture made by the Shakers. This furniture was known for its simplicity of style and design and its focus on function over form. Shaker style became associated with the Arts and Crafts movement in architecture that emphasized natural woods and organic forms.

Shaker-style kitchen cabinet doors with modern-style hardware handles.

This resulted in similar Shaker woodwork and trims being incorporated in many Arts and Crafts bungalows of the early 1900s. Creating a Shaker look on cabinets is one way to update a plain-faced cabinet into a more pleasing profile while still keeping the cabinet simple.

  1. Remove the cabinet door from the cabinet and take off all hardware and hinges from the door. The best type of door to convert is a flat-panel style cabinet door.

  2. Sand the front and side edges of the cabinet door to remove the existing finish. Measure the width of the door and cut two pieces of 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch board to this length with a table saw. Position one board horizontally across the top of the door and align the corners. Clamp the board to the door. Position the second board horizontally along the bottom edge of the cabinet door and clamp it.

  3. Measure between the top and bottom clamped boards. Cut two pieces of 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch board to this length. Position the first board aligned vertically to the left side and the second board aligned to the right. Your boards should make a frame around the face of the door. Remove your clamps and boards, and sand your edges to make your boards smooth.

  4. Apply a bead of carpenter's glue to the back side of each board and press the board back into the position you test fit earlier. Align the edges and clamp each board. Repeat for all four boards. Allow the glue to dry for 12 hours.

  5. Remove the clamps. Wood fill any cracks or holes, and scrape clean with a putty knife. Allow 30 minutes for the fill to dry, and sand the door smooth.

  6. Paint with primer using a paint designed for kitchen cabinets. Allow the primer to dry for 6 hours. Paint with kitchen cabinet paint. Allow 4 hours between coats if you need to apply more than one coat.

  7. Attach the cabinet door to the cabinet using the same hinge points. Add new hardware. This updates the cabinet face appearance. Repeat with all the doors and drawers, and paint the faces of the cabinet to match the new doors.


Consider painting your new cabinet doors white and then antiquing the door with a glaze to make the paint look worn. This look works well with older kitchens and can look very updated when combined with new appliances, a fresh countertop and updated accessories.