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Sevenoaks A21 / M25 junction 4
Sevenoaks A21 / M25 J4

Shaker and flat doors

Understanding design terms will help you get the most out of the design process and achieve the kitchen of your dreams.

In this article we look at the difference between shaker and flat door styles, and discuss which might provide the perfect look for your kitchen.

Definitions in brief

Definition of shaker kitchen doors

Cabinet doors and drawer fronts which have a recessed central panel.

Shaker kitchen cabinet door

Definition of flat kitchen doors

AKA Manhatten, flat panel or slab

Very simple, flat doors and drawer fronts with little or no adornments.

Flat kitchen cabinet door


Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail…

Shaker style

History of the shaker style

This style of door originates from the simple, utilitarian designs of the Shaker community. The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers due to their frenetic worship behaviour, are a religious sect which was established in the UK in 18th century.

Believing in self-sufficiency, the Shaker communities crafted their own furniture, evolving a style which reflected the simplicity of their lifestyle. As well as the recessed door style we see in kitchens, they are also synonymous with iconic designs such as ladder back chairs and peg rails.

While functionality was the primary focus of Shaker designs, they didn’t ignore the visual appeal, for example by arranging drawers asymmetrically and painting furniture, typically in blues, reds, yellows or greens.

Modern shaker style kitchens

Today shaker style kitchens are a perfect choice for a traditional or more contemporary kitchen.

The doors are constructed from a four piece frame. Our natural wood doors are available in oak, character oak (lots of knots!), pippy oak (a wavy grain with clusters of small knots), ash and walnut. If you’re opting for a painted finish then our ash or oak doors will allow you to still see the grain of the wood, whereas tulip wood or moisture resistant MDF/HDF can be used to give you a completely smooth effect.

The recessed panel is made with veneered wood in order to achieve a sufficiently thin panel which won’t move as the door is used, without diminishing the strong appearance of the wood. However other materials such as glass (clear, frosted or mirrored) can also be inserted. Drawer fronts are constructed in the same way.

The finished door can either be left showing the natural wood or painted in a range of colours. While the original shaker doors would have been completed with wooden handles or drawer pulls, you can be much more creative in your choices!

Micro shaker

Our standard shaker doors are constructed with a 95mm thick frame. If you’re looking for a modern design, but still fancy the shaker look, then why not go for our micro shaker doors, with a thin 25mm frame around the recess – all the principles of shaker design but with a subtly modern twist.

Micro shaker kitchen cabinet doors

Raised and fielded style

Based upon the shaker style, raised and fielded doors are also constructed from a four piece frame and a central wooden panel, giving them the alternative name of ‘five piece’ doors.

However, unlike standard shaker doors, the central panel is raised up with sloping edges. This style was favoured in the Georgian and Victorian eras and remains a popular choice for homeowners who want to stay true to their home’s heritage.

The ‘raised’ part of the name refers to the raised central panel. The term ‘fielded’ relates to the construction of the door with the four pieces of the frame joining together to hold the central panel in place (think a hedge around a field).

In constructing the doors we offer the same range of materials and finishes as we do for our shaker doors, with one key difference that the raised central panel will be made from solid wood rather than veneer. Glass is also an option for the panel, and this will be bevelled to match the style of the wooden finishes.

Flat style

Also known as flat panel, slab or Manhatten doors, this style is often combined with a high gloss finish to create an ‘ultra-modern’ appearance, however this simple design of door is probably the oldest in history.

Flat doors are exactly that, a flat panel. Generally they are only used as lay-on doors to create a sleek, minimalist look.

While this might at first seem a rather boring solution, it’s nothing but! Flat doors give you the ultimate blank canvas to adapt to your own style.

You may opt for a high gloss, handless finish to create a smooth, cutting edge appearance – constructing the door from solid acrylic or Parapan.

Or you could use natural timber with beautifully crafted handles for a more traditional look.

When the door is to be painted we’ll often use veneered ash or moisture resistant MDF/HDF to create a smooth-as-silk finish. For something a little different you can explore our selection of exotic veneers and gloss finishes.

Take a look at the flat style cabinets we designed for the Furze family’s Bexley kitchen.

Other panel styles

Beyond these three main styles, there are many other variations which can be applied to give your kitchen the perfect look.

Taking the recessed door design, which is synonymous with the shaker style, we can add ornamentation such as beading and lattice work (which can be mirror or glass backed) – adornments which the Shakers would not approve of, but which suits many of our clients!

Tongue and groove panelling is another popular option, particularly for rural homes who want a ‘cottagey’ feel.

And, of course, we have hundreds door handle options (including no-handle) to perfectly accentuate the look you desire.

Alternative style of kitchen doors in natural wood

Vince Hone

Since founding Great British Kitchens & Interiors back in 1984, Vince has worked tirelessly to create exquisite spaces for hundreds of clients to cook, entertain, work and relax in.