Shaker Style Bathroom Vanities – A Traditional Yet Trendy Choice For A Contemporary Bathroom

Though they have their roots in history, Shaker style cabinets have been getting a lot of renewed attention lately, and are fast becoming one of the most popular choices for both the kitchen and the bathroom. Made with simple, striking lines, Shaker cabinets are a good fit with a more contemporary space, but have a little more style and flair than the slab cabinets that are more common in a modern style. This blend of old and new means that Shaker style bathroom vanities work well in a variety of different style bathrooms, and are worth a look no matter what your sense of style.

What is a Shaker Cabinet?

Caroline Avenue 60" Double Sink Vanity Set GD-50060-WMRO-WH-002 from Virtu USA
Caroline Avenue 60″ Double Sink Vanity Set GD-50060-WMRO-WH-002 from Virtu USA

Shaker style cabinets were originally designed by – you guessed it – the Shakers, an acetic religious group that immigrated to America in the late 1700s. The Shakers invented many different kinds of furniture that are still used today, and pioneered techniques that made furniture stronger and more durable. Like many modern environmentalists, they focused on high quality and locally sourced materials. The design of Shaker style cabinets (and Shaker furniture in general) is very simple, which reflected the group’s simple way of life. The cabinet doors feature a single smooth center panel enclosed in a perfectly squared frame, with no other embellishment besides maybe a door handle or a drawer pull.

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What’s In A Name?

Caroline Parkway 93" Double Bathroom Vanity Set MD-2193-WMRO-GR from Virtu USA
Caroline Parkway 93″ Double Bathroom Vanity Set MD-2193-WMRO-GR from Virtu USA

Shaker style cabinets are also sometimes referred to as Mission or American Craftsman style cabinets, but while there are arguably some differences between the three (when the designs were first popular, what materials were used, and so on), visually and functionally they’re identical. Local sourcing and use of specific materials or techniques was a major priority with all three types of cabinets when they were first used, but the recent widespread popularity of the style (and the ubiquity of online shopping and long-distance shipping) has very much blurred this distinction. On the plus side, that means this simple style is available widely and inexpensively, in a huge variety of materials (including various types of wood as well as MDF or other particle boards), colors, and finishes. On the flip side, for the more environmentally conscious it can be a bit more difficult to find cabinets that are built by hand or with local materials.

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Casual Simplicity

Caroline Avenue 24" Single Bathroom Vanity GS-50024-WMSQ-ES from Virtu USA
Caroline Avenue 24″ Single Bathroom Vanity GS-50024-WMSQ-ES from Virtu USA

But while the durability and artisan appeal of Shaker style cabinets are what made them famous and gave them their lasting power, it’s actually their simple style that appeals to buyers today. Homeowners are moving away from ornate traditional designs and looking for something that’s a little more relaxed and casual, but not too modern. Shaker style cabinets fit the bill perfectly, combining very simple modern lines with a more traditional feel. Plus, those stark, solid, perfectly straight lines have an assertive architectural quality that really draws the eye, visually balancing and leveling out the space without making any larger changes to the bathroom.

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A Transitional Bathroom

Caroline Parkway 36" Single Bathroom Vanity MS-2136L-WMRO-WH from Virtu USA
Caroline Parkway 36″ Single Bathroom Vanity MS-2136L-WMRO-WH from Virtu USA

Shaker cabinets are the poster children of transitional design, but because they’re available in so many sizes, shapes, and colors, they can really be used with an amazing variety of different styles. Unlike perfectly flat cabinets, which have a very modern look, or really ornate raised panel cabinet doors which have a distinctly antique feel, Shaker style cabinets sort of move between the two (hence – transitional) and can work equally well with either. In a more traditional style bathroom – say, a cottage style bathroom – the simple frame evokes those more ornate cabinets while keeping the style simple. At the same time, the strong lines add visual interest to the bathroom without making it look busy. Combined, these features give shaker style vanity cabinets a clean, finished look that’s more relaxed and contemporary without entirely giving up that slightly traditional look and feel.

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Make It Modern

Elise 48" Single Bathroom Vanity ES-32048-WMSQ-ES from Virtu USA
Elise 48″ Single Bathroom Vanity ES-32048-WMSQ-ES from Virtu USA

On the flip side, all those stark, straight lines work great in a glamorous modern bathroom, too. That small hint of tradition helps elevate a highly modern bathroom, giving it a touch of old world sophistication without deviating from the stark straight lines that define a minimalist modern decor. This style works especially well in a high-contrast black and white bathroom (which is a hugely popular choice this year), not only because the simple square frames add that sense of history, but because they can help balance out some of the wilder patterns that often accompany a black and white bathroom – whether it’s upholstery on an accent chair, a black and white rendering of an elaborate Victorian wallpaper, or even a zebra print rug. It’s the simple straight lines that help ground these opulent, glamorous modern styles, giving them that chic contemporary feel even with more traditional trappings like a clawfoot tub or chandelier.

But what do you think of these Shaker style bathroom vanities? Do you like the look? And if so, what style bathroom do you plan to pair it with? Let me know in the comments below!