Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the late 18th and early 19th century, cabinet making was mostly done by individual woodworkers who created and built their own designs. With the focus switched to industrialization and mass production, the traditional cabinet shop ceased to be the main source of commercial and domestic furniture for a time.
However, with the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain in the mid-19th century, people began to tire of the machine made products available, which spurred the market for traditional cabinet making once again.
There are several schools of popular cabinet design still in use today, such as Scandinavian, French Provincial, Rustic, Mission style, Oriental, and Shaker.
Scandinavian design is characterized by clean horizontal and vertical lines, with a distinct absence of ornamentation. It has been popularized in recent years by one large Scandinavian furniture corporation that has made its furniture easily available all over the world.
Unlike Scandinavian cabinetry, French Provincial focuses on ornamentation. Furniture in this style is often stained and painted to conceal the wood underneath. Wood used in this design varied but was usually beech.
Design for Rustic furniture is often very utilitarian and unfinished. Sometimes called log furniture or log cabin design, the cabinets often seek to feature the wood in its natural state with grain, wood characteristics, and sometimes even the bark of the tree, clearly visible. Wood used in this cabinetry is often mountainous wood such as pine, spruce, and cedar.
Popularized by the Arts and Crafts movement, Mission style furniture became popular in the early 20th century and is credited to have begun in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Mission style features strait, thick panels and vertical and horizontal lines. Hardware is often made of dark iron and is featured visibly on the outside of the cabinets. For cabinet makers, white oak is the material of choice.
Oriental design features simplicity and elegance. The color red is often used and landscape art and Asian characters are also commonly featured. With the assimilation and interest in Asian influence and culture in the West in recent years, this design has become very popular.
Shaker furniture, because its origins are in an egalitarian religious community, its design focuses on function rather than artistic expression. Shaker cabinetry is characterized by simplicity and symmetry.
In our modern world, there are countless options in both manufactured and traditional cabinet making. To those who value and desire it, the skill and attention of early master cabinet makers is still alive and available today.