Shaker design and furniture pieces have long been valued in America because of their unique approach and values. Their design was a reflection of their beliefs of simplicity, utility, and honesty. This is seen in their construction of furniture pieces, the materials, and lack of ornamentation. It was a departure from the grandness that was seen in Versailles and other architectural wonders of the time.
Before we get into how to incorporate this design movement and style into the modern home, let’s first talk about the elements of the style and a bit more about the history.
The Shakers, formally known as The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, came from England in 1744. After developing a self-sustaining settlement off the grid, their furniture really started to become well-known around 1787. They were active to about 1947 (almost a 200 year history!), and there is still one active community in Maine.
The materials and construction they used were part of their religious values for simplicity, utility, and honesty. Their furniture is very simplified compared to furniture seen in Versailles or palaces with gilded gold and intricate ornamentation carved on the wood. They were known for many unique construction elements such as the tilted legs which gives their pieces the ability to save room in a tight space while also being sturdy enough to support the weight of a person. They used locally sourced woods such as pine, maple, and cherry rather than using imported woods that were considered more “prized” to keep in line with the values of humility. This is a great style to draw inspiration from if you like the wood on wood look (furnishings and flooring that both use wood). Humility is also featured by having hardware with simple wooden knobs, such as those seen on many of their dressers, and not using materials that were gilded or brass. They also do not add decorative elements that were popular at the time such as inlays and other carvings.
So how can you add these elements into your home? The easiest is to find pieces that have Shaker elements in them. Here are a few choices. The simple doors named after them, with a simple recessed center panel creating a humble depth, are often seen in kitchen cabinetry. You can also see the style in use with wooden pegs (perfect in an entryway) and chairs designs.
The ladder chair is often seen in modern adaptations whether they are bar stools, or have taller backs than the original chair. These chairs were also designed with the peg system so that they could be turned upside down and hung from the pegs so it would be easy to clean under them; highly functional and simply beautiful. Some modern versions will have an inverted back, which differ to the original versions, which can help make the chair more elegant and slightly flashier. Tables will often be seen with a simple tripod of legs to keep the top of the table sturdy yet light and movable.
Modern touches with Shaker-influenced design usually include differing materials to the originals. These are extensions of the beliefs of that design and life can be both usable and honest (no added embellishments). Modern designs are simply adapting and incorporating the design style in what they believe modern furniture should be. Many design styles take inspiration from the Shakers such as Japanese minimalism.
The main way to use this design style is to always remember the values of the Shakers. These three pillars should influence the pieces of furniture you use, materials, and color palette. However, for a more modern design you can bend the rules a little bit, and just add certain elements that fit the style.
Whether your house is becoming a monument to Shaker design and style, or you just want them as your kitchen cabinets, do consider this style for a look that is traditional, usable, durable, and beautiful. It is a style that can be adapted and used with many other types of designs. When you’re ready to shake up your home with your next design project, be sure to give Floor Coverings International of Concord a call for a free in-home estimate!