With its pared-down (even austere) designs, strict functionality and impeccable workmanship, Shaker furniture is making a comeback.
Shaker? Forget about cocktails, these Shakers were a sober bunch in every sense of the word. The term refers to a puritanical religious community that was founded in the USA in the 18th century. Its members were famous for 'shaking' when in the presence of God and for their extremely strict religious beliefs. But today they're mainly known for their style of furniture, which like their lifestyle lacked all ornament, was strictly functional and impeccably made - in honour of the Creator.
the result of a religious movement
Historic American Buildings Survey, N.E. Baldwin, Photographer November 1939
Utilitarian and plain, authentic and hard-wearing, Shaker furniture is considered a precursor to minimalism, so loved by modern designers and, over the last few decades, it has been enjoying something of a comeback.
A wonderful testament to American craftsmanship and the spirit of puritanical communities, the Shaker style relies on natural materials, a restricted colour palette (red, blue, yellow and blue-green) and handmade furniture and objects with extremely pure lines.
In a Shaker home, each piece of furniture had its place and a specific purpose with no room for frills. This utilitarian approach resulted in precision-built furniture both in terms of design and manufacture.
The famous peg rail
It also resulted in ingenious yet simple storage solutions such as the famous peg rails, with hooks running along the length of the room. Long pegs mounted on rails were used to store items high up and away from dust - an original and interesting idea especially for small homes (but not exclusively!).
In a era when we are looking for a certain authenticity, the pleasing Shaker style can be a real source of inspiration. While genuine Shaker furniture is now unaffordable (except for the very rich like Oprah Winfrey, who's a big fan), you can find more affordable reproduction pieces in large retailers. If you want to recreate a little of that pioneering spirit in your own home, make sure you go for quality wooden pieces with pure and simple lines and, of course, no decoration. But don't hesitate to re-interpret the Shaker style by adding more contemporary pieces like warm rugs and coloured walls to soften the look, which can be a little austere.