The Shaker Design: Simple But Elegant Furniture

by Staff Editor on April 28, 2013

Elegant Townhome

The Shaker design has this timeless simplicity about it but is also elegant at the same time. Although many other furniture styles come and go, but the functional practicality of the Shaker style is here to stay.

In modern times many people are concerned with not just how furniture and furnishings look, but also how they perform.  The majority of people like their homes to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.  This is one of the reasons why the Shaker style remains so popular.  Creating and replicating this Shaker design is easy if you do your homework first.

What is the Shaker Style?

The Shakers were a religious sect (United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) founded back in the 1700’s in America. Shakers believed in living a simple life.  They were self-sufficient in many ways and crafted their own handmade furniture.  This was based on quality designs that were renowned for their simple functionality and innovative style.

Authentic Shaker furniture is highly collectible and many pieces grace art and historical museums and private collections across the world.  You can also buy new furniture based on the classic Shaker style from a number of modern manufacturers.

Shaker Furniture Design

The Shakers were an abstemious sect who believed that every object in the home should be made for function. Decoration was not seen as necessary for a good, simple life.  They felt that if a piece of furniture was well-made and functional then it would have its own beauty and stand as a testament to God.  This meant that all their handmade furniture, although simple, was made to a highly functional design with painstaking quality built into every single piece.

It is the quality and flowing functionality of this Shaker design that has stood the test of time and makes this style popular in modern homes.

Get the Look

There are five basic principles for creating a Shaker style in your home.

1. Open Plan Rooms

Open plan rooms provide space and create feelings of unity in the home.  They also encourage a less cluttered, more communal way of living that was integral to the Shaker way of life.  If you want the real Shaker look then open plan living is a key design consideration.

2. Uncluttered, Simple Spaces

To achieve the Shaker style you need to focus on creating simple and functional spaces.  You will need lots of storage so that you can help to avoid any clutter.  Keep modern gadgets to a minimum or hide them away when not in use.  Shaker rooms traditionally contained a number of wall cupboards and also wall-mounted pegs to keep items carefully tidied and out of the way.

3. Restricted color palette of blue, green, yellow and red

The Shaker color palette would have been created using natural dyes.  When you are choosing modern paints to recreate this palette look for more natural colors.  For example the original Shaker red would have been created from plant dye.  This means it would have been a lot softer and perhaps more ‘washed out’ looking than many of the very bold, bright reds we have available to us as paints these days.

4. Natural Materials

Natural materials bring a warmth and charm of their own to home interiors.  Use them wherever possible to recreate the Shaker style such as wooden or stone floors, wool rugs and cotton furnishings, etc.  Finish the room with other natural materials such as beeswax candles and dried lavender.  Fixings such as wall sconces would have been made with basic metals like tin.

5. Handcrafted, Functional Wooden Furniture

Innovative handcrafted wooden furniture is central to the Shaker style.  This includes simple designs such as trestle tables and benches for the dining room and ladder back chairs.  Furniture was crafted from wood and did not have any padding or fabric coverings.  Many traditional items were also decorated simple with the Shaker hand/heart motive which was meant to convey the Shaker work ethic of ‘hands to work and hearts to God.’

About the author

Nick Thorping is a writer who has a keen interest in interior design and more specifically, the beautiful simplicity of the Shaker style.  If you are looking to recreate the simple design of Shaker Kitchens, Bath experts can advise you on color schemes and furniture to help you create the Shaker look.

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