Shaker Furniture: Beauty in Simplicity

When people ask me what style of furniture I enjoy building the most, I never have to think twice before answering. In my mind, Shaker furniture is unrivaled.

The Shakers believed in simplicity, and this belief is apparent in every piece of Shaker furniture. You won’t find inlays or other intricate decorations on one.

The idea behind this approach was to prevent feelings of pride. However, I don’t think it’s possible for a furniture maker to not take pride in his or her work, and the Shakers found ways to make furniture beautiful while still abiding by the tenets of their religion. Using subtle joinery and paying careful attention to detail, they transformed “simple” into gorgeous, functional and durable.
Old Lyme Shaker Bed

A Timeless Style

The minimalist design makes the Shaker style timeless. Other styles come and go, but eventually, most seem gaudy or dated. The no-frills, no-flaws appearance of Shaker furniture won’t fall victim to this; it will always look the way a piece of furniture should.

Plato claimed that, while there are many tables built in many styles, they are all built to match one pure, essential form. I believe the Shakers made something closer to the pure table than anybody else before or since—and the same goes for the other furniture they crafted.
Shaker Dining Table in Maple
This is why the Shaker style has lasted for centuries. While the religion is functionally extinct, the principles of design and standards of quality show no sign of disappearing. It continues to stand as a unique tradition and a major influence on modern styles.

Because it has such a powerful effect on today’s designers, Shaker pieces often blend in seamlessly with existing décor, even in ultra-modern homes.
Shaker Style Cherry Computer Desk

An American Tradition

Although Shaker furniture has universal appeal, it is a distinctly American style with especially strong roots in New England. In fact, it became popular as a direct result of the Revolutionary War. The Shakers only used local U.S. woods like cherry, walnut and maple. When people began hunting for ways to furnish their homes without supporting the British, many turned to the Shakers. The style became immensely popular.

History repeats itself. While I doubt that many Americans today hold any grudge against the British, we’re all looking for ways to support more local and domestic businesses. Buying handcrafted Shaker furniture is still a great way to do this.

The Shaker style will always be my favorite. Its influence pervades all of my work, and can be seen even in my pieces that aren’t explicitly Shaker. This simple, functional, eye-catching way of building furniture strikes a chord with me that nothing else has matched.

Click to see some of my handcrafted Shaker furniture. If you share my appreciation for this tradition, I’m sure you’ll find something that calls to you.

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