The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (aka Shakers), was a religious sect founded by Jane and James Wardley. They came to America from Manchester, England in 1774 and settled along the Hudson River on New York. Shakers made furniture for their own use, as well as for sale to the general public. Today, it is considered the only true American furniture style.
Shaker furniture is widely admired for its simplicity, innovative joinery, quality, and practicality. Many examples of Shaker furniture survive and are preserved today, including such popular forms as Shaker tables, chairs, rocking chairs (made in several sizes), and cabinets. Collections of Shaker furniture are maintained by many art and historical museums in the United States and England, as well as in numerous private collections. The underlying principles of Shaker design have given inspiration to some of the finest designers of modern furniture. With an emphasis on straight lines and symmetry, Shaker furniture is as contemporary in the modern world as it was two hundred years ago.
The furniture of the Shakers of old was designed to match their lifestyle. They valued functionality, durability, and purity. Original Shakers’ designs reflected their beliefs that good craftsmanship was an act of prayer and that form should follow function. Each item was fashioned solely to serve its intended use and was devoid of decoration. Shaker pieces are known for their simple elegance and solid construction that emphasize the natural beauty of custom made real wood furniture. Shaker furniture of today is made from the same traditional woods that the craftsmen of old used – Maple and Cherry – and the same glorious colors those woods provide are a mark of quality shaker furniture. The simplicity of the furniture is the key, with tables featuring few adornments, chairs made in a practical but stylish manner, and tables built simply and beautifully to last.
Shaker furniture’s hallmark clean lines and lack of adornments give it a simple aesthetic quality. Although the handcrafted furniture is now less common, and indeed with only four remaining Shakers, certainly dying out, it is a style that is very much in demand for its minimalism and simple quality.
Like the Shaker way of life, Shaker furniture history has been shaped by hard work and dedication. Additionally, it is heralded as design significantly ahead of its time. As far as Shaker original furniture goes, you aren’t likely to come across any unless you visit a museum, but furniture which takes inspiration from Shaker furniture history is founded on the same principles of design, and can allow an affordable alternative for modern design. Shaker furniture has a long and detailed history, and it is sure to live in on the memories of those who appreciate their furniture as essentially a work of art.