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  • Chelsea J Marshall

A guide to Shaker-style furniture

Clean lines, sparse form – what may sound like a description of modern minimalism furniture is truly a description of the classic shaker style. Favored in transitional as well as traditional styles, the simple aesthetics of the colonial protestant sect are timeless in many ways, as well as adaptable to many design possibilities.

A simple Shaker dining set

Many of us know the song Simple Gifts – “’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, ‘tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.” A traditional Shaker dancing song, the lyrics describe the Shaker way of life – simple, with a focus on worship over material things. Although the religion has its roots in 18th-century England as an offshoot of Quakerism, it is the American groups that influenced furniture design and decorative arts still to this day.

Practicality over ornamentation

It is especially striking to consider furniture, architecture, and the decorative arts that were popular outside of the Shaker community. The concurrent Federal period was a neoclassic period; meaning ornate styles & adornment were common. The Shakers, conversely, spurned material possessions and discouraged vanity or pride. Their furniture was made to be practical and humble.

A transitional Shaker cabinet

Our Shaker-style selections from The Amish Home at The Pittsburgh Mills tend to be some of our most popular. Look for straight lines, flat-panels, and beveled edges. Like the Early American Shakers, our Amish builders only use American hardwoods like oak, cherry, and maple. Choose natural or light stains for the most authentic look, or darker colors for a more updated feel.

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