Decorating & Design

March 31, 2020

Inspiration: How To Achieve Functional & Elegant Shaker Style

Shaker style goes beyond utility for a pure perfection that stands the test of time.

The Backstory

The Shaker movement was started by Mother Ann Lee, a British expat who brought eight followers to New York in 1774. Outsiders called the sect “Shakers” for their ecstatic trembling and whirling during worship, yet its members were highly progressive, embracing gender equality, pacifism and technological advances.

They lived in communal families, sharing all possessions and profits, and shunning worldly goods. At a high point in 1840, there were 6,000 Shakers in the U.S. in 18 communities from Maine to Kentucky — since then, their numbers have dwindled to single digits.

Nonetheless, their legacy lives on. In preserved Shaker communities like Hancock Village, Massachusetts, and the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon in New York near Albany, there are many examples of their beautiful, functional and innovative designs. Shaker style’s elegant austerity has weathered the winds of change well, so renovators take note: this aesthetic is built to last, and there are many ways to incorporate it into your home.

Looks We Love

Shaker style living room with two area rugs, a gray couch and old-fashioned built-in cupboards.

In this living room, design firm Jersey Ice Cream Co. chose vintage pieces to underscore the room’s old-school built-in cupboards, an organization system appreciated by the Shakers.

This Swallowtail wallpaper from Memo Showroom mimics the wooden joint detail from oval Shaker boxes.

Shaker Style kitchen with white vertical wall paneling and floating shelves.

To the Shakers, craftsmanship was considered a form of worship. Designer Emily Netz chose the simplicity and sturdy construction of Shaker cabinets — identified by a recessed panel set in a face frame — for her own kitchen. “I drew a lot of inspiration from the 18th-century Shakers,” she says. “Their ethos was simplicity and functionality, and I’m always striving for more of both in my life.” A peg rail under the shelf and hanging basket are two other Shaker hallmarks.

Shaker-style living room with a simple side table and beige couch.

In this Notting Hill, London, home, designed by Colin King, a Shaker table proves its timeless appeal: the clean lines complement contemporary art and furnishings.

Author: Wendy Jacob

Beth Kirby (living room), Emily Netz (kitchen), Rich Stapleton (table)


House & Home February 2020


Produced by Jennifer Koper