Design History Lesson: Shaker Furniture

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Hi everyone,

Today I’m shaking things up… ha ha… with a brief lesson in Shaker style furniture. I found this quote that really sums up the Shaker philosophy:

“Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”

Shakers are a religious sect stemming from Quakers that came to America from Manchester England in 1774. They’re known for their strong beliefs in equality, life-long celibacy, and their lively worship services which earned them the name Shaking Quakers. They’re also well known for their furniture.

Shaker Tilting Chair

For the Shakers, form always follows function. Simplicity and functionality are the key principles behind their designs. The chair pictured above is long and lean with strong vertical lines, but the slight curves in the back slats soften it up a bit.

This particular chair was designed with a ball-and socket mechanism attached to the back legs so that a person could lean back without damaging the chair or the floor or rug beneath it.

I found another Shaker quote which I think is particularly inspiring:

“Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow”.

What do you think of the Shaking Quakers? Do you like their simple linear style? Do you have a Shaker-inspired piece of furniture that you love? Share with us!


3 Responses to “Design History Lesson: Shaker Furniture”

  1. Seb

    I have just come across your blog. I love the Shaker room, thanks for posting the photos.

  2. Richard Bissell

    These are great quotes (and photos). I've been building Shaker Furniture for 30 years now and have a quote tacked up in my shop:

    "It's easier to do something right the first time than it is to explain why you didn't."

    This isn't from the Shaker's but from a tea bag tag but it's so true.

    Richard Bissell

  3. henhouse

    Hi Richard. That is a great quote. Who would have thought that tea bags could impart such wisdom! Thanks for sharing it with us 🙂

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