Shakers viewed simplicity and careful work as a form of prayer, which led to the design of beautifully pared-down furniture, revered to this day by modern and traditional design lovers alike. Officially called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, the Shakers in 1774 broke away from the Quakers in England to form their own religious society in colonial America, where they lived in celibacy and granted full equality to men and women. Although Shaker communities had thinned greatly by the early 20th century, a few small practicing Shaker communities do exist today.
With clean lines, unadorned forms and utterly practical applications, Shaker designs are, if anything, more relevant in today’s hectic world than they were in the 18th century. If you’ve ever been curious about Shaker style, read on for a run-down on five of the group’s most iconic designs.
1. The ladder-back chair. Ladder-back chairs did exist before the Shakers, but they were more ornate … and less comfortable! Shaker ladder-back chairs are simple and straight, with a leaner look than other versions.
There are many modern incarnations of the Shaker ladder-back chair, like these from Oly Studio, with an even more slender, elongated look.
There are also Shaker-style ladder-back chairs in bar- and counter-height versions, like the ones shown here.
5 Classic Shaker Designs for the Contemporary Home