Shaker Woodworking: Characteristics of the Shaker Style of Furniture

FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION

The Shakers believed that ostentatiousness was self-indulgent and sinful. Therefore, they avoided anything that could be considered showy. The Shakers eschewed luxury. They had limited resources and used them as economically as possible as an expression of gratitude for their provision in the first place. The result of their modesty and practicality is a style of furniture that is the embodiment of the adage “form follows function.” The iconic Shaker chair, for example, is as sturdy as it needs to be, yet light enough to be lifted easily and stored on wall pegs. To accomplish this, the legs and stretchers are turned to reduce weight but leave enough material for strength. The seat is woven rush, which is comfortable and much lighter than a wood seat. The chair is pitched at a slight angle to be easier to get in and out of. All of these features are designed for practicality, but the resulting form of the chair is beautiful and elegant.

Shaker chairs hung on the wall

Two Shaker chairs stored on wall pegs at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF SHAKER WOODWORKING

There are several features that define the Shaker style. Here is a list of some of them and how they are incorporated in Shaker furniture.

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