Labor of Love: Household Tools, Inspired by the Shakers, that Make You Actually Want to Clean

Furnishing Utopia 3.0 Hands to Work

As a child, I really loved to clean. Sweeping, dusting, dishwashing, tidying up, and organizing were my idea of fun and games. Of course, I also liked to play with toys and friends—I wasn’t a complete weirdo—but I definitely showed an odd affinity for domestic science. My family benefited from my obsession: My mom once returned from work to find that I had washed the dishes and cleaned the cupboards (I was 10), and my brother never had to make his bed as I always willing to make both of ours. (Then again, there was the time I discovered a rather risqué book under his mattress. He wasn’t happy about that.)

I think I would have made a good Shaker, minus the religious and celibate stuff, of course. The sect believed that daily household chores were “a path to enlightenment,” according to the organizers of “Furnishing Utopia 3.0: Hands to Work,” an exhibit presented in collaboration with Design Within Reach last month, during New York Design Week. I now enjoy housekeeping far less than I did as a kid, but the 50-plus objects in this show, all inspired by the Shakers’ reverence for cleaning and cooking, are beautiful reminders that pride and pleasure and, yes, play (not to mention a clean, organized, and efficient home) can be had from household chores.

Twenty-six designers from around the world participated in this project. In past years, designers were asked to reinterpret classic Shaker pieces (from peg rails to rocking chairs); this year, they were asked to simply explore the Shaker “pursuit of a more virtuous way of living through ritualizing the mundane.” None of the objects from the most recent exhibit are available for purchase yet, but we hope they’ll show up in the Furnishing Utopia Web shop soon. “We are discussing with several producers to see the possibilities,” says Studio Gorm’s John Arndt, one of the founders of the project.

Photography by Charlie Schuck.

Furnishing Utopia 3.0 Hands to Work
Above: Shigeki Fujishiro’s woven vinyl and paper baskets.
Furnishing Utopia 3.0 Hands to Work
Above: A tableau of 10 designs in the exhibit. From left: MSDS Studio’s nesting Decent Step Stool; Stine Aas’s paper towel holder; Studio Gorm’s Corian caddies; Katrin Greiling’s Extra Hand red room divider; Observatory Design’s O.K. Bucket and Zokin Rag; Norm Architects’ upholstered utility stool; Pete Oyler and Henry Julier’s contemporary version of the peg rail; Christopher Specce’s broom with carbon fiber handle; and Hallgeir Homstvedt’s cork bucket.
Furnishing Utopia 3.0: Hands to Work
Above: Sophie Lou Jacobsen’s decorative glass bottle with a walnut top for storing vinegar; Daniel Castillo’s glass watering can; Earnest Studio’s modular drawers; and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio’s horsehair Sound Brush.

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