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.
Inspired to upgrade your housekeeping tools? See: