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Object Lessons: Shaker Storage

Despite their unusually complicated name, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming were all about simplicity. The group’s leader, Mother Ann Lee, proclaimed “there is no dirt in Heaven,” but her followers also understood that simple design meant less to dust. Founded in 1774 by a group of rebellious Quakers who left England for the New World, the Shakers (as they became known because of their ecstatic form of worship) believed that making things well was an act of prayer.

They set about stripping away embellishment during a very embellished (and undoubtedly dusty) time in domestic history, anticipating the modernist movement by about 150 years. “Less is more,” said Mies van de Rohe, and he and his fellow purists freely acknowledged their debt to the Shakers. Though the Shakers themselves lived and worked in graciously proportioned buildings in country villages, the practical aspect of their aesthetic is more relevant than ever, especially for those of us in cramped, urban spaces. Here are some examples of Shaker design that stand ready to restore some order to our lives.

Five to Buy

High Road House Shaker Peg Rails Yellow Chairs
Above: Shaker pegs provide an economical way to transform a room from cluttered to tidy, and are equally at home in a hallway, dining room, or bedroom. Cherry Shaker Pegboard is available by the foot from Shaker Workshops, starting at $13.75. See Shaker pegs used to great effect in the Newly Revamped High Road House in London. Photograph courtesy of High Road House.
Birdseye Shaker Boxes
Above: The Shakers devised a storage system within a storage system: wooden boxes that nest within a single box when not in use. A selection of Birdseye Shaker Boxes is available at Canterbury Shaker Village, starting at $44 for the smallest.
Shaker Onion Basket
Above: Having devised the peg system, the Shakers then set about creating household objects made to hang. The Shaker Onion Basket can be suspended high up from the ground, and the open weave allows for good air circulation, which helps to prevent mold. A compact alternative to the root cellar, the basket measures six inches in diameter. A made-in-New Hampshire Onion Basket is also available for $24 via the Canterbury Shaker Village Gift Shop.
Devol Shaker Clothes Horse
Above: For UK readers, the handmade Shaker Clothes Horse has canvas hinges and folds up neatly; £140 from DeVol. In the US, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Towel Rack Kit is $95 unassembled and $176.25 assembled from Shaker Workshops.
DeVol’s Shaker Kitchen line, inspired by simple Shaker design. UK kitchen specialists Plain English also studied classic Shaker detailing and came up with the Williamsburg Kitchen, which makes use of Shaker-favored maple and cherry woods to create a warm, streamlined look. In the US, consider Shaker Workshops’ Kentucky Shaker Wall Cupboard ($486.25), which can be hung on a Shaker Pegboard ($13.75 per linear foot).
Above: DeVol’s Shaker Kitchen line, inspired by simple Shaker design. UK kitchen specialists Plain English also studied classic Shaker detailing and came up with the Williamsburg Kitchen, which makes use of Shaker-favored maple and cherry woods to create a warm, streamlined look. In the US, consider Shaker Workshops’ Kentucky Shaker Wall Cupboard ($486.25), which can be hung on a Shaker Pegboard ($13.75 per linear foot).
Object Lessons columnist Megan Wilson is the owner of Ancient Industries and the curator of the Remodelista 100, a collection of essential everyday objects presented in the Remodelista book. Have a look at her past Object Lessons on iconic designs, including:

N.B. This post is an update; the original story ran on October 14, 2014.

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