Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Shaker setting

When decorating with Shaker, it usually isn't practical to always use authentic Shaker pieces or even exact reproductions. Aside from the cost of Shaker antiques, size also is important. Being communal, Shaker case pieces were sized to serve "families" of up to one hundred people. Pieces such as pie safes tended to be too large to use in modern single-family homes. The pie safe, above, is contemporary with Shaker communities and is of simple design. But it fits in a modern family dining room. The chairs are all Shaker reproductions, bought as kits from Shaker Workshops, Inc.  The low-back dining chairs slide completely under the table where they are out of the way. The two ladder-back chairs with flame finials frequently hung upside down from peg rail in a previous house. There isn't space to hang them in this one. That was a Shaker practice that both got the chairs out of the way for cleaning the floor and also kept dust from accumulating on the seating area of the chair.

The sconces are 3/4 scale reproductions of a Kentucky Shaker design. Original-size reproductions are available, but would be too large for this space. Likewise, the Shaker-reproduction dining table was sized to fit in this space. Peg rail was a common feature of 18th and early 19th century homes, before closets came into use. Most were simple boards with round, or in the case of Colonial Williamsburg, cut pegs. The Shakers turned pegs on a wood lathe, fashioning a mushroom-shaped cap on them. Thumb-mold was common on eastern Shaker rails; less so in the west. The Shakers also tended to place peg rail on every wall, in dwellings and in shops. Even stairwells often have them. Our peg rail was custom-made on site. The braided rug represents common Shaker practice.The punched-tin chandelier isn't Shaker, but punched-tin lighting will be found in Shaker museums. Usually it's more along the line of the "Revere" lantern seen on the pie safe.

The designers of the "Danish Modern" school were influenced by Shaker design. Somewhere we have a poster of a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that documented that influence. Maybe not; we've moved a couple of times since then!


  1. On a journey of New England we went to a Shaker Museum. (I can't remember the name) It was magnificent. There was/is a whole Shaker village as it would have been when the communities lived isolated from others.
    I really will have to look it up and refresh my memory.

  2. There are several. The only one in New England I've been to is Hancock Shaker Village ( in western Massachusetts. We had planned to visit the others last year but delayed the trip until early fall and were overtaken by hurricane season. Maybe this year. Jim

  3. Is this your house Jim? Whether it is or not, it is beautiful in its practicality and simplicity and fine woodwork.

  4. Beautiful pieces and great photos.

    Darryl and Ruth :)