Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

In the Dwelling House: 16 Design Ideas to Steal from the Shakers

Search

In the Dwelling House: 16 Design Ideas to Steal from the Shakers

March 1, 2021

A while back, on a cold wintery morning, I drove from southern Maine through increasingly rural back roads to Canterbury, New Hampshire, then up the crest of a hill where the Canterbury Shaker Village sits, surrounded by fields and paths. Here at Remodelista, we’ve taken inspiration from the Shakers for a long time: We’ve seen Shaker-inspired cabinetry emerge from companies such as Plain English and deVol; extolled the benefits of Shaker peg rails in our book, The Organized Home; and named Shaker style as a the trend to watch. But walking around the quiet, 200-year-old village, I was still taken by the cleverness of the Shakers: a broom hung in the nook of a stairwell; a clothes-drying rack, hung in an attic window to catch the sun; painted stacks of drawers. And more than that: the simplicity, symmetry, muted color palettes, and winter light in every room. Here are 16 design lessons from the Shakers.

Photography by Erin Little for Remodelista.

the village in winter. 17
Above: The village in winter.

1. Make the most of small spaces.

in the dwelling house (the communal building where the shakers slept), a small  18
Above: In the Dwelling House (the communal building where the Shakers slept), a small room off of the Baker’s Kitchen houses bags of flour and allows bread doughs to rise. It’s efficient despite its small footprint, with a built-in cabinet, Shaker peg rails, hooks, and shelves. Make the most of small spaces by thinking through the purpose of the space, and incorporating storage in every nook.

2. Use furniture in the kitchen.

not just for clothes: in the baker&#8\2\17;s kitchen, a chest of drawers ad 19
Above: Not just for clothes: In the Baker’s Kitchen, a chest of drawers adds extra storage.

3. Find unexpected kitchen solutions.

Above: In the kitchen, ladles hang from a water pipe; a wooden dish rack, fitted to the inside of the sink, collects food and doubles as a drying rack.

4. Build in collapsible prep areas.

a small space idea: cut down on cutting boards and counter space by building th 22
Above: A small-space idea: Cut down on cutting boards and counter space by building them in. Here, in a hutch in the main kitchen, boards pull out for chopping and prep, then slide in when not in use.
a folding table makes use of a few feet of otherwise unused wall space. 23
Above: A folding table makes use of a few feet of otherwise-unused wall space.

5. Bigger is not always better.

the shakers, i was told, designed chairs with short backs that could fit under  24
Above: The Shakers, I was told, designed chairs with short backs that could fit under the table, to make cleaning the tabletop easier. For a modern take, consider short stools, rather than high-back chairs, in the dining room.

6. Make the most of cabinets.

a china cabinet separating two dining rooms (one communal, one for the elders)  25
Above: A china cabinet separating two dining rooms (one communal, one for the elders) opens from each side, maximizing storage space and allowing for dishes to be accessed from both rooms.

7. Add a sink in the dining room.

we&#8\2\17;ve written about installing a second, small sink in the kitchen, 26
Above: We’ve written about installing a second, small sink in the kitchen, but the ever-cleanly Shakers installed sinks next to the dining table, for easy handwashing before a meal.
a simple place setting. 27
Above: A simple place setting.

8. Take advantage of light.

a hallway on the top floor of the dwelling house, leading to the bedrooms. 28
Above: A hallway on the top floor of the Dwelling House, leading to the bedrooms.
when it comes to laundry, follow the light: here, a shaker clothes drying rack  29
Above: When it comes to laundry, follow the light: Here, a Shaker clothes-drying rack is hung by a window on the top floor where, with access to light and air, clothes can dry more quickly. (And the rack can fold away, flush with the wall, when not in use.) It’s another reason to move the basement laundry room upstairs.

9. Rethink linoleum.

a quiet upstairs bedroom. perhaps surprisingly, the shakers used oil cloth and, 30
Above: A quiet upstairs bedroom. Perhaps surprisingly, the Shakers used oil cloth and, later, patterned linoleum as a floor covering, due to its easy-to-clean practicality. Here, it adds dimension in a shade of olive green. (For more ideas on chic linoleum, see Remodeling 101: Affordable and Environmentally Friendly Linoleum.)

10. Adopt a muted color palette.

throughout, with the exception of the occasional sunny yellow (more on that lat 31
Above: Throughout, with the exception of the occasional sunny yellow (more on that later), rooms are muted and simple, in tones of white, gray, and green (a palette to watch for in 2018). The deep green window blinds are traditional.

11. Hang mirrors at an angle.

in one bedroom, a built in cabinet with a lid conceals a washbasin. a high mirr 32
Above: In one bedroom, a built-in cabinet with a lid conceals a washbasin. A high mirror is angled down for ideal viewing.

12. Resist adornment.

the shaker bedrooms are spare, without clutter: white bed linens, clean lines,  33
Above: The Shaker bedrooms are spare, without clutter: white bed linens, clean lines, and light.

13. Paint it yellow.

a clever paint hack, courtesy of the shakers: paint furniture (or built ins, fl 34
Above: A clever paint hack, courtesy of the Shakers: Paint furniture (or built-ins, flooring, walls) in a shade of yellow—like the ochre shown here, or an even sunnier mustard tone—to help capture light. The Shakers discovered this as a way of making interior spaces feel brighter during the short, dark days of New England winters.

14. Max out closet space.

Above: It’s no secret that the Shakers were storage geniuses. (Their genius was born of necessity, since they lived communally and needed to keep everything in order.) But here, in two closets, they’ve gone the extra mile, lining one with peg rails to make use of every square inch, and fitting the underside of a shelf with hooks in the other, for holding brooms and brushes.

15. Label everything.

the shakers were obsessive labelers. shown here: a room size closet on the top  37
Above: The Shakers were obsessive labelers. Shown here: A room-size closet on the top floor of the Dwelling House with floor-to-ceiling cabinets and drawers, all labeled with numbers, for keeping off-season clothing well-organized. (The Shakers, I was told on my tour, kept lots of clothing—one set for chores, one set for meals, etc.—so labeling, particularly when living communally, was a must.)
when in doubt, label. in the building at the village dedicated to laundry (wash 38
Above: When in doubt, label. In the building at the village dedicated to laundry (washing, drying, mending, ironing), built-ins—and even the doorways to rooms—are numbered.
also in the laundry, a segmented chest is labeled for easy sorting—an ea 39
Above: Also in the laundry, a segmented chest is labeled for easy sorting—an easy idea to modernize.
baskets for laundry, ironing, and mending, labeled accordingly. 40
Above: Baskets for laundry, ironing, and mending, labeled accordingly.

16. There’s nothing a Shaker peg rail can’t do.

if there&#8\2\17;s one lesson to be learned from the shakers, its their ing 41
Above: If there’s one lesson to be learned from the Shakers, its their ingenious use of their peg rails. (We’ve written before about the many virtues of this invention; see our Object Lessons post, and How Shaker Peg Rails Saved My Summer Sanity.) The Shakers wrapped rooms in peg rails, and used them in clever and surprising ways: Here, for example, extra chairs are stored on the wall (making sweeping easier, too).
simple bentwood and string clothes hangers hang from a stretch of peg rail, a q 42
Above: Simple bentwood and string clothes hangers hang from a stretch of peg rail, a quasi closet.
brooms hang at the ready—and look artful—in nearly every room. 43
Above: Brooms hang at the ready—and look artful—in nearly every room.
a shaker bedroom in evening. 44
Above: A Shaker bedroom in evening.

More in Shaker design:

(Visited 7,351 times, 4 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0