’Furnishing Utopia’: the enduring influence of the Shakers on modern design

Gladies Gentlmen Studio Work Station Editorial
'Furnishing Utopia' is a group exhibition of Shaker-inspired furniture and objects that will be presented at Sight Unseen Offsite later this week. Pictured: a secretaire by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio
(Image credit: Charlie Schuck)

The aesthetics of the Shakers – a religious community that came to the United States around 1774, the philosophies of which were centred on principles of simplicity, utility and honesty – are often regarded as establishing the first tenets of American design. With Shaker communities largely self-sufficient, and alive and well right up until the 1950s, their handcrafted furniture and minimalist designs have inspired designers and furniture makers around the world.

This week, a group of young designers will stage a showcase of reinterpreted Shaker designs at Sight Unseen Offsite, a curated platform for exciting and emerging design work, in New York City. The group, comprised of 11 international designers, visited the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts and the Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York for a week-long workshop, handling Shaker artifacts and exploring the community’s philosophies and inner workings to produce a new collection of Shaker-inspired furniture.

Each object in ‘Furnishing Utopia’ highlights the influence of Shaker style on contemporary design. From benches and rocking chairs that riff on traditional Shaker style to bent wood baskets and storage boxes by Studio Gorm, an elegant secretaire by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio and a pair of austere candlesticks by Jonah Takagi, the inspiring collection will shed new light on the enduring appeal of Shaker style. The exhibition will be presented as a series of vignettes that evoke the unadorned simplicity of Shaker community life. A catalogue of the products, photographed by Charlie Schuck at the Hancock Shaker Village, will also be on offer.

Gstudio Gorm Baskets Editorial

Pictured: a collection of bentwood baskets by Studio Gorm

(Image credit: Charlie Schuck)

Eleven international designers visited the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts and the Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York for a week-long workshop, handling Shaker artifacts and exploring the community’s philosophies and inner workings.

’Furnishing Utopia’: the enduring influence of the Shakers on modern design

Pictured left: a woven stool by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio. Right: a colourful set of brushes by Zoe Mowat

(Image credit: Charlie Schuck)

Each object in ‘Furnishing Utopia’ highlights the Shaker influence on contemporary design.

Gstudio Gorm Bench Editorial

Pictured: a bench by Studio Gorm

(Image credit: Charlie Schuck)

Centred on the principles of simplicity, utility and honest, the collection will shed new light on the enduring appeal of Shaker style.

Ggggshaker Pair

Pictured left: a broom by Christopher Specce. Right: a collection of wooden boxes by Jonah Takagi

(Image credit: Charlie Schuck)

The exhibition will be installed as a series of vignettes that evoke the unadorned simplicity of Shaker community life.

INFORMATION

‘Furnishing Utopia’ premieres at Sight Unseen Offsite on 13 May and will be on view until 16 May. For more details, visit Sight Unseen Offsite’s website (opens in new tab)

Photography: Charlie Schuck

ADDRESS

Sight Unseen Offsite
The Grace Building
New York, NY 10110

VIEW GOOGLE MAPS (opens in new tab)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.