Shaker Furniture

The Shaker Movement Furniture Style

by Christian Becksvoort, John Sheldon.

Hardcover: 233 pages

Many appreciate the clean, simple lines of traditional Shaker furniture, yet few know the people behind the designs or the spiritual beliefs that play such an integral part in both their work and daily lives, the shaker style furniture makers themselves.

In his book on this great antique style, The Shaker Legacy: Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style, author Christian Becksvoort, a contributing editor of Fine Woodworking magazine and an experienced custom furniture maker and restorer who's worked for the last remaining Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, examines the Shakers' faith in relation to their home office furniture.

Becksvoort believes that "understanding Shaker furniture requires understanding the faith of the people who created it." Their religious practices - the constant striving for spiritual perfection in everything the Shaker movement did, the desire to emulate Christ and to live practically, "purely, free of vanity, greed, and pride" - permeate Becksvoort's insightful discussions of the Shaker culture, their recognized inventiveness (inventions include the circular saw, apple peeler, wash mill, and chimney cap), their influence on other furniture styles, and finally the furniture itself, which is the focal point of the book.

Shaker Furniture

Highly perfected, free of vain ornamentation, and utterly utilitarian, the furniture is indeed the Shaker faith in physical form. In addition to covering the classics - including the ladder-back chair, trestle table, the built-in, and Shaker bedroom furniture - Becksvoort points out subtle variations in design that existed from community to community: the curved, cutout base of a case of drawers was typical for the communities in Ohio, while bevel-edged drawer lips and straight, tapered feet on a blanket box point to the Mount Lebanon community.

Becksvoort's intelligent account of the Shakers and their furniture, combined with hundreds of full-color photographs, taken on location at various communities and pulled from archives, make The Shaker Legacy a beautiful tribute to these talented craftsmen and their enduring design. --Stefanie Hargreaves

Solid construction and honest functionality make Shaker furniture one of the most popular and timeless design categories. Based on extensive research and personal experience with the last working Shaker community in Maine, this book traces the roots of Shaker design to Shaker belief, which inspired the clean lines, careful craftsmanship, and signature details that define the style. The author also discusses the less known Victorian period of Shaker design and shows how this style has influenced subsequent ones.

A bibliography, glossary, and index are included. "As if the content isn't enough, readers will enjoy this book for its clean, upbeat writing. For anyone looking for a primer on the Shaker movement and the furniture it spawned, this is a good selection."


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