A religious sect founded in England in the late 1700s, the Shakers believed in common ownership of property and communal living. Persecuted for their beliefs, they emigrated to America where they led lives of abstinence and celibacy.

The Shakers believed that every object in the home should have a function and that decoration was unnecessary. ‘Whatever is fashioned, let it be plain and simple and for the good’ and ‘Beauty rests on utility’ are two of their favourite sayings. But because they also believed that the quality of their work was a testament to God, each item they made was painstakingly honed to perfection.


  • open plan
  • simple, uncluttered
  • limited colour palette of red, blue, yellow and blue-green
  • handcrafted wooden furniture
  • natural materials
  • storage
  • hand within a heart motif – it meant ‘hands to work and hearts to God’


American folk art. Folk art is the decorative tradition of peasant communities, and varies from region to region. Wherever the Shakers settled, they picked up some of the qualities of these traditions. For example, their simply constructed wooden toys, rose-painted boxes and rag dolls are similar to New England styles.