Shaker Furniture Gets a Makeover

March 6, 2015 11:08 PM

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AT THEIR PEAK in the mid-19th century, the Shakers—a utopian offshoot of pacifist Protestants officially known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—included as many as 6,000 members across 19 communities from Maine to Kentucky. But even though their puritanical beliefs never quite achieved “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-type popularity (they all took vows of celibacy and shared their possessions equally, a hard sell in the 1800s, let alone today), the simple, functional furniture that their craftsmen built has remained a paragon of American design. And, if today’s furniture is any indication, it’s more influential than ever.

Contemporary designers are delivering modern—and, in some cases, rather heretical—riffs on classic Shaker pieces. This spring, Design Within Reach is selling a Shaker-inspired dresser and credenza from New York design trio Egg Collective, with irreverently decorative elements such as white Carrara m...

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