This popular style takes influence from the American religious group with which it shares its name. The Shakers were fond of communal living and as such, large open plan rooms are a trademark of the resulting style. Needless decoration and cheap, throw-away furniture was frowned upon as in the eyes of a Shaker- every household item should have a use, be a product of good workmanship and made of quality materials- principles not too dissimilar to the Arts and Crafts movement.
Achieving the Shaker look couldn’t be simpler. Start by getting the colour palette right- bare white plaster is best if your walls are good enough. The Shakers used natural plant dyes and clays to make their paints and dye their fabrics. And as such the colours they used were usually limited to the primary colours red, blue and yellow. The paint should be matt rather than gloss and, for real authenticity, use casein or milk paints; some of them are still being made from the original recipes.
The next and most vital step is choosing the right furniture. Wood was predictably used to create the bulk of all Shaker pieces- with cherry and maple being the most used woods. Choose simple shapes such as ladder back chairs with woven-tape seats in one of the colours of the palette. Use a simple trestle table for dining. Sofas and padded seats were comforts the Shakers did without. However, as not many of us are prepared to live so austerely, cover your sofa with a fabric in keeping with the colour scheme. Shakers also believed that “everything should have its place”. A typical look is peg rails hung all round the room at head height. The Shakers hung chairs off these, as well as mirrors and tools. This kept the rooms neat and tidy plus it was easy to sweep underneath. This has become a one of the more imitated points of the style.
To maintain the uncluttered look wardrobes and chests of drawers took up whole walls- with all of the handles lined up in a neat repetition.
When it comes to soft furnishings, keep it minimal and choose only natural fabrics such as wool, cotton and silk. The Shakers made their own fabrics but you will be forgiven for purchasing yours, I know a loom isn’t the most widely available home accessory. Eyelet curtains in a discrete denim, check or gingham or plain curtains are most suitable for window dressing.
Flooring should be left bare. For real authenticity sand your existing floorboards and give them a coat of varnish. If your boards aren’t in any fit state for a public airing, try to find a local reclaimed wood specialist or age new timber with wood stain- an orange tint will give the impression of aged varnish.
Above all keep rooms tidy and uncluttered. Hide away knick-knacks in large antique chests and blanket boxes and refrain from filling rooms with fancy ornaments. Instead, use candles and storm lamps to add period detailing to shelves and cabinets.