By Peg Carmack Short - Photography by Dick Kaplan
Nestled on a plateau high above the Kentucky River lies the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Although the last Shaker in the village died in 1922, one can still view the beauty and simplicity of the Shaker furniture, architecture, and crafts that still inhabit this peaceful village today. Many of the original Shaker pieces were removed when the community was disbanded, others were destroyed by fire; but enough linger in the rooms of Pleasant Hill to remind of a gentle, quiet time when Shaker brothers and sisters trod these stairs and walked these halls. Golden sunlight from carefully placed windows suffuses rooms and corners with light. Simple Shaker implements adorn walls in place of less useful ornamentation. These necessities of daily life-hangers for clothing, mirrors, candleholders, and even chairs could be put neatly away waiting to be called into use. Built-in shelves, chests, and freestanding cupboards were made to keep items stored and well ordered, adhering to their precept that, "order is Heaven's first law."

The secret of the quality and lasting beauty of Shaker pieces can be found within the precepts of the Shaker society. Mother Ann Lee admonished them to, "Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you might die tomorrow."

Contemporary Decorating for Shaker Style
Authentic decorating brings a stark beauty into a room, but most collectors of Shakers pieces prefer to blend Shaker style with a more comfortable country look. Here are some step-by-step ideas to bring the spirit of Shaker living into your home:

  • Soften the room by meshing homey accessories such as quilts and braided or woven rugs.
  • Combine simple folk art pieces with Shaker furniture to create a more relaxed atmosphere.
  • The strong, clean lines of a classic Shaker chair can easily be blended with a comfortable sofa and wingback or overstuffed chairs.
  • Emphasize the grace and understated elegance of a simple Shaker piece, such as a cupboard, by making it the focal point of a room.
  • Add Shaker pegboards as an interesting architectural detail and display a simple piece such as our Shaker candle shelf.
  • Decorate armoires, bookshelves, and desks with Shaker boxes and baskets.
  • Old Shaker farm implements and brooms add a charming touch to a country kitchen.
  • Silhouette a Shaker chair and tripod table against a pure white wall for a dramatic interest center. A brightly patterned Shaker taped seat can be all the color needed to give vitality to a monochromatic room.

Articles included here are copyrighted by Peg Carmack Short and may not be copied in full or part without written permission of the author.

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