How the Shaker’s modest style came to epitomise kitchen luxury


Nearly three hundred years ago in Bolton, North West England, just 10 miles from Darwen, a small group of Quakers broke away from their church and began their own meetings. The meetings were so passionate and stirring that the group became known as the ‘Shaking Quakers’. This community of ‘Shakers’ were set to have a huge influence on global architecture and design, as well as society at large.

Self sufficient and innovative, the Shakers believed that a good life is lived by strictly adhering to the principles of honesty and simplicity. In applying this philosophy to the home they became the first minimalists, stripping back the frivolous and unnecessary decoration to create functional and hard-working spaces and pieces of furniture. Today, renowned modernists Borge Mogensen, Gio Ponti and Kaare Klint quote Shaker influences.

Making useful objects was regarded as an act of prayer, so time, skill and devotion was invested in crafting each one. Although they used materials that reflected their austerity and simplicity – typically pine or other low cost timber - the perfection of the manufacture and finish meant they were widely admired beyond their own community.

Functionality combined with craftsmanship is at the heart of Shaker design, which is why a Shaker-inspired kitchen continues to be one of the most desirable of styles. We seem to have an instinctive affinity with the natural materials and pared-back aesthetic, while the quality and durability appeals to our own sense of practicality.

In 1774, eight of the founders of the Shaker movement left for America. In New England today their influence is especially clear in the simple architecture of homes, barns and meeting places. If you’re looking to create a Shaker-inspired kitchen space there is no better way to understand their design principles than by visiting the only remaining Shaker Village, located in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. It is less rustic than you might expect but still provides modern designers with inspiration for cabinetry styles, space saving designs, freestanding preparation areas and beautiful solid wood finishes.

If the austere Shaker way of life is not for you, consider the traditional setting of the meticulously renovated and wholly luxurious Shaker-style Grace White Barn Inn and Spa. With its attention to period detail, beautiful handmade furniture and country charm, it is the most elegant way to immerse yourself in Shaker design.

In this part of New England you can sample other aspects of Shaker culture such as food. Simple yet delicious dishes include Shaker Scalloped Tomatoes, New England Clam Chowder and the famous Shaker Lemon Pie. If you don’t make it to Maine, or don’t yet have the Shaker kitchen of your dreams, these are some of the best recipes for you to try yourselves. Enjoy!