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Furnishing Utopia: Retooling Shaker Designs for the Modern Age

The pieces can be seen at Sight Unseen Offsite

The Shakers, a religious group that began as an offshoot of a Quaker community, settled in colonial America in the late 18th century and espoused celibacy, communal living, equality, hard work, and simple living. One of their enduring contributions? Minimalist, well-made, utilitarian furniture.

While there are only four Shakers remaining today, their design philosophy and aesthetic live on. Furnishing Utopia, a project from the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts and the Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York, recently gave a group of 11 young designers—from the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Norway, Singapore, and Canada—access to the museums' extensive archives and artifacts. After a week-long workshop, the designers created their own pieces that were informed and inspired by the Shakers' history.

These reinterpreted designs are currently being exhibited at Sight Unseen OFFSITE, which wraps up today in New York City. They are displayed alongside original artifacts on loan from the Hancock Shaker Village Museum. Take a look at some of their work, which includes reimagined baskets, trays, chairs, brushes, and candle holders.