The simplicity of Shaker-style furniture


October 21, 1990|By RITA ST.CLAIR

A sense of comfort is experienced in different ways by different people. Even luxury and elegance, which in many minds can be achieved only through the use of richly crafted objects and exotic materials, are best expressed, in the opinion of some, by the simplicity of Shaker-style furniture.

The bedroom shown in the photo serves as a case study of how one designer fulfilled her own notion of elegance. Manufactured by Ethan Allen, this "Country Craftsman" collection of solid pine pieces was inspired by the American Shaker movement in both its materials and its lines.

The life of a Shaker can hardly be said to be dedicated to comfort, let alone luxury. These conditions were, in fact, actively scorned by the members of that ascetic religious group. But somehow the sparseness of Shaker furnishings has proven very appealing to contemporary tastes, which place great value on establishing a feeling of well-being in the home.

Simple nostalgia no doubt plays a part in the current popularity of

Shaker furniture designs, many of which were originally executed in the 19th century. And responding to that yearning for the look of bygone days, a number of manufacturers are now reproducing and reinterpreting this particular style.

Before purchasing genuine Shaker items or Shaker-inspired pieces, however, it is important to understand what gives this simple furniture its air of elegance. The lack of surface decoration is key to this aesthetic, as is the restraint that has

been exercised in creating the line and form of a Shaker object.

Notice how the other elements in the photo complement that basic look while still contributing to the overall atmosphere of elegance. All the accessories and surface coverings in this room have been chosen to enhance the natural pine finishes and the delicate proportions of the four-poster bed and cabinets.

Pristine white walls and pleated fabric shades, also in white, create just the right sort of background for the mellow pine. A geometric hand-loomed rug meanwhile adds a needed splash of color and pattern. No frills or cutesy decorations are found on the table-tops or walls. The only touch of softness here consists of the collection of bed coverings, pillow shams and comfort covers, all in white cotton eyelet to produce a crisp, early-morning feeling.

Replace what's shown here with a highly patterned, dark wallpaper, braided rugs and a patchwork-type quilt on the bed, and what have you got? Much more of a cottage look than an elegant bedroom. Remember, a lot depends on the details.

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