Furnishing Utopia/Shaker Reinterpreted

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An homage to an iconic design language.

The US Shaker communities have left behind a legacy of restrained, timeless designs that have inspired numerous modernist as well as contemporary designers over the years. Often named “the first minimalists”, the Shakers created a cornucopia of furniture and objects with an aesthetic that has resonated with many creators throughout the world. In 2016 and 2017, Furnishing Utopia organized week-long workshops in collaboration with two preserved Shaker sites, Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum in New York and the Hancock Shaker Village in the Massachusetts Berkshires. The workshops provided unprecedented access to Shaker objects and original artifacts to a group of designers. The aim? To create a new collection that translates the distinctive character of Shaker designs into contemporary, everyday products.

The large group of international designers, which also included Norm Architects, brought together 14 design studios from 12 cities and 7 countries. Oregon-based Studio Gorm designed a range of items inspired by the minimal aesthetic. The objects channel the ethos of the original concept, but also provide a new take on the designs. The collection includes the re-imagining of a rocking chair, bench, and side chairs, as well as a selection of baskets and butter dishes. The baskets reference the traditional bent wood and woven ash harvest baskets, but reinterpreted in lightweight and flexible bamboo.

Inspired by the Enfield Shaker dining chair, Studio Gorm created two new objects: a beech bar stool and side chair. Other designs include a Douglas Fir and aluminum trestle table as well as a set of maple wood hanging utensils. Designs from the Furnishing Utopia/Shaker Reinterpreted appeared at DWR’s SoHo Studio in New York City between May 20–May 24, 2017. Photographs© Charlie Schuck and Studio Gorm.

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