FURNISHING UTOPIA

Shaker Design Reinterpreted

As a teenager, I went to America with my parents and visited a Shaker village. I bought a beautiful, oval wooden box – which I still have – and admire the simple aesthetics of the Shakers ever since. And I’m not the only one.

John Arndt and Wonhee Arndt, both designers – under the name Studio Gorm – and professors in the Product Design Department at the University of Oregon, initiated Furnishing Utopia, a shaker design project.
Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide contemporary designers with direct exposure to original Shaker artifacts and demonstrate how the Shaker’s ideas can still prove influential in the modern context.
The Shakers – a religious and utopian community that came to the United States around 1774 – are often credited as the first minimalists. Centered on principles of simplicity and utility, their furniture have inspired countless modernist and

contemporary designers all over the world.
Yet with their presence confined to just a few sites in the United States, people rarely have the opportunity to experience Shaker objects in person and in context.
In collaboration with the Hancock Shaker Village and the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum, a week­long workshop was organised, giving 11 international design studios access to an extensive archive of objects and the opportunity to work closely with the museum’s curators.
Following the workshop, the designers were invited to produce designs – benches, rocking chairs, baskets, candlesticks and more -that translate the legacy of Shaker objects into modern forms relevant to contemporary life.
The  Furnishing Utopia-collection has been shown during New York Design Week, at Luminaire in Chicago and this month at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair.
Check the website for more information about the designs and points of sale.

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Photos by: Charlie Schuck, Natasha Felker & Petter Johansson

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