Furnishing Utopia: Shaker Design Reinterpreted

May 2016

“Whatever is fashioned, let it be plain and simple and for the good” and “Beauty rests on utility” are two sayings that describe the Shakers – a religious sect founded in England that came to the United States around 1774. Admired for their architecture and craftsmanship, they believed in communal living and lived with simplicity, utility, and honesty. Often credited as the first American minimalists, 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. Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide designers with direct exposure to original Shaker artifacts and demonstrate how the group’s ideas still prove influential in today’s world. Luminaire is proud to sponsor Furnishing Utopia, a remarkable exhibition that takes place May 13 through 16 at Sight Unseen Offsite during NYC x Design.

In collaboration with the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts and the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York, a week-long workshop was conducted giving a group of 11 international design studios from 10 cities access to an extensive archive of objects and engaging them in a dialogue with the museum’s curators. Following the workshop, the designers were invited to produce designs that translate the ingenuity and aesthetics of Shaker objects into modern forms relevant to contemporary life. Participating designers include Studio Gorm, Tom Bonamici, Chris Specce, Gabriel Tan, Jonah Takagi, Zoe Mowat, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, Darin Montgomery, Norm Architects, Studio Tolvanen, and Hallgeir Homstvedt.

The results from Furnishing Utopia have been organized into a public exhibition that will pair the new designers’ work with original artifacts on loan from Hancock Shaker Village Museum. The exhibition aims to highlight new designs while increasing public awareness of the Shaker’s continued influence on contemporary design and culture. Exhibited works will range from small home goods to large furniture arranged in composed vignettes to illustrate use and context. Historic Shaker artifacts will be incorporated to highlight the lineage of designs and concepts. The show’s layout will be curated to evoke the austere simplicity of Shaker built environments. The exhibition will premiere at Sight Unseen Offsite, a prominent design destination during 2016 NYC Design Week May 13 through 16.

Luminaire is a proud sponsor of Furnishing Utopia. We are delighted to promote such an interesting project and new design talent that takes inspiration from the past to create innovative designs.