The Shakers, common name for the members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, were a Protestant sect that came to the USA in the 18th century. Their moral precepts led them to become separated from the outside society and create self-sufficient communities where they built their own buildings and manufactured their own furniture according to some strict rules of honesty, utility and simplicity.
As they considered that manual labour was a way of worshiping, furniture made by Shakers should be honest in construction and appearance, therefore they rejected the use of applied ornamentation and veneer. It also should be lightweight, so it could be easily moved or even hung from wall pegs in order to allow a flexible use of the interior of their communal dwellings. The order and severity that their furniture provided to their buildings reflected and encouraged their strictly regulated behaviour.
In his search for a genuinely American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright was a confessed admirer of Shaker craftsmanship. Although he didn’t share their radical rejection for ornamentation, he shared most of their principles. As Shakers do, Wright was the use of built-in storage as part of the building’s architecture that allowed clear, flexible interior spaces. Both the Shakers and Wright avoided combining different materials in the same piece, thus preferring the use of wood as a single material. They also advocated for simple, geometrical shapes as a direct reflection of their construction process.