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The First Layer Of Our Farmhouse Style – A Deep Dive Into The Modern Shaker Style To Find Our Design Direction (And Trust Me It’s Not Just Peg Rail)


It might be said that the inspirational design process of this house (and this post) is an emotional convergence of my three biggest interests – history, interior design, and religion. It’s a personal journey that ended in my own Oprah/Tom Cruise/couch jumping ‘Aha moment’ with a few extra excited expletives, and even some tears. I also don’t want anyone to get worried when they see the pics in this post. It’s again a part of the design journey and boy is it interesting! This is just the first of two design direction posts so you can come on the FULL ride with me:) Let’s start at the beginning – well, 5 weeks ago…

Five Weeks Ago… What Style Is Our House Anyway??

Early on Anne from Arciform informed me that our house was a classic foursquare (a box with two floors – bedrooms on top, kitchen/living on bottom) with a lot of PNW Craftsmen elements. When I sheepishly asked her if I had to stick to the Craftsmen trim/molding, knowing that we had to replace them anyway, she said ‘nope’. As you can see above this wasn’t some architectural masterpiece by one of the greats. It was a wonderful, sweet house with basic finishes of the era (and a lot of updates not original to the house). So while we wanted it to feel era-appropriate, we could also reimagine it. 

Four Weeks Ago: Our Design Mission Statement – “A Good But Average Saturday Morning – 24/7”

Despite my slight attraction towards romantic Victorian everything, this is the Henderson family farm and the foundation and architecture of it needs to feel like “us on an average Saturday morning”, not a Bridgerton corseted ball in the 1890s (that comes in the accessories and novels on my nightstand). We want this house to be full of warm quiet energy, casual finishes, and a lot of soul. We want to feel at ease, relaxed and casual, grounded yet light and airy, with high-quality materials done in a humble way – aka not fancy, but beautifully executed.

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Three Weeks Ago: “I Think You Want Shaker”

Like most of you, I THOUGHT I was highly familiar with Shaker style. But after Anne pointed out that all my ideas were very “Shaker” i.e. simplicity, natural light, interior windows, interior shutters, etc I realized she was right.

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Two Weeks + 6 Days Ago: Researching The Shakers – A Religious Sect Founded By A Woman

I went on a 3-hour wine-fueled research rabbit hole needing to know more, followed by a documentary and many books from eBay. Now as the foremost historian on the Shaker religion, it’s clear to me that not only was the Shaker style already what we were going for, but there is SO MUCH more to that ‘style’ and religion than you would think. It’s not just peg rails, ladder back chairs, and nesting boxes, friends – it goes deep and far beyond all of that. And for a religion that didn’t value beauty, they sure made some stunning architectural spaces.

photo by erin little | via remodelista

Cliff-notes history coming at you. I was riveted so hopefully you are interested, too. The ‘Shaker religion’ (A sect of Quakers that danced erratically, thus the name) was founded by a woman, Mother Ann Lee. That’s right, a religion founded by A WOMAN… but not without a sad origin story. As a girl, Mother Anne had been forced to marry really young in England (early 1700s) and had four children, all of them died – how they passed is not documented. But I think regardless, we can presume that it was tragic, every. single. time. I’m going to editorialize and psychoanalyze a bit by saying that I wonder if the deaths of her children, by way of an older man, led her to later in life leave the Quakers in England to create a celibate religion in America, dedicated to redemption and repentance, but with no sex and no childbirth. Maybe I’m reaching, but what I really want to do is go back 300 years and give that sweet girl a huge hug and say, “that shouldn’t have happened to you. It wasn’t your fault“. Talk about trauma. If that happened to me I would either do the obvious or start a no-sex/no-birth religion, too. But maybe I’m just projecting. We don’t know too much about her – she never wanted to be documented, by photograph, portraiture, or writing, so we know very little about what a special woman she was to have such a legacy, even if the religion was short lived.

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A Totally Egalitarian Religion – God Was Both Man And Woman

Perhaps despite, or because of what happened to Anne, the Shaker sect was completely egalitarian. First and foremost they believed that God was dual in nature – both a man and a woman. They believed in social, economic, racial, and spiritual equality (they believed that anyone could talk to God, even non-Shakers). They were pacifists, conscientious objectors to war, and total feminists. I suppose if you take away the power of sex and thus the patriarchy that indeed society would feel more equal. HUH.

They were 100% communal – shared everything, lived together but separately and everyone worked every day for the common good. Men on one half, women on the other – but designed completely the same (i.e. symmetry + equality).

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“Hands To Work, Heart To God”

The Shakers believed that the harder you worked, and the better job you did at this work, the closer you are to God. Perfectionism isn’t exactly a trait I value, but they strived for perfection not out of personal performance or wanting credit (not one person signed one chair) but they communed with God through their attention to working hard and doing it right. Not unlike many people of their time (reminds me so much of Mormons, holla) they bought very little and made most everything they needed from scratch.

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Fun facts that impressed me:

  • A Shaker woman invented the circular saw.
  • The Shaker vegetable seeds were what all farmers bought across the US pre-1900 (millions of seeds, all pre-industrialism).
  • Shaker furniture is now worth hundreds of thousands, not just because of its rarity but also its handmade perfectionism. It’s so beautiful. They make HIGH QUALITY, perfect pieces, in the most understated way. I’m into it, knowing that I can’t do it myself.
  • They even invented the first wrinkle-proof fabric and rain-resistant clothing.
  • They turned the round broom into our flat one!

What Happened? Where Are Our Shakers??

The whole celibacy thing really screwed them, ironically and not surprisingly. Growing their population was always going to be a problem without sex. They adopted many orphaned children (also many widowed dads dropped off kids) as well as wayward adults with whom they gave so much love. But once those kids were 21 years old they left and didn’t come back for the religious part of it. And not shockingly, most men weren’t that into the whole ‘never ever having sex again for the rest of your life’ thing. Then the industrial revolution began and the factories made their goods harder to sell as cheaper products were machine-made so their economy collapsed (Ring a bell?). So basically they just died off (I believe there are two alive now). You can see below how near the end there really weren’t any men left.

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But Listen…

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If the principals they (the Shakers) maintain and sustain were joined with the practical (having sex) it is destined to overthrow all other religions.” The egalitarian, hardworking, and self-reliant principals are obviously awesome and ones that I admire and would love to lean on for our family (and very much like my upbringing). It was utopian yet totally flawed, not dissimilar to a lot of other religions. But listen, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be an inspiration. Its egalitarianism, simplicity, hard work, and joy are pretty great things to bring into our lives and homes. Whatever this is hits me hard in the parts of my brain that hadn’t felt touched in a while – design-wise. I think I need to go back to church. 🙂

Fine – It’s A Cool/Weird Religion And You Are Still Having An Existential Crisis But What About The Cute Pegs? What Drove The Shakers Design-Wise?

The Shakers wanted to create chairs perfect enough for angels to sit on. Literally. How sweet is that? Whey wanted rooms that transformed earth into heaven. They wanted to worship God without ornamentation. I don’t know what I believe but I want chairs that angels feel comfortable sitting on and yes to a ‘heaven on earth’ feeling. These are big goals, and saying they are ‘lofty’ would be an understatement. But when your spiritual and personal worlds combine in the form of designing your home maybe this is a rectification you are ready for? WHO KNOWS, I just love this convergence, and it’s bringing me all sorts of good vibes.

Everything Had To Be Necessary

First and foremost they were the original American minimalists. Sure other people back then didn’t have “stuff”, but this was their pure intention not just out of ‘lack’. The Shakers rejected ornamentation and didn’t believe in beauty (“beauty was absurd, order was of heaven”). So you’ll see no extra details for beauty’s sake – everything was simple, practical, and had to have a purpose.

Abundance Of Natural Light

photo by erin little | via remodelista

This is part of the whole ‘heaven in home’ thing. I had already planned a ton of interior windows to bring light into the rooms that don’t get enough so when I read that they were big into interior windows I freaked out. Here’s why – because their homes were also their meeting houses they were really big, but the middle of the house (the meeting room) got very little light. Enter interior windows. I’m a big fan and have used them twice (dining room and our main closet) and planned on a lot of these in the design of the farm before even realizing they are indeed a staple of Shaker design.

They also employed windows on the ceiling (yes, that’s right – the OG SKYLIGHTS), So while I was nervous that bringing in some skylights would be odd with the vintage nature of the house, I feel like this gave me permission.

Symmetry, Literally Everywhere

I love this fact. So the men and women lived in different (but equal) sides of the home so they basically just repeated the halves, mirroring each other. And Symmetry goes along with ‘order’ obviously so they employed this everywhere they could.

Painted Trimwork

photo by john stones photography

It seemed most of the color that they brought in was through the trimwork – something I was planning on doing, but in a softer way (with less contrast). You can see up there the doors/peg rail and high baseboard brought in the only color in the whole space.

Interior Shutters

photo by erin little | via remodelista

This was another thing that I was already designing into the house, so when I read the Remodelista article that included their use of interior shutters I was so happy/surprised. I’ll be writing all about how and why to do this, stay tuned. I love how simple those are above.

photo by erin little | via remodelista

Designed To Be Easy To Clean

They designed not just for practical living but focused on how easy it was to clean. This is where the peg rail came in – they could hang their chairs while they swept and mopped. They could hang all their tools to have easy access. By having a peg rail literally around the whole room they could design their cupboards to be hung (so not have to be installed permanently). They even designed many of their dining chairs to be the same height as the table so you can push it in and not have to move around each chair as you wipe. I’ll be honest that I never really designed a house to be easy to clean before because for the last few years I wasn’t the one doing the deep cleaning. I feel like a real privileged dummy, but now that I do all the deep cleaning you bet I’m going to take this into consideration.

photo by erin little | via remodelista

Muted Color Palette

photo by erin little | via remodelista

They employed all neutrals with varying shades of blues, greens, and yellows to make it feel calm and cohesive. Same! I’ve never ever ever painted with yellows before but I’m like maybe there is a way to bring it in as it’s such a happy color to make sense for our family.

Incredible Storage Solutions

photo by erin little | via remodelista

ALL CLOSED, no clutter (because they didn’t have anything they didn’t NEED). They created so many built-ins instead of furniture to take up less space. Their peg rails even housed their candlesticks and medicine cabinets (something I want to copy for sure).

Perfectly Designed Iconic Furniture

The ladderback chair is certainly iconic and designed and built to be ergonomic in every way. For a group of people who denounced beauty, they sure did make beautiful tables, dressers, and cabinets. And my goodness the railing on their stairs were stunning.

Does This Mean You Are Doing Shaker Everything?

Nope! It’s an incredible intention and inspiration but I’m not locking myself into it completely. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having this foundational inspiration, rooted in history. It gives a really strong direction that I can go back to with every single permanent decision to make sure it aligns. But I also want flexibility to play with color, other styles, and texture for the rest of my life (or however long we live here). I also need far more comfort than the Shaker furniture can provide. So when I say the house is going to be heavily ‘Shaker’, I’m talking mostly in the architecture and all the permanent finishes – not the furniture or accessories and of course, I’m still allowing myself to have fun anywhere I want to. We have this super quiet foundation of muted pretty tones, a lot of natural light, so much function and practicality. Then I can layer on my pieces that do have decorative details. I mean my art is certainly not ‘necessary’ and my layered bedding for ultimate softness isn’t ‘required’ for sleeping but obviously, our house will be filled with meaningful art and very cozy beds. It’s also just awesome that I have a connection to the style, through the spiritual aspect of it. I’m hoping it can just become this positive guide to make the home what it can be to help my whole family thrive. It’s helping me be more purposeful and always check back with my “intention”. You know how at the beginning of yoga class how they ask you to set an intention, I think that for this house it aligns so much with what the Shakers did – both in how they lived their life and their timeless design.

So there you have it – the Hendersons Shaker Farm (with a big dose of eclecticism on top), and you bet there will be dancing, in every form. 🙂

Stay tuned for inspirational interior photos of what this will actually look like (the research part of this post took over – hopefully, you history enthusiasts enjoyed it), as well as a roundup of Shaker pieces you can buy now, all the other elements (we haven’t even talked about Shaker cabinetry!) and how I’m layering ‘Victorian’ on top of it all. Because if there is one group of people who the Shakers didn’t agree with aesthetically it was the Victorians… 🙂 THERE WILL BE DRAMA.

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Fin Mark


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I’d probably agree to celibacy if I could have a set of those stairs.


Lololololol. And same.

Hah! I love this. It cracks me up when I think about your mantra of “pretty goes with pretty” since often things that are pretty can also be kind of heavily detailed/ornamented, you know? But obviously not always. I love the idea of “setting an intention” here–I’m kind of an accidental maximalist who craves less clutter and STUFF, and I think an intention of flow/openness/airiness/light will help me pare back a bit. I’m going to borrow this concept!

My family is actually Quaker (but not Shaker) and the lack of any decoration or ornamentation used to seem like kind of a bummer to me, because I love, like, Art Deco lighting fixtures and Art Nouveau/Modernist wrought iron and furniture. But the way you framed this and described it actually really makes me appreciate Quaker/Shaker architecture like never before! And since I inevitably end up layering LOTS of unnecessary stuff in, perhaps going simpler with, like, trim/moulding and other elements would help set a calmer backdrop for the inevitable maximalism. Either way, I live in London with an American amount of stuff and will take alllllll the built-in closed storage I can get.

Can’t wait to see how this evolves!!


Just a big thank you! I enjoyed the read a lot.


Yes, thank you from me too. This was wonderful.


This was riveting! I didn’t know shaker history. Emily I am so invested in these religious and design journeys and love how they’ve intersected!
I can’t wait for the inspo photos!! 😃


No mention of the ubiquitous shaker style cabinets until the last paragraph?!? Crazy. Also joking. (And no shade. I’ve installed them in two kitchens.)

I’ve long admired the Shaker aesthetic, which influences a lot of the art and architecture where I live in New England. It’s austerely beautiful, but I think it would be hard to live with that extreme minimalism except in small doses.

That said, I have been searching for some shaker nesting boxes for storage, and they are impossible to find in COVID times. Curious to see what you find for your roundup.

I’d also think you’d be hard pressed to find much Shaker style in the PNW, since they didn’t make it further west than Kentucky/Indiana. Hope you’ll share more about that and how you plan turn a craftsman house into a shaker one, especially after trim gate last week (which also got only an oblique reference here). Will stay tuned…


Since you mentioned Kentucky, this reminded me of visiting Shaker Village growing up. I’m from Louisville and there is a Shaker Village outside of Lexington that we visited as kids.


We also visited the Shaker community, Pleasant Hill, years ago while living in KY, and found it inspiring and peaceful. I bought a cookbook they were selling and still have it.


This. I live in Lexington and we enjoy going to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill all the time. It’s a short drive from Lexington– located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. You should visit with your family after we’re all vaccinated, of course…

“By 1910, Pleasant Hill had closed its doors as an active religious society. The 12 remaining members deeded their last 1,800 acres to a local merchant with the agreement he would care for them until their death. The last Shaker, Sister Mary Settles died in 1923. The land, buildings and furnishings passed into private hands, and Pleasant Hill became a small country town called “Shakertown.” In 1961, a private nonprofit organization, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, was founded to restore the historic property.”


And when you visit Shaker Village, trust me on this, get the lemon pie!


I went to Shaker Village on a trip to KY as a kid and it made such a mark on me. The buildings were so beautiful inside.

This house museum is in the Berkshires, western, MA and has a shop that sells shaker boxes.
Also in Arlington, MA outside Boston, Shaker Workshops sells them. I’ve often gotten these, a few nesting boxes, as a wedding present.
Last, for a historical novel with a shaker setting, read Rachel Urquhart’s The Visionist.


Thank you! They actually have the larger sizes, which seem to be out of stock everywhere.


I hope someone sees this! I nosed around the shop but couldn’t find the nesting boxes. What category are they under? They must not be oval shaped? Bc they weren’t in that category and that’s the only one with “box” in the name. Thanks for any help.


Hahaha I thought trim gate was going to get more of a mention too!


Emily, firstly I LOVED this post! It was a joy to read and learn about other styles. Secondly, I’d love to read a post about how to decorate your house so that it’s easy to clean (from a cleaning professional POV?) because now that I know about the practical use of shaker pegs, I want them desperately in our dining room!
Thirdly, if you posted once in two weeks with articles like this, it would be heaven! I’m not into the furniture roundups. But that’s just me!
So so soooooooooo great!!!


Agreed on both counts! Would love to see deep dives on other styles that really delve into the history and intentions behind design.




You don’t need pegs on your wall. Just flip your dining chairs upside down and put them on the table and then clean under it. I also put my barstools upside down on the counter. And then rotate everything around in circle one space when you take them down, for even wear. How do the rest of you clean your floors?


…or have folding chairs that get tucked away when not in use.


I really want some foldable chairs for the game/cards table in our family room. Have not been able to find sturdy, comfy ones yet though. Do you have some and that why you recommend them? If so, what do you have, please?


This is definitely my fault, and not everyone’s lived experience (esp the people who are regulars of this blog) but I would never put my chairs upside down on my table. I know it’s a thing that can be done, I’ve worked in restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, etc. But I just do not sweep often enough and we have a drafty house. The bottom of my chair legs stays dirty and dusty and I would not want that crud on my table. I do keep my table clean, so this would create work, I wouldn’t just be cleaning the table then anyway so who cares if it’s a little dirtier. You know?

All of that to say: be like KJ y’all, don’t be like me. Sweep often, keep your legs clean. 🙂


Team Yellow! 🌞 Can’t wait to see how you use it. Loved the yellow in the laundry room of yesterday’s house tour.


Ooooh, yes! Yellow! Can you imagine Emily playing around with her love of blue hues AND yellow?!

I painted my exterior yellow, Open Sesame, and the kids in the street nicknamed it “The Happy House.” Sweet!🤗


Rusty, every single time you mention your home I become more and more obsessed with one day seeing a house tour! It sounds incredible.


Same, Daria! Would love a guest post from Rusty with her home tour!!




Ooooh, thank you, Daria.
It’s only small but I really love it and can’t wait to revamp it once I’m “free” in May.
I’m touched that you feel this way, really.
Hugz from Australia 🤗 xx


Yes to yellow! I have it so many places and on my exterior. I love it in places where a bit more energy and light is needed.


Yes! The only home I’ve been happy in during winter (I have SAD) had buttery yellow living and dining rooms. Even though it was a townhouse with windows only on two walls, both of which had big trees outside and therefore didn’t let in much light, I felt great there. I love blue but can not stay healthy and sane in a home painted my favorite color.:( So we are looking at yellows that will work in a north facing family room where I spend all of my daytime hours basically every day of the week. Even though I don’t wear a lot of yellow or like many yellow things (accessories and decor, etc), I have talked my husband into it. He’s pretty worried that I will hate it after the fact, but I know I won’t. The right yellow really perks you up without oppressing you the way red can (well, it oppresses me anyway).

Fun post! I live in New Hampshire where we have several great Shaker museums: Enfield, Hancock, and Canterbury Shaker Villages. Check them out online if you’d like!

I lived in Concord for years, and loved visiting Canterbury; especially the mauve colored home. I miss the East coast!


I’ve been to one of those as a child. It was fabulous and made a deep impression.


Also, the way you described shaker life reminds me A LOT of a farm community (founded by a woman!) here in Canada. Everyone shares everything and works toward the common good and they value doing work well and for the right reasons. They also LOVE beauty – one of the buildings on their farm is an art gallery! They have this incredible balance of simplicity/order/nature/minimalism while also valuing creativity/craftsmanship/beauty. They have so much reverence for both men and women, and neither gender is considered inferior in any way. They also take a vow of celibacy. However they are not anti-sex at all. The members join as adults after a long and careful discernment because they believe they have a unique calling to the community. They also welcome visitors who do not take any vows but come as a sort of retreat. And they have great love and reverence for marriage and families. They run an amazing summer camp for families who come from all over the world (lots of Americans) to experience it. The community is called Madonna House and the family camp is called Cana Colony. It is Catholic and welcomes all people (you don’t have to be religious… Read more »


Vera, “Everyone shares everything and works toward the common good and they value doing work well and for the right reasons.”
This sounds like my kinda people … minus the Catholicism.
Really, really interesting take on community.😊


Yes Rusty I am so inspired by them! They also publish amazing books, some of which are about how to bring this sort of culture into more typical family life and neighborhoods. Two in particular by the foundress: “Apostolic Farming” and “The People of the Towel and Water”


So interesting. This is like a catalyst to get back to basic calues, you know, like “Work hard and be kind.”
I love it.
Thank you for sharing your resources and knowledge. xx

Christine Salek

I live outside of Pittsfield Ma where there is an original Shaker village-beautiful to visit ! (well in non Covid times) Nice article and I love Shaker…tis a gift to be simple.


My cousin got married at Hancock Shaker Village. He and his mother are Quakers and it was so lovely.

okay, Emily. so, i loved this post. i love the non-consumerism aspects of their religion/way of life and i think everyone could seriously use more of that, and the environment would certainly appreciate that. their minimalist and practical ways are refreshing and as i’m getting older (same age as you), i’m appreciating less stuff and just practical living (probably my reaction to having 2 young kids that clutter up and mess everything). i think at this point, a shaker design with lots of colors would just be perfect!
also, i googled shaker nesting boxes because i didn’t know what that was, and they are beautiful.
thanks for the history lesson. ALSO, their belief system and non-patriarchy are soooooooooo inspiring. let’s all become shakers that have sex!


Yeah, I like the simplicity, buuut I need colour!

The ethical nature of self-sufficiency is super-appealing to me as I sit in the middle of a massive heat wave for the next week (39 Celcius today) with my aircon blasting, feeling heavy-hearted about greenhouse gas and global warming… I’d love, love, love to afford roof top solar panels and a battery (for night time use).


Here in the US people don’t usually set up batteries unless they’re not on the grid (and if you make more electricity than you use you actually sell it back to the power company!). Is that not how it works in Australia?

In my limited/dated experience (18 years ago I dated a guy whose father bought a place off the grid, and I did a lot of research into photovoltaic) batteries add a lot of complexity and maintenance work to the whole thing, and someone would only choose to use them if they had to (or maybe if they were into that whole survivalist thing)


Yeah, people sell back into the grid and there are govt incentives/rebates for installation, but increasingly people are getting their own batteries too. Usually Tesla, but there are some German ones too.

so, in the us, you can do something called solar ppa (solar power purchase agreement), which is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. so, for the customer isn’t paying up front for panels. you just pay a lower energy bill and it’s all solar. this is a great way for someone who can’t outright buy panels up front to go solar. like renting them. it’s literally a win win win situation (win for customer, win for panel owners, win for the environment). perhaps that’s an option in australia?


That’s a great way to incentivise people to get into it!

ALSO EMILY: I forgot to say this yesterday and i meant to come back to add this, but then forgot, and Rusty’s comment reminded me:
for your farmhouse, can you PLEASE go solar and then blog the whole thing? that way, you can promote solar and make it less scary for people who find the process intimidating and therefore don’t even consider it? you have such a wide audience that it would be awesome! and if you look at my response to Rusty, you can do solar PPA if you want, which doesn’t add any cost to you. i would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see this!


Back in one of the first farmhouse posts, I mentioned that today’s solar panels don’t actually need direct sunny sun, they just need light (thinking of rainy Portland).
Case in point is that the city of London gas a LOT of its electricity from solar panels!
If they can do it?
Come on!
I hope the INFLUENCER in Emily takes this challenge on to infirm and demystify the process of making a difference, BEING a difference and going solar!
I’m sure there are loads of companies to partner with on this one!

This is so moving! As a designer, someetimes I get caught up in making choices without having an intention deeper than “they want cozy and fun.” I would love to get back to truly intentional design.
Could you please share a few sources (books, websites) that you loved while doing this research?
Thank you! So looking forward to watching this project unfold.


Ooooh, links to sources would be awesome and helpful.
Share the good stuff journey!

Annie K

Yes, please! I echo the source request, for their sake if not ours.

Tiffany Stevenson

Thank you for going down that rabbit hole. One of your best posts ever (and I love them all). I just relocated to Portland, and I can’t wait to see how your house design unfolds.

(Since Portland area is TINY, a friend knows your seller and said there isn’t a sweeter man. That’s such good juju.)


There is a preserved shaker community it Kentucky called Shaker Village you can visit that I highly recommend. I went on many field trips there as a child and have been many times as an adult- they have a great restaurant and it was a close 2nd as my wedding venue. I believe their instagram has great photos and their website has more on their history


You should check out @mothermeg on Instagram for additional visual inspiration. Light, cozy, warm, inviting and simple – a very similar direction to what you are describing


Yes! Love Mother Meg!


First, I love your writing style. Second, I can not wait to see how this all “shakes” out. For those of us “designing” our own spaces by trial and error, your explanations of how and why you’ve chosen what you chose…well….helps me clear out the cobwebs of indecision.
Onward, Emily! Until next time,



LOVE this piece. Shaker style is so inspirational, I look forward to seeing how you integrate it into your design. My best friends Dad is a shaker style furniture maker, he studied at the Bardstown Ky Shaker village. Her house is full of useful beauty.


To make furniture, by hand … takes my breath away. It must be so soulfully beautiful!


Our playroom is a really beautiful soft yellow and I love it. It has huge windows but it’s still an English basement so I wanted to bring more warmth in while still keeping it light and it totally worked.


I didn’t know what Shaker nesting boxes were, looked them up and … I have some! 🤗 Wot the?! Mine are paint-washed in various muted tones. Who knew?!

Wow … as someone who lives in an Australian Crafstman (isn’t it MAN not MEN???), I love the details and craftsmanship of the flourishes. I still wonder about painting the dark timber trim white, but I won’t because of my “custodian” feelings about the house. She’s an Old Girl and the. last. original. house in the entire neighbourhood. So, I can’t do it. So many gave lost all semblance of history and, rather, now resemble quasi-Hamptons mish-mash. Tis sad.

So, Shaker Farmhouse?
That’ll be a culture shock for the Henderson’s Old Girl!
Hahaha 😹It kinda made me envisafe someone changing religions or something like that – she’s being converted!!!

I have a tiny, child’s Victorian chair (they made repilca grown up furniture for little children!) and I’ve always wanted to hang it on the wall (probably sounds weird, but it’d look cool). This post is encouraging me to do that when I revamp the house! The possibilities are endless.

We will see what happens to the Henderson’s Portland Shaker Old Girl Conversion Farmhouse … HPSOGCF!🤫


If taking this design structural direction, it seems Brian’s desire for hooks in the foyer and simplicity is on point!


Ha! What if this is how Brian gets his hooks into the entry? That would be kind of funny and a sweet story they could tell about their home in years to come. How life turns out is so unexpected sometimes.


I enjoyed this post, and learned from it too. Thanks for taking us on this journey. I look forward to seeing more


Gosh, I loved this post ❤️


You need to take a trip to Harrodsburg, KY and visit Shaker Village. It’s so charming and a lovely getaway and I bet you would get tons of inspiration from just being there and stepping back in time. They have a working farm with cows, sheep, pigs, etc, hundreds of acres of hiking trails, a restaurant with food to die for and all of the original shaker buildings that you can tour and even stay in!

Jennifer Briggs

Love love love. Makes total sense. Can’t wait to follow along.

Jennifer Briggs

Love love love. Can’t wait to see what’s next.


Growing up, Shaker Village in Harrodsburg KY was my favorite place to visit. I’ve since moved away but returned this summer for my first visit as an adult. We were mid renovation and all the sudden all my design decisions made sense. Clearly the impression that those surroundings stuck with me and came out in my design. The number of pictures of trim, hardware, and lighting details I bright back in my phone is slightly embarrassing😂. It is a wonderful place to visit if you ever get the chance. It is still worked by volunteers and you can walk through the village and their houses as they were many years ago. We also discovered that you can spend the night in a few of the houses so we’re definitely going to need a return trip! Loved this post and can’t wait to see how this translates into your design.


I’m a musician who has performed there in their beautiful barn. I got to stay there for a few days in their buildings. It was gorgeous.

I also grew up in Massachusetts and always loved visiting Shaker Village.

PLUS I went to a quaker school and camp my whole childhood. All of this makes sense to me. If you haven’t looked into quakers, I HIGHLY recommend it. Their whole idea is that there is that of God in everyone- we are all equal, worthy, important, and loveable. It is beautiful!


Well, this was fun! Thanks for an interesting history lesson and insight into the shaker style. I love so many of these elements and didn’t even know they were connected.


Love this! I’m from Maine and growing up a favorite field trip was to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village, which I believe is home to one of the two remaining Shakers. Churning butter was a real highlight.


Erica, I got lost in their website! The detail in their work is mesmerising.

Made me giggle when I looked in the shop and saw Alpaca products!
Brian wants Alpacas! Maybe he’s a Shaker-mover?! (obv minus the celibacy bit 😹)


I had a lovely experience with the Shakers in Sabbathday Lake, Maine back in 1999/2000. I participated in a project with the Boston Camerata to capture some of the Shaker music, and we performed a couple of concerts in Boston and New York singing alongside the Shakers. Then the following summer, we spent a couple of days with them at their home to record the songs. They were extremely kind and welcoming. They cooked together, and everyone ate together at a long table. We attended a chapel service with them and spent hours singing for the recording. (Every so often a take would be ruined because you could hear a loud truck go by on a nearby major road.) At the time, there were 7 Shakers remaining — 3 men and 3 women in the compound in Maine, and one woman in a nursing home. Now, sadly, only two remain.


This. Is. Amazing!
How beautiful that you did that.
So sweet and sad at the same time. x


Actually there are three Shakers! Sister Frances passed away a couple years ago but a new Brother joined since.


What a great morning read with my coffee. My dream kitchen has always had Shaker cabinets.


Can I mention another blog? Kate Watson-Smyth’s madaboutthehouse talks about and gives examples of painting interior window frames yellow to counteract the many gloomy gray days of England. From what I can recall of Shaker environments a mustardy yellow is also a frequently used color. I think Emily has reached a natural evolution after being immersed in so many decorating projects over the years – an evolution that craves more simplicity. Am I on to something or just projecting my own evolution?


Bo, thank you!!
Madaboutthehouse is fabulous!
Even has a whole section on doing less harm and ethical companies.
Way to go. Great of you to share the good stuff. 😊xx


I found madaboutthehouse only few months ago and I just LOVE that site. Like Rusty, I really appreciate the ethical consideration she (?) incorporated in her choices and that she shares that thinking. It is something that sets apart that site from the jungle of options on the internet. But also, she’s really really good! There’s not a strict style adhered to, and anyone can find something that helps them. I was finally able to break up with apartment therapy after adding madaboutthehouse to my morning internet-with-coffee time.


This is an awesome history lesson. My son goes to a Quaker preschool and although we live the values that they espouse I never knew the origin of their beliefs and how it related to the Shaker style. Thanks!


Love the values. We try to live the values. 😂


In my ignorance, I thought Shaker and Quaker were interchangeable terms.


Wonderful post!


I love every bit of this post…the history, the design inspiration, the chairs-for-angels and existential pondering, and the promise of Victorian drama thrown in for good measure. Can’t wait!


Well, thank you for taking us on that entertaining and informative journey! Can’t wait to hear and see more.


We’ve visited some Shaker settlements and they’re wonderful. Shakers were innovators and if active today, would be into computers and microwaves and air fryers and all the things that make labor easier.
I love the idea of Shaker as the base and then springboard into all things “Emily Henderson Family”. The stuff that makes it you.


I really love the simplicity and functionality found in Shaker/modern Scandinavian/Japanese design… I’m in that tiny group of Americans who would actually want their spaces to be described as “austere”! My quirky 80s-built apartment has chair and crown molding, though (and they’re more ornate than the Shakers would have used), so I’m using it as an opportunity to embrace location.

The story in my head right now is “Colonial New England/Brooklyn brownstone family home that evolved through the centuries and through travel to Denmark and Japan.” Which technically is my personal story… so I’m still working out how to include my spouse! Something about Louisiana and the Air Force upbringing and modern-dude-smoking-room. The term “eclectic” is an understatement!


Hi Emily – Interesting post about a style (and really, way of life) that I (ignorantly) mostly thought about as cabinets. It feels a little austere to me, but as you’re thinking about this mostly as an intention and not a blueprint, I’m sure that you’ll implement it with warmth and fun.

I’m impressed by your ability to branch out and try so many different styles in your projects.


U guys taking a sister wife soon or?




Quakers aren’t polygamous.


I grew up Quaker (not Shaker)! The town I grew up in (and where my family had been for generations) was founded by Quakers, so it was very much a part of my upbringing. Emily, in your quest, look up “inward light” as it applies to Quakers, which is now known as the Religious Society of Friends. I know there are several up in the Portland area.

I’m looking forward to the next several years of Henderson Farms content!


Ooh love it! A DeVol style kitchen perhaps?😍 I really though would love to hear more about changing styles and how people could do that with staying in one home. Looking back on your past houses your style has changed a lot over the years. What if a persons style changes a lot too but they stay in the same house? What are ways to transition or evolve over time? How do you blend well so it’s not a stark night and day? More of those posts of 1 couch designed 4 ways but for a whole room perhaps.


Love this direction Emily!

Family friends of mine are amazing shaker furniture makers (and other finishes) in Pennsylvania if you’d like to check them out. True artisans!


That site looks amazing, thanks!


This is so great! I’m a Quaker, and there’s so many similarities. It’s so rare to see anyone talking about it online, it’s hard for me to not just write a novel in response! But, I know people aren’t here to learn about Quakers, AKA Friends. LOL. If anyone is curious about learning more, I’d be happy to answer any questions. Please feel free to shoot me a note: brandt (dot) kimberly (at) yahoo (dot) com


Quakers use the internet?? Wow! I know nothing!


Yesssssss I have been obsessed with the Shakers since I was a little kid, so glad to see them getting some serious attention! The fact that their ahead-of-the-times minimalist design ethic is the *least* interesting thing about them never gets mentioned, so I was thrilled to see you give everyone the historical low-down. Thank you!!


I really enjoyed reading about this and it definitely has peaked my interest. I’ve always been drawn to the little bits of shaker design that I was aware of. I can’t wait to see your execution!

Cynthia Gylov

Lordy Lordy Lordy I’m excited for this one! I loved this article, love the history and intention behind the whys. It grounds things more when we know and understand the history.


Best. Post. Ever. More like this, so enjoyed this, would appreciate even more history as you move forward.

A lot of the elements of this style remind me of old European farmhouses! I live in the Czech Republic, and my absolute favorite antiques are the ones that are simple, functional pieces literally passed down through generations. Actually, a trip to Eastern Europe could possibly be a cost effective way to find pieces to fit this style– for example, I bought the sweet pink cupboard in our kitchen for about $60 (not to mention giant handmade baskets crafted by an old man in our village for less than $15 each)!

I mean, shopping in Eastern Europe might make sense after covid 😭 Happy to troll Facebook Marketplace for you if you want though!! 😁

Roberta Davis

I love this direction you are going! Can’t wait to see how it all comes out. I had said earlier that I was more concerned with how the outside would come out than the inside (knowing you, I knew that would be fabulous)- but these Shaker farmhouse images are inspiring! The religion shares much with Patanjali’s yoga philosophy, I think. But yeah- they missed something when they took sex out of the picture, didn’t they? lol


Ok, now I’M really into shaker everything.

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