How would one handle the window treatments in a room furnished in Shaker style?
First, some history on Shaker style and when it originated.
Shaker style has a simple appearance and stems from the Shaker movement, which originally came to the United States from England in the 1800s. The Shakers had a very strict work ethic that was reflected in the things they made. Their style of building was clean and uncluttered, and everything about their homes reflected this style. Simplicity, cleanliness and the need for nothing more than necessities were very important to the Shakers, while luxurious items were not important.
Shaker furniture style represented simplicity as well. The furniture pieces in a room's interior were simple and plain, yet functional. Ladderback rocking chairs, simply lined tables and desks, and built-in cabinets are some of the furnishing you'd find in their interiors. Wood floors also were very important for their ease of maintenance. The Shaker style of furniture did reflect 19th-century fashion, but minus the fancy stylized details, markings and designs. Simplicity was a main goal of the Shakers.
Today a bedroom, for example, can be made to reflect the same feeling as authentic Shaker style through its selection of furnishings. A simple four poster bed, elegant cabinets in a streamlined design, the use of rich woods, hardwood floors and end tables with simple lines all brought together with the use of rich, warm colors would work nicely to recreate the style.
As for the window treatments, shutters would be the appropriate choice to replicate a room from this period. They would be in keeping with the simple line design of Shaker-style furniture and wood floors. Because the craftsmen of the era believed in simplicity, the shutters usually would be stained the same as the floors, which would add some contrast to the natural colors on the walls that was typical of the 1800s.
Color did not play such an important role for the Shakers as it does for many of us today. Quilts and hand sewn linens would be used to brighten up rooms. Today, however, the use of color would bring some life to this style! If I were recreating Shaker style for a room's interior, I would not be afraid to use color as long as the client did not oppose. But if the client wanted an authentic recreation of the style, the room would have a neutral feel absent of most color.
The secret in making Shaker style work today is to bring textures into the room because of the heavy use of smooth-surfaced woods. The variation of textures brought in through the use of linens and fabrics would be a wise solution to a room that otherwise would lack surface variations.
As for recreating an authentic window treatment, remember not to use any type of top treatment over the shutters. "Less is more" would be the goal for a room decorated for this time period.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience as a professional interior designer in both commercial and residential design. She has taught at numerous colleges throughout California and currently is an educator at Moorpark college in southern California. She is a published author and frequent public speaker.