I'll end my Shaker festival with a group of photographs of what I think of as the living details of architecture--something not enough designers take into consideration when they set about the business of creating a house.
The Shakers carefully considered the design and function of every broom closet, kitchen sink, and cupboard, with the result that the interiors of their buildings are every bit as clean-lined as the exteriors.
Everything they made has an elegant flair--even the crutches...
Or the broom closet.
Though people often say they were against adornment, I don't think that is quite accurate. Rather, they used their everyday utensils as adornment--even the milky blue-green hue of a blanket chest is striking against the shiny marigold floor.
The linens are hung on a rack so that their shadows play against the wall, and the whitewash sets off the bit of windowpane design and embroidery identifying the owner of a towel or napkin.
The Shakers invented the peg rail, and used it cleverly, for instance, to keep in the warmth from a wood stove in winter, or to hang thick linens across windows to shut out the hot sun in summer.
And as with the exteriors of their buildings, the Shakers used color inside their rooms as well, even using bright hues inside cupboards.
Was this functional, a way of brightening dim interiors during long winters? Or simply to give the housekeeper pleasure, as she folded her linens and stacked them neatly on their shelves?
The backlighting of some of the everyday objects used in a kitchen--a bowl, say, or a pitcher, would play up its sculptural shape, and surely such gestures were appreciated, if not consciously, in that way that a simple moment of beauty serves to refine one's sensibility and calm one's nerves. Even the shadows cast by the afternoon sun must have given the residents a reason to pause in their work and contemplate the blessings of their simple lives. It certainly made me stop and think about how much more deeply we can appreciate things singly, rather than in crowds.
Even the workshop, where furniture legs are turned and pieces joined, was a place of serene, but noisy, beauty.
The woodworker's tools were powered by water, which was piped in from a reservoir on a hilltop above the village.
The water had enough force to turn a series of leather-strapped wheels that worked the lathes; it was remarkable to see it gushing out when the heavy iron wheels were turned to open up the source.
And the way the tools were hung, waiting for their turn to be put to use again...
These posts aren't about redecorating Shaker-style, though more power to anyone who invests in pieces that carry in them such a rich history of thoughtful industry. Rather, as a design sponge who finds herself constantly soaking up inspiration, I was immeasurably moved by the discovery of Hancock Village living museum. I was taken back in time, yet at the same time, oddly moved forward--there is something about the refined care that spoke to some nascent idea I have about the style with which I want to grow old.
I was given a tour through the village by the interim director, Peter Hansen--that's his hand in the photograph of the lathe. I can't imagine a more inspiring, knowledgeable and witty guide--and I recommend having someone walk you through so that you can see "behind the scenes", and understand what you're looking at. Thank you Peter!