Divinely Inspired Shaker Furniture on View at SFO Museum


When the Shakers crafted their home furnishings hundreds of years ago, it wasn’t just about comfort and utility – it was about pleasing God. Every detail of their minimalist work was carefully constructed and meticulously perfected.

Typically, to see such artistry, furniture buffs need to go east to small Shaker towns in New England. But now, Californians can get a glimpse of the largest Shaker furniture collection on the West Coast at the San Francisco International Airport Museum.

“All the pieces are phenomenal, because of the painstaking workmanship the Shakers put into their furniture,” says curator of the exhibition Nicole Mullen. “They were truly divinely inspired.”

The exhibition features highlights from San Francisco local Benjamin Rose’s private collection. Rose grew up in New York where he developed an affinity for American antiques and he has been collecting Shaker furniture since the 1960s. On view are dressers, tables, chairs, baskets, boxes, clocks, and more – mostly from the 1800s.

Shaker design’s most telltale aspect is that it’s deceivingly simple. The craftsmen’s goals were to make furniture with clean lines and no embellishments. Also, using local wood – such as maple, cherry, and pine – was key. The result is stark pieces that could as easily fit into an haute modern design home as a backcountry cabin.

“Many Modern designers of the 1950s and ’60s were impressed by the Shakers’ minimal furniture, which existed long before movements such as Bauhaus,” Mullen says. “Shaker furniture eliminated unnecessary ornament, and instead, emphasized streamlined, pure forms.”

Inspired Design: Shaker Furniture from the Benjamin Rose Collection is located before security in SFO’s International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby. The exhibition is free and will be on view through August 11, 2013. 

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