A Brief History of Shaker Doors

February 11, 2022



History of Shaker Doors - Clera Windows + Doors

When you look at Shaker doors, they’re likely to give you a very modern and minimalist impression. They typically have distinct, evenly-sized rectangular panels that run the length of the door.  Their unique but simple placement of panels makes them truly stand out from other styles of panel doors.  However, this seemingly modern door also has historical roots reaching back to the 1700s.  And believe it or not, the name “Shaker” is not given to this door because it has “shaken” up the design scene – although it has done that as well. The term “Shaker” is a design style linked to the protestant sect called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing – who are known as “Shakers.” In this guide, we explore what Shaker style means.  We’ll also go into the rich history of Shaker doors.  Let’s get started!

A Brief History Of Shaker Doors - Clera Windows + Doors

What Is Meant By Shaker Style?

Shaker style is characterized by simplicity, clean lines, tapered forms, and minimalist looks. Original Shaker furniture were also known to look balanced and well-made from all angles – front, side, or back. This reflected the dedication of the Shaker community to high-quality work. Shaker doors are known to have symmetrical rectangular panes, one on top of the other.  An example of this is Clera’s Soho door. This style resembles Shaker cabinets that also bore recessed panels as understated embellishments. Simplicity and symmetry in design enable Shaker doors to be versatile and modern-looking.  Shaker doors are also sometimes closely associated with Craftsman Doors which also bear rectangular panes – albeit in another orientation.  An example of a Craftsman door is Clera’s Jasper door.  However, these are two different styles altogether.    

What Is the Origin of Shaker Style?

The history of the Shaker style is connected with two religious movements: Quakerism and the Shakers movement.  Both of these religious movements originated in England before spreading to other parts of North America.  Here is a detailed breakdown of the key events that led to the birth of Shaker doors, Shaker cabinets, and Shaker furniture.

The Shaker Movement Is Born

The belief in human equality that characterized the Quakers lived on in the Shaker Movement. In connection with this, the Shakers also had efforts to oppose slavery. The Shakers’ southern societies freed slaves and bought freedom for Black believers. The Shakers also believed that men and women were equals – another similar belief to the Quakers.There are, however, a few beliefs that Shakers and Quakers did not have in common. For instance, the Shakers believed that their founder Ann Lee, whom they called Mother Ann, was the female manifestation of Christ. Furthermore, Shakers also believed in complete celibacy among its members – which is another aspect that differentiated them from the Quakers.  Below is an 1840 depiction of a group of Shakers dancing, sourced from National Park Service:

The Shaker Movement Is Born - Clera Windows + Doors

The Shaker Community Grows

On top of celibacy, the Shaker community strived to be self-sufficient. They practiced communal living wherein members were trained to do certain jobs. And because this movement did not believe in procreation, the community only grew when they had new followers or when members of the community chose to adopt and take care of orphaned children. It is important to note that adopted new members were also given the freedom to leave the community as they wish.

The Shaker Craftsmanship Spreads

Shakers soon migrated to the United States and settled across New England. Handcrafting furniture and doors was a part of their efforts to be self-sufficient. They not only made these for themselves but also sold some of their works.In an era when mass-produced furniture equated to poor quality, the handcrafted work of the Shakers gained respect. Handcrafted furniture and fixtures by Shakers became well known for craftsmanship and high standards. The Shaker community also took immense pride in the high quality and durable design of their handcrafted furniture and doors. To them, engaging in this work wasn’t just a means to be self-sufficient but it was also an act of prayer to practice honest hard work.  

The Last Remaining Shakers

Because the Shakers believed in celibacy, the growth of the community was relatively slow. Today, there are only two remaining Shakers: Brother Arnold Hadd, 58, and Sister June Carpenter, 77.

Shaker-Style Lives On In The Design World

Though the Shaker community has reduced in size through the years, the Shaker style will continue to live on in many homes – shining with simple, understated beauty.  So the next time you see Shaker doors, Shaker cabinets, or Shaker furniture, you will know that you are looking at one of the fondest legacies of a hardworking and unique community.

Shaker-style Lives On In The Design World - Clera Windows + Doors

A Piece of History As Your Next Durable Front Door

If you’re ready to own a modern-looking door with a rich historical background, we’re here to help! Clera Windows + Doors is one of the most trusted manufacturers and sellers of windows and doors in Canada. Over the last 41+ years, we have transformed hundreds of homes with durable, energy-efficient, and stylish doors. If you would like to learn more about what we can do for your home or about our high-quality shaker doors available, contact us today!

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