Shaker furniture is iconic in the design world for good reason: Long before the modernists, it sought a perfect marriage of form and function. The distinctive style has existed since at least the early 19th century, when the Shaker religious communities needed to outfit their own homes and meeting places. Over the decades, they also turned to selling their goods as a way to make a living.
The actual community of Shakers is all but extinct now, but the furniture is more influential than ever. It’s particularly relevant for the kind of minimalist spaces that are so popular now because it’s all about efficiency, having a storage space for every possible object, even pieces of furniture. Shaker meeting houses were flexible, open spaces that had to fulfill various purposes and accommodate many people at once. Their biggest structural innovation is also the one that’s most popular now: lining peg rails high up on the walls provided a place for everything from chairs to clothing to candles and lanterns for nighttime illumination.
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The classic Shaker peg rail has pegs every six inches in a perfectly even spacing that recalls a minimalist art installation. They were traditionally installed all the way around a room for maximum storage space. These days, you’re more likely to see a small length of peg rail with pegs closer together in the entryway of a home, sometimes with a shelf on top for extra sundries.
That’s the approach I took for my apartment, too. A coat stand was not cutting it; there were so many jackets that it started to look more like a scarecrow. I wanted two rows of pegs at different heights so that I could hang jackets, hats, scarves, and totebags (turns out they’re very useful for pandemic masks, too). There are plenty of peg rails available on Amazon, but I wanted a little more of a handmade feeling. After much searching, I found Peg and Rail, an American manufacturer that ships perfect specimens within a week. They’re also not much more expensive than Amazon alternatives.
Peg and Rail allows you to choose which type of wood you want your peg rail made of, with stained and painted options as well. You also select the design of the edges and the mounting method, whether keyhole slots on the back of the panel or holes drilled through the wood. I went with modern square edges and keyhole slots — but I don’t recommend the keyholes. They can be wobbly and if you’re putting much weight onto the pegs, you’ll want it to be securely fastened directly to the wall.
The look is somewhere between Shaker classic and Instagram-friendly, which is to say, perfect. Now I’m just wonder which room I can run them all the way around.