Furnishing Utopia's research-focused workshops provides an resonating experience for designers to engage, connect, and explore design from an in-depth perspective. The workshop experiences opens up a sense of curiosity for participants to re-examine the deeper connections between people, history & culture and how it informs what we see today. Through countless stimulating experiences and dialogs, we can put forth enriching values and ideas that can further evolve the way we approach design and everyday life as a collective and as individuals. 


Furnishing Utopia began in the fall of 2015 as a research project about the Shakers—specifically a study of their enduring influence on the global design community and an exploration of their principles that are still relevant today. After three editions of Shaker-based research and five exhibitions worldwide, the collective is broadening their focus to uncover universal values that can enrich the present and future of design. This new chapter begins with a dive into early American Modernism - it’s roots and undeniable impact on contemporary life today. The Shakers and the Modernists were principally idealists with the goal of making the world a better place. And while the Shakers were trying to create Heaven on Earth, the Modernists were trying to break away from the conventions of the past to discover new ways of living.

In February 2019, the collective set out for the Midwest with an interest in the utopian ideals that drove the pioneers of American Modernism. The group came to a joint conclusion that the prevailing spirit of that age, when looking to the future, was one of immense positivity and optimism. The essence of modernism is built on a clear respect for the lessons of the past but driven by a vision and a broad passion for questioning the norms and experimentation in the interest of creating a brighter vision for living.


Special thanks to the following supporters who provided their invaluable support, time, resource and knowledge:

Norwegian Consulate of NY / Cranbrook Academy of Art / Mies Van Der Rohe Lafayette Park Community / Herman Miller / Herman Miller Archivist, Amy Auscherman / Elmhurst Art Museum / Schweikher Trust Foundation


In collaboration with two preserved Shaker sites – Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York and the Hancock Shaker Village in the Massachusetts Berkshires – Furnishing Utopia organized several week-long workshops giving international designers access to an extensive archive of objects and engaging them in a dialogue with Shaker museum curators. Often credited as the first minimalists, the Shakers and their furniture have inspired countless modernist and contemporary designers all over the world. But who are the Shakers, where did they live, and how did they develop such a restrained, timeless mode of design?

With Shaker communities confined to just a few sites in the United States, people rarely have the opportunity to experience iconic Shaker objects in person: ladder-back chairs, benches, cabinetry, wall pegs, quilts, tools, and more. Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide designers with direct exposure to original artifacts and demonstrate how the group’s ideas still prove influential beyond just aesthetics.


Special thanks to the following supporters who provided their invaluable support, time, resource and knowledge:

Norwegian Consulate of NY / Hancock Shaker Village / Former Curator at HSV, Lesley Herzberg / Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon / Director of Collections and Research, Jerry Grant