by Pat Stelzer
Let’s talk about a place where a different decorating style can be experienced without first bringing that style into your home. Pleasant Hill, a restored Shaker Village near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is a step back in time. The Shakers, a religious sect that believed in complete equality and was devoted to a peaceful life, came to this beautiful piece of Kentucky in 1805. They established a community based on those beliefs, and they practiced celibacy, even if they had been married prior to joining the order. The population dwindled as the ability to draw in new members waned, and by the early 1900s very few Shakers remained, forcing the village to be closed. Fifty years later, a nonprofit group set out to preserve its heritage. There are now thirty-three original buildings that have undergone restoration, and are open to the public, providing both lodgings and meals.
More importantly, the craftsmanship of the Shakers has been preserved and is now part of daily life in the village. The Shakers were believers in plain, unadorned furniture, the quality evident in the workmanship and fine woods used by the artisans. Trained in the Shaker methods and style, craftspeople today create fine reproductions of Shaker furniture and household items, including brooms, lanterns and wooden buckets. Shaker style is one of simplicity, clean lines and utilitarian functionality. A visit to Pleasant Hill affords the opportunity to watch these craftspeople work, as well as provide the opportunity to take a piece of Shaker style home.
Touring the village is truly a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and the stroll provides a window into a very comfortable decorating nuance that blends well with those who love rustic touches. Each guest room is done in the traditional Shaker style, and standing in one of the main buildings is akin to being transported back to another time. Straight back chairs, cherry candle tables, and Shaker boxes are but a few of the items that are used throughout the lodgings and are also available in the craft shop. “We Make You Kindly Welcome” is the traditional greeting of the Shakers and is the feeling that permeates the place. One of the most attractive designs offered by the Shakers is their Tree of Life needlepoint, one of my prize possessions. It blends well with any décor, but goes especially well with the rustic ambiance. The village is another example of decorating simplicity, one favored by so many of the early settlers, and one that never goes out of style. Pieces that reflect Shaker or rustic economy in style last forever and give a home that special feeling of stability and permanence. A visit to the village gives a chance to sample another type of decorating without committing to it, unless it wins your heart.
For a truly enjoyable getaway, spend a few days, but be sure to make reservations. Sample a meal cooked in the same tradition and using the same recipes developed by the original Shakers, and sample another taste of rustic decorating.