Category Archives: Furniture

Shaker Style Furniture

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing formed in 18th. Century England when a small group broke away from the Society of Friends. The Society were commonly known as Quakers, and the  new sect were derisively called “Shaking Quakers” or “Shakers” in reference to the enthusiastic dancing that was part of their worship. (The term “Shakers” was so commonly applied that, in time, it came to be accepted by followers themselves.)

8 Shakers emigrated to America in about 1774, and established a community in upstate New York. They practiced celibacy, abstinence, pacifism, and aspired to both self-sufficiency and an austere, simple life. Through conversion and the adoption of unwanted children, the sect grew to encompass some 19 communities from Indiana to Maine by the mid-1800’s.

Country Side Table with Drawer

Country Side Table with Drawer

They took pride in their education and their industry, and produced tools and furniture that were both cleverly designed and highly functional. Sparingly decorated, but never lacking in their own distinctive beauty, Shaker tables, chairs and cabinets were made primarily from light, versatile pine and used innovative methods of joining.

The Shaker aesthetic was perhaps best symbolized by their distincitve pegboard system, which often ran the entire cicumference of a room and was used to hang not only coats, but anything that would hang, including their lightweight chairs and other furniture.

Slate Creek Peg Shelf

Slate Creek Peg Shelf

Able to produce their unique furnishings in large quantities, the Shakers were happy to sell them to the general population, who admired them for their sturdy quality and clever design features. Thus, Shaker furniture found its way into many homes in the Northeast and beyond, where it greatly influenced furniture-makers of all stripes.

Although genuine Shaker furniture is now entirely in the realm of antiques — today, there are approximately 3 practicing Shakers left — its classic designs are still emulated by modern artisans. Relaxed Cottage Living features a broad (and growing) Shaker Style Furniture Collection, made from American pine and in the traditional style, right down to the classic handmade drawer-runner systems.

Milk Paint

Milk paint is made from three ingredients: milk, lime powder and earth-based pigments taken from clay or minerals. As a result, it is purely natural and completely non-toxic. It’s even biodegradable, and could be poured out into a flower bed without doing any harm.

Applied to almost any wooden surface, milk paint is also exceedingly durable. In fact, it’s infamously difficult for anyone who tries to remove it — even after many decades or centuries of wear, a trained professional is ofen required to completely strip an item of its milk paint.

The use of milk paint dates to prehistoric times, but its use increased greatly in both Europe and America during the 19th. century, as improved farming techniques made milk abundant and inexpensive. The reason a great many barns were traditionally painted red was that a large quantity of paint could easilly be made using surplus milk and red clay.

During the Industrial Revolution, there were an array of developments in other, chemical-based paints which provided many more options. The ultimate undoing of milk paint, however, was the rapid distribution of other paints which were mass-produced and shipped around the continent to turn up conveniently on store shelves. Milk paint, naturally, will spoil in a short period of time, and so cannot be transported in that way. (It was, and is today, shipped as a powder just like powdered milk, but that’s relatively inconvenient to the average barn-painter.)

Country Bedroom Collection

Part of the Country Bedroom Collection

More and more, however, milk paint is being rediscovered by furniture makers and crafters. A newfound appreciation for these timeless paints stems not only from their eco-friendly credentials, but their usefulness in creating “antiqued” and distressed looks as well. If you’re thinking about trying your hand at your own project, you can learn about making your own milk paint from The Real Milk Paint Co.

A wide range of our Cottage Furniture products are available with a variety of milk paint finishes, which are glazed for protection as well as an added sheen. They can be found throughout our Furniture categories, as well as our Country and Farmhouse Collections such as:

Antique Heart Pine

Heart Pine, put simply, is wood from the center or “heart” of the tree. Although it may be the heartwood of any of a number of species of pine, it’s most often from the Longleaf Pine, which covered much of the coastal plain of the South from Virginia to Texas when Europeans first arrived on the continent.

A boon to those pioneers, the golden-red heartwood of the Longleaf Pine was stronger — and also more attractive — than most pine, and was used extensively in the construction of homes, ships and more. In fact, it came to be known as the “King’s Wood”, as it was reknowned for its beauty and durability. By the late 19th. century, the Longleaf was being felled in vast numbers, tranported to mills from further and further inland by river and manmade canal.

By the early 20th. century, the huge Longleaf forests had almost disappeared, with perhaps only 2 or 3 per cent of the original forests intact. With extinction a genuine threat, those forests became protected preserves. Not surprisingly, the growth and expansion of the Longleaf are now encouraged, but it takes hundreds of years for its dense heartwood to form.

Legare Table

Legare Table

As a result, Heart Pine from newly felled trees (known as “New Heart Pine”) is an extremely rare commodity today, and people go to great lengths to acquire “Antique Heart Pine” by reclaiming it from old buildings. In this way, the beauty of the wood can be enjoyed by many more generations, without further depopulation of the forests. So prized is Heart Pine that it’s also salvaged from river-bottoms, where the occasional Longleaf log came to rest many decades before, after being lost in transport.  At Relaxed Cottage Living, we’re pleased to offer this exquisite reclaimed wood as an option on many of our Dining Table tops, Desk tops and more. Appropriately, it’s a feature of many items found in our Coastal Cottage collections (along with Cherry and Walnut).

Pie Safes


Classic Country Pie Safe

Classic Country Pie Safe

For those of you who don’t know (and if you were born in the 20th. century or later, that’s understandable), the pie safe was a staple of the American kitchen until it was made obsolete by the icebox and, later, the refrigerator. Also called a garde-manger in Louisiana and a pie chest elsewhere, it was the place to store not just pies – although pies were, and are, important – but any and all perishable foodstuffs.

With the threat of pie-hungry rodents and insects being a leading concern, the pie safe was made of sturdy wood construction, with long, tapered legs to discourage climbers. Alternatively, some homes actually suspended the pie safe from the ceiling. Ventilation was necessary, and so the door panels of the finest safes were comprised of wire mesh or artfully punched tin – known by some as tôles de panneaux.

Nearly ubiquitous until the mid-19th. century, the pie safe was displaced by the icebox (when ice harvesting and delivery became widespread), and vitually disappeared. Presumably, only the largest and most pie-savvy kitchens retained room enough for the old pie safe, where, over a century and a half, it matured into a unique and distinguishing conversation piece.

Portia Pie Safe

Portia Pie Safe

From there, it evolved, inspiring diverse takes on the classic design. Relaxed Cottage Living has not one, not two, but three pies safes on offer in our burgeoning Buffets & Cabinets section. Two of those are more modern takes inspired by the pie safe concept. The third (pictured above)  is the genuine article — a meticulously detailed recreation of the classic, right down to the punched tin panels.

One might make an excellent additon to your cottage-style kitchen, and any would be an excellent place to keep your fresh-baked pies.