Kitchen tools

Hang your kitchen utensils or dining chairs from a classic Shaker peg rail

If I asked you to name a group of people best known for their appreciation of well-designed furniture, their belief in total gender equality, and their propensity for communal living situations, you might answer: the creative gay thirty-somethings living in Brooklyn . Although you’re not necessarily wrong, I’m actually talking about the Shakers. An early American Christian sect that split from the Quakers to live in small communities to practice celibacy, simple living, and charismatic worship, most people today know the Shakers for their furniture. Shaker woodwork is prized for its sparseness, honesty, and lack of filigree, and it actually exerted a significant influence on the Danish designers responsible for today’s beloved mid-century modern furniture style.

Perhaps Shaker’s design philosophy stands the test of time because it appeals to the larger desire of many to escape the city for a simple, pastoral life. The designs speak to the enduring appeal of minimalism. And there is perhaps no piece of Shaker trim as ubiquitous or as easy to bring into your own home as the Shaker Peg Rail.

Iterations of the peg rail have hung in locker rooms and entryways and have been for sale in Pottery Barn mail order catalogs for decades. These peg rails adapted to the design tastes of the time – Tuscan Revival, Modern Farmhouse, Scandinavian, etc., but were never more than coat racks. Recently, however, designers and do-it-yourselfers have really taken peg rails out of the mudroom and into the rest of the home, as you might see them implemented in a historic Shaker dwelling (or some up-and-coming Shaker). Manhattan-inspired restaurant), where peg rails span entire walls and rooms and fill a myriad of uses.

In the kitchen (especially today’s kitchens with few cabinets), a peg rail can serve many purposes. Hang your most used tools (spatulas, colanders, wooden spoons) on it and they will always be at hand. Near the sink, a peg rail can hold dish mitts, towels, and scrub brushes; hang one closer to the oven and use it as a pot rack. Because many peg rails double as single-tier shelves, they can serve as a place to hold mugs, spices, tea and coffee, and vases, or serve as a display for lumpy ceramics you’ve made in this workshop. If you need extra shelving, you can even install hanging peg shelves, like you see in this kitchen. Unlike cabinets, peg rails, with their high visibility, also have a way of discouraging clutter. You can’t really hide anything when it’s hanging right in front of you.

Even in a kitchen with lots of cabinets, a peg rail installed on a bare wall becomes a place to hang brooms and dust brushes, aprons or baskets. You can hang herbs on it to dry or use it to keep your reusable grocery bags in sight so you don’t forget them on the way out.

In a dining room, you can really take full advantage of what the Shakers have in store for the dowel rail by hanging furniture on the dowels while you clean the floors. The Shakers designed their iconic chairs in part so they could hang them on the walls for sweeping. The list continues.