‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Simple. Calm. Beautiful. You’ll find it all at Timberlake Home.
Ross’s wife, Carole, integral to the business and responsible for bringing in wooden-ware, wanted a “spreader” that can get to that pesky jam in the corner of the jar. Enter Timberlake’s well-known wooden spreader.
Tools of the trade (like this one used to weave the chair seat) are aplenty at Timberlake Home.
A stack of the colorful webbing used in weaving the seats of Shaker chairs.

Shop Talk | Timberlake Home

Simplicity, purity, and utility are the cornerstones of Shaker furniture design. You’ll find these qualities in the beautiful collection at Timberlake Home in Bethel.


If anybody knows the world of Shaker design, it’s Ross Timberlake. He with his wife, Carole, have built a business around the simply-styled furniture: making it, restoring it, and selling it from the nineteenth-century Bethel farmhouse that serves as their home, workshop, and the Timberlake Home Store.

“The Shakers were known for their excellent craftsmanship,” Ross Timberlake says as he points out the smooth, gracious lines, special finishes, and sturdy, secure joints that are typical of Shaker pieces. “I’ve always felt it has a calming quality to it.”

It also has a healing quality; the business was founded in 1974 after Timberlake lost his brother, Seth. “My father was a civil engineer working in the wood-products industry, my mother a teacher, and I was working construction, restoring old homes at the time,” he says. “My father and I were both very disillusioned with our careers and needed a change. While neither my father nor I were proficient furniture makers, we were familiar with Shaker design whose light, simple designs were doable and cost- efficient to ship.”

S. Timberlake (named in honor of the men in the family) was born. Knowing the local retail environment was tough, they focused on mail-order—and it has remained an essential part of the business, which is now over 40 years old.

Timberlake will tell you there’s nothing simple about Shaker furniture construction. Their first prototypes were a disaster and some were returned to them in pieces. But when a customer asked them to fix an original Mount Lebanon Shaker rocking chair, things changed. They agreed to repair the piece—and in the process of restoring it, they learned about the art and craftsmanship of Shaker design. “We honestly built our business on the knowledge acquired from that single restoration project,” reflects Timberlake.

Today, true to its Shaker roots, the S. Timberlake retail store (called Timberlake Home) is sparse, with just enough on display and for sale to prompt customers to ask: “What about something like that but with…and in maple….and shipped to an island off Stonington?” Timberlake is always happy to rise to this kind of challenge.

The furniture is made of hard maple, cherry, and other woods requested by clients—and the lumber is sourced from sustainable forests. S. Timberlake also utilizes nearly all waste in some way, either built into products like woodenware and cutting boards or used as fuel. Even the sawdust goes to a local farm to use for bedding for chickens and pigs.

As the Shakers celebrated anything made by hand, the furniture is crafted slowly utilizing a combination of hand tools and basic power machinery. There are no CNC routers—computers are used only for administrative purposes and for managing the website. (S. Timberlake was the first Maine furniture company to launch an online business.) Timberlake is the primary maker, but he does hire contractors to help him on bigger jobs—like the stools that he’s currently working on for a Manhattan restaurant.

While the product line continues to be primarily Shaker, you’ll find lovely Scandinavian influences among the product mix. “I’ve done some custom Scandinavian- inspired work before, so it makes sense to add these pieces in, as they blend beautifully with Shaker designs and offer the same peaceful, modern feel.”

The meticulously crafted furniture lures customers into the Bethel shop, and the staff’s customer service keeps them coming back. Old customers return after decades to have chairs reseated or repaired. And new customers often sit down with Timberlake so he can custom-craft simple-yet-spirited pieces to fit their space and lifestyle. “Whether I’m designing a buffet to clear a baseboard heater, a shelving unit, or a wine rack to fit a specific space, the initial conversations are essential and become built into every piece I make,” he says. “This would not be the case if I were just contracting a woodworker to make something for a client.”

Whether you’re looking to outfit a ski house in nearby Sunday River, want Maine-made gifts like cutting boards or salad tossers, or just want a lesson on the art of Shaker, add Timberlake Home to your design itinerary.