I was catching up with an old friend one day when the subject turned to woodworking. He says, “What kind of things do you build?” I could have answered this question a few different ways. But, I talked about all various kinds of furniture I have built over the years with most of the work being case pieces.
Later, I wondered if he meant what style I tend to work in; for example, early American reproduction furniture? This question would have been harder to answer. I do like historic American furniture, but what I really like is furniture which has a sense of architecture. This is why some of my designs feature a heavy cornice, or recessed panels. Within the world of architecture, I most like the work of Andrea Palladio. I like the order and symmetry of his work. While I have been influenced by Shaker furniture and even primitive American furniture, what I am most influenced by today is classic, orderly architecture.
I say all of this because it is very possible I am about to take a major departure from this style of furniture. I soon will begin building a bookcase which will double as a window seat for my daughter’s bedroom. The first design idea, shown above, is heavily influenced by the work of Charles and Henry Greene. You might think this would be a natural progression along my architecture influenced design path. After all, the Greene brothers were architects who happen to design homes and the furnishings that went in them. But this style is very different for me because G & G had a decidedly Asian side to their work. And I am not crazy about Asian design.
But, there are Greene and Greene pieces I admire greatly. The first time I saw Darrell Peart’s Blacker Rocker, I was hooked. And then there is the Fremont Chest of Drawers and the Greene and Greene Chess Table – the list could go on and on.
My First Design Idea
I am calling this a window seat bookcase. All along the design process, I have envisioned an upholstered cushion for the top, but already the way the cushion is positioned in place will likely lead to a slight design change. Maybe a significant design change.
This bookcase features several classic G & G design elements. The top has fat bread board ends which include ebony accents. The panels in the side have a cut-out which I’ve borrowed from Darrell Peart’s Aurora Arm Chair. The lower stretcher has a gentle arch and the legs have indents near the base (I am still thinking about adding a cloud lift or two to the design). Lastly, mahogany is the wood of choice for the Greene brothers and mahogany is what you see in the illustrations.
I am calling this design “G & G Lite” due to some restraint on my part to go head-first into this style of design. What you don’t see are a lot of ebony plugs which are a hallmark of G & G design. I had an email conversation with Dave Richards about the best way to make the leg indents in SketchUp (his super easy method is shown here). I would have to ditch the leg indents if I went forward with ebony plugs. Dave commented he liked the look of the piece as is, without all the ebony. But ebony accents are sooo Greene and Greene. I am undecided on this and you are welcome to weigh-in on this issue in the comments.
After reviewing this design with the client (my daughter) we have already identified some changes. I also have another design idea floating around in my head, but I am hoping the one you see above is a keeper. Next, I’ll make a full size mock-up from poster board and continue developing the design. I’ll have more in my next post.
One more thing: with this project, I will be forcing myself to do some new things; new design ideas and joinery techniques which are not typical. This is a goal of mine for 2014 – do new things in woodworking.