Designing With SketchUp, Montreat Side Table
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Designing in SketchUp #4 – The Montreat Side Table

I am closing in on finishing my next woodworking plan, You Can Build The Sarah Side Table, and I always thought it would be my next furniture project; but it won’t. Proportion plays a big role in a successful design and when I took the Sarah Side Table and re-sized it to fit the space between our couch and love seat, I didn’t like what I saw. But I like the Sarah Side Table and intend to build it as a bedside table for our guest bedroom.

I do some of my best thinking on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I lay in bed trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. My new design is what I call the Montreat Side Table named for the community east of Asheville, North Carolina. My wife and I would love to live there or anywhere in the Asheville area really. While laying in bed Saturday morning, I worked out this design in my mind and then visualized it in SketchUp.

Before we get to the Montreat Side Table, let’s take a look at the Sarah Side Table. This design was born from an article in Fine Woodworking titled simply, “Build a Nightstand” by Michael Cullen. I remembered seeing this table in the magazine and liked the fact that the table sides were made from two separate pieces of wood with a slender gap between them. I incorporated the gap in the side of the Sarah Side Table and then began playing around with curves…

I really like this design.

The split side with the curved cut-out and arched bottom.

I also like the drawer arrangement.

So this design = A+, I like it. But when I began to alter the size to fit an area in my family room, the look was not so good. The Sarah Side Table is a slender, upright design. As it morphed into something useful in my home, the table became more wide and deep. Take a look…

What I call the Sarah Side Table Wide.

To help break up the wide, flat side, I added a front and back leg.

This version has no lower drawer.

The deal breaker for me with the wide design is the depth, front to back. The sides became much wider and the curved cut-out (a key design element in the original design) looked odd with all the flat surface adjacent to it. I tried to make the cut-out bigger, but that didn’t help. In one final attempt at making a pleasing design, I added a thicker leg like feature to the front and back edges. This would break-up the wide flat side surface and create a shadow line. This helped, but these legs looked out-of-place, like an odd addition to an otherwise curve focused design.

I realized from the design exercise with the wide version I really needed a table with legs vs. solid sides. I began thinking of the Gustave Side Table I designed a few months ago. From this design, I created a more contemporary version, the Montreat Side Table…

I really like this design.

I like the two-tone color.

With the top removed; I’ll make hand cut dovetails for the drawers.

Front view.

Side view.

From all of this, I have learned to sleep on a design idea. I came up with the initial idea Saturday morning and by the end of the day, thought I had the design nailed down, but I wasn’t happy with the slat placement for the sides and back; very symmetrical and with too much negative space between the slats. See below…

Saturday design; note the slats.

Sunday design; more slats, two sizes, much better.

How the table will be used.

The last image shows the table as it will be positioned in our family room: in the corner between our sofa and love seat.

I am following some design concepts I recently heard from Mike Pekovich, Matt Kenney and Philip Morley who promote the idea of using restraint with bold figure in wood as well as restraint with strong design elements. To that end, I decided to tone down the contrasting color with my newest version of this table and several of the design elements are very subtle. I’ll talk more about the look of the Montreat Side Table in a future post.

This design has developed over time and the key thing here is to be patient and let the design evolve into something you really like. Don’t settle for a design which seems off in some way; keep at it and let the design become just right. That is not to say I won’t further refine this one. I am sure I will, but I am 99% happy with the Montreat Side Table as is.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

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