Why Know Furniture Design
The majority of my furniture-making career has been focused around reproductions. I never studied furniture design per se, but I did gain knowledge by looking at way too many pieces over my days. I study magazine pieces. I peruse newspapers that specialize in antiques. I scrutinize photos in any museum book I can find , and I have a large number of books in my collection (so many that Mom discouraged Dad from giving me books for Christmas one year. I’ll forgive her someday!).
As a result of studying furniture as much as I did, I developed an eye for what does and doesn’t look right.
This learned skill came in handy while I was building a Shaker cupboard. I found a Watervliet cupboard pictured in Maine Antiques Digest and immediately decided to reproduce the piece (my cupboard is shown at the left). But As I began to create and install the mouldings, I found myself questioning the design of the smallish crown. It didn’t look right to me. (The original design is shown below.)
I generally would have followed the original design, but this crown looked so far off to my eye that I decided to go about it differently. I referenced other Watervliet community case pieces to see what crown design was used most often. The profile I selected, shown below, caught my attention. The crown is more detailed , three stacked profiles versus a single design , but in my opinion, it was worth the extra work. I’ve built and sold quite a few of these cupboards as well as a couple pieces based on this design but with two doors.
All in all, the change in the crown moulding made the piece more pleasing to my eye and evidently to the eyes of my customers.
And you think furniture design is not important? I’ll see you at the Woodworking in America Furniture Construction and Design Conference. I’ll be doing my best impression of a baby boomer returning to college. You know, sitting in the front row, gathering all the information I can and screwing up the grading curve. Flash back.
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