Gravity by Design
Small changes to details make a big difference.
by Darrell Peart
Several years ago, I took a different approach to design – one that relies less upon ratios and mathematical formulas and more upon intuition and observation. I have written about this previously and have referred to it as my “Design DNA” scheme. Within this framework, one of the early things that caught my attention was the interaction of a design with gravity. Nature has been dealing with this since the beginning of time.
Observe the differences between a bulldog and a greyhound. The greyhound is built for speed and is light and airy. The bulldog is built for brute strength and is muscular and stout. Each of these dogs has a much different relationship to gravity.
With the idea of gravity in mind, the bottom portion of a design proves most interesting and telling. This is where gravity and design directly interact: where wood the meets the floor.
What goes on here has a profound effect on the design as a whole. At this point opportunities to enhance or tweak the design are ripe. With that in mind, a word of caution though: Tweaking the details can push or pull a design in one direction or another but there are limits; a design’s basic nature must still be honored.
My DNA and gravity schemes are not lost ancient truths or anything of that sort – they are merely analogies I use to help me visualize things. They have aided me immensely and given me means through which to create new designs and understand classic works.
My focus during the last several years has been the work of Charles and Henry Greene. It is widely believed that Charles was the driving force behind the designs. In my estimation, he was a genius and a master of the smaller details.
During the course of their careers, the Greenes created countless details, all of which were placed and used with profound forethought. Charles was in complete control of the design and called upon every detail to pull its weight and more. His work is not unique in its manipulation of the smaller details for a greater purpose, but it is a good starting point from which to study.
Blog: Read more musings from the author on unequal leg “waterfall” leg treatments.
Free plan: Get free plans for a Greene & Greene-style picture frame.
Article: Learn how the author makes ebony plugs – a recurring feature on Greene & Greene furniture.
Webinar: “A Fresh Look at Greene & Greene,” with Darrell Peart.
To Buy: “In the Greene & Greene Style,” Darrell Peart’s most recent book.
in our store: “Build a Greene & Greene Rafter Tail Table,” by Darrell Peart, available on DVD or as a download.
From the June 2015 issue