I’m in the early planning stages for an upcoming project build for Popular Woodworking Magazine. The project will be a reproduction of a wardrobe cabinet from the early 1900s. I was trying to decide between three likely candidates. I thought that I had a decision made, but as I worked on the SketchUp model, I found I wasn’t as fond of my original choice as I thought.
You can’t always tell from looking at a piece in isolation what size it really is. The cabinet on the right is a good example of this. It is a design from Harvey Ellis that appeared in Gustav Stickley’s “The Craftsman” magazine in 1903. Ellis was an architect, and many of his furniture pieces have a monumental look. The details of this piece and the proportions of the various elements give it a certain character.
As I was weighing my options, I showed pictures of each of the three cabinets to some other people. One common question was, “How big is that?” Without context, the only clues are the piece itself. There are many ways a good designer can emphasize different elements for different effects. There are many more ways that a hack designer can mess things up.
The wardrobe at left was Gustav Stickley’s own, and there’s a great story about how in his retirement Gus would experiment with different finishes on the bottoms of the interior drawers of this piece. All three of the pieces I was considering have slide out trays behind the doors.
The final candidate is the piece at right. It has a lot in common with Gus’ wardrobe, but it has an entirely different feel to it. To make my decision easier, I decided to model all three pieces in SketchUp. These models aren’t detailed; they are quick studies so I can look at these pieces side by side. When I decide which one I’m going to build, I’ll go back into the model and add all the joinery and other details to have information to build efficiently.
Tomorrow, I’ll post an image of the three pieces side-by-side and give the overall dimensions. For now, leave a comment with your best guess on the sizes, and which of the three you would want in your house. If you’re like me, this is a good time for spousal guidance.
UPDATE: an image of all three pieces together (with dimensions) can be found here.
If you have an interest in the Arts & Crafts style of the early 1900s, “Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture” is a collection of projects I’ve built for Popular Woodworking Magazine since 2004.
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