Architecture as Furniture Inspiration - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Architecture as Furniture Inspiration

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Gothic Pattern

When considering ideas and looking for inspiration, I don’t like to limit myself to just the furniture or joinery in isolation. Considering the environment around me helps me form ideas and leads off into interesting tangents of discovery. “Holistic” would be a nice term, but would likely make me sound pretentious. You see, I’m not an expert; I just have a healthy zest for learning.

The photos here are snapshots from a local town about 12 miles from where I live that has many unique features. If I had more talent and time, sketching what I see would doubtless be a joy, but with a young family demanding eyes both in the front and back of my head, a quick snap is all I have time for. In the February issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, Christopher Schwarz features an attractive oak Aumbry with Gothic tracery that prompted me to take another look at some photos I had stowed away.

I find the rhythm of the window above completely hypnotic. In a perverse way, the black pollution on the deep-set stone contrasts with the lighter clean stone fronts to create a pleasing feature. It simplifies the form and makes things appear more delicate than they really are. It’s also easy to see the link between early English furniture decoration and the institution that trained, influenced and employed many skilled artisans.

Rams Head

The above decoration is most likely a nod to the trade that brought the town its prosperity. The rams head is located near the base of a several door jambs in this street supporting stout doors all made from Oak. The ram has been communicating its message of success from textile trade for around 400 years, which is quite an inspiration. For so many cultures, Oak always seems to stir fond feelings and it’s easy to see why. It’s been such a staple in carpentry, joinery and furniture making for so many hundreds of years. Its narrative of certainty, durability and confidence is woven into us.


On the relevance of these flowers, I have no clue – although I’m sure there’s a good one. It’s certain, however, that the beauty of these carvings shines through the black gunge that’s been applied over the years proving you have a hard time ruining true quality.

More broadly, all these snaps help me discover how furniture and architecture are so closely linked and reflected in one another, and that to ignore the built environment would be be like losing an eye.

— Graham Haydon



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  • woodjunky

    Something worth remembering….Much of the incredible architecture in England, France Germany and across western Europe, was lost or severely damaged during World War II, and thanks to the incredible effort throughout Europe by skilled craftsmen and tradesmen, those beautiful structures were restored or rebuilt. The tragedy is that those skills are not being passed along and those trades being replenished with young craftsmen and tradesmen. Thanks to guys like Graham who have a genetic predisposition to the craft of joinery are those needs being met. You inspire us older guys and you also put our minds at ease when we realize you are the future of the craft and trade. Here on the other side of the pond, post-modern churches are starting to re-think their worship spaces and are attempting to bring back the traditional look and feel of the classic architectural standards that were set back 100+ years ago. Much like period furniture, architecture is having a re-look at the old, traditional styles that were the standards many years ago. While we are still, swiftly becoming a more “throw-away” society, architecture and design is pushing us back to solid, well-built, well-thought-out design. I hope!!! Keep up the incredible work Graham. You are doing things today that would make your ancestors proud. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Cheers!
    Mike Jones

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Hi Mike,

      Good to hear from you! There was indeed a great deal of destruction across much of Europe during WW2. Fortunately North Devon, being a backwater, survived unscathed. What we have lost has been the result of redevelopment and buildings being allowed to go to ruin. Dresden comes to mind when discussing the rebuilding and the skills needed, let’s hope going forward we never have to engage skills to make good such destruction. It’s nice of you to describe our trade in that way Mike. Much has changed for sure but there is a significant amount of unique projects that must be put back in period styles as well as opportunities for new designs and materials to be explored. What’s also lucky is the client mix we have, I’m constantly inspired by how well informed they are and how they want to put the time and resources into making projects come together. It’s kind of you to mention me but there people with a keen interest in doing this for a living and employers investing the time all over the place making sure there is fresh blood. I personally can’t help but be drawn in deeper into a subject which is so broad and inspiring. Thanks again for the comment and your work is an inspiration to me as well, keep it up :-).



  • BLZeebub

    The builders, artisans and architects all took their cues from the natural world. If you’ve ever seen a flying buttress and a Banyan or Mahogany tree it’s easy to make the connection. And as to the superfluity of Gothic styled architecture, one only has to venture into a well tended garden to find the germ of inspiration as the Greeks did. Think acanthus.

    • dobieone

      As BLZeebub says the Gothic arch and other structural mainstays are the same for wood “artists” as well as sculptors e.g. Rodin’s Cathedral Hands” There are an infinite number of permutations so back to the workbench

      • Graham Haydon
        Graham Haydon

        Indeed, i’m sure most people already enjoy seeing the connections but it’s good to discuss nevertheless.


    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Exactly! Many ideas flow from one thing to the next, nature, created by humans, whatever it might be it’s highly connected and related.


  • Graham Haydon
    Graham Haydon

    Hi Bill,

    It sounds like you have my problem, I seem to notice a great deal of things and marvel at the skill behind them. The Church were a very strong design influence here that filtered into wider society, its nice to see the how things link together and where ideas flow from. Thanks for the comment.


  • Bill Lattanzio

    The top photo appears to be a church. I’m always amazed not only by the architecture of old churches, but the artistry as well. They are often filled with paintings, sculpture, carvings (including relief carvings), tapestries, as well as the wondrous architectural features. I’m not much of a church goer anymore, but every time I enter one I find myself checking out the details great and small. That, to me, is one of the greatest of inspirations.

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