Phi in the Sky, or Leg, as the Case May Be
For my bench, I’m deviating from the norm and putting a foot on the legs of my bench. Standard bench legs always looked unresolved to me. And because this is a piece of furniture that I will presumably be working with every day for what may be the rest of my life, I figured I would fix the issues I’ve had with benches and give my the bench a little more charm and dignity.
The legs for my bench are 5″ square, so originally I was playing with making the foot section that high. Plus, I wanted to take advantage of the real estate under the top of the bench with storage, so I wanted the bottom stretchers to be as low as possible. So I made a few prototypes and placed them under the legs and stood back from them a bit. Guess what? They disappeared. They were shadowed by the bulkiness of the leg on top of them – they looked too small.
So I turned to the golden ratio, and bumped my foot dimension to 8″. I cut out a blank and placed it under the leg and it looked great. Sure, I lose the extra 3″ of storage space, but I’m building a tool cabinet to sit near my bench, so I’ll be all set in that regard.
For those of you who are new to the golden ratio, you can have a lot of fun using it as a design tool. The standard ratio is 1: 1.618. What that means for designers is, if you have a dimension, like I did with my 5″ leg, you only need to multiply the 5 by 1.618. That will give you the 8″ length.
But you can also play with it in the opposite direction. Let’s say I have a column, but I would like to make the base for it to be proportional to the thickness of the column. Instead of multiplying your dimension by 1.618, multiply it by .618. That will give you the next pleasing proportion down in the ratio. Of course, this can be useful in designing your own mouldings.
So for my 5″ legs, I know that will have a bunch of potential numbers to work with in my design. They are as follows: 1.8, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. Mathematicians may recognize this series of numbers, but that’s another story. My bench won’t be much taller than that, but the numbers would go on if it were a taller piece.
If you are interested in design, check out George Walker’s DVDs “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings.”