I have lots of design ideas knocking around in my head. I can’t build fast enough to keep up. I often have several projects in process at the same time so I have to curb my enthusiasm for the rest as I finish the first. But when I finish something I am truly proud of what I have made.
Right now I have a suite of furniture designs that follow the same art deco theme – modern, elegant lines with rich colors and expensive, rare wood species. This combination gives my pieces a unique ability to fit in a variety of interior styles.
My construction techniques are solid, reliable, and extremely precise. I cut my own veneers from carefully selected wood stock.
Each board can cost hundreds of dollars and I have to get the best cuts from each to maximize yield and to find the natural beauty that is sometimes hidden.
The darker examples, above, are Hawaiian Koa, a species of Acacia that grows only in the Hawaiian Islands. The lighter wood is California Bay Laurel, known in the luthier community as Myrtle. It grows in the coastal mountains from California through Oregon. My wife and I used to jog through forests of these trees in the Santa Cruz mountains. I would collect a handful of leaves for my spaghetti sauce.
Both of these species are commonly found in musical instruments as they are both an excellent tonewood besides being stunningly beautiful.
But the bones of my furniture are made with poplar, a very straight grained and stable wood species.
The tops are made of baltic birch plywood, a super stable plywood with no gaps in the layers and no cheaper internal filler plies. This plywood is high grade enough to be used as a stained cabinet surface. Poplar is not dependably good with a natural finish, but dyes beautifully where grain can still be seen.
Put these design elements together and you get this:
But I haven’t forgotten to keep the “fun” in fundamentals. Being a native New Orleanian, my favorite time of year is Mardi Gras. And I say “time of year” because to the residents of The Crescent City, Mardi Gras begins January 6 (Day of the Epiphany) and ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent fasting. That’s about two months, give or take. Epiphany is always January 6, and Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter, but the date for Easter varies based on a lunar calendar. In 2017 Mardi Gras is on February 28. Just so you know.
So, for those who live Mardi Gras fully, here is something for you:
Purple, Gold, and Green, the colors of Mardi Gras. You would be hard pressed to find a New Orleans residence that doesn’t sport this color scheme somewhere. And now you can put your clown, your beads and a drink on it!
But life is more than tables. Life is also collectibles. I, for example, collect vintage ukuleles. This is about a third of them:
But for those who collect fewer, smaller things, I have this fabulous lit display etagere:
Most of the same design elements, plus battery powered led lighting for each shelf. And I didn’t forget the fleur de lis.
But, What About Design?
Yeah, what about design? Up until recently my design process was very analytical. And very practical. Those are both good things, but I have added another large fundamental to my design – proportion.
Looking at the etagere, above, the proportions are simple; 3:2. The overall size is 3:2 and each shelf area is also 3:2. Simple, whole number proportions. This is fundamental to visual harmony and it is in our DNA as human beings.
I find myself designing with a sector now, rather than with a measuring tape or a ruler. Marking out 3:2 using a sector is pretty easy. In another post, How To Make A Sector, I discuss briefly, the Golden Ratio, derived from the fibonacci series and its very close approximation to 8:13.
This is a cabinet I made for my shop. It’s on wheels and carries my tools and some supplies to wherever I am working. There are 5 drawers. The top 4 drawers are 8/13 of the height of all 5 drawers. The top 3 drawers are 8/13 of the top 4 drawers, and the top 2 drawers are 8/13 of the top 3. These dimensions were all easily derived using a sector and transferred to a story stick. No math. No ruler.
The other ingredients for me are color and texture. I use dyes quite a bit, because they let the grain show through (see the red table legs, above). I also use unfilled veneers. I like the look of the open pores, even with a high gloss. It just looks more like real wood:
Then there are other textures, like canvas and stone. Here is an applied texture over a Jackson Pollack print. It just looks more real:
Practicality, proportion, color, texture. That’s furniture design.