I’ve been researching furniture by various Arts & Crafts makers for my upcoming class on “Unknown Arts & Crafts” and came across this server by Cincinatti-based Shop of the Crafters. I would love to see the marketing material for the piece if it exists, since it might be the oddest server I’ve ever seen, beginning with the basic design and ending with the allusions to Chinese and Japanese forms. The server design eschews cupboards or drawers in favor of a grid of open shelves surrounding a single cupboard with a drop-front door decorated by an inset tile. The green of the tile calls to mind jade, and the ebonized finish evokes lacquerware. The cloudlifts on the front stretcher recur in Chinese furniture, and cutouts represent fans, another allusion to Asia. It’s a deliberate, if oddly mismatched effort to evoke Asia furniture, so the usual Shop of the Crafters inlay comes as a bit of shock, undermining the intent of the design.
For those interested in learning more about Arts & Crafts furniture, I’ll be presenting “Unknown Arts & Crafts–Design Sources” for Popular Woodworking University. You can read more about the class here. Conversations about American Arts & Crafts furniture tend to begin and end with the work of Gustav Stickley. His reputation is deserved–and he inspired countless imitators–but some of Stickley’s contemporaries produced Arts & Crafts furniture that offered unique interpretations of the Arts & Crafts ethos. In this session, we’ll examine seminal works from these noteworthy makers.
I went outside early one morning a few weeks ago to put the outgoing mail in the box and found an anonymous copy of Roger Billcliffe’s Mackintosh Furniture there. The mystery resolved itself a couple of days later, but not before I had ample cause to thank my then anonymous donor. I’ve long admired Mackintosh’s furniture (and Kevin Rodel’s reinterpretations) for their use of negative and positive space and the way they synthesize Arts & Crafts, Art Noveau, and early Modern impulses, and Billcliffe does Mackintosh’s work justice, tracing its development in chronological order from the late 19th century through 1920.
Billcliffe considers Mackintosh’s furniture in the context of his architectural work, providing detailed verbal descriptions of Mackintosh’s buildings and renovations. And it is in these extended passages that I found my attention wandering, wishing for illustrated floorplans. Too, Billcliffe seems overly invested in defending Mackintosh’s reputation, but these factors can’t detract from the true appeal of the book, the lavish collection of black-and-white photographs documenting Mackintosh’s furniture design. Mackintosh’s most popular designs—including tall chairs and the Hill House hall table and chairs—are well represented, but the book also documents pieces I’d never seen before, from writing cabinets to beds and built-ins. I haven’t read widely in the field, so I can’t speak to how well Billcliffe’s work compares to other books on Mackintosh, but I know I enjoyed it and will return to again when I’m looking for inspiration.
Used copies of Mackintosh Furniture are available in hardback or paperback on Amazon.
I’ve admired Leopold and John George Stickley’s “Prairie Style” settle since I first encountered it in Bob Lang’s Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture, so my thoughts turned to it when we began to consider replacing some seating in our living room. We needed something shorter, though, so I determined how much space I had, then adapted the Stickley design. Continue reading
I recently finished a simplified version of Limbert’s No. 346 Magazine stand (read more here) and have been thinking about variations on the design. This take is itself a variation, simplified to take advantage of dimensional stock and pocket-hole construction, but there’s more opportunity for increasing the stand’s utility.
It’s an attractive design, but the trapezoidal shape means you lose some storage at the ends of the shelves and the shelves become shallower towards the top. These limitations are the main reason I opted for a rectilinear design when building shelves for my office. Too, the short vertical spacing between the last few shelves means you won’t be putting any tall books on them. As it is though, it makes an attractive display stand or a fine shelf if you don’t own many books. If I were to build it again, I think I’d use the original depth to keep the extra width on the upper shelves. I’d also think about eliminating one of the shelves to allow for more spacing between them, a decision that entails altering the position of the cutouts in the sides. Continue reading
Gustav Stickley is perhaps the most famous name in the American Arts & Crafts movement. Certainly he was its greatest proponent, extolling the virtues and benefits of the movement in the pages of The Craftsman. The clean lines, visual mass, and joinery as ornament Stickley championed are evident in the pieces featured in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. On display in gallery 743 are a small sideboard, tall clock, and leather-covered library table, and the museum’s viewable storage features a Harvey Ellis-designed music case. Continue reading
I’ve wanted to build a trestle table for some time–the economy of materials and ability to radically alter a design by modifying a few details make it an interesting project–but I didn’t need a new dining table, so I didn’t pursue the project. When some friends moved into a their new house and needed a new table, I jumped at the chance to build a piece.
While I had free reign over the design, I wanted to build something that would make them both happy, a slight challenge since his taste tends to Danish modern and hers to traditional. Checking my library showed a surprising amount of variation in design. Changes to the trestle ends, position of the beam, and slight alterations to the top can make the piece medieval, Shaker, or modern. In the end, I opted to modify a design by Gary Rogowski. The updated Arts & Crafts look would strike a balance between tastes. I preserved the slight curves to the top and the keyed through mortise on the beam, then altered the length and width of the design and changed the shape of the trestle slightly, opting for concave curves in the tapered post and feet. Width and length of the top were determined by the boards available for the top. Final dimensions were 29″ h x 29.5″ w x 78″ l.
- Gary Rogowski’s original design from Fine Woodworking #214
- Kenneth Rower has a very useful article on trestle table design in Fine Woodworking #42.