It’s all about how the style makes us feel. Sometimes we want something that makes us strong. Other days, we’re looking for that calm, peaceful moment. Owning handmade furniture to show-off is also a worthy reason! (I think handmade, sustainable, reliable furniture is worth bragging about!)
Here are some awesome furniture styles worth checking out. Can you tell which ones had an influence on Knotty Woodpecker designs?
Shaker furniture is best known today through the common cabinet door style in our modern kitchen cabinets. Originally made by religious Shaker communities, they were known for a clean, simple style with a reliable build and design. The furniture was made without plywood, so wood movement must be considered for each piece of wood (and they have a good reputation for seasoning wood). The popular cabinet style shown is made with a wooden frame around a panel. The frame holds its dimensions while the panel is allowed to contract and expand with changes in the weather.
Today’s manufactured cabinet doors are often made with plywood or pressed particle wood to mimic the appearance of traditional Shaker furniture. A more obvious detail in manufactured furniture is how the cabinet door will sit on the face of the cabinet, while traditional Shaker doors were usually fitted to sit inside the cabinet frame with handmade precision, as shown in the image.
Colonial style furniture is what I would call… boring. It’s not actually that boring, but it is a style I’ve seen too much of in my youth. If you grew up in America, then I’d say the name speaks for itself. But, don’t let this get you down. I find it carries similarities to other traditional furniture, and it’s often difficult to draw the line between styles. If childhood memories is what you’re after, then this may be just what you are looking for.
The Colonial style can include the popular staked chairs and Windsor chairs, decorated with many skinny spokes to give it strength. It seems every woodworker needs to make at least one Windsor chair in their lifetime. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate it more as I get older.
Ming dynasty furniture was one of my favorite styles, even before I knew where it came from. They reached a peak in joinery design during this period. At first glance, the furniture is clean and simple. Even the detailed carvings seem almost hidden, but completely change the feel of the piece. I’ve noticed they often tied the legs together at the base, giving more of a “box” look without feeling too bulky, while American furniture is more likely to leave the table legs open and delicate-looking.
Much of their wood types didn’t work well with glue, and wood glue may have been more scarce at that time. The difficulty in gluing furniture probably encouraged the impressive joinery system. We see mortise & tenon joints as a norm, but sliding dovetails, drawbores and miter details were incorporated into these joints adding strength and style. These pieces could hold themselves together without glue. Their joinery strength goes beyond most of today’s handmade furniture (although our American woods accept glue much better).
The mid-1900s period was the rise of consumer-grade industrialization. Engineered woods, veneers and metal fasteners became readily available, and eventually the norm in manufactured furniture. I see the style as the designers bragging: “look what we can do now, that we couldn’t do before!” They attempted to defy the laws of gravity with thin edges and long openings between the legs. Some of these pieces didn’t age well.
While I don’t agree with these new building methods turning into what they are today, I have to admit that a new style was discovered in the process that I would describe as a type of minimalism. It’s almost a Jetsons look, if the style continued to develop for another 100 years. What I find interesting is we can make the mid-century style even more reliable using pre-mid-century joinery, like a… pre-mid-modern style?
As mid-century furniture was born from mid-century industrialization, we could say “Fast Furniture” style is born out of modern industrialization. While it’s difficult to approve of the Fast Furniture methods, due to the negative impact on our forests, landfills, and consumerism habits, it has still introduced an ultra-simplistic design that is easy on the eyes. Simplicity does tend to reduce cost in Fast Furniture, but it also seems to be a craving in our modern style. I don’t recommend buying Fast Furniture, but it may be a style worth seeking out with other methods.
If we take Fast Furniture style, build it with solid wood and super reliable joinery, plus a touch of design to feed the soul, does that take us back to the clean style of the Ming dynasty, or something like the picture shown above?