One of the most challenging and fun skills I have learned as a craftsman is furniture design. I have spent hundreds of hours reading books, magazines and viewing beautiful furniture in museums. Sometimes I get inspiration from other art forms such as paintings and sculptures. I came up with the design for the piece pictured above from viewing a triptych painting and incorporating that design concept in to a unique chest of drawers.
The first thing I do when I am designing a piece of furniture is to meet with the client at their home. I want to get an idea of what style they like, the function and where the piece of furniture will be located. I bring a sketch pad and pencil with me to draw a rough concept of the piece and determine approximate dimensions.
The next step is research. I have an extensive collection of books with furniture made by other craftsman that help me with design elements that I can show my client. I bring books with marked pages to my second meeting to discuss what design elements will be included in the final design. I also bring proposed wood samples to determine the wood or woods that will be used to make the piece.
After determining the style, dimensions and wood; I draw various concepts on paper with a pencil. Once I hone in on a specific design, I start final drawings with dimensions.
In the past year I have learned a software program by Google called SketchUp. This is a fantastic program that allows the user to design objects in three dimensions. Once you create a design, you can add texture and color. When I show a client a proposed design I can rotate it, enlarge specific areas and hide panels to show interior structure. This saves a lot of time and gives the client a much better idea of what the piece of furniture will look like when fabricated. This program has greatly enhanced my design skills and improved the outcome of my work. It is also a great time saver when a client requests changes to the design, you can electronically erase details and redraw as desired.
When I start the fabrication process, I often make small changes that I think will look better in the finished piece. Sometimes I invite a client to come to my shop and look at the piece half way through the fabrication process and discuss small changes I would like to make to improve the design. The small details are what make a great piece of furniture.