I often work with interior designers. Recently one that I’ve worked with for many years asked that I think about a design for a client that had pretty specific requirements for a chair. The client recently having moved into a new condo had a walnut desk of Mid-Century vintage in her new bedroom that needed a chair. The new chair needed to have a look that would fit the design of the desk; it also had to fit the client so that she could sit comfortably at the desk, her stature being somewhat smaller than most chairs are designed for. The chair also had to slide in under the desk when not in use.
I visited the site and took this picture of the desk.
The interior designer remembered a chair that I had done for another client of her’s some time ago and thought that something similar might work in this case although the style would have to be changed to a Mid-Century Modern look.
This chair was designed to look like a Biedermeier chair for a bedroom set I had done in that style. I took this basic chair, changed the dimensions to the ones we had worked out with the client to get the seat height just right and created this first design.
You can see how I took the design detail of the pulls from the desk and put it in the back. Here is a drawing of the dimensions that I gave to the client along with several renderings like the one above.
The client didn’t think that this was what she was looking for so it was literally back to the drawing board for me. I realized that the client had the sense that the chair wasn’t sturdy enough and didn’t offer enough support. That led me to create this next design.
And below you can see the added lumbar support this design offered.
I also created this front view of the design…
…and a line drawing with dimensions.
Here is the final product.
A word about the finish I used. Typically the walnut used in Mid Century Modern furniture made before the 1980’s had a lighter color than walnut available today. This is partly due to the interest in darker woods towards the end of the 20th century. It has also become much harder to find walnut logs of the size available before the 80’s with their wide expanses of heartwood. Consequently it became standard for sawyers to treat walnut with steam in the process of drying it. This darkened both the heartwood but also the lighter colored sapwood, giving them more sale-able wood.
I selected the wood for this chair by color and grain pattern. To achieve as light a finish as possible I devised a finish that used several coats of different shellacs top-coated with a mixture of linseed oil and spar varnish. The client said she was very pleased with the chair and finish.