Designing a Chair

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.

The client said that this was perfect.

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.

Even More Stools

In addition to the stool shown in my last post I’ve also recently completed another variation of the theme inspired by the work of Wharton Esherick.

This stool’s seat is a free form aerodynamic-like slice of figured maple.

The two stools, the one with the walnut seat from my last post and this one make a very nice pair.

Again, clicking on an image should send you to my Etsy store where you can find out how to purchase one or both of these pieces.

More Stools

I recently noticed that A Wharton Esherick stool is being listed for sale at $8,500. Here’s a link to Modern One’s listing. I’ve posted in the past about being inspired by Wharton Esherick’s work. https://fillingham.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/inspired/  In that post I noted: “Wharton Eshericks stools command a lot of money these days. Live Auctioneers have one listed at an estimated price of $4,000 – $6,000 with the bids starting at $2,000. Architonic, Sotheby’s, and Rago list similar prices. The Museum of Arts and Design shows a very nice Esherick stool online as well.”It looks like prices for his work are going up.

Above is an image of a new stool I’ve recently completed. My hope is to work within the general theme established by Wharton Esherick while exploring some of my own ideas about shapes and forms and how they relate to each individual piece of wood being used. This stool is made from a beautiful piece of walnut from a crotch in the walnut tree as well as maple legs, turned on a lathe.

If you are interested in finding out how to purchase this stool just click one of the images and you should land on my Etsy page for this stool.

A Deck Chair

Modern Patio Furniture

Deck Chair

Purchase on Etsy

Summer is here and I’ve been thinking about relaxing on my deck, simply watching the world go by. Why not create a really nice patio chair for doing just that? Something inspired by wooden boats,  something reminiscent of Mid Century Modern or Danish Modern design. Something that can take a little weather if it’s left out for the weekend. The more I thought about it the more I started noticing that there are an awful lot of smaller sized balconies attached to some really nice condo units that could use a couple of really nice patio chairs too. If you’ve found my other blog you may know that I’ve been watching the new condos, especially those along the rivers in Milwaukee, pretty closely. (The picture links to that blog if you’re curious.) So, I designed this chair. It’s a little smaller than a lot of outdoor chairs out there so that a couple of them will easily fit on a condo balcony, yet it is very comfortable for even big guys like me.by Todd Fillingham I made the first two out of walnut, which turns out to be very durable wood for outdoor use (used in boat building worldwide), northern white cedar (another boat wood) and stainless steel. The back is easily removed (no tools needed) for shipping and storage . I finished the chair with my own mix of oils and spar varnish.  This is an easy chair, made for sitting back and relaxing, part of what I call my summer stress relief system.  Set it out and sit back. by Todd Fillingham

by Todd Fillingham

by Todd Fillingham Where can you get these? Two are now available on my Etsy site where it is very easy to order online.   I’ll deliver them  in the metro Milwaukee area with no shipping charge. Enjoy the summer!

By the way, I will be recommending on my Etsy site that these chairs be used in a protected outdoor setting however you can leave these chairs out in the weather all summer if you want. The finish may fade some. If it fades too much it can easily be restored, or better yet the chair can simply weather to a beautiful, stylish gray, it will still be just as comfortable. All metal parts are stainless steel so they won’t rust and the woods are highly resistant to rot.

Please feel free to leave a comment here to contact me. Or, if you would prefer you are welcome to use my alternate email address which is tfilling@execpc.com . I am also available on twitter as @toddfi .

buy now

Update: I’ve been asked for the dimensions of this chair. Here they are:

deck chair by Todd Fillingham all rights reserved


Color and Form: paint on furniture

Designing furniture that includes painted surfaces offers opportunities work with color, painted forms and the sculptural shapes of the piece itself. The image above is a detail from a cabinet I made that my family and I use to hang our coats on and store hats, gloves, mittens and scarves.

Saddle Stool by T. Fillingham

I designed this piece to play with the idea of functional sculpture and 2D art. I call it a saddle stool. It may be sat on like a saddle facing the front painted surface or as a more normal stool.

It was never intended to be very practical seating, more to encourage a reaction to the expression of abstracted eroticism.

I’ve used this form, the shape of the painted surface in the stool above, many times.

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Oval Top Table by T. Fillingham

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Oval Top Table by T. Fillinghan

2 Oval Top Tables by T. Fillingham

I did a series of low, side tables with etched glass tops. Below are 4 of them with one of the tops. By using the glass I added another layer for exploring painted forms by creating clear windows through which some of the painted surface could clearly be seen while the translucent surface of the glass created an implied surface beneath it.

A series of small table bases by T. Fillingham

At some point I became interested in a more literal interpretation of colors and forms and created a series of fish tables. At the time I had 2 assistants working for me in my studio and I challenged them to develop painted designs based on my input. We visited a nearby store that had huge aquariums as well as studied tropical fish coloring from reference material. I carved the shapes and legs and worked with my assistants in developing the palette for each table, they did the painting. Here are a few of the tables we produced.

Collaborative Work from the Studio of T. Fillingham

This next piece is not exactly furniture, but it does show my interest in painted, sculptural forms that have roots in pragmatic objects. This is my canoe form.

This last piece was commissioned by a couple that had received this large copper pan as a gift while traveling in Africa. It had been used to roast cocoa beans over an open fire. They wanted to display it and use it in their home to hold magazines. I suggested attempting to indicate a sense of ritual. The couple were on their honeymoon when they received the pan. I researched some of the art of the traditional cultures from the region they had traveled in and used motifs of form and color to create the stand.

And here we get at something that I find fascinating. Traditional cultures around the world have expressed myth and culture by creating objects of color and form for a very long time. Even though I explore many forms of abstraction and am inspired my a great deal of modern art in this, the use of painted forms on 3D forms I feel part of an almost eternal tradition.