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.

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


Inspired

Over the years I’ve made many stools inspired by the stools Wharton Esherick made. Above is one of my latest.

I keep a copy of a clipping on the wall of my studio that I clipped from a magazine long ago.  It shows an artist’s studio with at least 3 Esherick stools.  Maybe the stools were inspiration, I’m sure they were functional. I have used several of my stools both in my home and in my studio. They’re great. They are light weight, sculptural, comfortable, and get better with age (natural daily polishing of the seat).

Here’s a stool I made many years ago. It was sold through a gallery I was showing in at the time. I like the way I did the rungs. The legs on this stool are square in section. My new stools have lathe turned legs and rungs. I’m thinking of doing a stool soon though that has both turned legs and sculpted rungs.

Above is another view of one of two stools I’ve just finished. This stool’s seat was carved from a gorgeous piece of walnut that was sawn from the crotch of a walnut tree. The grain is extraordinary.

I cut the seat to best highlight the grain pattern.

The second stool I just completed does not have as striking a grain pattern nevertheless it is a very nice looking stool.

A couple of angles are needed to get an idea of what this stool looks like.

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.

Of course these prices are high because of Wharton Esherick’s name and reputation, and (unfortunately) because he is dead.

I am selling these stools on Etsy at a fraction of the prices listed above (…LOL…). I also have two more stools in the works and will list them on Etsy as soon as they are done.

Are these stools art? They are sculptural, but are they sculpture? I think of them as art furniture. They fall close enough to sculpture on the art- craft continuum for me to sometimes shorten “art furniture” to just “art” because in making them I am expressing a feeling and emotional vision in an abstract way. There is no question that they are functional however, functional beyond the true, fundamental function of art.

If you take a little time to contemplate some of the elements and forms that these stools are made of you may notice a few things. One is that the shape of the legs are different for the 2 stools. This shape shifts a sense of motion (or stability) by adding mass either towards the floor or upward. Another thing you may notice is the angles of the rungs and the space that is outlined by the legs, seat and rungs as you move around the piece. These things are subtle and take time to appreciate, but are some of the elements that I considered when making them

Here’s a link to my Etsy store if you would like to consider owning one (or both!) of these stools.

UPDATE: I just got word of this show: Wharton Esherick: Birth of the American Modern . It looks very interesting.

UPDATE 2: These stools have been sold. I am working on several more as we speak though.

I keep a clipping on the wall of my studio

Guitar Stool/ Guitar Stand

This  guitar stool/ guitar stand was created to have a great looking place to keep your guitar, have it readily available and have just the right spot to sit and play a few chords even if you have just a few minutes during a busy day. It offers a chance to step away from the hustle of the day, relax for a few minutes and renew yourself. This stool is now available at my Etsy store as a made to order item.

I am also showing it on my web site.

Yacht braid  creates a restraint to hold the guitar securely. This is easily removed from either end and is not required to hold the guitar, just an extra bit of safety for your valuable instrument.

Cork lined crotch  holds the guitar neck without damaging your guitar’s finish.

The seat is carved from walnut and the legs are ash.

Industrial felt is used to cushion all other contact areas. One note: this works best as a stand for hollow body guitars.

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