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.
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. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . I am also available on twitter as @toddfi .
Update: I’ve been asked for the dimensions of this chair. Here they are:
While digging through my flat files, looking for early designs for rocking chairs, I came across this accidental layering of drawings and thought it interesting.
I also uncovered some old drawings I had done, probably in response to having seen some of Gerrit Rietveld’s work in an exhibit of De Stijl furniture.
The drawings were too big to fit entirely on my scanner bed so I’ve cropped them.
Here’s a closer look at the collage I created for the “client pages” page I’ve been working on.
I created it to communicate a little about the typical process of designing a piece for a client. In this case the piece was to be a chair in the Biedermeier style to accompany the desk, armoir, bed and two night stands I had already designed and built. I worked with an interior designer hired by the client whom I had been working with for some time and she gave me the basic criteria and some ideas about the design concerns.
I found several images from various sources and created some quick sketches based on these historical examples. We had a meeting, the interior designer and I with the client and I was able to narrow down what the client wanted. Based on this discussion I drew a set of scaled, hard line drawings and eventually a color rendering using colored pencils, ink and water colors. The client was happy with this design and I was able to proceed to doing the final shop drawings and fabrication.
I’ve been using a computer 3D modeling program for some time, Rhinoceros, and a rendering program called Flamingo to generate the rendered images, however at the time I designed this chair I was not familiar with the program enough to be able to quickly sketch out the ideas I had from my research so I relied on my earlier skills with pencil and ink. The important thing is to communicate as clearly as possible to a client what you are thinking and to be able to listen very closely to their response. I feel that it is very important to put as much care and attention into this phase of a project as I try and do with the fabrication and finishing. I hope that this collage will help communicate this to prospective clients.