Design a Week – 19/52

I had planned one more entry for my round table series, but after several attempts at my last idea, I just can’t seem to make it work. Maybe I’ll revisit it at a later date. Moving on, I present a wood-crossed coffee table:

This table arose from a simple idea that got refined with every iteration.  Originally, it was a simple cross:

But it eventually made its way through several small changes before arriving at the first picture.

I felt like the original drawing was too bulky, so I added the inner cross to the center of the piece – as seen in sketch 1. After drawing it, it looked flimsy and would be a huge P.I.T.A. to build, because those inner squares are separate from the outer wings.  With those two thoughts in mind, I came up with sketch 2 – where I clipped the inner corners and widened the inner cross. I really like how that design balanced the piece, so much that it is the direction I went with the SketchUp drawing atop this post.  I drew sketch 3 to make sure that I hadn’t made a mistake making the inner cross wider. I just needed the visual confirmation to confirm my choice. Sketch 4 contains the same cross as sketch 2, but rather than straight edged wings, I’ve made them curved. My wife definitely likes that version best and I might as well. I thought about drawing #4 in SketchUp, but I felt that the straight edge piece would be easier (and quicker).  If nothing else, sketch 4 gives me some closure to the round table series.

Design a Week – 18/52

A little “before & after” for the next in the series of round coffee tables – the Compass Rose Wood table:

This table top is another idea that came out of a doodling session in a boring meeting at work. A simple compass rose layered on a bullseye, over bent metal legs. If for no other reason than to make the pun work, I would want the darker inlays to be some type of rosewood. Depending on the choice of primary species for the table top, the metal could be chrome, brushed aluminum, antiqued bronze, or even pewter. I had a few possible alterations. First, adding a ring/foot rail to the legs:

Second, extending the legs to be wider than the top:

And possibly both?

There are also a bunch of options working with the edge of the table as well. As drawn there are diamonds inset at each cardinal direction, but there could be other shapes or even a continuous banding around the edge.  Any suggestions?

Design a Week – 17/52

Today I present the second piece in our miniseries of round coffee tables:

Like the last coffee table, this one has a round, second surface connected by round pillars/supports. However, there are small details that make it a completely different piece.  First, the lower surface is complete, with table surface beneath the top tier. Second, the stanchions supporting the upper tier will be wood and completely vertical. The legs mimic those supports – round and vertical.

I like the idea of having the supports be a thru-tenon or sorts, but I don’t know how I would make that work while supporting the weight of the top. The edge banding for both levels would be the same species and match the inlay that circles the supports for the upper tier. The outer ring of the lower tier and the upper tier would definitely be the same species, but I’m not sure about the inner circle of the lower tier – it could also match or it could be a third species.

The next piece in the round table series will only have one surface, I promise!

Coffee Table Coffee Talk

In his recent post at the Design Matters blog, George Walker took on “The dilemma of the coffee Table” and how one approaches this diverse and open realm of furniture. Given my obvious endearment with the form, I started to write a comment on George’s post, but decided a full post of my own would be a better avenue for my thoughts. The crux of George’s post is:

One furniture project that brings out the most questions is the dreaded coffee table. My own theory is that it’s the one form of furniture that knows no bounds… Height is about the only functional dimension that appears critical.

I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of coffee tables in this fashion, but when I paused to digest George’s suggestion, I couldn’t bring myself to disagree. As a quick tangent, go type “coffee table” into your favorite search engine and scroll through the images that are returned. Quite the variety, no? Is the coffee table round, rectangular, or even octagonal? Oblong or Square? Shelves, drawers, or neither? Does it house a fish tank? Those were just some the questions I thought of with one glance at the results. The variety of coffee tables stems from George’s observation that:

Coffee tables can be so many things. For that reason I think they are commonly picked as a student project in furniture schools. They can easily become an artistic expression and a focal point to a room.

If you want to be really artistic in the shop, designing and building coffee tables is one of the wider avenues available to pursue. A furniture maker can design anything from a chic, minimalist coffee table that consists of a 2’x4′ pane of glass resting on six dice to an ornate table with ivory drawer pulls, cabriole legs, and a fresco carved into the top. I think the range of a coffee table comes from its utter lack of requirements. When you are designing a dresser for a bedroom, you can play with the legs, the moldings, and the number, size, and orientation of the drawers – but most dressers are going to be somewhat similar because they have the strict requirement of having to hold your clothes. With coffee tables there are far more uses than requirements. Some people want a place to put books/magazines. Some want a drawer to store remotes. Others want an artistic focal point for the room. And believe it or not, some people want to actually set coffee cups on their coffee table!

I have found that coffee tables are a great place to get started coming up with your own designs, especially if you are starting your own design exercise. Because of their lack of requirements, you can start with a small feature/detail and work outward from that point of inspiration, without worrying about the constraints of the form – because there aren’t any!

That’s all I have from atop this soapbox. I wonder if I could make that into a coffee table…

Design a Week – 16/52

For this entry in my design exercise is the first in a series of round coffee tables:

This table is the child of another boring meeting that sent me to doodles instead of paying attention. For this table, I’m envisioning two different species of wood, although I don’t know which specifically – I’m trying to break out of a maple/walnut cliché. One wood is used for the majority of the table areas and for the four tapered legs. A secondary wood will be used to trim all of the round edges. The posts connecting the two tables are some types of metal pipe/rod – maybe brushed aluminum, but it could be several different metals depending on what woods are chosen.

I have preliminary sketches for three, maybe four, more round tables for this sub-series of designs.  Want to know how to keep someone in suspense? I have a post discussing coffee tables in general coming soon to the blog…

Design a Week – 12/52

Two weeks in a row – coffee tables. I’m going to need a lot of living rooms for all these. Kick back and put your feet up on this pyramid coffee table:

I got the idea for this table while playing with my daughter a few weeks ago. She has a large toy in the shape of a box. As she was pulling herself up on it, I was amazed at how stable it was. I thought it would need to have a wider base to keep from tipping over – like a pyramid. BAM – the first inklings for this table were struck.

If I were fully flushing out this design, I would still play with both the height of the center and how big that area is.  I’ve already lowered the height once in sketching this, but it still doesn’t feel perfect. The one feature I really like about the table is the footrest dowels on each side.  How many times has a mother yelled “Get your feet off the table!”? This table actually invites kicking your feet up.

Design a Week – 11/52

For this entry in my furniture design odyssey, I present a coffee table and an alteration I think I like better than the original:

The idea for this table came to me as I was trying to fall asleep one night. It was actually the impetus for me keeping a notepad and pencil on my nightstand. Both drawings have an overhead and 3D perspective; the third object is a cross-section of the sides where they intersect the shelves.  The top design was originally conceived as a light fixture. Instead of the light-toned wood, you would use a translucent material to allow the light to pass from several bulbs. Both designs would work this way, just adjusting the scale. I like the idea of stringing together three of the square designs, about 12″x8″ each, connected with two or three dowels between them – to hang over either a dining room table or a billiards table.

The top sketch I think works better as a light fixture, but the round design I love as a coffee table. I think it is inviting as a table you put drinks on, because of the waist-level shelves that square off the table.  Now, I admit that my 3D drawing skills aren’t the greatest – especially when the lines aren’t square.  Because of this, the 3D drawing of the round table seems far more squaty than I truly envision it. Either the shelf edges are thicker or the whole piece is shorter, but there is something just off with it. On the bright side, I’m feeling far more confident in my 3D drawings that are straight lines, especially when those lines meet at right angles.

I know I’m far behind pace, but rest assured I have several ideas in the queue – I just need to make time to flesh them out on paper. Thanks for sticking with me through this!

Design a Week – 7/52

When I first started working on Briana’s crib, I was already thinking about this week’s design – a coffee table:

I’ve thought of a few possible variations on the details of this piece, perhaps adding keys to the mitres at the top of the legs. I’ve also envisioned a couple of different bandings of a third wood that wrap the legs and center cross pieces. Right now I see the frame being made of walnut with maple plywood for the panels. Maybe I should choose a more figured wood for the panels. It would be more distinctive, but would it be too busy?

I’d also like to put in a plug for SketchUp here; it’s the program I used to create this drawing, as well as the drawing for Week 1’s end table. I do actually plan on building this table and that task would have been ridiculouly more difficult, if not impossible, without having created this detailed of a drawing. If anyone is interested, I can post a picture of one of the tabletop sides and the crazy overlapping cuts/joinery contained in just that one component.

Just Slab It On There

When you walk into your run-of-the-mill furniture store these days, you tend to see a lot of squares in the pieces. There are some round end table, a few oval coffee tables, and the rare bombe dresser.  What you don’t tend to see are irregular shapes or live edges.  However, those attributes can be found in plenty in the custom furniture market and in smaller studios.

If you browse through the woodworking blogosphere, you can find plenty of folks making beautiful pieces with live slabs. A couple of great examples:

Dan Mosheim of Dorset Custom Furniture:

Dale Osowski of Timberwerks Studio:

Both are exceptional pieces from highly talented craftsmen, but they lead me to one question:  Why just hall tables and benches? About 99% of the live edge/irregular pieces I’ve seen are either hall tables or sitting benches. Don’t get me wrong, I love these pieces, but why haven’t live slabs become popular as cabinet/dresser tops, low entertainment centers, or desks? You see the occassional coffee table or countertop, but these gorgeous slabs don’t seem to travel much farther than that.

So my question for the reader is “Why? Why don’t we see more slabs?”

Design a Week – 4/52

Five weeks in and I’m only one week behind.  At this rate, I’ll be caught up and finished by late March – 2011. Not bad for a one year commitment! On to this week’s idea…

This week I come before you to present a coffee table:

The table is mostly two-toned, with the same wood used for the inner square and the trim. The inner square is lined by a herringbone inlay, which is composed of neither of the two woods found elsewhere on the table. The legs and crossbars also mimic the two-toned style, although I haven’t decided which part I want light or dark. The lighter trim is bullnosed to reduce possible sharp edges on the sides (it’s amazing what details you think of when you have a mobile child exploring the house).

I first drew this up with the center circle as just plain wood, but the more I think about it, the more I want to put some type of inlayed design in that center area.  I’ve included one possible design (bottom, right) composed of spiraling concentric squares of alternating woods.

The biggest thing I like about this design is that I had a bit of an epiphany when drawing the 3D model of it. I have realized why my perspective drawings are so top heavy (and knowing is half the battle), but I’m not sure how to work through changing that.  I also figured out how to calculate ceratin angles after I’ve draw the reference line with the skewed perspective. I even had to break out the happy dance after these realizations!

I have a couple of other designs that I’ve started flushing out, so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up over this weekend and get back on track. To see what others are designing around the web, make sure to check out the Furniture Design blog.