I’m designing a chest at the moment and thinking about all of the usual pointers to guide me; scale, proportion etc, along with considering it’s educational purpose (a new one for me). I thought I’d share with you an extra design dimension that I have within my palette which I’ve learnt from working directly with a woodworker.
Designing furniture that turns heads is much more than making sure that it’s the right size and will do the job. But you don’t always want to be shouting out for attention either.
Directing attention with subtlety is an art within itself and playing with texture is a very useful tool for this.
I’ve always appreciated finding varying textures sat side by side and there’s something about such subtle contrasts which makes each one all the more appealing.
Perfectly smooth and well finished wood tends to give us plenty of visual enjoyment, but it doesn’t really ‘feel’ like wood any more. If we open up a beautifully polished door to find hewn surfaces within then we get an extra kick from the experience, and everything becomes that bit more tactile; it’s inviting us to touch.
For myself touch is a vital sense, If there’s a big red button I’m going to push it. I touch everything, I don’t care how rare it is, expensive or whether it’s wet paint, I’m gonna touch it. (I do understand when I greet Richard and the first thing he says is ‘mits off!’).
Designing pieces to be built by hand is fantastic fun. I know that Richard will leave a try planed, or slightly coarser finish throughout his work as the standard; a surface which is not torn but does have slight scallops. If an area of the piece needs to be given more importance then he can reach for his wooden smoother. This works nicely for a table for example where the top is smoothed and polishes up a treat – it’s considerably more subtle than painting the base, but the two surfaces side by side emphasise each other.
And if it is a painted finish that’s desired then a rough hand planed surface is wonderful, any tear out becomes a bonus giving extra depth and texture – flat paint finishes are for MDF.
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My design notes for the chest currently include a request for ‘very slightly torn with plane scallops left’ for the sides – I want it to get noticed as somebody walks past and the light starts skipping across the surface here.
Maybe these are the sort of requests which make Richard snigger when someone suggests he should have a perfectly set up double iron in every plane.
Photographers favour the sun at certain times of day for the extra contrast and subtle change in hue which can change a mundane scene to breathtaking. I like to think that we can encourage a passer by to enjoy a similar umph within a simple piece of furniture for giving textures some extra thought.
Richard’s eyes are rolling at me at the moment as I’m back and forth from the timber shed trying to find just the right bits.