Wood Design - Style, Form and Function July 23 2013, 0 Comments

Before I made the decision to seek my degree in interior design, I had little formal knowledge of furniture styles.  I did, however, know what I liked and what I did not like.  (I still know what I like and what I don’t like, and I now have probably enough formal knowledge to be dangerous, lol.)  But before we move on to the "guts" of custom wood furnishings -- wood types and construction -- I would like to touch lightly on some of the more common schools of design.  This list is by no means exhaustive and my only hope is that this blog serves to *inspire* you to delve a bit further into the subject!!

Schools of Design

Modern  – Commonly mistaken as contemporary, the modern movement began in the early 1930’s.  This school of design is characterized by the use of simple, clean and organic lines.  There is an intentional absence of ornamentation and an underlying doctrine that form should follow function.

French Provincial – Conversely, this school of design is extremely ornate.  The pieces are often gold gilded, painted and many pieces are painted with scenes depicting life .  Beech is the most commonly found wood in this style.

Early American Colonial -- In this school of design we see an emphasis on both materials and form.  The turned spindle and bent wood backs are quite characteristic of this style and typically deciduous, fruit bearing woods were used such as walnut or cherry. 

Mission Style – This style of furniture became popular in the early 20th century and was part of the Arts and Crafts movement.  White oak was the top choice of woodworkers of the style.  Heavy straight horizontal and vertical lines with flat panels characterized the pieces themselves.  One other characteristic was the deliberate use of exposed black iron hardware.

Rustic – This style is presently going under a bit of transformation.  In general, the elements that characterize the rustic style are that the pieces are utilitarian by design, and there is an emphasis on the use of materials in their most possible natural state.  The example that comes to mind is a coffee table who’s top has a “live edge”.  What this means is that a highly visible wood member of the piece has been used in its naturally occurring form.  The wood has been left in its natural form and has not been milled into a straight, uniform board.  Commonly used woods in rustic woodworking are pine, fir, spruce, and cedar.

Shaker – The distinguishing characteristics of this form of wood furniture are symmetry and function.  This is because the manufacturing of this style is driven by the needs of the religious and equalitarian philosophies of the Shaker community rather than the creativity of a specific designer.  The typical wood used in Shaker wood furnishings are those that are fruit-bearing.

Eclectic - This is my favorite design style!  I enjoy too many design styles to put myself into any one category.  I believe there are probably more of us eclectics out there than purists when it comes to choices of furniture styles.  So here's to "mixing it up" and choosing the combination of design styles that look good and function well in your life! 

Ok – in the next blog post we're going to talk about wood types!  Hint: they aren't created equal for every job!  And whether you are looking at a piece of furniture that was made from recently-cut wood or a piece of furniture that was made from reclaimed wood and is old as dirt, there are reasons why it's chosen for that particular piece of furniture!!!