Thursday, November 5, 2009

Furniture design... some background

One of my favourite topics is furniture design and its evolution. In earlier centuries, furniture was not very common, typically only the aristocracy could indulge in furniture such as chairs,tables and cabinets. The aristocracy of the era would regularly task furniture makers to create ornate chairs, tables and cabinets. The furniture of these early periods was assembled without much consideration for wood expansion and contraction, also known as wood movement. This methodology did not present much of a problem as the buildings of these early years were not heated very much, and inside, outside temperatures and humidity levels were often similar. In later centuries, heated interiors introduced wood movement as a criteria in the furniture making process.

Frame and panel construction was invented in the middle centuries precisely to address this wood movement issue. This technique allowed a solid wood panel to literally float within a wood frame composed of rails and stiles. The solid wood panel could expand and contract on a seasonal basis and not cause any structural failure within the furniture. Using this process of building furniture created many more possibilities for furniture design and its widespread appeal began in earnest. In more recent centuries, furniture also began to become more affordable as more furniture makers flourished and along with this standardized, robust joinery techniques began to appear.

Numerous periods exist over the past centuries and each of these periods had a style or styles associated with them. Additionally, each country had a style of its own within these periods. Similar furniture design principles were adopted by many countries over the different periods. Popular furniture styles which are widely recognized have familiar names such as English Chippendale, German Biedermeier, American Federal and Arts & Crafts, French Art Nouveau, Italian Rococo, etc. To be continued...

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