Furniture Styles

I had a Mastery student write me recently and ask this question.

“Do you know of any resources or books that would be a good source to study different furniture styles and what defines the style?  (ie. Greene and Greene, Chippendale, classic styles, etc.)”

A loaded question. Here’s my answer.

“The Randall Mackinson book on Greene and Greene is fantastic. But more have come out in the past few years. The Franz Karg book on Solid Wood Cabinets is great. The Soul of a Tree by Nakashima is a classic as are the Krenov books but especially, A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook.
Look for books by period and not just for furniture. For instance the books on Art Nouveau and Art Deco by Alastair Duncan are fantastic. Other periods then would be Arts & Crafts, the Bauhaus Movement, Dutch Expressionism, de Stijl, Victorian, Edwardian. The list goes on. Empire, Louis XIVth, Biedermeier Furniture.
And that’s just European. There is Chinese Furniture. The Gustav Ecke book is a classic. Look at African art, Japanese temple construction and garden design. Start reading it all. You will start to see how design is universal and individual and everyone is stealing everyone else’s ideas and using them for their own purposes.
Have fun.”

Simple questions always seem to beget long answers.
Taper Oak Chest Inlay
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One Response to Furniture Styles

  1. Jim Dillon says:

    You’re right, books should be thought of as a double gateway, opening up our own ideas for working at the bench, and simultaneously leading us on to MORE BOOKS!!!! The books you name here are excellent entry points to the labyrinth. Another which I have found surprisingly stimulating is Cecil Hewitt’s English Historic Carpentry, even though it’s not about furniture at all. We could spend hours listing titles but the point wouldn’t change: start reading, start making, keep on doing both.

    In the spring of 2001, a client asked for help with a Greene & Greene-inspired door, and very kindly bought me Mackinson’s book so we could talk over the design on the phone and be on the same page (literally!). What a great gift that book was, magnificent photographs! In 2010 I was in Pasadena and toured the Gamble house. Having studied the photos so intently, I experienced the entire tour under the influence of a physical sensation that I can only describe as a mixture of vertigo and nostalgia. Thanks for prompting a brief return of that wonderful feeling!


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