Cedar Garden Bench
Quick-to-make, casual seating designed to beat back the elements
Synopsis: The goal with this bench was to build something beautiful that could withstand years out in the weather without a finish. So furniture maker Jessica Wickham began by choosing Port Orford cedar, a strong, exceptionally weather-resistant wood. Then she designed a bench with a thick trestle base and a seat made up of ribs that have a gentle arc on their top edge so water will run off. Along with stainless-steel hardware, this ensures a long life outside.
When I was asked to design a bench for a garden at the Chuang yen Monastery in Carmel, N.Y., my goal was to build something beautiful that would age gracefully outdoors. My first step was to pick a wood that could withstand years in the weather—even without a finish.
My thoughts traveled to the magnificent wooden buildings I had visited in kamakura, japan—a historic city brimming with meticulously crafted wooden temples that are hundreds of years old. In japan, a common wood used for temple and bathhouse construction is hinoki, an indigenous, fragrant variety of cypress that is particularly resistant to decay. It was used to build the Horyu-ji temple outside of nara, japan, which is just over 1,300 years old and still in daily use.
Hinoki isn’t available in the united States, but an excellent substitute is Port orford cedar, which is strong, light, exceptionally resistant to decay, and beautiful when left to age in the weather. It’s what I used to build the benches for the temple. I left them unfinished, and after one year in the sun, rain, and snow, they’re looking great.
As for the design, I was striving for a minimalist but elegant bench that would sit beautifully in the monastery’s garden. I settled on a trestle base with thick legs…