Furniture Design Books/courses?
I am looking for some recommendations for a good book/course/on line class on furniture design. I enjoy coming up with new ideas but I often find myself copying work I saw in a furniture catalog, etc..
Thanks in advance.
I have not attended myself, but Pratt is a well known art and design school. It's the only virtual course from a reputable program I've been able to find.
Best of luck!
I going to offer a bit of adjunct info. to your query that I think is worth considering. I worked for many years as a high-end architectural/interior designer in NY, also have taught furniture history at Parsons in NYC, and am a long time furniture maker/designer. I would recommend that you put together a small library of books covering the history of furniture - from ancient to contemporary - spanning all continents where furniture has been "produced". To understand the scope of furniture design in many ways is far more important than getting the perspective from one author in one or more books, or one particular style. This can be a bit self-limiting. That is not to say a class from Pratt might not be valuable, or similar from R.I.S.D. The information in larger encyclopedia references allows one to see the widest variety of material usage, color use, values of "light and dark", geometry, proportion/scale, construction, upholstery use, artistic/sculptural application, stylistic variation/evolution, etc. etc., and this information can be invaluable for someone "just starting out". I've found that many furniture makers in the U.S. tend toward a highly restricted point of view - hence the hundreds of thousands of only "moderately interesting/mediocre" tall chest on stands with vague Asian/Arts and Crafts references (M.P.'s excepted). This can often result from the "self limiting" mentioned above. There are reasons for this I can't go into here. Knowing the wide range of human endeavor in furniture making over time will help you make informed decisions, and most likely over time make better, then best decisions. My library is unfortunately boxed up pending a move so I can't get to all the titles. Perhaps starting off with a couple of books like Aronson "The Encyclopedia of Furniture". Once you have a few of these - take a little time each day to review a different period/designer and maybe jot down a few notes about the components, basic structure, essential elements/style, and commit the essence to memory.
This is where the used book market shines. On Amazon, I purchased Aronson's book for like $15 shipped to my home.
I'm not a fan of furniture books that cover thousands of years of furniture history. They've always seemed like a coffee table book, to be displayed, rather than read or studied. But that's just me.
The way I'd recommend learning about design, as a woodworker, not a design specialist, it to pick a period or style that you like the most. Shaker, Arts and Crafts, Newport, etc. Then just immerse yourself in it. Look at as many books as you can. Look at pictures of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You'll learn about why certain elements make a piece great. Why the drawer dividers on this piece are too thick, or the muntins on that cabinet are too heavy.
There are lots of ways to do it. But I find it easier and more enjoyable than studying design more generally.
I would agree with John_C2. I currently have been doing Shaker and Arts and Crafts....now moving on to new Danish and Scandi. There are dozens of books on them.
I have also found inspiration from the great furniture makers of those eras and countries....currently doing stuff after Carl Malmstem of Sweden. You will find many images online of their work.
Glen Huey's books are good.
I've also picked up several suggestions watching Thomas Johnson's restorations.
I've purchased some books as cheap as 6 bucks on Amazon.
There's a lot that "design" encompasses.
One element is structural, how to build for strength or longevity.
Anther is aesthetics, this can not be taught IMO. you can learn about certain genre's and cultural designs, artistic styles, golden ratio and so on but this is just reviewing others work and what has been historically been accepted as attractive. No one can tell you how to design for aesthetics. it's like someone telling you what food you like.
Take in all you can, pick the elements you like and incorporate them into your own style of work..
There, you're a designer.
You can be taught
Exploring genre's and cultural designs
I agree that "design" encompasses many components. Ed mentioned two of them in the previous post, structural integrity and aesthetics. Another major component to a successful design solution is function. Function is where innovation gives you the biggest bang for the buck. And last but certainly not least, is creativity.
I recently used this example in other post. If you say "I'm going to design a chair", it comes with a number of preconceptions like a seat, some legs, a backrest etc. If you say "I'm going to design something to sit on", you essentially have a clean slate that can encourage your creativity to soar.
That's a very good example,
One method (a bit clinical) of design can be broken down into a series of choices.
Problem; I need something to sit on
Do I want a traditional chair, yes or no
If yes, what style of chair (follow this path)
If no, then what? a barrel, a crate? or something else
Continuing this process of question and answer to it's conclusion will eventually yield an end product.
This can also make it easier to go back and see where a choice might have not been correct and allows you to change your design and follow a different path.
E.g. change joinery, hardware or finish
Very helpful when making prototypes
With all the variables of design like material, environment, genre, region, construction and aesthetics, there are countless approaches to even the simplest project.
I hope you find what you're looking for
There's a good FWW book:
* Practical Design Solutions and Strategies (Essentials of Woodworking)
FWW also have the comprehensive set of volumes "The Complete Illustrated Guide to [all woodworking subjects]". This is set is included in the full FWW membership.
Graham Blackburn has books that offer basic design and making info that's easy to understand yet very comprehensive and an excellent foundation for a beginner:
* Furniture Design & Construction: Classic Projects & Lessons of the Craft (The Illustrated Workshop)
* Furniture by Design: Lessons in Craftmanship from a Master Woodworker
David Pye offers many philosophical perspectives on workmanship and design:
* The Nature and Art of Workmanship
* The Nature and Aesthetics of Design Paperback
For the fundamentals of woodworking these two are a very comprehensive but well written set:
* The Nature and Aesthetics of Design Paperback - Ernest Joyce u[dated by Alan Peters
* Collins Complete Woodworker’s Manual
As others have said, pick a furniture style or two that you would like to make with then find books about that style. FWW have many on the various well-known styles such as Shaker, Federal et al.
Personally I wouldn't recommend classes as they tend to be very expensive and limited to a very few types of woodworking skills and objects. There are more comprehensive classes but these are very, very expensive and generally need you to be away from home and work for months.
In addition, classes offer the particular perspective of the teacher, which can often be very particular indeed, limited or even ideological!
There's a lot to be said for self-guided (via books, videos and the like) learning as you can go at your own pace and follow your own interests, not those of a class or teacher.
Thanks for the books, I need to keep them for myself and read them sometime in the evening.
It's a bit late, but if you're looking to step up your furniture design game, I got you covered! Check out this dope online course called "Furniture Design Fundamentals" by the School of Woodworking. They'll teach you the basics of furniture design and give you the tools to come up with your own fresh ideas instead of copying what you see in catalogs.
Hey , that sounds perfect. But for some reason I can't seem to find it online.
Do you have a link you could post?
It's not the class Monanthous posted about, but Mike Pekovich's design class is coming up soon. https://finewoodworking.mykajabi.com/furniture-design-for-woodworkers
I picked up this book at a Shaker museum. Good reference and a point of departure for your own designs. "Measured Drawings of Shaker Furniture and Woodenware"