Japanese Designers Reimagine the Iconic Windsor Chair

One of the most ubiquitous and elegant objects ever made of Eastern White Pine is the Windsor Chair, a design refined by early American woodworkers in the 18th century. Inspired by a style that likely originated in Buckinghamshire, England in the 16th century, this American classic features chair spindles resembling the spokes of a wheel, and features a comfortable, deep-saddled seat. 

We’ve seen artists and craftspeople create their own unique takes on the Windsor chair before, including a fun collection by designer Normal Kelley. Now we get a fun Japanese spin on the design in a collaboration called “The Windsor Department.” Created by three groups of designers (Taiji Fujimori, Inoda+Sveje and Drill Design), the collection is currently on display at ATELIER MUJI GINZA in Tokyo.

The designers first came together ten years ago to explore their fascination with Windsor chairs, which they describe as nostalgic and full of “mysterious charm.” To celebrate the anniversary of the collaboration, they’ve each produced their own modern forms of the chair, redesigning them for the present and future without losing what makes them so special and iconic.

“Nowadays, design tends to be understood as an activity to create something completely new,” say the designers. “The method of ‘The Windsor Department’ is to evolve the ‘original form’ of the chair with designers’ thoughts and experiments. It may allow us to think out of the box of conventional design, and guide us toward a more sustainable direction.”

Each of the ten participating designers has created their own chair. In most of them, the inspiration is overt; the classic Windsor spindles remain an integral part of the design. One stretches out the silhouette to grant it a longer back and lower profile. Another adds a single armrest. A third design leaves the top off the back of the chair, giving it a spiky appearance. Other reinterpretations simplify the basic shapes that go into the chair, making it a little bit more in line with minimal Japanese style. 

The collection is a fun way to see how different artists can take a single piece of inspiration and turn it into something unique, and to explore how an old favorite can remain relevant for centuries to come.

Amazing Wood Creations: Japanese Chapel Lined with Hand-Carved Lattice Panels

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Beautifully intricate hand-carved wood tends to be utilized sparingly, in details like fireplace surrounds, railings, room screens and other decorative touches, but when it takes the main stage, it really shines. One stunning example can be found at the Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan by Nikken Space Design, a space integrating Japanese wedding traditions with an emphasis on nature.

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The artists translated designs often seen on kimonos into a pattern for an arching lattice structure creating a canopy roof over the chapel, enhancing its feeling of sacredness and serenity. Measuring twenty feet high and 62 feet long, the interior ceiling is comprised of 100 large hand-carved wooden panels featuring true emotions.

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The panels represent a single tree arching over the guests as they sit at the pews in the chapel, with roots running to meet the floor, trunks stretching up the sides and individual branches sprouting leaves and flowers overhead. The wood was left unpainted to celebrate its natural beauty.

Intricately Carved Eastern White Pine Mantels by Mendota

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Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mendota Mantels is a team of talented woodworkers producing custom-carved mantels made mostly of Eastern White Pine. Each mantel is one-of-a-kind and hand-sculpted from reclaimed timbers and beams salvaged from old barns, mills and warehouses.

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Designs range from simple beams that are just barely finished to show off the natural beauty of the wood to complex sculptural creations like the ship featured top, and an illustration of one customer’s entire family history, above.

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Eastern White Pine is a natural choice for anything carved by hand, since it’s smooth and highly malleable, offering up an ideal surface for detailed work. Check out a series of incredible hyper-realistic sculptures for more examples.