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.

Waste Wood Transformed Into Furniture with Just One Simple Joint

Betula waste wood chair

Given a big box of identical birch slats and access to simple materials like string and rawhide, what would you build? What designer Martin Thübeck came up with in that scenario is pretty impressive, especially in terms of the different ways he assembled the parts. Using reclaimed wood from a local sawmill, Thübeck created “Betula,” a collection consisting of a dresser and a chair. He wanted to alter the pieces as little as possible to create functional furniture with the least amount of waste.

Betula joints close up

“The owner of the sawmill explained that roughly 70 per cent of all the logs that come to the facility is considered waste and gets burned,” Thübeck told Dezeen. “This inspired the idea to explore how the least amount of work could affect the value of the discarded material the most. So I developed a simple joint that could turn the waste into a building block, where all pieces have the same shape, creating infinite building possibilities.”

Betula waste wood dresser

The frame of the chair is tensioned with rawhide, another waste product Thübeck rescued from the trash, which also acts as the seat and back. He allowed it to dry and shrink around the frame to add strength. For the dresser, he used paper cord also made of birch, winding it into drawer fronts and sides. 

Betula waste wood dresser detail

Part of the designer’s intention with the project was finding a way to make uses for these waste materials that can also be changed in the future. Since the joints easily disassemble, the parts can be reused again later and turned into new objects. All of the components are biodegradable, too.

Modernist Furniture Series Explores the Possibilities of Pine

Pine doesn’t get enough credit as a versatile, malleable and beautiful material in Modernist design. So says Studio Sløyd, a Norwegian design firm aiming to take advantage of this sustainable resource, which grows abundantly in the area. The designers wanted to demonstrate how perfect pine can be for sculpting pieces that feel fresh and of-the-moment.

Studio Sloyd modernist pine furniture

“FH.02 is a three legged stool made out of solid Norwegian pine,” say the designers. “We wanted to create an object that used pine in a contemporary manner. Using a common typology, we explore how far we can push the shape and structure of the wood to create something unique. The result is a bold stool with massive legs that displays the intricate patterns within the material itself.”

Studio Sloyd modernist pine furniture three legged stool

It’s these patterns and variation in the grain that make pine such a special wood to work with, and they’re showcased here with an impressive degree of craftsmanship and intimate understanding of the material. The series only consists of two stools, but it’s easy to see how this rounded, organic yet minimalist style could be extended to larger pieces like tables, beds and cabinets. 

Studio Sloyd modernist pine furniture chair
Studio Sloyd modernist pine furniture seat

“Furuhelvete is a Norwegian expression stemming from the overuse of pine in Norwegian homes and cabins, often associated with a style that is considered distasteful or outdated,” Studio Sløyd told Dezeen.

“With the Furuhelvete collection we wish to challenge the traditional perception of the wood and create a new interest for this local and wonderful material.”

Studio Sloyd modernist pine furniture detail

The collection successfully demonstrates why pine is ideal for modern design. But for those whose love for pine never wavered, these stools can still provide inspiration for new ways of laying the grain by cutting lumber and piecing it back together with an eye for detail. Open those images and examine them up close to see what we mean.

Handcrafted in America: Amish Eastern White Pine Furniture by DutchCrafters

There are still few furniture crafters who produce heirloom-quality items quite like the Amish. If you can’t travel to the back roads of Amish country in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana in person, online retailer DutchCrafters.com is the next best way to shop, sourcing their collections straight from the woodworkers themselves. 

Unsurprisingly, many of these Amish master craftspeople choose Eastern White Pine for pieces like dining sets, cabinets, bookcases, beds and hutches. These are the kinds of furniture items you’ll treasure for a lifetime, and pass on to the next generation – and there’s nothing more sustainable than that. Here’s a selection of gorgeous Eastern White Pine furniture from DutchCrafters, and you can find lots more on the site.

Rustic Pine Panel Bed

“The lovely Amish Pine Wood Panel Bed offers country style luxury for your cozy bedroom. Both headboard and footboard wear rich raised panels along with sturdy kiln dried Eastern white pine wood. Pine wood prices make shopping for solid wood furniture even better! Pine is a softer wood, but offers plenty of stability. It’s offered at a lower price than other hardwoods, making solid wood furniture more affordable. This pine bed is from the Heritage Pine Collection that ships for free, saving you even more money! Available in Twin, Full, Queen and King sizes.”

Amish Pine Wood Cafe Hutch

“This massive Pine Cafe Hutch makes a great addition to any kitchen, dining room, or “Man Cave”.

Handcrafted from solid Eastern White Pine Wood, this unique hutch is built for functionality over anything else. With space for a mini refrigerator and microwave, as well as a variety of cabinet doors and drawers for plenty of storage options, this stunning Cafe Hutch will truly turn any room into an all-in-one dining station.”

Amish Pine Kitchen Island

“Our Pine Kitchen Island is a perfect table option for either a small apartment or a large house.  It does not take up much room and can fit in the small kitchen area of an apartment or a basement. Many customers choose to paint the base while staining the kitchen island top.  Order finish samples to complete the custom furniture look of your new kitchen island.”

Amish Drop Leaf End Table

This compact end table features two drop-leaf surfaces so it can expand on demand, and you can choose from a selection of wood stains for a customized look. It’s made of premium grade Eastern White Pine.

Amish Liberty Pine Bench

This entryway classic is the perfect place to put on your shoes before heading out the door, and it features storage space underneath and a high back. It’s also made of premium grade Eastern White Pine, with optional distressed and antiqued finishes available.

Build This Easy Heirloom Quality DIY Pine Wood Table

If you’re relatively new at furniture making, the idea of creating something “heirloom quality” can be intimidating. While the kind of expertise that leads to sturdy, beautiful and long-lasting furniture comes with time and practice, there are some projects that make it easy to produce these results. 

From Eidolon House, a shop and book restoration service located in Texas, comes a lovely DIY pine wood table you can pull off without owning an entire suite of expensive woodworking tools. You’ll need a couple hand saws, a chisel, a drill gun with drill bits, a mallet, sandpaper and sanding block, brushes and rags for varnish. 

The table has a silhouette that would make an early Colonial furniture maker proud. It’s rustic and unfussy, but has a simple elegance to it that works with many interior design styles. What’s great about the use of Eastern White Pine here is the fact that it’ll only get more beautiful with time; weathering, softened edges and small dents will give it character and a sense of history that most new furniture just doesn’t have in its short lifetime. 

Plus, using mostly hand tools for this project will give you an intimate sense of what it’s like to work with Eastern White Pine, and boost your skills for your next DIY. 

“We built this pretty table in 48 hours, literally.  We gave ourselves only a couple of days to make this table and we did it!  It’s a simple plan, and really anyone can build it with minimal woodworking skills, so we thought we’d share with you guys how we built it! The sketch above is a simple layout of how the table goes together and the pieces of wood you’ll need.  (The finished table measures 2.5’Wx30″Hx8’L.)”

Get the step-by-step tutorial and lots more photos at Eidolon House.

Philadelphia Exhibit Showcases Women in Woodworking

Erin Irber
Erin Irber

On display at the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia now through January 18, 2020, “Making a Seat at the Table: Women Transform Woodworking” showcases the work of 43 women artists from throughout North America. The first exhibition of its scope, this show shines a light on the skill, innovation and creative vision of women working in what remains a male-dominated industry.

The show includes examples of the artist’s finished work, but also demonstrations of their woodworking processes, which is pretty cool to see. The curators aim to highlight the unique perspectives women bring to the world of woodworking, each one colored by their own cultures and histories.

Gail Fridell
Gail Fridell

All over the country and in all kinds of genres, women are making fantastic work in wood. Understanding that the field has historically been dominated by males, this exhibition intends to showcase some of these women, to show the breadth of the current field of woodworking, and how these makers are both expanding the edges of the field and holding down the center. The exhibition will present a diversity of objects, made with a diversity of intentions—from small-batch products to one-off works, representing a range of technical approaches and scales.”

“Pieces included in this exhibition will reference an approach to woodworking that is rooted in questions of craft, use, the body, and domesticity.”

Kristina Madsen
Kristina Madsen

A book of the same title is due to be released when the exhibition is complete in 2020. If you can’t make it to the exhibition in person, you can find the websites for most of the woodworkers featured in the show at the WomenWoodworking.org website.