Classic Windsor Chairs Reimagined in Odd New Shapes

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The Windsor chair is an American classic, still found in homes, businesses and government buildings all over the country over two centuries after it was brought over from England and refined by colonial woodworkers. Traditionally made of Eastern White Pine, it’s one of the most instantly recognizable shapes in traditional furniture. But designer Norman Kelley has turned it on its head – almost literally – with a fun series of seven reinterpretations.

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Using most of the traditional elements from the original design, Kelley created new chairs that keep the function while almost completely changing the form. The Windsor remains recognizable, but comes in new, modernized, off-kilter shapes.

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Some appear to have been assembled upside-down, while others have new parts added, like a side-desk supported by two chair legs, or a drawer under the seat. The chairs have been put together in totally unexpected ways, fitting together oddly, but all are solidly constructed and still bear those comfy saddle-shaped Eastern White Pine seats.

See the whole series at the designer’s website.

This Week in Wood: More Furniture Makers Choosing Sustainable Supplies

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Large furniture suppliers are increasingly seeking sustainable certification for their materials, including responsibly grown and harvested wood. Haworth Inc., a Michigan-based manufacturer of office and contract furniture, has pledged to source all of the woods used in its products from sustainably managed forests by the end of 2015, and Ethan Allen Furniture has completed registration for Sustainable by Design, a program that helps companies establish standards, practices and management systems for their own environmental performance and that of their suppliers.

Ethan Allen, a chain with nearly 300 stores across the U.S., UK and Canada, was required to establish goals and a system for evaluating annual improvements in supply chain management, using eco-friendly materials, global climate impact and social responsibility. Part of the eco-friendly materials component is purchasing certified lumber.

Haworth, a privately held company with $1.31 billion in annual sales, says that it expects its vendors to have third-party certification from groups like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). About 86 percent of Haworth’s wood was sourced from controlled managed forests this year.

A number of large wood products organizations like the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, the American Home Furnishings Alliance and the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association offer programs that set standards and targets for greener products.

Image via: Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Trend Watch: Under-Finished Wood Products More Popular Than Ever

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Even as the world around us gets more and more high-tech and ultramodern design pushes synthetic materials and surfaces, consumers are quietly returning to the comfort and natural beauty of barely-finished wood. The Woodworking Network notes a trend of rustic wood treatments in a range of products, including decor and furniture.

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Wood products are often left in an almost entirely natural state to foster a connection with the trees from which they came, and add an organic, handcrafted feel to any setting. Many woodworkers leave the edges of wood raw, lightly stain or seal it instead of painting it, add distressed finishes or reclaim previously used wood.

Just browse the handmade goods marketplace to get a sense of the possibilities. Crafters offer everything from salvaged signs and tree-slice candle holders to hand-turned wooden bowls and large-scale furniture. The beauty of rustic wood is that it’s equally at home in virtually any interior design style, including country, cabin, cottage, contemporary and modern settings

Photos:  Rachael Towne, YeWoodSmyth

Expert Craftsmen Offer Custom-Made Eastern White Pine Furniture

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Beyond the big box stores, heirloom-quality furniture made to last several lifetimes can still be found, offered by expert craftsmen who maintain old-world attention to detail. One great source is, a website that can connect you with people who not only make beautiful things, but will build exactly what you’re looking for to your specifications.

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“To put it simply, we believe that everyone should try custom, and we think that buying custom from local Makers is a viable alternative to buying from big box retailers. For that reason, we’re creating a platform that allows you to engage in a whole new way as a customer,” say the owners of the Massachusetts-based business.

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You can either describe your idea, or upload a photo of what you’re hoping to find. Alternatively, you can simply browse the offerings of hundreds of craftspeople who make a wide range of items from jewelry to dining room tables.

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Searching for Eastern White Pine brings up over two dozen beautiful pieces of furniture and home decor, including a Windsor settee, a clean and simple farm-style table, a window storage seat and even a rustic sleigh bed. Check it out at

Shaker Style: Classic American Furniture Made of Eastern White Pine

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Much like the Windsor chair, an English design that was refined by early American craftsmen, Shaker style is among the most classic and iconic furniture traditions in our country’s history. The Shakers emphasized simplicity and functionality, creating beds, chairs, benches, clocks, cradles and much more boasting clean, elegant lines and sturdy construction.

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The underlying principles of Shaker design, which often includes innovative joinery and peg systems as seen above, have had a significant impact on modern furniture. Free of frills yet made to the highest quality standards, these pieces fit in to a wide range of interior design styles, from traditional country to minimalist contemporary aesthetics.

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Many Shaker items are made using Eastern White Pine, including the seats of true classics like the Shaker Meetinghouse Bench and Revolving Stool by Shaker Workhouse (pictured top). Other items, like the Shaker Bed and Chest from Shipskewana Furniture, are made entirely of this durable and versatile wood.

Class Teaches 17th Century Woodworking Techniques in Eastern White Pine

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Master woodworker Rob Cosman not only offers dozens of tutorials on YouTube, along with a series of DVDs, books and tools, he also teaches workshops in Ontario, Canada and online that share his techniques. Using traditional hand tools, Cosman builds chests, boxes, cabinets, desks, seats, mantles and many other items, often using Eastern White Pine (also known as Northern White Pine.)

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“Pine is the one wood that can accept the dings of life and not look out of place as a result,” Cosman writes. “It is also the wood that ages better than all others.” Cosman’s pine gallery includes tables, a bookcase, a Shaker wall cabinet and several chests of drawers. A workshop teaching advanced woodworkers how to build a 17th century chest also utilizes white pine.

“True to the era, we shape this chest using everything from an adze, to a scrub plane to a custom made curved sole wooden plane. With dovetails cut on the round this will challenge everyone.”  If you can’t get to Ontario, you can take online workshops for both hand tools and power tools, with two 30-minute lessons per week.

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The craft of woodworking is experiencing a revival as many people in other fields return seek out the satisfying experience of building something with their own two hands. Community woodworking shops are taking off around the nation, and as woodworking jobs begin to boom, learning centers of all sorts are offering a wider variety of classes.