Simply Good Design: The Rustic Wooden Chair Absolutely Anybody Can Build

Think you can’t build a functional chair? You’re more capable than you imagine, if the design is right. Originally designed in 1974 by Italian designer Enzo Mari, the Sedia 1 Chair was made for self-assembly, with a simple design, an easy build process and a highly sturdy result. The design was included in Ilse Crawford’s first Good Design Masterclass for Braun, a video series that aims to inspire “good design for a better future.” 

The series explore Braun’s three key design principles: simple, useful and built to last. These principles can be most valuable when it comes to our most basic needs, with items like eating utensils and the curved S-bend waste pipe on toilets, which almost singlehandedly ushered in the era of modern hygiene in the 19th century. The chair, Crawford explains, is especially important because it’s both sustainable and empowering.

“This is a really clear example of open-source furniture,” said Crawford. “These were plans that were published and available for anybody to use. This was a message, not in a bottle, but in a chair. [Mari] was a 1970s activist who wanted to shine a light on the culture of consumerism and inbuilt obsolescence. Aesthetics was really not the point. This was simply an intention to reframe the future.”

Furniture company Artek put the Sedia 1 chair design into production as a kit of parts, including pre-cut pine boards, nails and instructions, and it requires nothing but a hammer to assemble. But you can also build it yourself using your own materials. The original plans are in European lumber sizes, which makes it hard to follow here in the United States, but thankfully, some helpful woodworkers have translated those plans to our dimensions. Check out the plans on Medium.

Your Best Eastern White Pine Projects of Spring 2021

What can you build with Eastern White Pine? All kinds of things – as you can see in our latest roundup of #easternwhitepine projects featured on Instagram! Sheds, coops, grand houses, log cabins, doors, window frames, organizers… the only limit is your creativity.

Via @woodenware4u, “Finished up the Garden Shed project for my client today. Nice to have a project close to home.”

Via @blueberrywoodsmaine, “Ready for some fun facts? ???? ⤵️The white pine used at @blueberrywoodsmaine was responsibly harvested approximately within 70 miles the land. ???? This makes me incredibly happy. The distance from the lumberyard to the land is considerably even less than that. Talkin’ local here. White pine is 100% recyclable, organic, non-toxic, and biodegradable. We won’t be recycling my new dance floor though.”

Via @rockheartcabin, an awesome porch made with Eastern White Pine. “Hello beautiful day! This porch wraps entirely around our house and adds so much space and enjoyment. I’ll be very happy when it has railings on it.”

Via @softwoodexportcouncil, “Two architectural designers have modernized the classic rural New Hampshire home, building their own residence from wood cut down on their own property and locally sourced Eastern White Pine. Working on a tight budget with sustainability and a chic industrial-rustic hybrid aesthetic as their goal, the couple built nearly everything from hand, including the kitchen cabinetry, and achieved Energy Star certification. The interior of the home is lined with Eastern White Pine finished with Monocoat white oil, from the wide-open living room with its wood stove focal point to the spa-like bathroom with all of its built-in storage.”

Via @lulpinewoodandforge, “Built a these lovely little diamond sash today! The old ones were beyond repair, but this locally milled eastern white pine should last another few hundred years!”

@tfgheartwoodschool, a timber framing school in the Berkshires, is working on a studio and poultry house made of Eastern White Pine. Looks amazing so far!

Check out these gorgeous eastern white pine floors posted by New Hampshire’s Main Street Homes Gotta love that wide plank!

Woodworker @wornro presents his latest project, a footstool made of Eastern White Pine. 

Via @builtbybrosco, this cabin in Falls Village, Connecticut features Eastern White Pine tongue and groove boards harvested onsite. 

Via @ediblelandscapes, “Who doesn’t love a good ‘before and after?’ What were a bunch of rotting beds that the bunnies were making their salad bar, are now these beefy 2’ tall raised beds! We are quite happy with how they came out! All local(ish) Eastern White Pine, rough cut. Ain’t no bunnies getting into these beds!”

@pennsylvaniasawmillcompany gives us a close-up look at some heavy structural Eastern White Pine timbers that’ll be going into an industrial-style building in Virginia. 

More of @pennsylvaniasawmillcompany’s Eastern White Pine decorative trusses, these ones in a new church in State College, Pennsylvania.

Here’s a great example of using Eastern White Pine for smaller projects. @nkwoodwerx says, “Fully stocked and ready for grab and go sanding! I designed the cabinet around 1/3 sized sheets to reduce how far it sticks out from the wall, but also I find 1/3 sheet sizes to be the most useful in my work whether I’m hand sanding or using various sanding blocks.”

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 Wooden Staircases, from Sculptural Spirals to Modern Floating Styles

One of the best things about wood as a building material is it’s so malleable. Take staircases, for instance: using nothing but wood, you can achieve an incredible array of shapes and effects. Fancy something that looks like a hand-carved work of art? You can have it (at a price, of course.) Envisioning something a little more minimalist? From floating boxes to clever storage stairs, there’s no shortage of inspiration out there to spur a creative idea of your own. Here are some of the coolest examples on the internet.

atmos stairstalk

Is this the most impressive wooden staircase on the entire internet? Maybe. Standing as a grand centerpiece at London’s HIDE Restaurant, the incredible “Stairstalk” design by Atmos Studio is absolutely breathtaking.

wooden timber stacked stairs

Reminiscent of the game Jenga, this minimalist staircase for a barn home in Flanders, Belgium by Studio Farris integrates storage space for books and other small items.

Stair slide mahogany

Can’t choose between a slide or a staircase? Have both! This design by Scott Jones was custom carved from mahogany.

atmos cnc stairs

Made of CNC-cut plywood, this gorgeous staircase designed by Atmos for a London apartment sort of looks like a tree spreading its limbs into the building’s various floors.

JDN spiral staircase

This spiraling residential staircase by JDN uses a typical metal frame you can find from staircase suppliers or at architectural salvage depots, and adds wood treads for a warmer feel. Photographed by Jack Newton.

wood spine staircase jouin

It’s hard to resist calling this design “spine-tingling.” Designed by Patrick Jouin, this design spirals the curved treads around a serpentine central support with an effect resembling twisted vertebrae. The glass and metal banister makes it airy and open, showing off the best part of the design.

plywood storage stairs

These puzzle-like storage stairs feature niches for display and giant drawers to store shoes and other items in a small apartment in Bordeaux, France by L’atelier Miel.

wooden nest stairs strasbourg

Another staircase by Patrick Jouin, this one located at Strasbourg Hotel’s restaurant in France, wraps a curving wooden staircase with strips of wood for a dramatic nest-like effect. 

void staircase guido ciompi

The Void Staircase by Guido Ciompi for the Gray Hotel in Milan, Italy features hollow steps that could also be used as shelving. From some angles, they appear to float.

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.

Maine Coast School of Traditional Woodworking is Open for Enrollment


Interested in learning the art of traditional woodworking? A new school in Maine has officially opened for 2021 after cancelling last year’s planned launch due to the coronavirus pandemic. Set in the scenic coastal community of Camden, Maine on Penobscot Bay, the Maine Coast Workshop is a small woodworking school focusing on hand tool techniques taught by well regarded masters of the craft. 

The school is currently enrolling students in classes like Classical Carving, Marquetry and Inlay, Relief Carving, Make a Tea Cabinet and Make a John Elliot Chippendale Stool, all of which will be taught in June and July. Upcoming classes include Nantucket Baskets, Make a Windsor Chair, Shaker Oval Boxes, Ladderback Chair and more. Classes will be limited in size, with most hosting just 6-8 students, and the school is taking appropriate precautions in regard to the pandemic.

“Because of the high level of individual attention from our instructors, many classes are able to fully accommodate advanced to beginner skill levels. If a class is designed for an advanced level only, this will be clearly stated. Our instructors are chosen based on reputation as the best in the world at their craft, and just as importantly, their unsurpassed success as teachers to students of all ability levels. I explained my vision and philosophy behind the Maine Coast Workshop here: My interview with Popular Woodworking Magazine.”

“The focus of our classes is on traditional 18th century American craft. We are not in competition with, but cooperate with other woodworking schools; our difference is in emphasis. We desire to preserve and foster a greater awareness and respect for our unique heritage of fine American craftsmanship while passing on amazing skills of the early American craftsmen and women. We strive to preserve original techniques, many of which, frankly, have not been improved on. We will continue to support and recommend other schools in the area, depending on what students are looking for.”

This is a great chance to learn skills that translate especially well to historic New England Colonial architecture and design, and if that’s of interest to you, you should check out our White Pine Architectural Monographs, which delve into real life examples of the style in our region.