Friday, September 21, 2012

Working with Designers

Over the years I've had the opportunity of working with some very talented interior designers. One of these is Christina Oliver of Oliver Interiors in Newton, MA; she also happens to be a really nice woman who is a pleasure to work with. I thought I'd write a little something on our latest collaboration to give an idea how this co-mingling of vision works.

Christina called me in the spring to say she had a client who needed a hutch for her newly re-designed dining room. She was using other makers' work in the room, but thought of me for the hutch -- possibly because she wanted a contemporary take on a traditional form. She gave me dimensions, a target budget, and her thoughts on how this piece should look: transitional, with a glazed finish and some kind of contrasting accents. What I did then is what I do with all my clients: I gave Christina my best estimate what it would cost to design, build, and deliver what she had envisioned.

My estimate fit within Christina's budget, so she gave me a deposit (included in my estimate) to start designing. After a little back and forth, this is what I sent her:

Her client didn't really care about having drawers, so she wondered if we couldn't save a little money by deleting them. Absolutely, I said:
Christina then wondered if I could leave the interior unglazed to brighten it. Yes! Could I use walnut burl accents? Yes! Could I make a glaze to match a standard paint color? Yes! Could I change the design of the side elevation to match the front more closely? Yes! Here are Christina's final notes on the design:

The glazed finish on this piece was a little tricky. It took many iterations of formula and technique to get it right, but we kept sending samples down to Newton until Christina and her client gave the thumbs up. When we got the go ahead we locked Paul in the finishing room until everything was glazed. Here he is at work:

We delivered the hutch last week, and everyone was delighted. Here it is, finished:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Alex's Bedroom -- Fanciful Children's Furniture

A few years ago I built a really whimsical set of bunk beds for Alex; it was a project that demonstrated the sad truth that drawing furniture is usually a lot easier than making it. The problem on this occasion was that I left much of the designing to my friend and reluctant sometime-employee Paul, a very talented and creative guy who can easily draw things that can barely be built. On this occasion he designed a bed that was covered with over one hundred hand-carved and -painted fish and aquatic creatures, as well as undulating blue and green epoxy-filled grooves. Here's Paul painting all those fish:
"How hard can a bed be to build?" I thought. As I discovered, pretty damn hard, but it was very cool in the end:
Here's a closeup of a post. You cannot -- I could not -- believe how much work went into these!

Fast forward to now. Alex's mom, Catherine, wanted some more furniture for Alex's room, and when you have a bed that looks like this one, most factory furniture pales in comparison. So I sketched some ideas for Catherine, and after some back and forth we decided on designs that are less obviously fanciful -- Alex IS getting older -- and with more sophisticated shapes; but we tried to that pick up the colors and panache of the original work. We built a desk, a bookcase/dresser, and a night stand. Here they are:
Catherine and her interior designer chose the blue and green, and Paul mixed the colors for the knobs. Looks like a fun bedroom! I've been out of the fish business for a little while, though -- until my next commission, anyway. Here's a desk we built for the first children of my ornithologist friend McGrady:
The starfish twirl out of the fishes' tails to raise and lower the writing surface, and the chair seat spins up and down like a piano stool. Paul designed this desk too, and painted the fish. We had a good time building this one.