Other than tables, I have built more benches that any other type of furniture. I have always been fascinated with bridges, and the long form of a bench lets me use the same type of structure, whether arches, angled braces, or trestles that an engineer would use. They also are inviting in a way that individual chairs are not. When faced with a row of chairs, most people will sit as far as possible from another person, but not be disturbed by sharing a bench with someone else. While a number of benches I’ve built are in private homes, most are in communal settings such as galleries or lobbies. My usual way of designing these is to work “on the fly” with no pre designed plan. A number of them have been designed for a specific location, in which case I will include architectural elements form the surroundings to create a sense of belonging to that site. I want the resulting dialogue to be complimentary rather than confrontational. When designing a speculative bench, I normally start with the material I plan to use for the top- whether a piece of composite material or a slab of natural edged lumber. The shape and size of this piece determines the design of the base. I like to use contrasting colors of wood, and will often create a very formal and regular base to contrast with an irregular shaped top. While I use some exotic woods to create a specific design effect, increasingly I have been using locally sourced woods. When they come from downed trees, or where trees need to be removed for other reasons, I can have the lumber cut to my specifications. This provides me with options that pre-cut lumper can’t provide. I have built many dozens of benches, but the design solutions never seem to be the same. The challenge of a new piece is always an exciting one. Click on any image for a larger view.
When I build benches I always start with the finished slab of wood to use for the top. The design of the base details depends on the shape and grain pattern of the top. In this case I was starting with a beautiful rectangular piece of cherry. I felt that a formal design would complement the regularity of the top. I used slanted base panels and staggered four elements to add a sense of liveliness to what otherwise would have been a status composition.
Slanted Bench 96w x 18h x 9.5d Crafted of Cherry, Walnut, and Maple. 2014
I started with materials that seemed to demand a formal and straightforward approach be taken in its construction. When it was completed it looked like a contemporary interpretation of classic Japanese furniture design. It appears very elegant: composed of no more parts that what was required.
Pagoda Bench 73w x 18h x 10d Indonesian Rosewood, Aluminum, Bubinga, and Wenge. 2013