What Is Your Favorite Piece of Furniture?

What Is Your Favorite Piece of Furniture?

Published on Monday, May 19, 2014. This article appears in the June/July 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Mediums Furniture
Author Staff
Mark Laub After the Goldrush cabinet

Mark Laub’s After the Goldrush cabinet shows the influence of makers such as James Krenov, Silas Kopf, Larry Robinson, and Grit Laskin. Photo: Courtesy of Mark Laub

The red blue chair by Gerrit Rietveld is an enduring touchstone. The chair is a visual essay on how to support a body. The seat plane, back plane, and armrests hold up the key body parts. Everything else serves to locate those support planes in space. Rietveld’s design has worn so well over time that if it had never been made before, and someone came up with it today, it would still get published instantly on all the design blogs. That’s pretty good for an almost 100-year-old design. ~Tom Loeser, artist and professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

My favorite furniture is not the Stickley armchair sitting heavily in the corner or Odysseus’ mythical bed, rooted into the ground. Perhaps because I’ve always lived in small spaces and made a living as an itinerant woodworker, I love furniture engineered to pack up cleverly and move with us easily, from the campaign furniture of the early British Empire to the Shakers’ hanging peg-rail chairs to the nomadic furniture designs of the 1970s. ~R.H. Lee, woodworker, Los Angeles

I believe, as William Blake suggests, that we should see the world in a grain of sand. My furniture-maker heroes are those whose work transcends the traditional preoccupation with function. They focus more on the details that delight those who take the time to look closely. I am inspired by the late James Krenov’s drawer pulls and door catches, Silas Kopf’s perspective illusion marquetry, and Larry Robinson and Grit Laskin’s exquisite inlays. They all recognize the synergistic effect of deftly executed details. I try to emulate these heroes in my own work, and, yes, function regularly misses the bus. ~Mark Laub, furniture maker, Oak Grove, MN

One important aspect that contributes to an amazing piece of furniture is the relationship between the maker and the object. Whether it’s a Chippendale chair or a James Krenov cabinet, the craftsman’s mastery of the material is apparent in every detail. Examples of this can be seen in industry as well. One of my favorite pieces of furniture is Hans Wegner’s Wishbone chair. For me, it epitomizes the designer’s complete comprehension of a material’s potential. ~Jennifer Anderson, furniture maker and educator, San Diego

It is difficult to pick just one of Judy Kensley McKie’s pieces of furniture as my favorite. But I have to pick her Grizzly Bear Bench (2002) for how simply universally comfortable it is. The original was made at Judy’s studio near Boston, the casting was executed in Berkeley, California, it resided for several years in Aspen, Colorado, and now is at rest on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. ~Gail Fredell, furniture maker and faculty at Rhode Island School of Design, Westport, MA