When you design a cabinet, chair or tool chest, it’s too easy to let the following words slip from your lips:
“I made it to fit my needs, my body, my tools. Like anything custom-made, it needs to suit the user exactly.”
To me, that’s a cop-out. When designers sketch out kitchen cabinets or bookshelves they don’t base the depth and height off the client’s books, dishes and glassware. There is a sweet spot for designing these pieces that can accommodate a wide variety of household objects and books.
The same rules are out there for chairs, tool cabinets, workbenches, dressers, chests and the like. Yes, you can make a cabinet that is designed to fit a specific shrunken monkey head you brought back from the rainforest. But if you open your eyes and do a little math you can design a cabinet that will suit any shrunken primate head from any continent.
The worst offender when it comes to over-customization is – in my opinion – chairs. I have sat in some awful custom chairs. Beautiful, yes. But after a few minutes of sitting it felt like the chair was trying to inseminate me. Or at least make me turn my head and cough.
As I start to squirm, the most common excuse from the owner is: The chair was not made for you. It was made for someone who is smaller/fatter/shaped differently/a giant praying mantis.
I call bunk. Good chairs, cabinets, tool chests, workbenches, stools, bookshelves or whatever should be able to serve a variety of masters. I don’t know, let’s say 90 percent of the people. Just about anyone can sit in one of Jennie Alexander’s chairs and say: “Wow. This is an amazing chair.” And that’s because Jennie paid close attention to both history and the human body. She did her research. She thought it through and didn’t settle for: this chair fits this person.
It takes a lot more design work and thought to find that sweet spot. But the result is a piece of furniture that will be coveted instead of kicked to the curb.
— Christopher Schwarz