I’ve found that the way I design furniture and the way I restore buildings are unusually similar.
When I design a chair, cabinet or workbench, it’s a subtractive process. I usually begin with something quite complicated and then remove bits and pieces until the thing looks right. I’m not looking for a design that excites me (the building part is exciting enough). Instead I’m looking for a quietness or peace in the design. (For more on this process, see the chapter titled “Seeing Red” in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”)
With old buildings, the process is much the same. Typically they are festooned with the detritus of the 20th century, including oodles of wiring, layers of silly wallboard, paneling, tile and buckets of fossilized “Great Stuff” foam.
The first step is always to subtract. A lot. And keep going until the builder’s original intent begins to emerge.
That’s where I am with the Horse Garage. We finally pulled down a lot of ridiculous cripple studs that served only to hold up the butt-ugly ceiling tile. Then came down the obsolete pipes for the wiring. This afternoon a very early 20th-century garage began to take shape. I could see the original structure. And though it is astonishingly straightforward and plain, it has finally brought me some peace.
— Christopher Schwarz