After I first wrote about Roubo-style workbenches in 2005, I was often asked: “Why do you hate the Euro-style workbench so much?”
The answer is that I don’t “hate” any style of workbench, chair, cabinet or chamber pot. The only things I truly despise are flimsy, mass-manufactured versions of workbenches, tools, chairs, pants, door knockers, toilet-seat covers or cabinets.
Poorly made, disposable goods are a drain on our world. I have nothing good to say about them.
Now when it comes to issues of taste, it’s not a matter of hate or love. There’s what I like, and there’s what you like. I respect and admire a lot of furniture that I would never, ever put in my home. Things like high-style, 18th-century American furniture, or a large swath of royal stuff that is beautifully made but leaves me dead inside.
When I respect something but wouldn’t own it, I’m going to bust its chops. Tease it. Make gentle fun of it. And so I should probably print the following sentence like a government health warning for cigarettes in every book I write.
Warning! Fancy, high-style, breeches-spats-and-Tally-Ho furniture will be admired – but mocked – for being a little bit too far up its own butt cheeks.
And, to be fair, it doesn’t bother me at all when people mock the furniture I like. Plain. Boring. Awkward. Weird. Odd. Ugly.
Sure, I see that. Bring it on.
With the publication of “The Stick Chair Book,” I’ve been asked: “Why do you hate Forest (Windsor) Chairs so much?”
I’m certain you can now predict my answer to this question.
I adore well-made Forest Chairs. I dig their weird, bulbous turnings. Their convoluted seat shapes. Their tarted-up carvings and backsplats. Their… oh you get it.
— Christopher Schwarz
32 thoughts on “The Furniture I Hate”
I take this as an invitation to share my view that Welsh stick chairs always remind me of pubescent giraffes.
Ha! The four-stick ones sure do. Great mental image.
Chris, you crack me up – LOL – It’s nice that you make me chuckle with my coffee in the morning.
You can admire the craft of the people that make that type of furniture, but none of us should become slaves to the style. Simplicity with care goes along way.
People. Can’t make them happy – ever. Best to just ignore the stupid stuff – But you obviously know that.
Dontcha know that anything but slavering praise amounts to hating something these days? On the interwebs at least. I have a serious case of black & white thinking that makes most black & white thinkers look like full Technicolor-thinkers, and even I don’t get why people are like that. It’s aesthetics, people are always going to disagree about what qualifies as beautiful in their eyes. I might not care one whit about cabriole legs on a Louis something style writing desk (or the genre entirely), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the craftsmanship that went in to it.
Where does Curtis Buchanan’s Democratic Chair fall on the stick chair vs Forest (Windsor) debate? I’m trying to decide between trying it or one of your designs from the new book as my next chair.
It’s a great chair – one of the nicest Forest Chairs around.
I haven’t built one. But my friends who have say that it is a workout with the drawknife.
I say build the one that appeals to you most. You’ll figure it out.
Thanks! I’ve built 8 Jennie chairs since June. They’ve definitely sharpened my drawknife skills.
I built the Democratic chair this year and it came out very nice. The plans and YouTube series definitely ease the way. I do think it would be tedious to make out of kiln dried wood though.
So what I like most about you is….. you through your writing all these years have led me to rethink and ponder some of my actions. I find that actually I sort of agree with you on a number of points you’ve raised. Suddenly, I am against consumerism. Oh and BTW that little staked bench I built to sit on when I tie my shoes, is one of the most comfortable seating implements I own. Sucking up complete. Thank you
I think it’s a all response to your having failed Mike Dunbar’s Windsor chair class many years ago 😂
I did not get to wear the plastic armor…. Sigh, you are probably right.
But I think the whip on your wall would beat a plastic sword and shield any day! And I like the LAP “graduation ceremony” of whiskey toasts a lot better! I believe a Welshman was the first knight or at least invented the concept.
I know there was the whole knighthood thing. But there was actual armor?
Oh yes. People put on armor. Mike had a crown and a sword. Serious stuff.
I’ve never joined a cult.
A more utilitarian object there never was, i.e. “Toilet Seat Covers” Or, perhaps your naked derrierre prefers a cold place whilst clipping toenails.
I built a lowboy. I wanted to challenge myself to be able to turn and carve the Queen Anne legs, turn the decorative drops, and carve the fan. I’m proud of the work, and it sits in my dining room. I’m glad I did it, but I really prefer to live with a simpler style. It sits there just to remind me I can do it if I want to. I just don’t want to. To your point, I believe it is the care and craftmanship that goes in to making a piece that counts. One must respect good work regardless of the style. Thanks for the reminder.
The inimitable, irascible Christopher Schwarz! Please share your thoughts on Sjobergs benches also. Their…I said it.
I’ve worked on many of these benches while teaching all over the world. Some are OK. Some could be improved with a box of matches.
As a lapsed professional musician, I’d say the same’s true of music. Beauty and integrity transcend genre, and are immediately compelling. And styles can grow on you, as you pay attention enough to understand what makes an example an exemplar. Gentle, admiring mockery across genres should be expected, like you’d rib your siblings.
I’ve never liked froofy furniture, but now find myself pondering building a stylistically stripped down version of an ingenious David Roentgen game table as next year’s Christmas present for my son-in-law. Whose family tradition (unlike mine) is to gather and schmooze around board games, cards, and chess.
There is a difference in what you like to build, and what you like to live with. Embrace it and let your creativity go wild. 🙂
“Tarted up”? Have you been hanging around Richard Maguire? Sounds more like something he would say.
I wish! I haven’t seen Richard in many years.
I remember reading the article where you met him at some show. Ironically, i am literally watching and working on his new Danish Stool project today. I’m about half done.
“And, to be fair, it doesn’t bother me at all when people mock the furniture I like. Plain. Boring. Awkward. Weird. Odd. Ugly.
Sure, I see that. Bring it on.”
Or Karmann Ghias 😉
When you inherit furniture that has been in your family for generations, like our late 18th c. highboy, corner china cupboard, desks and a tall case clock, which are fortunately elegant and plain in style, not highly ornamented, you have little choice but live with it, enjoy it and pass it on. We have some 19th c. chairs that are lovely but live in the attic. The rest are well-made functional furniture. I appreciate many styles (including contemporary) as long as they are made to last and are not pretentious, so I have the best of both worlds I think.
The picture you show is probably one of the worst factory made examples of a Windsor chair. Try showing one of Curtis Buchanan’s for a true example.
I tend to believe we get too hung up on style and design when we evaluate 18th century furniture. In my estimation the emphasis should be on the craftsman who built that Queen Anne secretary not the style the owner required. I admire the skill he exhibited in building the piece with the limited tools and technology available to him. This is what I attempt to emulate in my woodworking efforts.
De gustibus non est disputandum.
When on vacation a Hampton Court, I took pictures of the folding kitchen work tables and one of the many staked benches with octagon legs that were out for tourists.
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