6 tips for practical furniture design – chairs, curves, glasses of wine

life is complicated, it has radical ups and downs.  we need more curves, they calm, they welcome us…. and a long lunch sometimes with a good friend,  good cheese and a glass or two of wine.

i noticed at this cafe (where i was appreciating the company, and the fare, this week) that the chairs were all in the style of thonet’s 14.  metal versions with vinyl seats, but here was thonet’s design, which was originally launched and sold millions in the mid to late 1800s in europe and america.

thonets innovative no. 14 chair

thonet's innovative no. 14 chair

later the same day i watched the 2005 movie “pride and prejudice” (one of my favorites).  there was nothing like this design in all the interiors. everything was elaborate, ornate, heavy- more so with the more affluent.  i wondered how thonet managed to be successful with this design in the society of those times.  and why, after 150 years, is it still popular?  these questions brought me to today’s blog, and here are my answers.

6 basics that thonet’s chairs have – great for any chair design, but especially for dining chairs.

  1. it is curved – most of nature has curved lines.  man’s inventions are most practically made with straight lines and sharp angles. maybe the curves are attractive because we need a break from the ups and downs of our man made days.  there are many angular modern furnishings available today, but i find this style unwelcoming.
  2. the design is simple – the french and american revolutions, and the industrial revolution, were pushing away the need for everyone to prove that they were rich and upwardly mobile in society.  class mattered less. increasingly, you could sit with a friend from any walk of life at a local cafe and have a meal together.
  3. it is radical – the simplicity and the new lines of the modern were, in thonet’s time, shocking.  this is a good thing.  we often need to be shaken out of our old ways, thoughts and patterns of living.  otherwise there is no change.
  4. it is strong – thonet’s chair must have held up well to use, or he would not have kept selling them.  when thonet’s bent beechwood proved to be weak in tropical climates, he worked on twisting the wood while it was being bent, and he bought the glue factory that supplied his factories so that he could improve the glue.  many chairs these days are made of cheap, weak materials, weak at the joints, or the design just does not hold up to use.  and now there is the problem of obesity.  recently i was shopping for a new lounge chair for our deck and the label said, among other things about the care of the chair, “maximum load 300 lbs.”  new challenge for chair designers!
  5. the seating can be replaced easily – the seat on thonet’s chair could be replaced and cleaned easily.  the seats were solid wood or a woven grass. when similar chairs are covered with fabric, which will inevitably get dirty or torn in a dining setting, a new covering can simply be stapled on and seat reattached the chair.  sounds like an unimpressive feature, but i have worked on many chairs that were a nightmare to repair or re-upholster.
  6. it is light – heavy furniture is made by people who never do any cleaning.
another thonet design for an after dinner rest with curves

interior design colors – a case against pink

i have been thinking about pink.

 my thesis statement today: avoid pink in interior design.

now there are some wonderful splashes of pink in the world that occur naturally or seem just to fit.  

i am not against pink altogether.  who can argue with a pink rose in an english garden, or a pink wild flower by the road in the mohave desert.


owls clover, mojave desert

owl's clover, mojave desert



Then there are splashes of pink tones in a sunrise or sunset when the atmospheric conditions are in line.  rare because pink sits on the very edge of the color spectrum.

pink flower arrangements are usually tagged with “adorable” and “pretty”, while girls wearing pink are “sweet” and “cute” (=not to be taken seriously?). and the world and people are not by and large sweet, cute, adorable or pretty.  let’s face it, God is wise and he has used pink sparingly. 

when my children were small i worked for six months as a librarian’s assistant in their elementary school’s media center.  the regular assistant was on medical leave.  i love books and enjoyed the work. the librarian was a wonderful woman and good at her job. but she was in the process of redecorating and decided that the whole library should be pink.  it would calm the students and create a nurturing environment, she thought.  all the books were removed from the shelves and stood in stacks all over the place while even the shelves were painted in shades of pink.  i found the project oppressive.  i did not see a change in the boisterous nature of the children either, when they were finally allowed back in to the room.  but maybe the librarian found herself calmed and nurtured and that in turn would have trickled down over time to influence the room.  we moved to a different school district the following year, so i could not follow up on her experiment.  

there is all sorts of psychology connected with color choices, (most seem exaggerated).  i agree that the choices made say something about the people that choose them — who they are and what they want to be: calmed by the tones of dusk, brightened by the colors of day, cooled and soothed by water’s blues…etc.    i prefer the predominant colors found in nature.  

here in florida there is plenty of green (life, growth, change) and brown (solid, stable, usable earth and trees), and blue skies (though clouds and cloudy days are an appreciated contrast).  small splashes of bright color are here and there in the flowers, butterflies and birds.  this is the balance i prefer as i am a practical sort of person not feeling a great need for calming and nurturing, or for bright cheerfulness or emotional stoking.  (others might argue that i would be helped by these influences, but they are not decorating my house.)  live, grow, change, be solid stable and usable….fran, will you wear something other than browns and greens? my friends ask….  well, i do branch out into a few other colors… just not pink.

a little bit of feminine softness goes a long way.  god worked hard to make the world and he did it well.  let’s follow his color scheme and avoid the overuse of pink.