Flair For The Informal

A side chair made in 1891. before he left London for the Cotswolds. reveals Ernest Gimson's affinity for the straightforward.

because of competition from cheaper and more decorated furniture made in city faetones. The influence of country furniture meshed well with Morns' appeal for plain, hcaw furniture.

Such simplicity* marks much of the work Gimson and the Barnsleys and other English designers produced, but it did not result in the sameness that characterizes much of Amencan Arts and Crafts furniture. In England, a single maker might produce some heavily proportioned pieces in solid wood, with rough country-ins pi red details and exposed joinery, and other pieces with glossy finishes and complex vencenng. The apparent dichotomy can be traced to Morris and his message that furniture fell into two categones. requiring different approaches to design.

One category included "chairs, dining and working tables and the like, the necessary work-a-dav furniture " This furniture. Morris felt, should be "simple to the last degree; nay, if it were rough I should like it better." This radical call for roughness from a highly refined designer had a profound impact in America as well as in England.

Rut Morns thought that people ought to have decorative pieces as well, used sparingly in an interior to provide beauty and focus. He called these pieces "state" furniture: "I mean sideboards, cabinets and the like, which we have quite as much for beauty's sake as for use" On these he suggested that designers spare no ornament and "make them as elegant and elaborate as we can" The impact of this side of Morns' vision is clear in the elaborately detailed casework of Ernest Gimson.

Gimson's 1915 sideboard in walnut with an ebony plate rack and undcrstrucmre top photo, p. 11) is clearly a piece of state furniture. But in it he deftly blended formal proportions and materials with detailing drawn from country crafts. The carcase of the sideboard sets the form.il tone with its bowed center section, custom brass hardware and checkered ebony and holly inlay. On the openwork plate rack and on the legs and the stretchers, however, he employed the heavy

SAVAGE SIMPLICITY. An earty bed and chest of drawers by Sidney Barnsley demonstrate the fascination for the forms and details of rough country crafts that led one critic to call his furniture "the work of a savage.'

Sidney Barnsley
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