Most of my work starts with something I’ve seen: a plan, a boat, a piece of furniture, a lump of wood with something hiding inside it. This project started with an empty space.
The space was eight inches deep, two feet wide and eight feet high. Somewhere in it I needed to put a cabinet that would hold a couple of books, a phone, a glass of water etc. All the things someone wants by their bed. But eight inches makes for a very odd cabinet.
I had no starting point. I’ve never seen anything like the thing I needed to build. Somewhere in a corner of my brain this was lurking:
I had seen a folding sink at a boat jumble. It was in horrible condition but an interesting relic of a bygone age. This drawing is from Shipmate who are planning to start producing them again. Things are looking up.
I love metamorphic furniture. Kenwood House is a healthy walk from my house and has a few pieces including library stairs and a folding desk you can stand on to get books from high shelves.
Ideas were colliding. A plan wasn’t exactly starting to take shape so much as coalesce.
The design wasn’t based on beautiful proportions or the rules of classical architecture. It was based on how tall a glass is, how thick a substantial novel is likely to get, what height is convenient when lying in bed and how thick flush-fitting hardware is.
I had to consider proportions, of course, but I tried to keep the piece as small as possible and as large as necessary. When all the requirements were laid out on paper it started to design itself. My biggest decisions were how thick to make the frames and how to lay out the grain on the shelf and panels.
Once the design was finished it presented some very diverting joinery: lapped and through dovetails in the drawer, mitred dovetails in the shelf, tongue and groove joints to hold the carcass together and mortise and tenons in the frames. The panels are rubbed joints in very thin stock. Lots of fun.
Overall I’m happy with it. There are half a dozen things I’d change if I were starting again but the client is happy and therefore, so am I.