Nothing new under the sun

In the last project we did, the Shaker stool, we used HAD (History Aided Design).  Unlike CAD, this doesn’t require programming skills.  Or expensive software.  Or expensive computers.  Or–

Well, you can more or less get by with a few pieces of paper, a pencil, and a library.  It’s like this: people (and their stuff) don’t change a whole heck of a lot.  And we’ve written books about ourselves since we invented writing.  So there are a lot of books out there about the various solutions we’ve come up with over the millennia to house ourselves and our stuff.

The great thing about this is that most of these branches on the evolutionary tree of human design are still (more or less) relevant today.  Back in ancient Greece, they needed a place to park their kiesters.  Thus, the klismos chair.  Guess what: it still works!  Said kiester is still supported by a klismos.  And so, if you know the history, you know how to build a contemporary example (or, if you’re being artsy, an “interpretation”).  The same goes for a kas/schrank/armoire, or a Shaker trestle table, or a mid-mod stereo cabinet.  If you know about the common DNA that infuses the design of human furniture, you can work from an abundance of proven designs to fully realise the desires of a client.

If you don’t pay attention to the multitude of ways that humans have come up with over the centuries to solve common problems (where to keep their clothes or a sturdy table that isn’t elephantine), you place yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to invent something from whole cloth.  But with the knowledge that a writing desk (in its various incantations) is basically the pre-digital answer to a laptop, you have a place to start.  Then you have extant copies to see what style the client prefers, and then only a couple of minor accommodations for individual requirements, e.g., how big is the laptop does the fall-front have to accommodate?

So in the end, the pencil is mightier than the sword (or computer).  If you are familiar with the body of knowledge, then you have the collected works of centuries on your side.  Use that resource, and you can make comfortable, useful furniture without having to re-invent the wheel.