Archive for June, 2011

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 7) – The Motorized T.V. Cabinet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by johnwiggers

The previous post provided details of the custom Scotch Bar being made for JLT’s office. This next post will show the work in progress on the motorized T.V. cabinet being made for the same space.

Since the T.V. needs to be angled into the room, this special triangle shaped cabinet had to be made. This cabinet will house the electronics, with the openings in the back meant to receive access panels that will allow for future service – if required.

This is the main cabinet that will house the T.V. lift mechanism. The cabinet exterior is crafted from East Indian Rosewood panels that have been secured together with glued rabbet joinery. Once the glue has dried some inlay beads of solid Rosewood will be precision fit into the corners.

This image shows the two cabinets joined together. The vertical channel at the back left of the cabinet allows the cables to move freely with the lift mechanism as it travels up and down.

These images show the lift mechanism going through a dry run. Cut outs for outlets and data cables have been added to the left gable, based on site measurements taken earlier. The recessed base will be clad in stainless steel, and a black granite top will be made for the triangular cabinet.

This shows the T.V. cabinet from the opposite side. The lift cabinet enclosure will be finished in satin black lacquer, with its removable front panel being shaped as a template that will be custom fit around the T.V. after installation.

By the way, did I mention that the T.V. also rotates?

It does, but that’s not the best part. It turns out that the coolest feature of this project is the Savant wireless control system that’s being installed which will allow all electronics in this office to be run off an IPad.

Technogeeks should stay tuned for the next post, because it’s going to include a video previewing the Savant system going into JLT’s office. (It totally rocks!!!)

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – (Part 8) – Hardware

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 6) – The Scotch Bar

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by johnwiggers

Yesterday’s post showed the work in progress on the custom desk and credenza being made for JLT’s executive office. Today’s post will feature the Scotch Bar.

The inspiration for the design of this piece has its genesis in the Gentleman’s Valet Stand we displayed at the 2005 Interior Design Show in Toronto. It was here that JLT first saw my work, and I remember him saying how much he liked the idea of making the Valet Stand into a Scotch Bar. I kept that idea in the back of my mind for several years, until it came time to design the furniture for his office.

Since JLT also shares my appreciation for the work of Art Deco furniture maker Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, I also wanted to incorporate a subtle “Ruhlmann” feature into the design. Rather than copy or try to imitate Ruhlmann outright, I sought to create something original that still managed to give a respectful nod to the master.

Hopefully this was achieved by incorporating some faux ivory diamond inlays into the face of the exterior split shells. The image below shows the inlay being fitted into place.

The design of the apron and leg assembly supporting the main cabinet was inspired by the work of the late James Krenov. The flared curved legs were milled from 8/4 solid cherry, while the solid cherry aprons were fitted to the legs with mortise and tenon joinery. A pair of elevated cross ribs between the front and back aprons support the upper cabinet, while creating the illusion that it floats over the base.

Although the apron and legs are shown as natural unfinished cherry, the intent is to darken them during the finishing process with a traditional ebonizing solution of vinegar and iron. The idea is to keep the base as simple and utilitarian as possible, so that the visual focus can remain on the upper cabinet.

The interior of the Scotch Bar will feature LED lighting, a bronze mirror back, glass shelf, granite slab surface, a pull-out tray for serving, plus a utility drawer for utensils and accessories.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 7) – The Motorized T.V. Cabinet

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 5) – Let the Furniture Making Begin!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by johnwiggers

Yesterday’s post assessed the furniture designs for JLT’s office from a Feng shui perspective. Today’s post will focus on some of the actual furniture pieces being made.

These photos show the credenza that will be built into the corner behind the desk. The pedestal base will hold 2 banks of drawers, with each bank being 2 box over file. The file size on the left will be standard, with the files on the right being legal. All drawers will run on self closing Blumotion slides.

The credenza top is shaped to the actual contour of the wall, thanks to a template that was made during site measurements. Note the clipped corner that will accomodate the existing bridge piece in the wall corner on site.

The grain pattern of the top has a radiating pattern that runs perpendicular to the contour of the edge.

The focal point of JLT’s office will be the desk top, which is a modified kidney shape that will be cantilevered off the wall on the right side. In these images Heath and Kevin carefully sand and fit over 250 pieces of mother-of-pearl inlay into the face of the East Indian Rosewood top. This is nerve wracking and labour intensive work, with zero margin for error.

After completing the mother-of-pearl inlay the top was flipped over to add an apron with an undercut bevel edge to the underside. In the image below Kevin is putting the finishing touches on the transition piece where the undercut bevel twists back to a vertical plane.

Since the desk top is going to be cantilevered off the end pedestal it is necessary to ensure that the support colum at the other end is strong enough to hold the top securely in place.

To achieve this we over-engineered the support column by making it out of stack laminated Russian birch ply, with four embedded channels to receive steel rods than can be bolted into the concrete floor as required. When the desk is fully assembled these support mechanisms will be completely hidden.

Now the desk nears completion – at least from a woodworking standpoint. Soon the sanding and finishing work will begin.

An end view of the desk, showing the cylindrical support column and the sweeping bevel edge.

The drawer pedestal on the desk is reinforced for bolting to the wall on site. Interior raceways have been provided to access electrical, telephone and data cable boxes, with all wiring to be completely hidden after the desk is fully assembled. The recessed plinth base will be clad in satin stainless steel.

A detail view of the top showing the mother-of-pearl inlay.

A close-up view of the bevel transition.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 6) – The Scotch Bar

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 4) – Applying Feng Shui to the Design

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by johnwiggers

In my previous post I discussed the process of finalizing the custom furniture designs for JLT’s office.

Because of my personal interest in some of the world’s older civilizations and traditions, one of the disciplines I occasionally like to integrate into my design process is an ancient practice known as Feng shui.

What is Feng shui? In simple terms Feng shui is an ancient art and science that first developed in China over 3,000 years ago. It is a complex body of knowledge that provides guidelines on how to balance energies in any given space to assure the health and good fortune for the people inhabiting it.

Feng means wind and shui means water, and in Chinese culture wind and water are associated with good health. Thus, good feng shui has come to mean good fortune, while bad feng shui means bad luck, or misfortune.

Feng shui is based on the Taoist vision and understanding of nature, particularly on the idea that the land is alive and filled with Chi, or energy. The ancient Chinese believed that the land’s energy could either make or break the kingdom. With that in mind the theories of yin and yang, as well as the five feng shui elements, are some of the basic aspects of a Feng shui analysis that come from Taoism.

Although the actual process of determining whether a given space has good Feng shui is rather complex, there is a list of parameters that are considered essential to optimizing the positive flow of Chi in a modern executive office.

First, on the design of the desk itself a kidney shaped desk is considered to be ideal, since the rounded corners are most conducive to the free flow of Chi.

The desk should be positioned in the corner farthest from the entrance to the room, thereby giving the person sitting at it a “command” position of the space;

When sitting at the desk you should not be in direct line with the door, as you will be in the path of negative energy;

DO keep your back toward a corner or a wall for support. If a post protrudes from the corner or wall, either reshape it to hide the protrusion or correct it by covering it with a hanging plant’s draping foliage;

DO sit with a tall building behind you to provide the support of a “mountain” if your back is to a window;

DON’T face away from the door if you are conducting business from home. Business will symbolically come to you through the door, so don’t turn your back on it;

DON’T arrange your workspace so that you look straight out into a corridor or see the stairs, storage rooms, closets, elevators, escalators, or toilets;

DO put your computer in the North or West area of your office to enhance your creativity. Place the computer in the Southeast if you use it to generate income;

DO place an aquarium or tabletop fountain in the East, North, or Southeast. A small aquarium with black or blue fish in the North area of your desk or office will activate your business and career success. Guppies or a single arrowana are ideal for an aquarium made of glass and metal;

DO place a safe, which is usually constructed of metal, in either West or Northwest, which both represent the metal element. The safe symbolizes the prosperity and financial security of a business;

DO have a good balance of yin (female) and yang (male) energies when decorating your workspace. Balance light and dark colors, soft and hard surfaces, and smooth and rough textures in your choice of window treatments, furniture, and flooring;

DON’T have any mirrors in your office, as they can reflect negative energy from clients to other people in the room. You should always maintain control over the energy in your office;

DO treat the files in your office with respect. They represent your past, present, and future business;

DO keep the cords to your office equipment well hidden. This elimates clutter and allows for the free flow of chi;

It was early in the discussion phase of the furniture design process that I suggested to JLT that he consider his space from a Feng shui perspective. Although he acknowledged and seemed politely receptive to the idea, I didn’t sense enough of an interest to pursue it further – so I let it be.

Nevertheless, as the design of the space came together I remained curious as to how “balanced” it was shaping up to be from a Feng shui perspective. What I discovered was pleasantly surprising.

On the basis of the 14 simple “DOs” and “DON’Ts” listed above, the initial design of JLT’s office is consistent with 13 of them. The only element missing for a perfect score is having an aquarium or fountain in the space.

With that in mind I began to wonder if a Scotch Bar could be interpreted as a fountain, or water feature – especially if it had a seltzer bottle contained within.

It was just a thought….

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 5) – Let the Furniture Making Begin!

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 3) – The Renovation Begins

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by johnwiggers

In my previous post I described the initial site meeting with JLT to discuss the parameters of the furniture designs for his office.

Shortly after this meeting took place the actual renovation work began.

In the photo above you can see the aluminum studs in place for the extended wall section going in. The big screen television will back onto this wall.


JLT and I both agreed that the desk and credenza should be set into the far back corner of the space – between the windows. There is a funky piece of wall angle bridging that corner which seems to be hiding a conduit of some kind. This will be integrated into the final design so that it all but disappears from view.

At the opposite end of the space a private washroom (with shower) is being installed. To achieve this the concrete floors had to be cut to allow for the necessary plumbing to be brought in. To the right of this photo you can see a small niche space that has been created to house a built-in cabinet for storage. In addition to general storage this cabinet will also be the “brain centre” that holds all the electronics for audio, video and lighting control systems.

By this stage the overall dimension of the room were mostly determined, which made it possible to clarify the approximate size, location and shape of the desk, credenza, storage cabinet and motorized television cabinet. The inclusion of a Scotch Bar was not yet a certainty, since a suitable location for it had yet to be determined.

As the details of the furniture designs were being clarified, JLT worked with his interior designer to finalize the selection of carpet and wallpaper for the office. Based on these samples we narrowed our range of wood finish options to Chestnut Ribbon Sapele, Macassar Ebony, Madagascar Rosewood, Ipe and East Indian Rosewood.

Although JLT really liked the Chestnut Ribbon Sapele sample we showed him, I cautioned against it because of how the Chestnut stain would likely “bleed” into any inlays such as mother-of-pearl we might use. Macassar Ebony was deemed to be too dark, and the flitch sizes too small, to work successfully on large surfaces such as a desk top.

Madagascar Rosewood was rejected because the colour and grain texture simply didn’t work.

The Ipe looked magnificent, but I was concerned about a random “splotch” that appeared in the actual test samples we made. While this discolouration may have been a natural element of the wood itself, it would end up looking ugly if it appeared unexpectedly on the top of the desk. Therefore, I decided to err on the side of caution by insisting that we not use that species.

Of all the woods under consideration the East Indian Rosewood looked best of all. In its raw state it almost seemed too purple in colour, but once a finish was applied to the test panels a depth and richness appeared that worked perfectly with the carpet and wallpaper samples.

JLT concurred with this assessment, so based on his approval we decided to go with this for the furniture.

The design of the furniture was now starting to gel, and in my mind’s eye I could actually see what the finished office was going to look like.

We were now at the defining moment of the design of this space, and it is here that someone like JLT actually becomes a dream client for a studio furniture maker such as myself. Although he was always very clear on what he liked and disliked, JLT always managed to curb his veto power enough so it didn’t smother the creative process. In fact, it would be appropriate to say that he actually participates in the creative process enough so that collectively the ideas end up manifesting in a manner that was not only effortless but almost intuitive in some cases.

Although this last part is difficult to articulate, hopefully I can illustrate it better in the next post. That post will evaluate the resulting furniture designs and office layout from the standpoint of Feng Shui , which is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetic that is growing in popularity in North America and around the world.

Feng shui is ultimately about flow and balance, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the final design of the office melded almost perfectly with those principles – especially since very little conscious effort was made to do so.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 4) – Applying Feng Shui to the Design.

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 2) – The Initial Site Meeting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by johnwiggers

In my previous post I described my first meeting with our client JLT at the 2005 Interior Design Show. For a variety of reasons more than 5 years would pass before any tangible work would begin on the custom furniture for his office.

On some level this was a good thing, because it gave me ample time to mull over ideas and consider the most appropriate design for his furniture. From talking with him I knew that JLT dislikes clutter, so any design would have to be done in a way to ensure that everything had its place – out of sight as much as possible.

JLT also insisted that he didn’t want a “throne”,  so I knew the desk would have to be light in design – ideally with no modesty panel. He also liked the possibility of the Gentleman’s Valet reconfigured as some kind of Scotch Bar, and having a big screen T.V. that could be hidden from view when not in use.

With these parameters in mind we had our initial site meeting to discuss possible options.

The photos that follow show the raw office space that would soon be renovated to create JLT’s new executive office.

At first glance it seemed obvious that JLT’s desk should back onto this corner. Notice the tiles and the fluorescent lighting in the ceiling – I insisted on replacing these with proper fixtures, since the limited spectrum of fluorescent light is too narrow to do proper justice to fine woodwork. (Fluorescents simply “wash out”  the warmth and natural beauty of wood.)

I also made note of the locations of outlets and phone jacks. Since JLT wanted to hide all wires and cables to the greatest degree possible, it would be necessary to have outlets and jacks moved to where they’d be hidden by the built-in furniture.

In this photo the wall on the left was slated for removal so that the adjoining room could be merged with the corner office to create one large space. The door in the foreground will also be replaced with an extended wall from the right, to allow for the installation of a flat screen television that is to be hidden in a motorized lift mechanism.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 3) – The Renovation Begins

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 1) – Introduction

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2011 by johnwiggers

In 2005 we displayed our Gentleman’s Valet Stand in the “Studio North” area of the Interior Design Show in Toronto.


At one point the inlay work on this cabinet caught the attention of a visitor from the United States, and before long he and I were engaged in a lengthy discussion about design and the works of Art Deco masters such as Jules Leleu and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

Given this fellow’s extensive knowledge of furniture design and craftsmanship, I assumed he was either an architect or a designer. It turns out he was neither.

Instead, this fellow turned out to be an entrepreneur who owns a mid sized company located in a major American city. He said he was shopping for ideas on having custom furniture made for his executive office, although he was in no particular rush to have anything done.

In the ensuing years we stayed in touch, until last year when things finally progressed to the point where we were able to move forward with a tangible proposal.

This will be the first post of several that will become a case study of the creative process behind the designing and making of custom furniture for the executive office of our client – who will be referred to from this point forward as JLT.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 2) – The Initial Site Meeting