Archive for executive office furniture

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 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

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 6 of 6) – The Completed Desk

Posted in Artisanal, Canadian Woodworking, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by johnwiggers

With the finishing process now complete the desk can be assembled.

The completed desk is shown as follows:

Front view of desk.

Front corner detail.

Rear view of desk.

(I love this) detail of where the drawer meets apron.

Drawer open, showing dovetails.

Inlaid grommet in desk top.

After the desk was delivered I received the following testimonial from the client:

We just finished building a custom home and had been searching for the “perfect” desk for our new home office. We wanted something that was original in style, made to last a lifetime and not too large. It was impossible to find something ready-made that fit all of our criteria. We contacted John and within a few days he had prepared detailed drawings for us to consider. After some fine tuning, we quickly settled on our perfect desk. The desk is flawless and looks exactly as drawn, down to the last detail.

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 5 of 6) – Finishing the Desk

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by johnwiggers

Most woodworkers will tell you that the most tedious part of the furniture making process is the hours of final sanding required to prepare the wood for finishing.

In my mind this stage is actually quite exciting, because it helps me to anticipate more clearly what the finished piece will look like.

In the previous post the solid cherry received multiple coats of a vinegar and iron solution, which is the traditional way of ebonizing wood to a darker colour.


A black toner is then applied to ebonize the darker areas more consistently.


At this stage I am extremely pleased with the decision to add the beading details to the aprons and drawer fronts.

The Macassar Ebony looks incredible!

Next: Custom Writing Desk – (Part 6 of 6) – The Completed Desk

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 4 of 6) – The Making of the Desk Begins

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by johnwiggers

With the drawing and finish sample now approved it is time to proceed with the actual making of this custom desk.

First the Macassar Ebony veneer is carefully cut and bookmatched, before being laminated to rigid veneer core Birch plywood panels.


The aprons are double laminated for strength, and solid corner blocks are added to receive the legs. The front legs (alongside where the drawers will be) are going to be mechanically secured with steel hangar bolts.


Pipe clamps hold the framework square while the glue sets up.


The desk legs are milled out of solid 12/4 Maple stock.


These solid cherry bead details will be added later to the underside of aprons and drawer fronts.


This view shows the pocket that will receive the dovetailed drawer boxes. The legs are also bolted in place.


The Macassar Ebony apron showing leg and beading detail.


With the woodworking portion nearly complete the desk is stood upright to verify proportions, fine tune the details and ensure stability.


Front corner detail showing drawer closed.


Drawer open.


At the intersection where drawers meet centre apron the beading detail helps accentuate the lines.


The desk is now disassembled and ready for sanding and finishing. At this stage a traditional vinegar and iron solution is applied to the solid cherry to naturally darken the wood. This solution reacts with the natural tannins of the wood to achieve the ebonizing effect.

Next: Custom Writing Desk – (Part 5 of 6) – Finishing the Desk

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 3 of 6) – Sample for Approval

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by johnwiggers

In tandem with sending drawings to the client for approval I always like to make actual finish samples of the wood we intend to use. This helps clear up any misunderstandings that might take place regarding what the finished wood surface is going to look like.

For this particular Writing Desk a bundle of quarter cut Macassar Ebony was selected, and after confirming the yield a portion was cut and glued to a piece of plywood.

After sanding and lacquering the full panel was then cut into smaller squares, with the edges being sanded and slightly bevelled. The backs of the samples are then covered in felt, and a labelled to identify the project, wood species, type of finish, and date.


Two of the samples are then sent to the client, with copies kept as control samples in our shop.

Once we receive client approval on these samples, the woodworking on the desk can begin.

Next: Custom Writing Desk – (Part 4 of 6) – The Making of the Desk Begins

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 2 of 6) – Scale Drawings

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by johnwiggers

The next step is to take the approved design concept and turn it into a scale drawing. This will give a better idea of what the finished desk will look like.

This drawing can then be submitted to the client for approval.

Once the drawing is approved we can select the appropriate material and make a finish sample for approval.

Next: Custom Writing Desk – (Part 3 of 6) – Sample for Approval

Custom Writing Desk – (Part 1 of 6) – Conceptualizing the Design

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by johnwiggers

Recently we received an Internet inquiry from someone interested in commissioning a custom writing desk. After some preliminary discussions about various designs including the Kidney Shaped Desk, Rainforest Desk and 1927 Console/Desk it was determined that a customized version of the latter might be most appropriate for the required dimensions of 55″ long x 22″ deep x 30″ high.

Based on this discussion an initial concept was sketched out and emailed to the client. As a starting point this design has curved, tapering legs and a bowed apron with elevated ribs to support a Macassar Ebony top. The fact that the cross ribs are elevated helps creates the visual illusion that the top is floating.

Although I found the idea to be quite interesting, the client didn’t like it. After further discussion the design was revised as follows:

This idea the client loved. At this point we formalized the pricing with a written quotation, and a deposit was made so we could then make the scale drawings required to finalize the concept and work out the details.

Next: Custom Writing Desk – (Part 2 of 6) – Scale Drawings