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Dresser Design I

So, I’m starting with the dresser. I’m going to create a design from photos, something that could come in handy often. Let’s face it, the designs we see and like don’t always come with plans and step-by-step drawings.

Not long ago, my wife and I went furniture shopping. We furniture shop with a camera, discreetly taking pictures of pieces we like. When both of us fell in love with a bedroom set that was several (several, several) thousand dollars out of our price range, we went home with a couple blurry pictures (Sue me. It was dark) and some wishful thinking.

The dresser that we liked was a tall 5-drawer dresser. It has three columns of drawers with a graceful double curve on the front. The center column of drawers are wide with small, squarish drawers off to the side.

Knowing that the dresser is 42 inches high, I could use a little rusty algebra to get dimensions for the width. However, with my wife leaning over my shoulder, we both decided that the dresser wasn’t quite wide enough to our eyes. It was a little squatty, and the side drawers were small enough that they wouldn’t have too much use (We only have so many socks).

But how wide do I make it? Well, here’s where I can apply one of the design tricks that I’ve already learned here at WOOD magazine. And that is: Use the Golden Ratio (1:1.618) for pleasing proportions. A little more rusty algebra and—voila—68 inches wide. I’m going to allow myself some flexibility, but that seemed like a good starting point. It’s going to make for a big piece of furniture, but that suits us. I sketched out some very minimalist drawings of the dresser front, positioning and sizing the drawers. I used the Golden Ration there, too. (The center drawer is 1.618 times the width of the side drawers.)

I then roughly applied the Hambridge technique for graduating the height of the drawers in the dresser. If you’re not familiar with the Hambridge technique, it is a technique for graduating the height of drawers based on the width of the drawer. Basically, you start with a square whose sides are equal to the width of the drawer. The height of your bottom drawer is equal to the diagonal of that square minus the height of the square. (Think of taking the diagonal of the square and rotating it upright so that it stands at the square’s side. The amount the diagonal reaches above the square is the height of your bottom drawer.) For the next drawer, you derive the diagonal from the height of the square plus the height of the first drawer and so on. It’s a little easier to show than to explain:

Dresser I 1

I used the center drawer as my starting width, and again, I played fast and loose with the “rule” to arrive at something that pleased my eye and scaled the entire set of drawers into the height of dresser that I wanted. (Purists would probably say that this kills the intent of the Hambridge technique, as it was meant as a method of arriving at the height of a piece—and its individual drawers—based on the width of the drawers. Obviously, I’m not a purist. I already had a height in mind and scaled the drawers down to fit it.)

Putting all my measurements together, I sketched this:

Dresser I 2

What this front-view sketch doesn’t show well is one of the details that we really liked (and one that will provide me with some fun challenges)—there is a subtle double curve, adding a bowed front to the center column of drawers, terminating at the outer drawer columns, which are flat on the front.

Looking at the sketch, I can’t make up my mind whether I like the width. The elongated side drawers might be so long that they overwhelm the curved center column. So, I’m going to shorten them a couple inches each. I also added a bead around the drawers, and came up with this:

Dresser I 3

What this front-view sketch doesn’t show well is one of the details that we really liked (and one that will provide me with some fun challenges)—there is a subtle double curve, adding a bowed front to the center column of drawers, terminating at the outer drawer columns, which are flat on the front.

Time to bust out Google Sketchup. I’ve poked at it a little in the past, and I’ve had some experience on other 3D programs, but I’ve got a bit of a learning curve ahead until I’m up to speed. So be patient with me.




 
 
 
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