Choosing handcrafted wood furniture can be so much more complicated than picking up particleboard at the big box store. You have more style features and customizations to choose from. No surprise that we get a lot of questions about what we mean when we talk about features. So let’s talk about corbels.
What is a corbel?
A corbel is a kind of triangular bracket that holds up protruding pieces against vertical surfaces in furniture and architecture. What sets corbels apart from regular brackets is corbels contribute to the style of a piece of furniture or architecture in addition to its structural integrity.
Sometimes corbels are not necessary to hold a piece of furniture together, but the extra support still improves its longevity. Occasionally, they are purely decorative. But nearly all corbels have something to contribute to the lasting quality of handcrafted furniture.
Here is an example of a corbel on a piece of Mission-style furniture.
You can see that it’s not a perfect triangle, but it does include that basic profile. Notice the squared angle where the top of the corbel meets the side of the corbel that attaches to the side of the furniture. A triangle with a square angle is called a right triangle.
The third side of the triangle is the weight-bearing side—math fans may know it as the hypotenuse—but it doesn’t need to form the perfectly straight line of a real triangle to provide support. This particular corbel’s hypotenuse runs down, then curves inward and down further.
Here is what this corbel looks like from the side.
Notice how it has a defined width that is quite narrow in proportion to the furniture. This corbel’s width and vertical length match it to the accompanying side slats and, as a result, to this table’s Mission style.
What do corbels do?
More than just “holding things up,” corbels use mass, pressure and gravity to support furniture in a variety of ways. Here are three important ways corbels provide support.
Stylish Triangle Brackets
Corbels provide bracketing to brace a horizontal protruding surface against the vertical side beneath. A corbel’s triangular shape directs weight across the horizontal top and distributes pressure down the angle of the third side, tensing against the bottom of the vertical side.
The resulting strength plays out when different kinds of stress affect the protruding surface.
First, remember that gravity is always at work and even when there is no extra weight on the furniture, protrusions will always be pressing down. Gravity on its own doesn’t seem like much pressure, but with furniture that is intended to last several generations, the support actually makes a difference over time.
When there is extra weight pushing on a table top, it is less likely to buckle downward with a corbel in the way. If anything falls or slams on that top surface, the support helps keep it from breaking off in a downward direction. When the wood absorbs moisture changes in the air, it will be pretty hard to warp and curl down with those supports underneath.
Some designs rely on sets of corbels called corbel tables. This Manitoba Hutch has a corbel table all around the top to help it stay in shape.
Use the Strongest Parts of Furniture First
Another way that corbels can redirect weight is to add tension to the strongest parts of furniture and relieve parts that are not made to hold weight from above. Any protruding surface has the least support at its outermost edge, so it presses down and in from that edge. A corbel protrudes closer to where pressure occurs first, so the corbel catches that pressure. A builder or engineer can place corbels on the vertical surfaces best suited to holding extra weight.
As an example, look at this Artesa bookcase. It has corbels only on the frame corners, so the top’s weight presses down mainly on the frame. This helps keep the top from pressing inward against the front skirt under the top, as well as the side panels.
This cushion chair has corbels under the arm rests, but only up against the legs, which are thick, solid and framing the whole chair. The builder avoids putting a corbel against the side panel where it would press into the middle and possibly cause a bend. These corbels direct not only the weight of the arm rest to press against the chair legs, but also the weight of a person’s arm when they use it.
More Potential for Fasteners
Of course a corbel is more wood, so there are more places to apply more securing anchors for your furniture. A corbel’s surface area is a great place to glue a table top down so it won’t warp and curl upward easily. Some designs also use corbels’ extra wood volume to put dowels, screws, trestles or joints through.
On some pieces, the corbel is the main part of the frame. Here is a free-standing shelf whose corbels hold the whole thing together.
This shelf has two corbels, a top, a back, and a skirt in the front. The corbels brace the top shelf against the wall so it doesn’t just snap off and down. The tops of the corbels provide more surfaces for glue, so it won’t just snap off the back piece either.
These corbels are thick enough to couch mortise and tenon joints that fit the back frame and front skirt between them like puzzle pieces.
The quilt shelf above has a holes in the middle of its corbels so quilters can run a bar through it. A corbel’s triangle shape holds furniture together, so its center provides extra space where designers can get creative. That’s why some corbels are intricately carved or consist of only the diagonal side. A corbel with a hole in the middle still works.
What design elements are easy to mistake for corbels?
A corbel is an angle that holds up weight in a two-dimensional way. Some elements of furniture are easy to mistake for corbels because they are under a table top or also use angles. When identifying these items, ask yourself:
Do they rely on an angle that is further out directly beneath the weight above, and further in against a vertical surface at the angle’s bottom?
Are they vertically much more narrow than the furniture?
These key traits will help you distinguish unlimited design elements from corbels, and here are three examples.
A cornice is not a corbel
A cornice is a wide piece that crowns the top of a piece of furniture. Some cornices, if they are at the correct angle, can support furniture tops. Cornices’ angled support provides similar function to corbels, but unlike narrow corbels, cornices cover the full width of a furniture piece and go around the sides. Cornices often provide decorative crown molding.
Dentils are not corbel tables
Dentil molding consists of decorative square or rectangular blocks called dentils. They are popular to carve beneath cornices to obscure the distinction between the side of the main piece and the bottom of the cornice.
Though they may be in the right spot, dentils don’t use the same triangular shape and don’t provide the same support. They also sit much closer together than the corbels of a corbel table.
Spandrels are not corbels
Spandrels tend to have triangular shapes and may be carved as ornately as some Queen Anne style corbels, but their origins differ. In order to add corbels, a builder needs to make them separately and then apply them to a structure. In contrast, spandrels are the necessary result when a builder creates a curve such as an arch inside a square or rectangular structure. Each spandrel is the extra space between the curve and the nearest corner. Most arches have two spandrels above.
More Quality and Style
Whatever your hardwood furniture has around the top, you can rest assured that it will be built to last if you choose heirloom pieces that are made in the USA.
Do you have any corbels in or on your home? Brag about your style in the comments below.
The McCoy Glider glides in Mission style with vertical side slats and exposed mortise joints. The curved arm rests are at exactly the right height for laying back on the upholstered cushions. With its rocking chair motion, the McCoy Glider is the perfect spot to lean back and take a break.
With its bright sunlight, lush plants and big sky, being in the great outdoors can be a boon to your health.
But what if you only have a balcony, or you don’t care about getting active? That’s okay! Getting outside doesn’t require a ton of space or a super-fit body. In fact, you can spend more time outdoors just by bringing your regular activities outside. Here are 12 indoor activities that you can bring outside with the right kind of handcrafted furniture.
Remember: even some of these activities are risky and it’s up to you to decide which activities are safe enough for you and your household, and take the necessary safety precautions.
This is the fourth and final part of a four-part series on getting outside with handcrafted furniture.
Bring your meals outside
Outdoor dining sets and picnic tables are ready for anything just like your kitchen table. To bring out several items at once, try a chopping block on wheels or a tea cart.
Have a drink!
Whether with a cup of coffee, an evening cocktail, or a cool smoothie, spending time outside with a drink is an easy way to unwind.
Nearly every kind of outdoor seating is an excellent way to relax with a drink, but some benches and swings even have cup holders. Even your basic dining set is a great spot to sip. Outdoor end tables and coffee tables convert any chair into a spot to hang out with a beverage.
An outdoor bar will keep social occasions organized, while a tea cart can travel around the patio when people need it.
Build an outdoor kitchen
A serious foodie may want more than a barbecue for cooking outside. An outdoor kitchen includes counterspace and a variety of luxury items. Some advanced home chefs build a stone-fired pizza oven, a smoker, a rotisserie or even add plumbing.
Furniture could supplement your kitchen in the form of an extra patio table for counter space, or butcher blocks and islands on wheels. You may even want to serve guests from an outdoor bar.
Of course, you’ll need a patio dining set to eat the amazing food you make in your outdoor kitchen.
Be a maker
Bring out your workbench and do your woodworking outside. Many kinds of rough making could work just as well outside as inside. In rainy enough climates, blacksmithing or metalworking could also be fun to do outdoors.
With a good laptop battery, working from home, even one day per week, could refresh your mind and save you commuting time.
Any dining set or picnic table can set you up for a long typing session, while a bench, glider or swing offers an easier pace that could be great for consulting. Writers and designers may appreciate the creativity boost from working in nature.
Play board games with friends
You can do more on that patio table than eat a hamburger and have a drink. Why not bring your tabletop games outside? On windy days, the best board games to play outside are classic games without paper or cards that could blow away.
Amish wooden board games are beautiful and long-lasting. Most wooden games are finished for the indoors, so bring them out when you’re ready to play and bring them in when you’re done. Some game tables with several games inside are available with an outdoor finish.
Knit or do other portable fibre art
It’s so peaceful to craft outside on a porch rocker or glider. Don’t let your crafting keep you indoors.
Read a book or ebook
Reading doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Go out on the garden swing and get some daylight! Some swings even have tilt-out drink holders to hold your tea or solar charger.
Sketch, paint or create other kinds of art
Any sitting spot is a good place to bring your sketchbook, and you might find great drawing ideas outside. Going out to paint the landscape in front of you is a classic pastime. Maybe you prefer to carve or sculpt your art. Whatever your medium, a good table or bench can be a solid place to create outside on a beautiful day.
Try new, ultra-messy kinds of art
Wait, you’re thinking… Does this count as an indoor activity? And to be truthful, it does for people who do it regularly. Otherwise, the weather would make their schedules unreliable. If you want to try different kinds of dipping, splatter or plaster before you commit the studio space for it, the outdoors is a great place for a temporary set-up. Have fun!
Bring your stationary exercises outside
If you work out at home, the outdoors is a great place to set yourself up and do yoga or body weight training, especially in spring and fall when the temperature is perfect.
If you have a little space, you can even do aerobics or dance. A patio table is the perfect spot to set up your tablet or speakers while you follow a beat.
Meditating outside can refresh your lungs with fresh air. It can also challenge you by providing new kinds of stimuli for you to let go of.
A plain outdoor chair, bench or stool that doesn’t move is a good spot for a basic sitting meditation. When you want to meditate cross-legged, sitting on an outdoor coffee table may be the way to help keep you off the ground.
Getting outside doesn’t have to be hard or exhausting. Sometimes it’s as easy as bringing your habitual activities out onto outdoor furniture. Hopefully, these ideas will help you enjoy the great outdoors more no matter who you are.
This concludes our series on getting outside with wood furniture. Next week, we’ll be back to our normal schedule, starting with an interior from our newest customer’s real home.
Is there any commonly indoor activity that you do outide when the weather is great? Let’s talk in the comments.
While keeping up with our computerized world is an advantage, many kinds of software are designed to addict the human brain. On the other hand, being outside has physical and mental health benefits that we all need to grow well-adjusted and capable. Here are 11 activities that your kids and teens can do outside when you have a property.
Keep in mind that outdoor activities are risky, and some activities are only age appropriate for certain kids. It is up to you to decide whether your child is ready to try an activity, and it’s up to you to mitigate the risks.
This is Part 3 of a four-part series on getting outside with outdoor furniture.
Do messy crafts and science experiments that parents are afraid to do inside
Do your kids want to do splatter art or make chemical reactions, but you won’t let them because you’re afraid of the mess? A yard can help you with that.
Cleanup is less daunting when the mess is outside. You may still have to tidy up your kids’ outdoor mess to avoid littering, but at least it won’t be in the house, smelling funny and ruining your wood floors.
A kid-sized outdoor table is a perfect place for your child to do sloppy activities. A minimalist wood table might even look great with splashes of color all over it.
Create art with sidewalk chalk
The web has hundreds of ideas for what your kids can draw with sidewalk chalk. Writing and drawings are just the beginning. Kids could colorbomb your walkways with designs like stripes and grids. They could make play spaces such as towns by drawing them.
Another tip for leftover bits: make paint by crushing chalk into dust and mixing in water.
Keep playground items
When you have space, there is more room for a swing set, a jungle gym, a trampoline, or a playhouse. There are also more ways for your kids to store their outdoor toys. Kid-sized outdoor furniture such as a small picnic table could give your kids another place to snack or even bring some indoor activities outdoors.
Providing your kids with places of their own will give them something to play with besides adult furniture, and will improve your furniture’s longevity.
Play laser tag
Here’s a way to convince older kids to get out if they love electronics. Laser tag has some of the cool factor that video games have but it adds real exercise. It’s also safer and cleaner than paintball, so your kids grow into it earlier, and it doesn’t require as much land.
Play stealth or problem solving games
It’s for you to decide whether your kids are old enough to manage themselves on your property. With enough organization, the right age groups could play Scavenger Hunt, Mission Impossible or Capture the Flag on a property with tree cover or hills.
Play ball games
Your classic sports can benefit from tables and seating around a field, and even an outdoor garbage can to encourage your kids to keep things clean.
A ramp for skateboarding, biking or roller blading can give your teen a way to get exercise alone or with others. With good places to skate on your property, your teen will spend less time skating through town and getting in trouble with judgmental adults.
Collect cool rocks and other natural things from the ground
Depending on your area, you could even find fossils. Does your region have autumn? You could make a leaf collage or a wall hanging from sticks; just remember to use already fallen pieces.
There are books about everything you can collect from nature, from rocks and minerals, to how to recognize trees based on their leaves.
Take care that bugs don’t tag along with bits of plants your kids pick. You may want your kids to use a picnic table to sort through treasures without bringing them inside.
Kiting is a classic outdoor pastime that a kid or adult can do on their own. Kiting helps hobbyists practice concentration, determination and self-coaching.
To fly a kite, you need a big empty space free of trees or power lines. The best fields for kiting don’t have any wind blocks on the borders and allow the wind to blow strongly at ground level. If you want an outdoor table, this is one time you should get it without an umbrella, or keep it close to the house, away from the open area.
Be careful to buy a good quality kite that will actually fly. Rather than the dollar store or big box store, try a kite from your local toy store.
You should learn on a windy but not blustery day. You only need a five mile wind to get a quality children’s kite flying. Harsh winds will only toss it down uncontrollably.
On some days, the wind is consistent and you can relax and watch your kite. On others, you have to pay attention and use the string to shift its nose in the right direction. This can require big arm movements, and sometimes you will even have to run back and forth to catch the wind every time it changes.
If you love flying your kite enough, visit your local kite festival and try kiting together.
Sledding and building with snow
All you need to sled is four seasons and a hill. Four seasons could also be your reason to choose polyvinyl if you buy outdoor furniture. Polyvinyl doesn’t warp or crack, so it will survive radical weather changes virtually forever.
Learn about the wildlife and plants on your property
Owning a property provides unique opportunities for your kids to see wild animals like frogs, bugs, birds and deer. It’s a great chance for you to teach about how animals use trees, plants and water in your back yard, as well as how to behave safely around animals.
In our urban society, many people have what psychologists call plant blindness: they don’t develop a natural ability to recognize distinguishing features in plants and trees. Your property is a great place to practice distinguishing trees and recognizing how animals live with them.
Your local wildlife center should have age-appropriate learning materials. Youtube has an unending supply of videos of professionals interacting with animals, some tailored to kids, others for whole families.
Getting outdoors is important for growing up healthy, and a property can make it a special experience. While getting out can provide exercise and adventure, there are also psychological benefits to being outside even when you’re just relaxing. That’s why the next and final installment to this series is on how to bring your indoor activities outside.
What’s the most unusual activity your kids have come up with on your property? Battle for bragging rights in the comments below.
Want to get out in the backyard this summer? There are a lot of activities you can do outside with just a little plot of land and some high quality outdoor furniture. While larger properties offer big possibilities, suburban backyards can offer ways for you to strengthen neighborhood communities. Here are 14 of them.
While some of these activities are more dangerous than others, it is up to you to decide the right risk level for you and your family.
This is Part 2 of a four-part series on getting outside on your property with furniture.
Hook up your projector and watch movies in a backyard theater
This spring, you could have your Game of Thrones finale watch party outside if you have a projector and screen. The perfect chair for an outdoor theater is a folding polyvinyl Adirondack chair.
The Adirondack shape is the perfect style for leaning back to watch a projected screen. Polyvinyl gives you peace of mind that your guests and their kids won’t be able to damage your furniture. A folding chair can be put away when you don’t need as many, and taken out on a whim.
Build a bonfire or camp fire
If you live in a well-watered climate, there is something beautiful and hypnotizing about a campfire in the dark.
By giving you and your loved ones something to watch and keep warm by, a fire can create peaceful moments. Adirondack chairs around a camp fire create a relaxing way to spend time together.
Swim in your swimming pool
Everything is better by the pool. Loungers and Adirondack chairs can give you a place to sit and dry off after a swim.
Grow a backyard vine
You don’t need a whole vineyard to grow a lot of grapes, tomatoes or beans. A single vine could produce enough fruit, and let you make enough homemade wine, for all of your family and friends. A handcrafted arbor or trellis may last as long as your home stays in the family.
Plant a fruit tree
One mature fruit tree produces a lot of fruit. It also flowers in the spring time, and it could be a romantic place to keep a classic wood bench.
Plant a tree
Trees are versatile neighborhood superheroes. They provide shade to sit under and a place for kids to play. They provide shelter and food for neighborhood wildlife. They stabilize the soil and help your land cope with flooding. On windy days their leaves make music. Your Amish bench will be in good company next to a tree.
Keep a bird or squirrel feeder
You’d be surprised how many animals still live in the ecosystem of your neighborhood. Your and your neighbors’ trees form a network of food sources and highways for critters to travel on, and your feeder can help support local populations for yourself and your neighbors to enjoy the presence of.
There is a variety of patio seating that you can use for watching the birds. Just remember to keep your outdoor dining area away from areas where birds frequent, so they won’t make a mess there.
You knew it was going to come up some time. Barbecues can benefit from patio sets for well-mannered eating, scattered extra seating for large groups of guests, and indoor-outdoor kitchen surfaces on wheels. It’s hard to think of a type of outdoor furniture that can’t make a barbecue better.
Photography of people or design works on any size property, and beautiful handcrafted furniture can make a scene look amazing. Wildlife photography is a challenging and satisfying way to walk among animals all year long.
Keep a clothesline
As long as you don’t have a homeowner’s association that restricts it, a clothesline can help you save money and can help your clothes last longer. A table or chair by the spot where you stand while you hang your clothes could serve as a handy surface to put down your laundry basket.
Bird watching is about more than just sitting and watching the critters visit your bird feeder. In fact, you might not even have a bird feeder and could still serve as a birder. Bird watchers maintain community memberships as a type of amateur ecologist, and keep track of numbers and behaviours. It’s an active hobby for your body and brain.
Build power sources
Depending on whether your homeowner’s association allows it, you could invest in saving money on energy with alternative power sources. More than home improvement, renewable energy could pay off for years.
If you have wind, household wind generators are interesting and more fun than the big wind turbines. If you have fast running water, you could build a hydroelectric generator. Solar panels are popular but there are many ways to power your home. With seasonal changes, you may need a variety of methods.
Plant a flower garden
A flower garden is a beautiful place to relax on your bench or swing. The right flowers can attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, while looking more interesting than a lawn. Handcrafted planters can help you with container gardening, while arbors and trellises could support your clematis or morning glories for years of growth.
Plant a vegetable garden
Growing food is a resourceful use of your time. You get to work with your hands and get them dirty, giving you the mental health benefits of outdoor smells and sensations. You get exercise without needing to buy a fitness membership. And you get to cover part of your grocery bill with fresher veggies and herbs than you could ever find in a store.
Depending on the rules for your community, other gardeners and urban farmers in the area might be eager to support your garden by having poultry come by to control the insects.
A bench or outdoor table could provide your gardening routine with the utility of an extra working surface or a raised spot to place tools.
Getting outside on your property only requires a little land and a will to see the sky. Getting out in your neighborhood can help you exercise, eat well, learn STEAM and help keep the Earth healthy. Tune in next Saturday for ideas on getting your kids outside!
What’s your favorite backyard activity? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Land! The dream! A large property is a great place to get outside this summer. If you have a big piece of land, or are checking one out, consider these 16 things to do on it and furniture suggestions.
Keep in mind that outdoor activities can be dangerous and make sure you understand the risks to yourself, others and animals before trying anything.
This is the first part of a four-part series on getting outside with outdoor furniture.
Trek on paths or trails
Walking, running and cycling can take you across your whole property and beyond. This is a great opportunity to add rest stops throughout the property. If your winters get cold enough, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski and use that furniture all year.
Perform history reenactments
You may have a designated area with no new furniture allowed. On the other hand, people taking a break or watching from a distance could benefit from seating or shade stations of tables with umbrellas. A poly vinyl trash can encourages your guests to keep the area clean.
Keep an orchard or vineyard
If you’re planning to pass your property to your children or grandchildren, a vineyard will become more valuable as it ages. Fruit trees also take several years to mature. While managing these large parcels of land, you could benefit from several benches dotting the property, or picnic tables with umbrellas for shade stations.
Pick berries, wild apples or chestnuts
Or whatever easily recognizable wild food grows on your property. Remember to research how to recognize wild edibles safely, wash everything and take extra precautions if your region has big animals.
Once you get home with your bounty, you may find a picnic or patio table outside the kitchen useful for sorting and washing them.
Wild apples tend to be very tart and are better for apple pie than other kinds.
Swim or wade in your pond, creek, lakefront or mud hole
There’s no better way to cool off than to lounge by the water or play around with friends. Wood with shade umbrellas could be the coolest seating or picnic table on very hot days. If it’s a mud hole, polyvinyl is probably the best furniture to keep nearby. Every once in a while you can bring it to the house and hose it off.
Once you understand the local wild game laws, hunting can be a way to enjoy your whole property and vary your diet. Remember to use your weapons and tools safely, and store them in a locked place inside such as a gun cabinet.
You need space to shoot targets safely. You may find that seating behind the shooting area would be a pleasant way to hang out, especially if you and your friends take turns. Remember to bring your weapons in and lock them up when you’re finished.
The cool thing about paintball is you can use anything in the environment for terrain. Don’t throw away your old furniture when you plan to replace it; use it for paintball terrain and shelters. If you’re looking for new pieces, you might want to stick with polyvinyl near the border of your paintball area.
Mudding is driving through boggy mudholes with vehicles meant to handle rough terrain, to admire their power and get dirty in the process. If you have spectators, throw a few poly vinyl chairs in the back of your truck for temporary seating. Some even fold when you’re done.
Ride vehicles through your terrain
Four wheelers, snowmobiles, and about a dozen other vehicles could get you out and riding around your property. So can picnic tables and places to hang out.
Allow scientists to create ecological restoration projects on your property
Your local ecology center may be reintroducing animals, trees or pollinators to the area and could appreciate using your land. Some animals, like beavers, drastically change the water bodies and forests in the area, so you need enough space to know they won’t affect your buildings, kids or animals.
Join a conservation program
Some conservation programs are an easier commitment than a farm or sanctuary, and involve signing up and promising to only cut your most abundant or invasive species of trees. Some can save you money on property taxes.
Walk the dog or let it run off the leash
Numerous factors go into whether you can let your dog run off-leash, or let it play outside when you’re at work. The size of your dog, the kind of animals that might live on or pass through your property, and the weather all factor in. With smart home technology, you can create gates with timers that let your pets out at certain times.
A handcrafted pet bed will give your dog somewhere to rest after all that running around, while pet bowls with handcrafted stands will last through many omnomnoms.
Run a hobby farm
Popular small farm animals include chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks and geese. You may prefer to keep small groups of larger animals like heritage breed cattle, donkeys, ponies or horses.
Don’t take this idea lightly! Running a hobby farm could be as much work as an animal sanctuary. It’s like another job and you need a lot of spare cash for the vet. But on your breaks, you can sit on your porch swing with a cup of coffee watching the horses.
As a tip for goats, they like to climb. So you can give them your old outdoor furniture to play on after you replace it with new things.
Run an animal sanctuary
Have enough space to let a large number of animals run? Maybe you could take in some rescues.
Not everyone can take care of a large number of animals. It costs a lot of money both in regular expenses and medical surprises. You need to build the right enclosures and shelters, keep the temperature safe and make sure you have the licensing.
You also have to study the right ways to care for your animals, and network with experts like the right kind of vet for your specific type of animals. Sheltering animals is a huge commitment, but it will certainly get you out of the house!
Owning enough land to take care of horses properly is a major step in life. Taking care of and riding horses is a huge responsibility.
If you have a ranch, consider dotting it with picnic tables for rest stops throughout the property. You can also relax and watch horses graze if you build places to sit facing your paddocks and fields, such as a rocking chair on your porch.
A large property is a big opportunity to do big things. Hopefully you can get out a lot this summer.
The Bridgeport Dining Chair is a contemporary classic with its broad, contoured back slats and comfortably carved seat. The Bridgeport features unique arches in its leg stretchers and symmetrical head rest. We’re showing this chair in oak.
Amish storage furniture has so many door styles, you may not know how to talk about what styles you’re looking for.
Wood furniture has been around almost as long as people have, and Amish people have been around for over 300 years. With that much history, generations of woodworkers were sure to create variations and refinement until the sheer variety became overwhelming to anyone who was not an expert.
Luckily, there are some basic traits of all furniture doors that make it possible to decode what you’re looking at. If you start on the outside and work your way in, you can see what door type, and then what panel style you’re looking at. Let’s start with regular swinging doors.
How is the door set on the furniture? Overset or inset door?
Overset or raised doors sit over the storage compartment, maximizing your space inside, and creating a louder more decadent style. Overset doors emphasize light and texture.
Inset or flush doors sit just inside the opening of the storage compartment, making its style look understated and classic. Flush doors emphasize the geometric outline of the door on the face of the furniture.
What’s the difference between a raised and reverse panel?
Okay, now we get trickier. The door mounting style is the category we just covered, and the next category is panel type. There are four types of furniture door panels:
Raised door panels fit inside the frame pieces like a puzzle, but quickly curve out to protrude from the middle of the door so the most outward part of the panel is flush with the frame.
This angled view shows how the center of the door panel is raised compared to the hidden edges which are carved to fit into the frame. The frame also complements the panel’s shape with some carving of its own.
Raised panels have their own way of reflecting the light. They add texture and dimension to your room and are popular with traditional looks.
Reverse or inset panels sit inside the door’s frame, making the frame appear strong and elegant. They are classic and modern without being overly minimalistic. In terms of showiness, reverse panels fall between flat and raised panel doors.
Flat or no panels
Flat doors are plain and elegant. With no visible panels overshadowing them, the shapes of the doors themselves become the furniture’s primary style feature. When flat doors are inset, the rectangles of the doors’ outlines stand out and make a statement. When flat doors are overset, they don’t show as many lines around them and are their most minimalistic.
Flat doors are more popular in modern furniture with artificial materials. In handcrafted furniture, flat construction is more common on drawers than on doors, because drawers tend to have smaller faces that are less likely to become warped during seasonal changes.
Some doors are simply made of full length planks fitted together.
Panel style features
Once you understand door setting and panel types, it’s time to go deeper with style features! There are nearly unlimited shapes that workshops use to make door panels and frames. Below are only the most popular; there are potentially hundreds not listed here.
Most popular in raised styles, the cathedral panel features a central arch with a flourish on each side. Cathedral panels’ curviness suit the luxurious look of traditional furniture.
This one’s pretty straightforward: arched panels have an arch shape at the top. That is, an upward curve.
Arched panel doors are easy. But what about a single arch that stretches across two doors? Half-arched panels mirror each other with half an arch going each way. If you have end tables that come in pairs, you can even get them to mirror each other, creating a large arch pattern with your bed or sofa in the middle.
Shiplap recessed panels
Shiplap is a wood surface made of several vertical planks with visible recessed edges in between them to create stripes. They look both finished and casual.
Metal inserts are specialized. They turn kitchen furniture into breathable storage for your baking, such as in a pie safe.
While glass windows have mullions to stabilize them, reverse panels can have mullions to add interesting shapes and patterns, or even to match nearby glass.
Of course, you can skip paneling altogether if you’re looking for a glass door. Glass doors display your belongings while your furniture stores them. That’s why they’re popular in hutches and electronics centers, and even some bookcases. Glass also brightens a room by reflecting light.
The glass in doors is usually inset, similar to a reverse panel, and comes in a variety of shapes, colors and textures:
Mullions are pieces of wood or metal which sit across the window from one side of the frame to the other, and reinforce it while adding more style. Some mullions create art shapes and hold multiple pieces of glass together, such as in stained glass windows.
Stained glass adds color and vintage style to a piece of furniture. Vintage-style cabinets and barrister bookcases may use stained glass to imply seriousness and value within.
Don’t let the “plain” in “plain glass” fool you. Plain glass is functional. It offers the best visibility for the items stored inside, and emphasizes the style features of the wood framing around the glass.
Swirly and wavy, baroque glass simulates an old method of glass making, in which slightly different batches of glass are just mixed together so they adhere, but their different colors or densities stand out and make waves.
Straw glass looks as though someone had dropped pieces of straw all over it while it was soft, to create the appearance of short lines scattered all over.
Water glass has fluctuating thickness throughout, so it looks as though light is shining on it as it would through a naturally moving water surface.
Seedy glass is full of bubbles, as though someone had scattered seeds over it while it was still soft.
Smoked glass is as modern and smooth as plain glass, but a blackish tint keeps it dark and conceals many of your items inside. It’s popular in TV stands as it lets the lights of your electronics show through while the casings don’t.
Thick glass may have edges that taper toward the frame, reflecting light in different directions. Sometimes beveled edges help glass match the shape of raised wood door panels elsewhere on the same furniture. Beveled glass creates a luxurious appearance and may even have a prism effect of refracting rainbows in the room.
The frame that makes up the edges of the door and holds the panels can also come in a variety of styles.
A furniture door frame usually consists of two vertical pieces running the full length of the left and right sides, with two horizontal top and bottom pieces in between. The panel goes in the middle of these four pieces.
A frame has mitered corners when each piece joins the next one at an angle. Instead of fitting the horizontal pieces inside the vertical pieces of a door frame, mitered joints give each piece an equal role in holding the door together. Mitered doors make a piece of furniture look dapper and held together.
A furniture door frame can be more than just boards around a panel. Craftsmen may carve those boards in a variety of textures. Some frames are rounded, while others have grooves progressing toward the panel. Textured door frames can add rich detail to wood furniture.
Unusual door mounting types
Swinging doors are the most common wood furniture door mounting styles, but here are some other door types.
Sliding doors are most popular in electronics centers such as TV stands. Rarely protruding from the furniture makes sliding doors functional in specialized ways. First, since they are often close to the floor, they don’t risk tripping you as you walk by. Second, you can leave them open without using up extra space, to help your electronics vent and to keep buttons accessible. They are less likely to fall closed when you don’t want them to.
Most sliding doors need to fit in their tracks and pass each other by, so they will usually come in smooth elegant styles with limited texture and either a very small or no handle. But there are still thousands of style possibilities.
Tilt-out doors are for convenient functional storage, like in a kitchen, office, or hobby room. They’re made for the contents of your furniture to slide out with a single arm motion of opening the door.
Tilt-up sliding doors
To protect valuable legal archives from dust, barrister bookcases have a glass door for each shelf which tilts out and up, and slides back into the shelf on treads. You’ll be able to spot a tilt-up door by the handles on the bottom.
Roll top doors
Roll top doors aren’t only for the bread box. They’re useful on any piece of furniture that can benefit from a flexible door that hides away when open. On desks with high side panels for privacy, roll top doors follow the shape of the panels and use up no extra space.
These doors are two doors in one that fold together while sliding on treads, just like closet doors. This helps them swing out of the front less.
Popular in combination with bi-fold doors, pocket doors slide back into the furniture to stow away when open.
Why do doors have panels?
Wood furniture doors have panels because wood is porus, having previously been alive. Because it breathes and absorbs moisture, wood changes shape with the weather. Sometimes the change is too subtle to see, but sometimes it is severe enough to warp or crack large, flat pieces.
Constructing a door out of smaller pieces allows them room to slide subtly in and out of each other, so the door can retain its overall shape.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about Amish furniture door panels today? Let us know in the comments below.
The Heritage 49” Flat Panel TV Stand mixes tough construction with luxurious details to make a statement. This TV stand features crown molding under its 1” thick roundover table top. The glass doors are overset in keeping with the dimensional style. Shapely feet make up the Jonie base. The Heritage has solid sides and holes in the back for electrical wiring. Shown in oak.
If you want your outdoor furniture this year to be handcrafted, planning early will buffer the time that workshops take to build your things. To help you get ready on time to use your whole spring and summer, here are the most important things to consider about your land and what you want from your furniture.
Who Uses Your Yard?
Who will use your furniture might affect which pieces you choose. For instance, if your family is growing, you might want to use regular size items instead of a bar height dining set. Kids might appreciate the bright colors of poly vinyl. It’s also the easiest surface to clean up after kids of all ages.
Will anyone with limited mobility be using your furniture? Luckily, you can choose from numerous items that are easy to get up and down from. Depending on the person, a glider might be more practical than a rocking chair or swing. A conventional patio chair might be more relaxing than a low, angular Adirondack.
What Do You Want to Do Outside?
Knowing what the people who use your property do out there, and where on the property they do it, will help you decide what furniture will make those experiences better for them. You may also have some activities that people currently do indoors that they would take outside on a nice day if they had the right furniture.
An outdoor kitchen and dining space aren’t the only uses for your backyard. Maybe you would like to create a theater, a place to talk over tea, or a spot to watch horses. There are limitless uses for your outside.
Climate and Ecosystem
America is a big country with a diverse range of ecosystems. Some areas have burning hot summers. Some have tornadoes and hail. Some areas have a drastic temperature difference between summer and winter. Some are damp or may flood. And if you have an outbuilding to store furniture, you’ll get different results depending on whether it’s a shed, garage, tent or boathouse.
Amish outdoor furniture has solutions to help you deal with the weather. In the summer, wood won’t heat up as much as smooth surfaces like metal or plastic. Many outdoor dining tables can receive shade umbrellas. Cushions can protect you from a hot seat.
Poly vinyl won’t bend or crack in sudden episodes of moisture or temperature fluctuations. It can survive being thrown around or hammered on.
If you’re really cautious of your local climate, folding furniture is much easier to keep indoors.
Furniture maintenance is easy to overlook when you’re designing your dream property. But choosing the right maintenance level can help you stay satisfied with your furniture longer. Here are some questions to consider:
Which furniture will stay under a roof, for instance on a porch?
Which items will sit on grass, deck, or patio?
What will be near a fire pit and smoke?
Do you want to carry items inside when you’re not using them, or leave them out in the elements? What about winter?
Do you have a shed where you can keep things?
Do you have a big property, so some things will be sitting far out where they will be impractical to carry inside nightly? Do you have a vehicle to help you carry things?
How physically fit are you? Do you have help?
Do you ever have to clean up after uninvited wild animal guests?
Some furniture is easier to carry to storage: it folds or it’s lighter in weight. Poly vinyl will survive a hands-off maintenance approach longest, but even wood outoor furniture should last through an impressive number of winters, and some people like the weathered look of wood that has been outside for a few years. You don’t have to choose wood to maintain a rural look; poly vinyl is available in traditional colors such as browns and greiges. Go easy on yourself, it’s supposed to be fun!
There are valid reasons for choosing any of the materials available in Amish outdoor furniture.
Poly vinyl is so easy to take care of, it’s virtually a no-maintenance material. But did you know that it’s made out of post-consumer recycled plastic? Wondering how plastic furniture can be handcrafted? Easy, Amish workshops get the poly lumber in and build with it like any wood. Combining a nearly invincible material with Amish craftsmanship creates furniture that can almost last forever. The boardstock comes in nearly every color, from natural shades to bold modern colors. If you’re looking for furniture that doesn’t fade, try poly vinyl. Wood
Softwood furniture can still have a long life if you take care of it. Some people prefer the traditional country style of wooden furniture in their outdoor spaces. Here are three types of wood that are well-suited to the outdoors.
Southern Yellow Pine
Southern yellow pine is the most versatile softwood for Amish furniture and a popular choice for beloved classic styles. This pine is pressure-treated for longevity and hand selected by craftspeople. Many yellow pine furniture pieces come with a large number of options for outdoor finish colors, embellishments, and accessories.
Aromatic Red Cedar
Aromatic red cedar is a classic way to add color to a rural yard, beach or dock. It’s popular for both furniture and garden ornaments. Outdoor sealer helps it stay smooth outside.
Lodge Pole Pine
American-grown lodge pole pine is a popular choice for lightweight, rustic-style pieces and log furniture. Consider getting an exterior finish to help it last outside.
Whatever material you use, your furniture will last longer and keep nicer if you wipe it down after it rains and store lightweight or collapsible items indoors.
Decor Is for Outside Too
Humans aren’t the only people who use outdoor furniture. Birds, critters, and garden plants will enjoy climbing or perching on your decorative items. A trellis, planter or arbor will help your garden grow in three dimensions. Cedar lawn ornaments offer traditional elegance, so you can escape the big box store plastic look. Remember to add finishing touches while you furnish your outdoor space.
When you have your best furniture outside, you’ll want to use it. What kind of things would you put in your perfect outdoor space? Let us know in the comments below.