Copeland's Usonian Furniture

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SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Possibly. However, no amount of money is going to make materials behave differently than is in their nature -- and in essence the decision to use thinner pieces of material is a way of assuring that they will be well-matched in grain and color. (Thinner planks of wood also take less time to air-dry to the point where they are stable and ready to mill.) Wood from a single tree will tend to be of a consistent color, and the grain of pieces from that tree will automatically match. Many pieces of veneer can be had from just a part of one tree; a number of 1" boards from that tree will also match -- but only a relative few very thick timbers will be cut from a bole, and the likelihood of their being kept in sequence and delivered together to the wood shop seems low -- at least in my experience. As we know, the only true match for wood grain and color is seen when veneer is cut and matched sequentially.

Nevertheless, a very thick tabletop could conceivably be made from matched 12/4 lumber -- for a price. The only visual defect might be the darker appearance of the end grain, if the piece is stained. So, you are right that price is one of the factors in the construction of the tables we have looked at. It is clear that more effort went into the two Dana tables -- pieces for a wealthy client -- than was the case in the Isabel Roberts table -- for instance.

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Additional photos of tables we've already looked at. These views more clearly show the waterfalling of grain -- veneer ? solid boards ? -- on two tables. Today, this would almost certainly be thin veneer, possibly on readily-available sheet goods. But I'd bet these are 1x boards (that is, 3/4" or better thickness) -- as suggested by the detail drawing already posted. At the corner of the table, the two vertical pieces are mitered to each other. Nice !


Korab photos:

Image

Dana large table



Image

Oak Park table

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Thomas Heinz's somewhat less styled photo of the same Dana table as above, shows the texture of the top surface. This reveals enough wood texture and depth of imperfections to suggest that these are pieces of solid wood -- or, of veneer at least 1/4" thick . . .


Image

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Although we saw that the Goetsch-Winckler millwork sheet specifies a table with 7/8" plywood mitered to a 1 3/4" [solid stock] edge, the detail of a Futagawa photo of the tables as built (assuming these are original to the house) have a wood edge lapped onto the plywood tops.


Image


Image

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Carlton Wall table, cypress with, possibly, waterfall edge to end(s) only:


Image
Yukio Futagawa photo

Laurie Virr
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Post by Laurie Virr »

Usonian, ‘carpenter furniture’ is, in my experience less expensive than that purchased in a store. Well designed, it is far more appropriate to the setting, being of the same character as its surroundings. There have been numerous illustrations on Wright Chat posts of inappropriate furnishings installed in Usonian houses: one only has to recall the images of the Lamberson house before its exquisite restoration.

Good Architecture requires a special client, an exceptional general contractor, and a gifted architect. Even given these circumstances, practitioners amongst us will be aware that sometimes it is necessary for the architect to protect the client against him or herself, besides guarding against the possible depredations of the general contractor, some of whom are always looking for the easiest, rather than the best means, of achieving a particular aim.

In my opinion it is better, if construction operations have exhausted available funds, to have minimum furniture until such time as more financial resources become available. FLLW often provided the simplest of benches at a dining table for use until such time as the client could afford the cost of more expensive chairs.

Mention has been made of the tendency for clients to attempt to cut corners when the last aspect of the design, the furniture, is approached.

A strategy I have adopted for many years is to order both face and common bricks for a house. The latter, known here in Australia as ‘seconds’ are multi-colored, are chipped and have other defects. In contrast the face bricks are of a chosen color, have undamaged arises, and obviously command a much higher price.

I call for the face bricks to be laid up with raked beds and struck header joints. The areas of the masonry walls in front of which built-in furniture is to be constructed I have laid up in seconds with flush bed and header joints. I have saved the client money by the use of common bricks, and the extra labor necessary to create face work and rake the bed joints, but the markedly different appearance of the subject areas also creates a situation where it is necessary for the furniture to be built-in.

Folk behave towards Architecture in a completely different manner to the other arts. Few would consider purchasing a Rembrandt or a piece by Tapio Wirrkala, and adding a few dabs of paint, or etched lines in the glass, yet with Architecture they show less respect.

It is therefore necessary for architects to protect their creations by appropriate means, and the strategy outlined above goes some way towards achieving this.

In a well designed house there is a specific location for every piece of furniture. The house and furniture are one. There is little more degrading in our society than having folk move into a new tract house with their free standing furniture from their previous dwelling. The males of the family manhandle the individual pieces around the rooms until suitable arrangements are found, because frequently the design has been formulated with little regard to the placement of furniture.

My presentation drawings show all the proposed built-in furniture. I ensure clients have visited previous commissions, so if they refuse to accept the furniture, they reject the house. Satisfied clients remark on the unity and serenity that built-in furniture engenders within the dwelling. Some embrace the concept with alacrity, others require a little more persuasion.

Laurie Virr
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:32 pm

Post by Laurie Virr »

Laurie Virr wrote:Usonian, ‘carpenter furniture’ is, in my experience less expensive than that purchased in a store. Well designed, it is far more appropriate to the setting, being of the same character as its surroundings. There have been numerous illustrations on Wright Chat posts of inappropriate furnishings installed in Usonian houses: one only has to recall the images of the Lamberson house before its exquisite restoration.

Good Architecture requires a special client, an exceptional general contractor, and a gifted architect. Even given these circumstances, practitioners amongst us will be aware that sometimes it is necessary for the architect to protect the client against him or herself, besides guarding against the possible depredations of the general contractor, some of whom are always looking for the easiest, rather than the best means, of achieving a particular aim.

In my opinion it is better, if construction operations have exhausted available funds, to have minimum furniture until such time as more financial resources become available. FLLW often provided the simplest of benches at a dining table for use until the client could afford the cost of more expensive chairs.

Mention has been made of the tendency for clients to attempt to cut corners when the last aspect of the design, the furniture, is approached.

A strategy I have adopted for many years is to order both face and common bricks for a house. The latter, known here in Australia as ‘seconds’ are multi-colored, are chipped and have other defects. In contrast the face bricks are of a chosen color, have undamaged arises, and obviously command a much higher price.

I call for the face bricks to be laid up with raked beds and struck header joints. The areas of the masonry walls in front of which built-in furniture is to be constructed I have laid up in seconds with flush bed and header joints. I have saved the client money by the use of common bricks, and the extra labor necessary to create face work and rake the bed joints, but the markedly different appearance of the subject areas also creates a situation where it is necessary for the furniture to be built-in.

Folk behave towards Architecture in a completely different manner to the other arts. Few would consider purchasing a Rembrandt or a piece by Tapio Wirrkala, and adding a few dabs of paint, or etched lines in the glass, yet with Architecture they show less respect.

It is therefore necessary for architects to protect their creations by appropriate means, and the strategy outlined above goes some way towards achieving this.

In a well designed house there is a specific location for every piece of furniture. The house and furniture are one. There is little more degrading in our society than having folk move into a new tract house with their free standing furniture from their previous dwelling. The males of the family manhandle the individual pieces around the rooms until suitable arrangements are found, because frequently the design has been formulated with little regard to the placement of furniture.

My presentation drawings show all the proposed built-in furniture. I ensure clients have visited previous commissions, so if they refuse to accept the furniture, they reject the house. Satisfied clients remark on the unity and serenity that built-in furniture engenders within the dwelling. Some embrace the concept with alacrity, others require a little more persuasion.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

Furniture makers seem to be very skilled at their job, so if end grain stains darker, I suspect they would know how to address the problem. My 100+-year-old desk has exposed end grain that is exactly the same hue as the top. Also a mahogany table of late 19th century English A&C origin has trim pieces that were not mitered, and that end grain also matches the color of the rest of the table.

Not ones to "cut corners," the Freemans, once they had finished their house, had no money for furniture (other than the fireplace pews and the built-in bench in the lower floor lounge), so they sat on orange crates until they had the money to pay for better. Sam said he liked the room empty better than when it was later filled with RMS-designed furniture.

As to the Barnsdall furniture, what survived were a couple of early photos using a fish-eye lens, which distorted the couches so much that a reverse perspective was wildly out of whack and proved useless. There were some rough, free-hand sketches by RMS and living room plans showing the location of the couches. Blueprints (in the possession of a later client) were not followed at all, and since the aim was to recreate what had been built, we couldn't use them. The plans also called for light fixtures pendant from the large posts of the torchieres which were not included, but we had the posts bored to accept the wiring should that alteration ever prove to be appropriate. Certain details were not drawn, like the pattern of the spindles and the trim around the base of the table tops. The overall layout was not a problem, since the room is on a 4'x4' module, and the couches fit into that grid: It's exactly 24' from the edge of one large table to the edge of the other; one corner of each of the tops of the torchieres coincides with the point where the ceiling planes intersect; and the south ends of the couches align with the pattern in the carpet and the edge of the fireplace pool. At the last possible moment, just as Jim Ipekjian was about to start construction, a friend at the L A Times found a photo that clearly showed the trim (which was obviously not designed by FLW), so Jim was able to do that detail properly. As to end grain problems, there were none; all edges were trimmed and mitred.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Thanks, Roderick. That tells me more than I knew before about the design of this twinned structure. I'll post two photos, with apologies for the quality -- the published photos are larger than will fit on my scanner. The second photo shows both vertical elements; the other photo is taken from approximately the opposite direction.



Image
Tim Street-Porter photo


Image
Korab photo

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Here's a photo I was able to scan -- it shows the trim molding and other details a bit better.


Image
Scot Zimmerman photo

peterm
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Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

To me, the issue of the edge banding seems simple: The effect is that of a continuous uninterrupted horizontal band, also serving to stiffen and thicken the horizontal plane of the table top. The "butcher block" effect of the Copeland table disrupts the flow of the horizontal line. Imagine how strange the effect would be if we would see ends of boards or even veneer in a vertical direction only on one end of this Hollyhock table.

Notice how the edging is another narrower fascia relating to the fascia of the soffit above.

And this is still a relatively early piece when compared to the Usonian furniture.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I can't disagree with any of that. To me, it's a matter of redesigning an icon -- a piece of furniture already set in its historic mold. All of the variations of Wright's best-known coffee or cocktail table -- the one associated with more Usonian-era houses than any other design -- are made with plywood top and shelf, edged in one way or another with solid wood., minimizing the asymmetry of grain to a symmetric form.

To see this table with "butcher-block" top and shelf is odd; it's anachronistic in two directions at once, recalling both the Prairie-period tables we've looked at and later work by other designers. Compounding that is the choice of material and finish, also at odds with any known example of Wright's table.

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Yes, I didn't even mention the choice of cherry as opposed to cypress, or the rarer redwood.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Our OP (original poster) used the phrase "stop on reproduction" in describing the Taliesin Storage Ottoman and the Square Coffee Table. I had never heard this term before. I assume it means "an exact copy" ?

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

In the meantime, we could look at one of Copeland's other Wright designs. I must have copied this from a Copeland online publication of a couple of seasons back; I never moved the image to my web host so it hasn't been seen here before now, I guess. It's clearly based on one of one of the Dana tables, though it isn't exactly like either of the ones we've seen so far. It would be interesting to know how the top is made. The shape of the foot is much closer to that shown in the as-built drawing we have, than to either of the built original examples . . . ? http://savewright.org/wright_chat/viewt ... c&start=30



Image


edit: "than"
Last edited by SDR on Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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