It started innocently enough. A couple of readers on my blog suggested that I teach a class on building the Byrdcliffe linen press, a project I built for the cover of another magazine in 2006. That large cabinet, with carved and colored sassafras leaves on the doors and green-stained quartersawn white oak was one of my all time favorite furniture reproduction projects. But I recognized that it would be too much to tackle in a week-long class.
Almost immediately I thought of the Iris desk, another Byrdcliffe piece that is similar in many ways to the linen press, but considerably smaller and with simpler carving. Like the linen press, the desk is stained green and the carved panels are colored. Unlike the larger piece, the desk is made of cherry. I went on line and to research the desk, and made the discovery that the Winterthur Museum has many original drawings from the Byrdcliffe colony.
In the world of American Arts & Crafts furniture, the output of the Byrdcliffe colony was but a spark. The cabinetmaking shop was in operation for less than two years and only produced about 50 pieces of furniture. What sets these pieces apart is that they were a collaborative effort of the artists in residence at the colony and the craftsmen in the cabinet shop. Adding artistic decoration to furniture is difficult to do well, but the Byrdcliffe designs do it in grand style, a wonderful blend of good proportions and subdued decoration. This small group contains some of the most interesting and captivating designs of the period.
To access the rest of this content, you must register for a 360 Free Membership or login to your premium membership account.