Arts & Crafts Style Inspired Prairie Couch, Oak Leaf and Acorns Hand Carved Panels

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 05-09-2006 02:28 PM 21814 views 32 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a commissioned piece of art-furniture, and so it has been (SOLD).

I would love to build another one.

If you are interested in an uncomprimisingly built, heavy duty, solid wood couch,

please email me at: [email protected]

You can see more of this project at my website

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Here is a list of the Arts & Crafts Projects I have posted that were part of this commission:
  1. Sectioned Entertainment Center
  2. Orchid Stand/Wine Storage
  3. End Tables
  4. Coffee Table
  5. Table Lamps
  6. Prairie Couch
  7. Morris Chairs & Ottomans

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Project Story:
This is my interpretation of the Prairie Couch, but since I, and the customer, like carving, I was allowed to decorate this piece with a favorite wisdom statement they found, and White Oak leaves/acorns motif. The wood was highly figured Quarter Sawn White Oak, and since I had plenty of it, I used the same wood for all the secondary wood places, such as the wood slats under the seat cushions.

The photos aren’t great, but they do show some of the details of this couch.

The overall length is just under 84”, so it holds three large adults. The cushions are a Paprika high grade leather the customer selected.

Taking me just under 400 hours to complete, I felt that I moved pretty quickly on the construction, and there was a lot of carving, 5 Panels with Oak Leaves/Acorns, and the long raised letters on the front with more Oak Leaves/Acorns at the beginning and end of the lettering section.

Each of the slats has it’s own tenon, and fits into it’s own mortise. I know, I know… modern plans tell you to cut a groove, and then use small blocks to fill the gap between the slats. I have tried that method, and I am convinced that making tenons and matching mortises is not only quicker, the glue cleanup is easier, there are no unslightly gaps that show in the final product, and most importantly, the little glued tenons provide great strength to the frame of this couch.

This was a large, but fun project. This couch, has a lot of wood in it, and so it is heavy. The customer told me that they had a heavy 450lb friend that comes to visit, and so I wanted to make sure that if he sat in the middle of the couch, it easily would hold him. Under the leather seat cushions are a wood slat system, with 3” cross white oak structural members to support the slat panels. I did not use any plywood in this project.

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Want to See More of my Furniture Work?:
If you go to my Mark DeCou Website you will find that I have not updated my website in quite some time. I realize that I need to invest in improving my website, but until that is accomplished, here are some more Lumberjocks related lilnks with updated postings of my furniture work, sorted into categories. Thanks for your interest in my work, and your patience with my website.

Arts and Crafts, Mission Style Related Projects:
  1. Arts & Crafts Entry Table; with Carved Oak Leaves
  2. Arts & Crafts Orchid Stand w/ Wine Bottle Storage
  3. Arts & Crafts Style Morris Inspired Chairs
  4. Arts & Crafts Display Top Coffee Table
  5. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired End Table Set
  6. Arts & Crafts Style Inspired Prairie Couch
  7. Table Lamps
  8. Arts & Crafts Carved Entertainment Center
  9. Mission Entertainment Center
Church & Worship-Art Related Projects:
  1. Carved Communion Table
  2. Carved Roll Top Sound Equipment Cabinet
  3. Fancy Chuch Altars
  4. Processional Cross
  5. Fancy Speaker's Lectern
  6. Church Hymn Number Board
  7. Communion Chalice (Cup) and Paten
Art-Furniture Related Projects:
  1. Sam Maloof Inspired Walnut Rocker
  2. Original Art Carved Tilt Front Desk, inspired by Birger Sandzen
  3. Natural Edge; Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table
  4. Decoratively Painted Box End Tables
  5. Birch China Cabinet for Cut Glass Collection
Rustic, Western, Cedar Log, and Cowboy Related Projects:
  1. Naughty (Knotty) Refined Rustic White Oak & Black Walnut China Hutch
  2. A Kansa Indian and Buffalo Accent Art-Chair
  3. Refined Rustic Dining Chairs
  4. Refined Rustic Dining Table
  5. Cowboy-Western Style Suitcase/Luggage Support Racks
  6. Fun With Cedar Logs #1; Sitting Stool
  7. Fun With Cedar Logs #2; Coat/Hat/Spur Rack
  8. Fun With Cedar Logs #3; Western Style Hat/Coat Rack
  9. Fun With Cedar Logs #4; Entryway Stool
Outdoor Furniture Related:
  1. Kennebunkport Style Adirondack Chair
  2. Outdoor Garden Wedding Arbor
  3. Outdoor Project: Cedar Wood Double Settee

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Still Want to See more of my work?

Start with each of these links, and they will take you to other organized lists of my other niche products:

  1. Custom Knives
  1. Custom Walking Canes and Walking Sticks
  1. Artisan Hat Making Tools

(This project design, project story, and photos are all protected by Copyright 2006 by the Author, M.A.DeCou. No unauthorized use in full, or part, is permitted without the expressed written permission of the Author. )

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

18 comments so far

View Sawdust's profile


128 posts in 5521 days

#1 posted 05-09-2006 08:30 PM

That is an awesome heavy-duty sofa. The carving looks great, and compliments the Prairie look and thru tenons nicely. I agree that a lacquer finish can be nerve wracking, especially in the winter when you try to heat up the shop enough to spray. have you tried any of the water based products? i have had good success with Resisthane that I get from Highland Hardware Co.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5520 days

#2 posted 05-10-2006 01:38 PM

Thanks Tennessee Sawdust:
I have been using only Deft Semi-Gloss Lacquer for a few years now, and there are problems with it, mainly the smell and shop explosion worries. I have solved these with the explosion proof fan, and the small spray booth.

I have not tried the Resisthane, thanks for suggesting it.

The main reasons I like Deft Lacquer is that I can put on about 15-20 coats in one day, and only lightly sand right before the last coat. After I put on the next to last coat, I go over everything with a sanding sponge, then shopvac with a brush attachment everything, all the nooks and crannies. Then one more light coating of spray, and I’m done. What is left is a buttery feeling, smooth, blemish-free, run-free finish.

The other main reason is the ability to touch up dents, scratches, and flaws in the wood/finish, and such.

It also makes refinishing very easy. I finished a set of Morris Chairs before the Prairie Couch for the same customer, and their dog liked to jump up on the chair and bark out the window, scratching up the arms of the Morris Chair. The customer was devastated after such an investment.

I was able to lightly sponge block sand the scratched arms, and spray another coat of Lacquer on. The new coat just wonderfully melted into the older layers, and turned out a smooth original looking finish.

Can’t do that with Polyurethanes, Urethanes, or Oils.

During the winter once I tried Tung Oil, another time I tried Deft Oil. Both took several days to complete the finish.

I had horrible event with Polyurethane one time, sanding it all back off and starting over.

It seems that anything that thins with Paint Thinner gets runs and drips very easy for me (probably my poor techniques), especially with something like a Mission piece with lots of slats and corners.

The Deft Lacquer never runs or drips on me, I have learned exactly how much to shoot on, and then stop before it drips.

I have not tried any of the water based finishes, although I have thought about it at times, but it is hard for me to leave what I have become so good with using.

I’ll do some reading on the Resisthane you suggested and see what I think.

I make no money for my words about Deft, in fact they charge me full price for their products, ha.

thanks for your kind words and suggestion,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Philip Edwards's profile

Philip Edwards

245 posts in 5553 days

#3 posted 05-13-2006 05:17 PM

A lovely project, Mark. I love A+C stuff, and this is great. The oak has wonderful figuring.
Hope the client is enjoying this one!
Keep up the good work,

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5520 days

#4 posted 05-13-2006 05:49 PM

Thanks Philip: coming from England, you probably get a chance to see the real Arts & Crafts. That term has been so modified by greedy salesman and advertising catalogs over the years, that is really has no meaning in America today. People get confused on what is “Mission”, what is “Craftsman”, what is “Prairie”, and what is actually “Arts & Crafts”. I use the term Arts & Crafts to describe my work, as it is carving decorated objects, made in a small, self-employed, one-man shop. What really gets me frustrated is when I read how people confuse the whole “Stickley” name. Gustav Stickley would roll over in his grave if he heard how today that his two brothers that stole his designs and copied his work, and sent him into bankruptcy, were talked about with as much gusto as people talk about Gustav. I wrote some of this up on my website articles section from some old articles and reference books I read while studying to build the large commission of Arts & Crafts furniture I did for a customer.

Thanks for your comments.

I am trying to talk my sister into letting me build her a Greene & Greene round table for her dining room. She wants a piece of functional art, with inlay, and something she says, “you wouldn’t dream of putting a table cloth on”, and “something people notice the first time they walk into my dining room, and say wow!”

Thanks for sharing your G&G work with the rest of us.

Your Kansas buddy,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Ellen's profile


140 posts in 5560 days

#5 posted 05-25-2006 11:36 PM

Awesome quartersawn oak. The quality and craftsmanship speak for themselves. Very nice work!

-- Ellen --

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5520 days

#6 posted 05-26-2006 05:13 PM

Thanks Ellen:
This wood was extraordinary. The arms of this couch are as nicely figured as any quartersawn white oak I have ever seen on any piece of furniture, or in a book. After sifting through more than 3000 bdft of wood looking for spectacular grain for the arms, I picked out this board. What makes it even better on the arms, is that the same board runs all the way around the “u” shape, making sure that grain and color matches. Pictures just don’t do it justice, only God can make wood like that.

thanks for your comments, your sculpting work is quite motivating. I looked at your website. Please take a moment some time and describe the inspriations and thoughts you go through as you conceive of the idea and work it to completion in your work.

Your work will be prized by the owners long after your life here is over, and it will be important to document these thoughts for others to enjoy and understand, if you haven’t already done that.

If you haven’t seen his work before, I put a link to J. Christopher White’s website. Your work reminds me of his work. I was alerted to his abilities from a bronze sculptor in San Antonio that I am friends with, and then I asked for White’s book “Parables” for Christmas last year. The book is wonderful, and full of motivation if you haven’t seen it before.

thanks again,
Mark DeCou (P)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5413 days

#7 posted 08-25-2006 03:52 PM

A great work of art. I have never had much taste for Mission, Arts & crafts furniture, but there’s something about your work that seems more eye appealing. I guess it’s the carving that adds the touch that made my mouth water. I checked out your website, & you have some terrific things to look at. I think you’ll be on the list of top furniture makers, if not now, in the near future.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View pat sherman's profile

pat sherman

625 posts in 5486 days

#8 posted 11-14-2006 05:28 AM

all i can say mark is wow. nice work. you can make me one any time you want.

oak is hard to carve. but you did a great job on it.

the man is lucky to have found a good craftsman to make it for him

-- pat,ohio...

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 5191 days

#9 posted 04-19-2007 06:04 AM

This is one great piece of art work. Wonderful woodworkings.

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5291 days

#10 posted 05-09-2007 08:28 PM

Mark, you posted this one exactly a year ago.


-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 5191 days

#11 posted 05-10-2007 05:56 AM

Do the shuffle….

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5211 days

#12 posted 05-10-2007 06:05 AM

Back to the woodworking song post…..

“Do the shuffle” sung to the melody of “do the hustle”


In general I am in awe of your work. I would love to own one of your canes one day. May have to break a leg or something so I have a true need.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View RonR's profile


71 posts in 5122 days

#13 posted 06-07-2007 09:26 PM

Exactly! WOW! Fantastic! I love it.
I have dreams of building Stickley furniture for my home. QS White Oak is really a beautiful wood. I have not seen an example such as your creation with all the carving. That really is well done! By the way, where did you get the upholstery done? Did you do that too or did you find someone to custom make the cushions?

-- RonR, Massachusetts

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5150 days

#14 posted 06-07-2007 11:18 PM

Well, Mark, I don’t know what to say. I spent my lunchhour showing my father your projects. Always impressive in both workmanship, design, presentation and the underlying story. Thanks. One could get lost in viewing the work that you do.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 5425 days

#15 posted 06-08-2007 04:50 AM

Awesome carvings, craftsmanship and it leaves me speachless. Excellent!

-- Jesus is Lord!

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