Furniture Design Styles - Book Recommendations

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Forum topic by tywalt posted 07-08-2020 07:29 PM 321 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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106 posts in 969 days

07-08-2020 07:29 PM

Fellow LJ’s,
I was having a discussion with a fellow woodworker the other day who is working with his boss (read:wife) to design a new coffee table for their living room. In the discussion, we were going over different traditional styles of design: arts & crafts, mid-century modern, shaker, etc.. I was trying to explain some of the notable characteristics of each type and started to realize that it was fairly difficult for me to put into words. Looking at a piece and identifying the style (or styles) it is derived from kind of just comes as second nature… but, in trying to explain it to another human being, I am coming to the somewhat uncomfortable realization that I don’t know as much as I thought I did.

Anyway, does anyone have any recommendations for a book that covers the differences in the popular traditional furniture design styles? I have a few on Arts & Crafts furniture specifically, but was more looking at a comparison of different styles (kinda like the much beloved Schwarz book on bench designs).

I’d settle for a few good books that cover a specific individual style in depth, but I am lazy and looking to maximize effectiveness.

EDIT: Adding a list of recommended books from all you fine folks organized by “Style”

Arts & Crafts:
- Bob Lang – Great Book of Shop Drawings

- Ejner Handberg – Measured Drawings Of Shaker Furniture Vol. 1-3
- John Kassay – The Book Of Shaker Furniture

Greene & Greene
- Darrell Peart – Greene & Greene Design Elements

- Judith Miller – Furniture: World Styles From Classical to Contemporary
- Ernest Joyce – Encyclopedia of Furniture Making
- Ernest Joyce – The Technique of Furniture Making
- Frank Gottshal – Various

General Woodworking References:
- Bruce Hoadley – Understanding Wood

-- Tyler - Central TX

8 replies so far

View therealSteveN's profile


5934 posts in 1379 days

#1 posted 07-10-2020 05:31 AM

I’m more into the simpler looks seen in A&C, and Shaker. Not so much on the fussier Queen Anne, and Federal, and always more interested in American pieces than from other countries.

For A&C I really like Bob Langs books, for ideas, as well as how to

For Shaker there are many more modern authors with a good many glossy Shaker porn pictures, but for how to and design I default to Kasay. and all 3 of Ejner Handberg

Don’t forget your local library, and check to see if your state has an online collective library, that allows lends from more areas than you local covers. There could be some great finds in the library, and that enables you to weed out those you don’t find special to you, and decreases the bottom line of what you buy. More $$$$$$ for wood, and tools. :-)

Not a specific book on furniture styles, but the book probably most often referred to for info about the wood itself, and probably called a bible more than others is Bruce Hoadley Understanding wood. Probably also the most frequently suggested book to those seeking info about woodworking.

-- Think safe, be safe

View promatecex's profile


1 post in 30 days

#2 posted 07-10-2020 07:11 AM

View tywalt's profile


106 posts in 969 days

#3 posted 07-10-2020 01:33 PM

Thanks for the reply! I love Bob Langs books and Understanding Wood is one of my “must reads” for any woodworker. I was looking for a survey or primer on the more popular furniture design styles throughout history, but am coming to the realization that I cannot find one because it doesn’t exist.

Maybe it would be better to ask for (as steven already did) favorite books on your favorite design style. It would be useful if we could get a comprehensive list going.

-- Tyler - Central TX

View LeeRoyMan's profile


1250 posts in 532 days

#4 posted 07-10-2020 02:07 PM

Look for a book by Judith Miller, I remember she had one that had furniture through all the era’s but I can’t remember the name of it.

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

View controlfreak's profile (online now)


945 posts in 406 days

#5 posted 07-10-2020 02:45 PM

More books to read, Thanks Steven!

View Woodknack's profile


13439 posts in 3185 days

#6 posted 07-10-2020 04:22 PM

Franklin Gottshall – various

Jeffery P Greene – American Furniture if the 18th Century.

-- Rick M,

View therealSteveN's profile


5934 posts in 1379 days

#7 posted 07-10-2020 04:58 PM

Look for a book by Judith Miller, I remember she had one that had furniture through all the era s but I can t remember the name of it.

- LeeRoyMan

Below Millers listing there are several others of this type.

I have never “read” Miller. I have scanned through it, and maybe I just had a bad attitude, but got the impression it was geared more to Housewives trying to decorate, than woodwokers trying to make. Her background is selling antiques.

-- Think safe, be safe

View tywalt's profile


106 posts in 969 days

#8 posted 07-10-2020 06:51 PM

Added a running list to the top of the post.

-- Tyler - Central TX

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