More on Design

While I don’t always go through the trouble of drawing out projects in a lot of detail, I felt that my current design project was going to be fairly complex so I thought I’d do some additional detail design. So I started with my general outline from the last post and began breaking it down using some of the design tools I mentioned below and some others I have mentioned in a previous post to work out some of the smaller details of the wall unit.


I started from the bottom to work out the base molding first. Imposing Ionic column proportions on the height of the base cabinet, I used the height of the column pedestal (1/5 of the height of the base cabinet) to arrive at the height of the base molding. This looked good to me so I proceeded to work out the proportions of the feet.

Most pieces of this nature look sort of like a built in unit, with a solid base molding that wraps around the piece. While this looks ok, I wanted to refine my piece a little and make it stand out as a piece of furniture and not a built in unit. So I decided to give the piece the illusion of having bracket feet like a chest of drawers would have. I say illusion because I don’t really want to make the cases the typical dovetailed boxes on top of frames with feet like a chest of drawers would be since most of the side feet will be hidden by the adjacent boxes. It would be a lot of extra work that would never be seen. So instead I’m going to apply the “feet” to the fronts of all the cases and the outer sides of the outermost cases only just like a baseboard molding would be, except I’m going to scroll the base molding to look like furniture feet.


To work out the design of the “foot” I played with several of the proportional tools until I came up with a design that looked good to my eye. I started by imposing the proportions of an ionic column and entablature on the height of the foot. The column and entablature are broken down into six equal parts to arive at the height of the entablature (1/6) and column (5/6). Using the proportion of the entablature, I established the height of the sticking that I would put on the top edge of the base molding, i.e. 1/6 of the height of the base molding. From here I played with some other proportioning “rules” until I got a foot that looked nice to me and seemed to fit the proportions of the overall piece well.


After playing with some proportions for awhile, this is the “foot” design I came up with. It has a similar style to some bracket feet I have seen on some antique pieces from the middle third of the 18th century and to my eye looks very appealing. You can see how a lot of the different parts of the “foot” are related to each other and ultimately the height of the base molding.


After going through similar exercises for the cornice molding, waist molding and doors, this is what I came up with. Many of the parts are proportioned based on some of these “rules”, however, as I mentioned in the previous post, there were also a few “it just looks good there” moments that have no basis on geometry, common ratios or column orders. Sometimes you just have to go with what looks good to your eye.

I’m still a little undecided about the top of the piece as it seems a little light in relation to the bottom. I think it’s because we decided to go with open shelves at the top instead of doors. I may still decide to add doors to the top to balance out the piece or possibly add face frames to the front of the upper cases to give the top a little more needed “weight”.

What do you think?


5 thoughts on “More on Design

  1. I think you’re right that the crown molding could be bigger. In looking at the piece, overall, I think you might consider running a 2-3″ ‘face’ on the verticals between the left/right shelves and the center section. Not only would this define the areas a bit better, it would allow you to make the central doors be a bit rectangular rather than square. To me, the square doors look ‘odd’ next to the outer, rectangular doors.

    Thanks for sharing your design thoughts.

  2. I really like the design, including the crown molding the way it is. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  3. I’m thinking maybe you could raise the crown by adding a frieze. I guess the normal woodworking equivalent would be where you would add a dentil molding or maybe even a carved molding.

  4. Thanks guys! I actually like the crown molding, it’s the area between the waist molding and crown molding that looks “thin” to me. Perhaps adding doors to the top might fill it out some. If I made the crown molding any taller, it would rival the base molding in height and I think it should be slightly shorter than the base molding (which it currently is).

    Adding a frieze is certainly an option, however, that would push the “style” out of my preferred period. The earlier pieces (i.e. Queen Anne) were more conservatively adorned and lighter than the later pieces. The highly elaborate, multi-layer cornices came more in the Chippendale and Federal periods. This is when we started seeing bigger, heavier looking pieces with dentils, carved fretboards or firezes and more layers to the cornice. The earlier Queen Anne pieces typically had smaller, lighter, less elaborate moldings than the later pieces. I’m sort of going for that earlier, lighter, more delicate feel but at the same time I don’t want it to look empty.

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