An Art Deco Inspired Buffet

Wow! This buffet was a lot of work and I was pretty spent physically and emotionally by the time it was finished. Often people ask me if it is hard to part with my furniture after I have put so much creative effort into a piece and the answer is almost always no. It’s kind of like being in solitary confinement for several weeks with your spouse or best friend. As much as you love them, after so much intense contact, it is good to get a little distance. I am also inevitably in need of a pay check by the time the finish has dried on a current project, and monetary compensation usually helps to ease the pain of saying any goodbyes.

Most of the great names in furniture history like Thomas Chippendale, Duncan Phyfe, Emile Galle, or E.J. Ruhlmann did not personally build the furniture to which their names are ascribed. Instead they employed workshops in which anywhere from dozens to hundreds of craftsmen worked to produce the pieces they designed. Those guys were a lot smarter than I am. I have never had more than three assistants at any one time and I currently work entirely by myself except for a long time friend who does my finishes for me. So, I personally designed and fabricated every little part that went into the making of this buffet. I cut every little dovetail and every little mortise and tenon joint that holds things together. I pressed veneer, sculpted pulls, turned the feet, and sanded, and sanded, and sanded… And look at those crazy angles and curvy parts. Don’t know why I did that to myself, but it’s over now. I only wish I could afford a vacation; I really need one, but I am already working on the coffee table that is to accompany this piece.


(Click on any image to enlarge.)

The design for this buffet (some people call it a sideboard) has its roots in a couple of earlier pieces. Sixteen years ago a client approached me about making a cabinet to house his audio equipment and his large collection of jazz and blues CD’s. He is a great lover of art deco design and wanted the shape of the cabinet to echo that of a deco juke box. We sat down together and eventually came up with a plan that materialized into a piece we fondly named the Blues Box. It was intended to be a musical, whimsical cabinet that would make you smile to look at. It was also a challenge to build and I learned some things in the making.

Blues Box

A couple of years later I was discussing a credenza with another client who wanted something unusual for her home office. When she saw photos of the Blues Box she requested something done in the same spirit. The resulting piece had file drawers, pull-out work surfaces, and a flip down drawer front that revealed a shelf that held a keyboard.

Deco Blues Credeneza

When my present clients saw pics of the credenza they loved it and wanted their buffet in a similar design; so this briefly summarizes how the design of the buffet came to be. As I said, I am presently building a coffee table for the same wonderful people, and since they live 1500 miles away, the buffet has been sitting in my living room until I can finish and deliver both pieces. Now that I have a little distance from the construction of it, it is delight to wake up to a daily view of this sideboard. The shimmering beauty of the figured bubinga and curly maple provide a visual feast for the eyes, and I have to admit, I got a great fit on the drawers and doors.

The striped sides are veneered but the top, drawer fronts, and doors are all solid wood. The drawer sides and backs are sipo mahogany and the drawer bottoms are lovely quarter sawn sycamore. My intention was to create a piece that lets you see beautiful materials and fine craftsmanship everywhere you look.

The interior is veneered in a softly figured curly maple and contains a removable shelf .

The buffet was made so that it could be set out in an open area of a room and look good from the back as well as the front. Back panels are veneered in figured bubinga and trimmed in wenge.

The drawer pulls are hand sculpted from wenge, a very tough and durable wood. I installed steel threaded inserts on the back sides of the pulls and they are secured to the drawer fronts with stainless steel machine screws.

To see more of my work, please visit my gallery page.

Now, it’s back to that coffee table.

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