Design ideas are everywhere, but you have to look at them not as a woodworker who wants to figure out how to build each one, but rather as a palette of shapes and forms that you find pleasing to your eye. When looking for design ideas, I make extensive use of the Internet, particularly google and google images. If I query google with something like: “ greene and greene entertainment center” it will return numerous sites that sell furniture over the Internet. Most have images I can click on to get a larger image, and when I find something I like, it is very easy to save that image to my computer. I catalog these images on my Mac using a program called MacJournal. After a few sessions online, I can easily accumulate 20 or 30 design ideas. I also try to capture the dimensions from the web site since that could be helpful later if I attempt to design my own piece loosely based on a particular image.
This is a picture of a Greene and Greene entertainment center I found on Fine Woodworking’s web site made by Andrew Drake. There is a lot to like about this design. First, I think he got the proportions perfect. There is wonderful symmetry both from right to left and from top to bottom. The curved doors are complemented by the curve in the bottom rail. The three drawers in the center occupy slightly less than 1/3 of the interior space, yet give the overall feeling of balance. Most importantly, an important design paradigm is for form to always follow function. You start with function, what the piece is supposed to do, then design the form to achieve the function, yet still be pleasing. I think Andrew Drake has achieved this goal.
Although I’ve found so much to like in Drake’s design, I don’t want to want to reproduce his piece exactly. I do want to use Drake’s design as a kind of design template, however. A “design template” is a kind of bounding box inside which I will place my own design. The basic shape and proportions become something akin to an artist’s canvass. The details inside that bounding box represent the changes I will make to incorporate my own design ideas.