Learning from Eastlake

In his best-selling book ‘Hints on Household Taste’ published in 1868, Charles Eastlake promoted a reaction against the prevailing neo-Baroque design style. Ironically the enthusiasm with which his ideas were adopted in the US led to the widespread industrial production of his furniture designs, undermining the very raison d’etre of its crafts-based aesthetic.  Consequently Eastlake’s star has faded in comparison to the later arts and crafts purists such as L&G Stickley, and despite his use of very particular details that have lessons for us today.

One example is the Eastlake table, a design that comes in a variety of sizes and shapes but which share certain common characteristics.  These include the fretted leg form with little three-dimensional modeling, and the central pin or newel feature at the intersection of the leg frets that appears to tie them together. Here are some illustrative examples:

If we reinterpret the Eastlake style in its fundamentals, we can envisage forms that are essentially ‘flat-pack’ in nature, joined with a central knuckle or pin. Some examples are shown here, drawing upon simple geometry to delineate the forms and dictate the size of the central joint:

The version on the left uses a combination of aluminum and glass to define the shard-like legs, joined by a steel or aluminum plug in drum form.  The version on the right is a more lyrical design, with legs in aluminum only.  Both tables have glass tops.  The central design is more closely related to the Eastlake precedent, being a side table in oak or similar with an aluminum newel.

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