Designing and Making Comfortable Chairs
by Peter Dorman
(Australian Publication)

175 x 240mm

Published by Skills Publishing Pty Ltd, PO Box 514, Hazelbrook NSW 2779.

As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 100

When approaching 80 years of age, the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, confessed that there was seldom a time in his early life when some part of his anatomy did not ache from contact with his own furniture. That may have been an overstatement, but it’s nevertheless true that the visual appeal of all too many pieces of ‘fine’ furniture is not accompanied by an equivalent level of comfort.

Woodworkers who have attempted to make a chair will be well aware of the problem. Balancing the aesthetics of chair design with comfort is not easy, and even a barely adequate outcome demands a great deal of experience. As usual, there are two and only two ways of acquiring this experience. The first is to make a lot chairs. The second is to learn from someone who has made a lot of chairs.

Peter Dorman has made a lot chairs. For more than ten years, he was a professional woodworker, designing fine furniture and leading a team of craftsmen in its manufacture. A personal interest in comfort (he suffered from the malady best known as ‘a bad back’) and a penchant for finding practical solutions to the problems with which he is confronted, led him to develop a kind of general modis operandi for the design of comfortable chairs. This is the essential substance of the first few chapters of his book The Best Seat in the House.

Yet, despite its relatively small size, the book is much more than an exposition of theory. It also contains detailed descriptions of the construction of four very different styles of chair, including dining and occasional chairs, as well as an attractive Rocker. These serve to illustrate the design concepts which the author formulated, and to provide comprehensive guidance in the principal techniques used in the making of chairs.

A chapter on the making of seats offers the author’s thoughts on the contribution these make to the overall comfort of chairs and a Glossary provides a quick reference to the terms used throughout the book.

The Best Seat in the House is an interesting and well thought-out book which explores the basics of chair comfort, and gives the reader the practical help necessary to make good chairs.

Photos: Black & White with Colour Section

Units of Measurement: Imperial


Introduction to Chair Design

Design Concepts

Chair Design

High Back Chair

Davis Chair

Wingback Chair

Rocking Chair

The Seat


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