The New House of Windsor:
Bern Chandley talks to F&C about his interpretation of a style that’s never been out of fashion.
They say you should never meet your heroes and I’m inclined to think that the same rules apply when deciding where your next project will take you. Not so much a hero as an icon, the Windsor chair is so deeply ingrained in Western culture that to understand it completely is to understand man’s journey from
stone-wielding Neanderthal to steel-wielding millennial. And while the distance travelled is not commensurate with the time it’s taken to get here, the journey has been momentous.
Sitting in on a class at The Windsor Workshop last year James Mursell explained to me that ‘Windsor is not a
style, it’s a technique’. Dumbing it down for my benefit he went on to explain that any piece of furniture that has at its centre a slab of timber through which legs, arms or backs are passed constitutes a Windsor. And for a split second, in rural West Sussex time stood still and I’ve been considering the implications of that bombshell ever since. Suddenly the lineage of Welsh stick chairs to Shaker benches to Scandi chic and beyond all made sense.
New but familiar
One of many contemporary iterations of the Windsor form is being made by Bern Chandley in Melbourne, Australia. ‘I guess you could say it’s based loosely around the idea of a Shaker style,’ he told us, but that’s inevitable, surely? I mean weren’t the Shakers the original exponents of minimalist proportions for an aesthetic effect? For ‘effect’ yes, ‘original’ definitely not.
Bernard has been a furniture maker for 17 years, less than the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, but has put his use of the Windsor technique to great effect in creating some of the slickest contemporary seating you’re ever likely to see. You could argue that in terms of development we haven’t really come that far as the basic principles are the same whichever century you care to study. Stylistically, however, the subtle shifts in form make every version a variation of a perfect form that’s not only stood the test of time but has also lived in perfect harmony with its surroundings for the majority of man’s time on this planet.