Personal Aesthetics : Rough to Refined

I would say that my personal aesthetic tastes have been developed mostly through my woodworking experiences. I have been doing some form of woodworking since high school, and for the past two years I have worked as a builder for Boulder Furniture Arts, a custom furniture shop here in town. Much of our standard furniture has roots in the shaker style. This style, which has influenced most modern furniture in America to some degree, comes out of the American Shaker tradition. The Shaker movement was a religious following / lifestyle, founded in America by Mother Ann Lee after migrating over from England in the 1770s. The Shaker lifestyle placed an emphasis on simplicity and functionality, and these principles made their way into all of the Shakers’ practices and creations. In designing furniture, tools, and architecture, they tended to leave off any decorative details and stick to clean lines and natural materials, making for a refined and timeless aesthetic.


I would not say that the Shaker style in its pure form is my favorite aesthetic, but its principles of simplicity and refinement definitely resonate deeply with my aesthetic preferences. The majority of the work that we do at my shop is actually custom furniture for people using exotic hardwoods and a lot of live edge slabs. It was this type of work more than anything than drew me in and made me want to work there. Aesthetically, I really like the idea of using high quality natural materials, like wood or granite, and converting them from their rough raw form to a perfectly smooth and polished slab or curve. Ultimately, this requires working around the character of the material and simplifying designs in order to bring out the natural beauty of the material structure, rather than using the material to highlight an interestingly designed form that may be more decorated and complex. In a sense, you are letting the material do most of the work, and you are just there to finish the surface and let the hidden structure shine.


This coffee table, featuring a figured slab of Siberian Elm, demonstrates this ‘rough to refined’ aesthetic well.



This pipe that I made before I started working in the furniture shop is another example of this aesthetic.


This Beetle Kill Pine table top is a great example of letting the material do all of the work. As a designer for this piece, all you have to do is make a smooth, flat rectangle, and let the wild wood grain speak for itself.


Recently, I have been branching out and trying to explore new mediums to work with. Steelwork/welding has been one that I have been trying to practice and get better at. When it comes to less organically intricate materials like steel, the designer has more to think about in terms of complex forms. Unless you are using steel as a secondary material, such as in creating simple steel legs to emphasize a fancy table top, you will likely want to be more creative with steel structures since the material itself is not as interesting to look at. This is my intension with the floating, tension based, steel coffee table base that will be my final project. I like trying to create designs that make people stop and think about things a bit differently, without being jarring to the senses. Trying to create a table base that is perplexing and dynamic, without becoming cheesy and losing a sense of refinement will be the biggest challenge. I plan on using a combination of curved and sharp lines, in order to draw interest, without losing too much likability. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I am happy so far with where my aesthetic is headed.


Sources :

  • DaveVisionDPeditor, director. Shaker Furniture Maker. YouTube, YouTube, 18 Oct. 2011,
  • “Built-in Cupboards, Drawers, c. 1830.” Hancock Shaker Village,
  • Holdefehr, Katie. “Shaker Style: A Key to Timeless Home Design.” Apartment Therapy, Apartment Therapy, LLC., 3 May 2019,
  • Wycoff, Carl., 16 Apr. 2018,


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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Gary Marshall
    March 14, 2021 8:58 pm

    Hi Erik,
    I am so jealous that you get to work with wood all day. I believe that hands-on work can be stress relieving and if you get paid for it, even better. I was never able to take woodworking classes in high school, they were not offered in Venezuela. However, as soon as I got to the U.S., I began to practice and try to get good at it. I am really excited to see what your steel coffee table looks like. I am very interested in seeing what you learn about this new medium for your work.

    • Erik Skooglund
      March 15, 2021 2:24 am

      Hey Gary, thanks for the comment! I agree, It can be very relaxing to do woodworking (when everything is going according to plan). I am glad that you have been able to get into woodworking and are enjoying it!

  • Zack Lindsey
    March 14, 2021 8:57 pm

    I really like your idea of making a table entirely out of steel and to give it the illusion that it is floating. I think you have quite a few design challenges ahead of you as far as getting the tension system to work and making it not look “cheesy” as you outlined, but I believe there are a lot of solutions that would look great. I was wondering what you planned on doing with the top of the table. Do you plan on using a piece of sheet metal with some sort of finish or do you plan on constructing it from multiple pieces? This sounds like an awesome project and I am excited to see the future progress!

    • Erik Skooglund
      March 15, 2021 2:27 am

      Hey Zack, thanks for the feedback! For the table top, I will either make a new wood top (probably solid walnut), or I will use one that I have laying around if I run out of time.

  • Hannah Moller
    March 12, 2021 12:05 pm

    What a great way to talk about your aesthetic. I definitely can understand the want to keep the overall aesthetic of the design being what some would consider simple except that the materials used bring a complex beauty to the piece at the same time. I can’t wait to see how your coffee table ends up coming out and am looking forward to learn more about your process.

    • Erik Skooglund
      March 15, 2021 2:29 am

      Hey Hannah, thanks for the comment! Yes, I’m excited to see how I can make this aesthetic work with this project idea.


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