Organic vs. Geometric Ornamentation

For my project, I’m making an ornamented nightstand using traditional joinery. I find myself in an interesting position because I’m already a good way into my project. I’ve designed my nightstand, cut out most of the pieces, and am now midway through assembly. All of that is to say it’s a bit late to make design modifications.

Assembly progress

What I have not yet designed or made is the ornamentation. I did create a preliminary design a while back when I was researching ornamentation. I originally thought I might use it for the nightstand, but the more ornamentation I do, the more options I realize there are and the more I want to branch out to explore them.

The initial design

My new plan is to spend Spring break working on ideas and then hone them into a final product when I return. That way, I can really hone in on the style I’m looking for. I’ve drawn on Central European ornamentation but along the way I’ve added my own twist. At the moment I would say my ornamentation has something of a dark fairy tale aesthetic. I’d also like to play with geometric underlays, which I did for one ornamentation piece already. I really like the subtle presence of the shapes. They guide the viewer’s eye through the piece without necessarily being visible themselves.


Some of my practice ornamentation work. The pattern on the right features geometric underlays.

That got me thinking about how I could flip the idea on its head. Instead of using them as underlays I could put the shapes front and center. The following sketch features shapes as the only decoration.

Alternate design

The design kind of reminds me of stained glass or mosaic tile work. Despite looking very different, the composition of the piece actually bears some resemblance to the original, with detail concentrated in an inner and outer region. And much like the original, it features vibrant colors. I think this sort of decorative stye could make for an interesting piece of furniture, but it’s not exactly what I’m going for. In the end, I’d still like to go with my current aesthetic, but in a way that aesthetic is still forming. My hope is that some of these alternate designs may inspire ideas that work their way into the final piece.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Abigail Schefer
    March 21, 2023 8:22 pm

    Cool project! Is this meant to be an art piece that sits on the nightstand or is painted/carved into it?

  • This is an amazing idea, I am excited to see the final result. Will you be exclusively painting or will you add any 3d embellishments (or carve into the wood?)

    • Anna Lugthart
      March 20, 2023 11:53 am

      I originally thought it could be fun to do all kinds of embellishments, but as I’ve been building the nightstand, two things have happened.

      One, I’m realizing it’s taking a lot longer than anticipated. A LOT longer. Though it’s technically still early in the project, I’ve been working on this since week 2 of the semester and have put at least several dozen hours of work into it. Possibly already over 100. Honestly I haven’t been counting. That may seem like a lot, but I made these from literal 2x4s and have done much of the joinery the tedious, slow way by hand. The goal is to make a piece of furniture that outlives me, so in my mind, it’s worth it. But needless to say, I’m getting worn down and want to finish up the project.

      I’ve also fallen in love with the form of the nightstand itself. The shapes, the texture of the wood, etc. At this point, I think painting it entirely or even adding carvings would detract from, not add to the piece.

      So my current plan is to sparingly add some painted decoration around the nightstand to highlight and hopefully elevate what’s already there.

  • Hi Anna, awesome project! That is really great that you’re already so far into your project. I would think that not rushing it will give you lots of time to hone in the ornamentation. Your ornamentation picture kind of reminds me of some of the more intricate typefaces that exist…that might be a good source of inspiration! Good luck!

    • Anna Lugthart
      March 20, 2023 12:00 pm

      Thanks. I must confess I’m a bit of a typography nerd! I practice the weird hobby of creating fonts by hand, on occasion. I’d never thought of it as a source of inspiration for my ornamentation, but perhaps it is. Thanks for drawing that connection!


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