Expert Answers: Golden Design

Is there a way to calculate good design? HANDY has the answer.

Q: Now that I have completed a few woodworking projects with the help of plans and patterns, I’m ready to design something of my own — perhaps a dresser or table. I’m not sure how to calculate dimensions that will result in an attractive piece. Is there a magic formula I can use? - Henry Balatro, Oak Park, IL

A: No hard-and-fast rules exist, but designers and artists sometimes use a formula called the golden ratio as a guide, says HANDY contributor Connie Bastyr. It’s a proportion found in nature (from seashells to the human form) that has been used since ancient times in architecture such as Egyptian pyramids and the Parthenon.

Identified by the Greek letter phi (o|), the golden ratio is a mathematical formula that rounds to 1.618 (see illustration). You can use this principle in furniture design by multiplying the width of a rectangular object, such as a tabletop (for example, 36 in.) by 1.618 to determine an attractive length (58.248, or 58-1/4 in.). Among many other applications, you can use the golden ratio to determine sizes of graduated drawer faces in dressers or cabinets and in countless other furniture design details. - HANDY