Farmhouse Furniture Prototypes
Villagers discussing tendon tool
Bench back detail
Archetypal Chinese Bench
Village workshop
Shiijia Village, Shaanxi Province, China

Farmhouse furniture prototypes is a collection of furniture designed by Hong Kong-based, Canadian designer Scot Laughton for the House of All Seasons in Shijia village, Shaanxi province, China. The House of All Seasons designed by John Lin was awarded the 2012 Architectural Review House Award for his updated version of the vernacular mud brick courtyard house that is common in rural China.

The house and the furniture were commissioned by the Luke Him Sau Charitable Trust whose objectives are to use architecture/design to improve the lives of the rural population in China and to fund projects that are models for appropriate and sustainable development in rural China.

Scot Laughton who also teaches at the Hong Kong PolyU School of Design enlisted the help of students to research and develop the furniture prototypes. They met with villager carpenters and villagers who have basic skills in carpentry – visited their homes to see what tools they used and what construction techniques they were using. Laughton and the students were inspired by the archetypal Chinese bench one of them had just made. They also learned that a number of the village farmers were also capable of making these types of benches. This led them to consider a similar construction approach to the prototype furniture. Chinaberry, a locally available wood was used.

All the furniture has been designed so that it can be made locally by the villagers themselves – the idea being that they can copy and adapt the designs to their own needs. A round tenon tool that fits on a drill was introduced and used for the round mortise and tenon joints used on most of the furniture pieces. This modern tool will allow the villagers to do the joinery much faster which allows these craftsmen to produce furniture for other villagers at a more reasonable price rather than them paying for the more time consuming hand sawn and chiseled traditional double mortise and tenon joinery.

The collection of furniture prototypes includes a chair, stool, bench, dining table, low table and sofa.