Learn Furniture Design – Rowden Atelier

Learn Furniture Design

A student designed and made box on a furniture design course at Rowden Atelier


Good design is half art, half science. Finding the balance that is informed by both is fine, but each individual is capable of getting there. We address both the artistic and technical aspects of design in the full 12-month course at Rowden and cover many of the fundamental principles in our 6-month course as well. A background in design is not necessary, nor is a creative skillset. Our courses help each student’s unique individual design expression. It’s not about qualifications or prior experience; it is about attitude and application.

artistic drawing

We cannot overstate the importance of committing time to draw and sketch as a cabinetmaker. One of the few common threads amongst new students has been their belief that they couldn’t draw or be creative.

Our artistic drawing classes have shown that this has not yet been true of anyone, each just needed to look at their subject differentlyDrawing is the absolute best way to connect your eyes, hands and mind. Quoting our late founder David Savage:

an image from the art syllabus in a woodworking course at Rowden

 ‘all drawing is, is looking at something very, very hard. The quality of the drawing doesn’t matter so much and will come with practice. What matters is the process of looking, building a visual vocabulary of shapes. Suddenly you will start to see…unless you have something in your seen, felt or visual memory, when it comes to design you have little unique inspiration to draw upon’.

a drawing of a piece of furniture on the Rowden Atelier woodwork course

technical drawing

Technical drawing skills are necessary for cabinetmaking both to convey information and to understand the drawings associated with the build of a piece of furniture. Students build their skill in technical drawing during the making curriculum directly and the dedicated technical drawing syllabus.
Students will learn how to complete a 1:1 rendering of a piece of furniture by hand as well as express form in space, either for detail interrogation or presentation. We cover in detail how one addresses scale, shape, composition and detail, all to enable you to better record and convey ideas.


Design is a complex subject, personal to each of us. Yet, there are guiding principles – classical proportion, geometry, examples and highlights of celebrated and revered furniture throughout history. Our design syllabus explores these principles and the associated rules. Only from here we can understand where they can be flexed or even broken. We approach interpreting briefs, expressing our designs with clients and how one can best convey their work.

An award winning, student made desk from a woodworking course at Rowden Atelier

computer aided design

At Rowden, we teach RhinoCAD. Its balance of shallow learning curve and effectiveness makes it an excellent choice for the fine furniture maker. Its use in cutting edge design is also well established with the likes of Waywood FurnitureJoseph Walsh FurnitureFoster + Partners and McLaren, all prominent users. We teach students about the opportunities and pitfalls in designing on a screen and naturally assume no prior experience in the medium. The interface shares some close similarity to other software such as AutoCad and SolidWorks.

Being adept in CAD is another vital tool in the kit for designer/makers. Therefore it should not be an afterthought, and if you are to approach it, it should be with a professional software package.

The design curriculum completes the puzzle in combination with the practical experience at the bench and our business classes. It enables students to understand and scrutinise their creative voice, building a vocabulary and a professional portfolio of work.