Emily's Daylily Chest

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Not all woodworking projects have to look like wood when you’re finished. The subtle shades of green and the bright red daylilies on this poplar blanket chest add a splash of color to any décor.

I enjoy designing and building for clients. The financial compensation is always welcome, as are the reactions of buyers who value my work. But the greatest rewards are those experienced when building for someone close to me; this chest fits into that category. Before cutting a single piece of wood, my wife and I decided it would be a gift for our 23-year-old daughter Emily.

This chest isn’t a reproduction of any period original. The general proportions and presence of three framed and painted panels on the front are similar to a particular 19th-century original, but the colors and the details of the botanical painting and all of the interior work are unique to this piece.

I used daylilies as a motif because during the weeks I designed and built this chest, daylilies were in bloom in our yard, available to be drawn. The scrollwork on the front has four abstract daylily flower shapes reaching down toward the ground, and the cutouts on the ends and back also emulate daylilies, this time in negative space reaching upward. And the botanical paintings on the front of the chest are all representations of daylily plants in bloom.

The volume of the chest is deceiving. The exterior waist molding is placed high, suggesting a relatively shallow interior with the bottom located at the same level as the molding, but the bottom is actually several inches lower. As a result, the chest has a greater capacity than its appearance indicates.

I chose poplar for this piece because it’s soft enough to be easily worked with edge tools, with a tight grain that makes an excellent painting surface.

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