The Irish Boat-Builder Chairs

Brendan Lawless Workshop in Co. Wicklow

I moved to Wicklow earlier this year, I came accross an original chair on display at a local market, picked up a business card and found out after talking to Brendan Lawless that I live 10 minutes away from his wooden workshop.

Brendan bought back to life the Irish Boat Builders Chair, from an original 1830 design. Brendan told me that during the recession, business was slow and he had time to build pieces he had an interest in. He purchased an antique Boat-Builder Chair and reproduced the design.

My Irish-Boat Chair standing proudly in the workshop
Made by Hand in Co. Wicklow

The Boat-Builder’s chair is hand-made using traditional techniques. The ribs are steam-bent, a technique still used by boat-builders to add strength to wood.

What first attracted me to the Irish boat builders chair was its simple and unique design and I wanted to give the design a new lease of life. This involved honing my skills as a furniture-maker and learning the art of steam-bending, a traditional technique used by boat-builders.
Brendaw Lawless in his Workshop

Simplicity and functionality

The distinctive feature of traditional Irish furniture and design to me lies in its beginnings, that is, in the function of each piece. The boat-chair follows this tradition of simplicity and functionality.
The legs are turned by hand on a lathe. I built a steam-box to bend the ribs of the chair. Not wanting to deviate too much from the original mood of the chair — it was a deep red colour — I experimented with different finishes and shades.
Brendan in his workshop

What inspired me with the Boat-Chair is that it is a unique piece with history and it is hand made beside where I live. The Chairs are made to order in a variety of woods including beech, red oak, ash, or can be painted any colour.

Three weeks after I first spoke with Brendan, I went to collect the chairs in the workshop last weekend, they are made of beautiful Ash and fit very well in the house already.