This design truism is often wrongly attributed to sculptor Horatio Greenough. It was actually originally coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan in 1896, in an article titled “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”. The full quote is as follows:
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
Frank Lloyd Wright, who would later achieve great success as an architect and the designer and creator of some of the most beautiful Arts & Crafts furniture was Sullivan’s apprentice at the time.
Pure functionality does often produce great beauty as I have discussed before, so for the woodworker “Form Follows Function” is a pretty good maxim to remember. Although you might also want to consider that you can just a easily sit on a wooden packing crate as you can on a Chippendale side chair and I know which I consider the more pleasing to the eye – and I’m not even a great fan of the Chippendale style.