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This understated design is at home in any setting.

When it came time to replace the dated and worn bar stools at our kitchen island, I wanted something simple, sturdy and elegant and so I took a few design cues from the Torii gates marking entrances to Shinto shrines in Japan. The curved tops and simple lines of these beautiful thresholds provide the perfect inspiration for a streamlined stool that looks at home with any décor.

Start With the Seat

1. Mark the leg mortises 2″ in from the front and 21/2″ in from the sides. Connect the dots so that you can lay out your sightlines.

The heart of this stool is the simple, shapely seat. This will be a visual focal point of the finished stool, so choose a species that looks good and doesn’t split easily. I used
poplar. It’s inexpensive and, as a “softer” hardwood, it makes strong, workable chair seats.

2. Skip the math and use sightlines to drill your mortises.

Begin with a slab of 8/4 lumber. Square and flatten all faces, edges and ends to final measurements of 171/2” x 91/4” x 17/8” before laying out the four leg mortises. These four points are located on the bottom of the seat, 2″ in from the front and back and 21/2” in from each end. Use a straightedge to connect the points along the front and back of the seat and draw sightlines at 30° from each of the four points toward the center of the seat using the connecting line as a reference.

3-4. A 90° square will help you see if you’re wandering left or right from the bevel that rests on the sightline.

The mortises are bored at compound angles giving the legs an eye-pleasing rake and splay. This increases stability, keeping the finished stool from tipping in any direction. To account for this rake and splay without dusting off your high-school trigonometry, use a 30° sightline and 12° resultant angle. Begin by marking drill…

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