Build a Minimalist Chair Out of Plywood

By Miranda Anderson


In the desert of West Texas lies Marfa, a picturesque town dedicated to the design style and legacy of modern artist Donald Judd. While visiting last summer, I fell in love with the minimal, utilitarian design of his art and the unique style he inspired in the town itself. I especially loved the many variations of plain plywood chairs that were set throughout the Chianti Foundation, which also houses Judd’s modern art collection.

There is a simplicity that makes the furniture feel so accessible, and yet still so beautiful — and it was enough to inspire me to make my own replica.

I’m a beginner woodworker, so I set out to make a simple, Marfa-inspired plywood chair, which requires only the most basic of skills. With some easy measuring, cutting, gluing, drilling, and sanding, you can make one, too!


3/4″ Plywood sheet, Birch (1) Cut to: 32″x15″, 14.25″x15″, 18″x15″ and 13.5″x15″

Wood screws, 2″ 16 count

Wood filler, to match your wood

The entire chair is 15″ wide from the front, so each piece is cut to 15″ width, and then cut to different lengths for each different piece. Of course, you can vary any of these measurements to work for your own personal design taste. For example, you could create a bench-style minimal chair, with the full measurement being 35″-50″ wide.

Spread a thin layer of wood glue along the edge of the front-leg piece, and glue it at a 90° angle to the seat piece. The seat sits on top of the front-leg, as shown by the traced line in the photo above.

Use a metal square or a square piece of wood to ensure the angle stays even while the glue dries.

Measure 2″ up from the bottom of the leg and, using the same method, glue the bottom-support piece onto the front-leg. Let the glue dry completely (a full 24 hours is always recommended).

After the seat and support are secure, use a straight edge to pencil a line down the center of the perpendicular plywood. This will be your guide for drilling holes for the screws.

Drill 4 even holes straight through both pieces of plywood along the front edge of the seat, and the front of the leg where it meets the support.

Screw the 2″ screws into the pre-drilled holes.

Next, glue the back piece onto the front pieces, measuring the same 2″ from the bottom and meeting the support piece evenly so the chair is square.

Use the same method as above to pencil, drill, and screw the back of the chair in place.

Finally, use the wood filler to cover the screws. Once it’s dry, sand the filler smooth. Sand any rough or sharp edges along the chair, then enjoy!

I plan to take my chairs one step further by painting the edges white, and then finishing the wood all over with a couple clear coats of polyurethane to protect them from the elements. Using the same basic steps, I’m also looking forward to creating some minimal style bookshelves and a table to sit out on the patio along side them! 

More from Make:

Kids’ DIY “FUNiture” Kit

How to Build a Mission Control Desk

Plywood Coffee Table


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