Jonathan Saunders’ new furniture designs are inspired by ancient Japanese architecture

Jonathan Saunders’ new furniture designs are inspired by ancient Japanese architecture

‘I want to look at furniture in a way that feels interactive and imaginative’: Wallpaper* talks to designer Jonathan Saunders as he unveils his latest furniture collection

Despite working for many years as a fashion designer, Jonathan Saunders trained in product design and furniture making, so his journey into launching new furniture pieces under his surname Saunders brings him full circle. ‘It’s personal,’ he says of the career segue. ‘As a creative when you create a body of work, you push yourself into trying different things.’

Saunders furniture design

Saunders announced his first foray into furniture just as the world closed down pre-Covid in February 2020, and this second collection updates the offering with new styles. Although he describes the shift from fashion to furniture as ‘a leap’ – the latter having longer lead times, more perceived permanence, less trend-driven and each piece is made to order - he considers it a natural evolution of his well-established colourful graphic handwriting; one that is both rewarding and challenging. 

One of the challenges has been navigating the past year while producing samples. In fact, due to Covid restrictions Saunders set up a print studio in the living space of his Williamsburg apartment. ‘I was really “in” the work. I think a lot of creatives have found these limitations have made them do things in different and exciting ways,’ he says. As if subconsciously rebelling against the constraints of the past year and a half, Saunders manifests a new spontaneity in these designs. ‘It’s always good to loosen up,’ he says. ‘I’ve always loved creating textiles that felt more free and painterly, but it wasn’t always something I was able to explore. After learning more about the techniques, it allowed me to become more flexible in the process.’

Experimenting with materials, colour and techniques

Free-hand poured ink in resin has a cloud-like softness, suspending dye in a watery, anti-gravity setting. Screen printing – Saunders’ trademark – appears on the Floor Chair and Flood Screen where colours are free-poured onto an open screen to allow for unplanned, fluid results. Despite describing the process as ‘almost accidental, controlled chaos,’ a labor intensive method of small scale trial and error was undertaken for each piece. 

While colour is central to Saunders’ print designs, initially his plan was to create a furniture collection in bone white, ‘as an exercise for myself, to focus on texture and fabrication, but colour came in organically throughout the process.’ Greens, blues, orange, yellow and khaki, are used with optic white and black and echo Saunders’ reverence of the Bauhaus. Saunders sought out the best metalwork and marquetry artisans to help fabricate the furniture, the majority of which are based in America. ‘There are experts here that are able to execute these pieces at such a high level,’ he says. ‘This is the first time I’m using timber and I wanted to use it in an interesting way. I met an amazing carpenter and together we developed a hinge for the Flood Screen that was made from wood and inspired by centuries-old timber joints in Japanese architecture.’ §

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