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Friday, November 23, 2012

Designer Spotlight Part 1: John Houshmand's reclaimed furniture design

John Houshmand 
Shazam Glass Low table with Spalted Maple Microslab #0187.1

John Houshmand is an innovative designer and furniture-maker who designs unparalleled sculptural furniture composed of reclaimed wood, glass and steel. He is dedicated to the eternity of trees and celebrates nature by integrating all its knots, cracks and wormholes from Black walnut and elm trees. Every one-of-a-kind piece emphasizes trees' beauty and infuses nature into interiors. A John Houshmand piece is a statement to any space. He has a New York City showroom but all the magic happens on his 900 acre farm in Upstate New York. His philosophy is simple, “We allow trees to do the talking. We simply listen.”

Read on to learn more about John’s stunning work. He has given Mod Design Guru an exciting, witty and thoughtful interview, so detailed that I decided to break it up in two parts. One of my favorite interviews thus far! Below he takes us behind his designs and gives his thoughts on sustainability for his furniture-making process. Part two of the interview will showcase the architectural features of his Mexico retreat, Tierra Adentro. Its amazing!

Interview with John Houshmand - Part 1:

Can you describe the magic in your designs that marry rustic and modern and defy gravity?

Oddly enough my greatest inspirations are musicians and composers. I play spontaneously composed and arranged music, and it is in that world that I get the greatest hand-to-god connection, and I look for that vibrational resonance in my 3-D creativity as well as. So the music of Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, Coltrane, Brad Mehldau, and others at that level are my constant companions. If I can use that standard as a way into the making of a static (or not so static) object, then I might get more fairy dust onto a piece than if I approached this as a design effort. 

Shazam Glass Low table with Black Walnut Microslab #0187

Black Walnut Dining Table with thick Acrylic legs#0023.3

Black Walnut Dining Table with thick Acrylic legs#0023.3

Black Walnut Desk with Acrylic legs #0184

Take us behind the design of your Tattooed Acrylic and Wood table. What was the inception of the idea? 

The tattooed designs started with a collaboration with Rockwell Group for a hotel in Asia. The call out was for literally "tattooed" wood, and everybody thought laser etching was the way. But the tests created a black micro-groove in the wood. When they asked us to go to beige and flush, we shifted to mechanical etching and a proprietary colored fill. Worked great! Then we said let's do it on 2" thick acrylic. Looked seriously amazing! And the clincher was when we said, "Let's go back to the laser, and groove it 1/2" deep, then fill with black, and get "curtains" into the matrix of the acrylic."
 Viewed on-axis you see the graphic. Viewed off-axis you see this wonderful inner world inside the acrylic slab with curtains of  black resin. We are going to try it with different colors and get the "aurora" table...

Tattooed Custom Etched Graphics

Solid Oak Outdoor table Dining Table  with 
Tattooed Custom Etched Graphics #0240

Tattooed Custom Etched Graphics

Solid Teak Outdoor table Dining Table  with
Tattooed Custom Etched Graphics #0241

Tattooed Custom Etched Graphics

With the shift in open plan living, will we see more designs like the console with ebonized and gray wash on Black Walnut?

So many of our pieces are really sculptural and as such are meant to be viewed in the round. We have designs on the books that reinvent different pieces, and the use-ability of these pieces. Often, access from both sides or all round is a new approach but one that gives new use as well as great visuals. Also we have envisioned hospitality uses, such as hotel suites where armoires are not against walls, mini-bars are corner mounted into tonsu-like units, and such. Let's get multi-dimensional here... It brings new uses, new interactions, and great design opportunities.

Console Cabinet with Ebonized doors and 
Gray wash and Black Walnut doors #0087.9

(all images courtesy of John Houshmand)

How did sustainability become a priority in your furniture making process?

I’ve gone the full circle from unhappy urban consumer to bored large-scale functionally monastic designer, manufacturer, and farm owner. Our culture is really quite ill when you turn the TV on, visit the mall, and spelunk the minds of many western semi-individuals. And the design world as a safe haven from that is a misnomer, as we are all still feverishly trying to make more stuff. Stuff is business, and business is profit margins. Can we have a rich life with fewer things that really mean a lot to us? What are the RELATIONSHIPS by which we acquire the stuff of our lives? It is really simple from a certain perspective: know the true necessity behind what you gather around you in your life. If we all owned HALF of what we owned, and made it last twice as long (our work will last hundreds of years at least), there you have an elegant calculus. Add to that the basic tenets of sustainability (proper materials, minimal radius, reusable/cyclable, low energy consumption, etc) for as many things as you can, and it is a start. Forget most hype, nonsense marketing, and green-washing. Almost nothing is very green: car, toaster oven, production foodstuffs, plastic anything, electronics, you name it. We are fooling ourselves. I am not advocating being a luddite, but let’s get real and stop the bullshit. At least ACCEPT that this is true, and maybe the mere consciousness of that alone will put a good worm in the brain, and little by little we will find ourselves wanting less, valuing the stuff of life, and getting an intuitive sense of how to make this world right. Good relationships, good food, good music, travel, study and love for the entire time you are on this planet, and an insistence to make this place better when leaving than when you came, that is sustainability. I have often wondered why millennia (yes millennia!) of human lives are spent in some deluded religious obsession with heaven or hell in the afterlife when it is about now and here. This is heaven or hell, depending on what you and I do. Start now. 

To connect with John Houshmand, 
you can link to his WEBSITE, BLOGFACEBOOK, and TWITTER.

Stunning work! 
Thank you John for an amazing interview! 

Part 2 of the interview of your gorgeous Mexican retreat 
Tierra Adentro to be posted on Sunday!!


  1. I love the Shazam Glass Low table with Black Walnut Microslab. I've never even thought of combining glass and wood that way, usually you see a lot of wood and stone but this looks great.

  2. I've always loved the look of a wood dining room table with clear acrylic chairs. So contrasting, so beautiful, so hot and cold. John's dining room table combines this concept allowing the chairs to be yet another material. My thought would be a fabulous set of slipper chairs done in strong vibrant colours / patterns


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