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Design Tastemaker: Jared Rusten

He’s become known for his California series tables — hot wooden tables handmade of Claro walnut and shaped just like the great Golden State — but Jared Rusten’s artistic endeavors go far beyond these wooden silhouettes.

For Rusten, his furniture isn’t just about getting something amazing in a person’s house — it is about creating product that is intended to last. “I think the most significant step of a product is in how it wears,” he states. “I’d like my furniture to be just like a baseball glove: When you purchase it, it is only worth what you spent it, but after decades of usage, after repeated oiling and working the leather to the special shape of the hand, it will become valuable.”

Rusten, founder of the J. Rusten Furniture Studio, based his workshop in the heart of San Francisco’s unique Mission neighborhood. Continue reading for more of his thoughts on interior and product design, item lust, and the beauty of these materials he works with.

Q: How did you begin in product design?

A: I’ve always believed an impetus to create — to generate an idea, implement it and watch it manifested. I was the child who was far more interested in creating the skateboard ramp compared to skating it. I ultimately found wood to be a satisfying moderate, and furniture provides me a chance to build things which people have romantic relationships with — parties around a table, genius uttered on the surface of a table, meditation in a comfortable seat, etc..

J. Rusten Furniture Studio

California Limited Edition Table – $6,450

Rusten’s California Series has drawn design fans for its bold and clean design. Made out of the maximum grade of heavily figured Claro Walnut, a cantilevered base is made with native oak and treated with a natural vinegar blot to get a charcoal patina.

J. Rusten Furniture Studio

LightBox – $250

The Lightbox is a simple bedside light which produces a warm and pleasant glow. A built-in dimmer controls brightness, also allows the Port Orford Cedar to discharge its natural aromatic odor. Additionally, it doubles as a storage unit and mini-bookshelf!

Q: Where would you see product design for interiors moving in another 5 decades?

A: I believe people will be favoring warmth to dull and rectilinear modernism. Natural-edge slab tables are a wonderful way to attract some natural warmth and presence in the house, but I believe that trend will wane whenever amateur-built slab tables start showing up in everyone’s house. It is going to be like the heavily varnished redwood burl tables our fathers developed in their garages in the 1970s — that the association will go from novel and critical, to cheesy and crude.

Finally, I believe we’ll see carefully curated collections of simply well-made pieces. There is a greater appreciation now for quality goods than I’ve ever seen. I am excited about the point in the near future when buyers demand the exact same amount of quality from their furniture that they do of other goods — when they’re buying bits to cherish and keep life, and not merely until their next transfer.

J. Rusten Furniture Studio

Cupertino Cantilever Desk – $4,900

The Cupertino Cantilever Desk is created with a combination of a gorgeous grained black walnut and walnut. Conventional techniques such as mitering and half-blind dovetails make it strong and hardy.

Q: How can you balance your artistic needs with the needs of consumers?

A: The answer to this query is: not very well. I can’t be distracted by worrying what consumers might think they require. A number of the constructions we consider national treasures were obtained poorly at the time of the completion. Sometimes you get lucky enough to create something that’s artistically vital, progressive, and seriously well-regarded, but possesses something familiar enough to achieve a broad appeal. The best work is the result of an undeviating vision and focus. So, I’ll continue working toward a few elusive ideal, and hope that I am lucky enough to strike upon something that’s broadly persuasive.

J. Rusten Furniture Studio

Orchard Slab Table – $2,500

Rusten worked with a local tree builder to discover fallen trees for every one of these Orchard Slab Tables. The trees have been milled into slabs, and air-dried in Rusten’s garden for 2-3 years prior to being forced into tables.

Q: What are you attempting to say with your designs? Where would you see your own line moving in the next 5 decades?

A: My aim is to engage both the nerdiest woodworkers and people that have no sense of craft or design. I want people to feel that a pure object lust, a need to caress the surface of the timber, to marvel over the depth of the grain. The attraction ought to be split evenly between the quality of the building, the design, and the beauty of the substance itself. Specifically, I’d like to get back to seat designs. I’ll be making more chairs within the next few decades.

J. Rusten Furniture Studio

Cupertino Cantilever – $3,200

The Cupertino Cantilever dining table is handmade with traditional methods for ultimate strength and balance, and is constructed with a maple base and black walnut shirt.

Q: What are some of your favourite new design trends?

A: My greatest fear is to be a part of a trend. I really, really don’t need to be another bird shape or fake moustache or deer head. Design trends… that just sounds gross to me.

Q: What are a few of the new favorite product lines?

A: Roy Denim, Festool Power Tools, Tailor Stitch, Esquivel Shoes

Q: What designers inspire you?

A: My woodworking holy trinity has ever been George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, and James Krenov, though I saw that a Gary Knox Bennett desk lately at an exhibition which awed me. I really like what Joey Roth is performing. I am completely enamored with the work of Ron van der Ende. It has made me realize I want to escape the workshop more and see a few new items!

Photography by Karen Cline of Pretty Simple productions

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