This Graphic Designer–Turned–Cabinetmaker’s Dyed-Wood Furniture is, Well, To Die For
Paris-based designer Jonathan Cohen has been working in wood for only a couple of years. Initially trained as a graphic designer, his eye for flat compositions naturally transferred into the three-dimensional world of furniture, with his creations quickly catching the eye of top architects and designers and local galleries. “When you have knowledge of good proportion, shape, and balance, you can design a letter or furniture,” Cohen says. “For me, it’s almost the same.” What lends the designer’s work a certain je ne sais quoi, however, is the unique dye treatment he uses, applied in various techniques to bring out the grain and texture of the wood — forming patterns reminiscent of those created by Memphis artist Nathalie du Pasquier.
Cohen studied graphic design in Toulouse, then spent eight years in the Paris agency world before tiring of the corporate hierarchy, client demands, and lack of creative freedom. “I wanted to do something different with my hands,” he says. “I still love graphic design and I wanted to keep this knowledge, but put it into wood.” So he spent a year training to become an ébéniste, or cabinet maker, and after a stint building more traditional pieces, Cohen raised enough money to start doing his own thing. He found a space in a shared workshop on the outskirts of Paris, and began experimenting to create results with wood that he hadn’t seen elsewhere before. Soon, the Paris-based Remix Gallery, which specializes in ‘80s furniture, came knocking to represent him, and commissions from architects and designers were rolling in — mostly via his Instagram.
Among recent pieces are an oak buffet with black-stained cylindrical supports and doors covered in a dappled pattern, and a solid ash console comprising hexagonal-section legs and topped with a thin sheet of glass. “I love geometric shapes,” Cohen says. “In graphic design, it’s the same: A square and a circle will always be iconic. And I want my work to be timeless.” Perhaps the most unusual — and most exciting — of his designs is a set of hexagonal vanity mirrors, which tilt on a horizontal axis supported by chunky, dyed ash blocks. This Psyche collection includes various colors, such as black, green and purple, and a couple were included as part of the Expressive Itinerance Design fair at Electric Paris, during last month’s Paris Design Week. All of this in just two years. “It all happened very fast,” said Cohen. “I’m just at the beginning, and I have a lot of ideas.”